Miriam Lord: Leo reminisces about life in his late 20s

With considerable age comes life experience now that the Taoiseach has turned 45

The Taoiseach turned 45 earlier this month. He was young once, you know. But with considerable age comes life experience and Leo can remember all the way back to the olden days in 2007, before the housing market skittered off down the road to dysfunction, when first-time buyers were drawing down new mortgages at a terrific rate.

But they are doing it again now in their droves – 500 a week, he marvels. “An extraordinary change.”

Hard to explain this to Opposition whippersnappers across the floor who are too young to know that life wasn’t always about never-ending knock backs; about being priced out of the market for the measly few homes up for sale.

Recently published figures show the number of first-time buyers getting mortgages is at its highest level since 2007, Leo told Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty (46).


Pearse was standing in for his leader, Mary Lou McDonald, who was above in Belfast for the DUP’s imminent return to Stormont and taking absolutely no pleasure in it.

It didn’t help when the Sinn Féin president and her deputy, Michelle O’Neill, were mobbed by a group of star-struck schoolgirls in Stormont’s Great Hall, forcing them to beam from ear to ear as photographers and camera crews moved in mercilessly.

Back in Leinster House, aul Leo was trying to convey the enormity of the 15-year shift in the drawn-down figures to Sinn Féin’s finance spokesman Pearse.

“In 2007, I was in my 20s. We are actually back to that now.”


Labour leader, Ivana Bacik (55), also asked him about the housing situation, pointing out that first time buyers and renters are still finding it very difficult to find a decent place to live.

“As I mentioned earlier, 33,000 new homes were built last year, which is the highest number in 15 years. 500 first-time buyers are drawing down their first mortgage every week. We have not seen this since 2007,″ he repeated.

How again to put this in context, it being such a long time ago?

“When I was in my late twenties,” explained Leo. “That’s how much it has changed in the past couple of years and how much progress we are making.”

As he mentioned earlier? If he mentioned being his twenties once, he mentioned it four times. It was a bit odd. If he was using this comparison to hammer home a point, it wasn’t effective. Pearse and Ivana looked distinctly underwhelmed.

You were 28. Not exactly a milestone. And you’re hardly Methuselah now.

But 2007 holds a special place in the Taoiseach’s heart. He was first elected to Dáil Éireann in June of that year.

And 10 years later in the month of June, at the tender age of 38, he became the youngest person to hold the office of taoiseach.

There may be a pattern here. It’s most unlikely that Leo will be slumming it around Kildare Street by the time June 2027 rolls around. At which stage, in Leo years, he will be positively ancient.

But at least he will be able to talk to Joe Biden (81) mano a mano when they meet in the White House in March. Did somebody mention March?

Midway through Leaders’ Questions, the emphasis shifted from worthy but dull exchanges in the Dáil to the annual St Patrick’s Day ministerial airlift, when Cabinet Ministers and their junior understudies fan out across the world to promote Ireland abroad and overdose on Irish beef at Enterprise Ireland dinners.

This year’s much anticipated list of political globetrotters landed suddenly on Tuesday afternoon to the unexpected delight of the press gallery. It’s a little annual treat for the media.

But wait. Hold me maracas. For it was Eamon Ryan in the chamber, kicking off a debate on services for people seeking protection in Ireland. He had to get in there first because he was rushing to a pier in Connemara to check-out the pedalo he has booked for the first leg of his marathon trip to Brazil.

With a fair wind and the intervention of the Argentinian navy he should get there by March. We can see him now, happy in his tropical shirt, barefoot and shaking his chac-chacs up and down Copacabana beach.

(Note to Editor: we really should cover this.)

The Department of Foreign Affairs issued a very helpful press release with details of Schmoozefest 2024 when “38 representatives of the State will bring Ireland’s message to 86 cities in 48 countries”.

The theme is “Ireland’s future in the world”.

We have the past sewn-up, which is why the precious invites to Washington and beyond are automatically renewed each year.

After everyone has returned, there will be a mini-raffle in Government Buildings and one of the three Coalition parties will be allowed to repurpose the slogan for domestic use (general election). Nobody will know.

“Securing Ireland’s future in the world.”

Leading the drive to secure all our tomorrows and “strengthen our links with the diaspora and business leaders” is Leo . The Taoiseach is off to Washington and Boston with Minister for Justice Helen McEntee.

One last hurrah, perhaps, for the Old Firm. Leo and Helen (when she was minister for state for Europe) used to be a charming feature on the red carpet in Brussels before Leo got old and Helen got law and order.

Also accompanying them will be Attorney General, Rossa Fanning. This is in the unlikely case it actually turns out to be serious when Leo invariably puts his foot in it at some stage in DC and says something he shouldn’t.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin is off to Canada (Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto), which should be pleasant. They speak French in Ottawa, which might help Micheál decide whether or not he wants the big job in Europe.

Minister for Finance Michael McGrath, who is also in the frame for a bump-up to Brussels, is away to China.

Heather Humphreys, Minister for Social Protection, is among the very large contingent of seniors and juniors travelling to various cities around the United States. She jets off to Chicago, Madison in Wisconsin and Springfield, where she will meet Homer and Marge Simpson.

Peter Burke, the Minister of State for Europe, is going to America.

As for Roderic O’Gorman, the overworked Minister with the innocuous sounding Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth portfolio, he’s going to Japan. Which is a long, long, long way away. He will be flying off just after the results of the two referendums have been announced so will be glad of the rest once the wheels are up.