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Miriam Lord’s Week: Footwear gaffe sees Micheál Martin ‘do a Garret FitzGerald’

Wearing odd shoes an ‘occupational hazard’ for Tánaiste; Peadar Tóibín and Heather Humphreys lock horns over rural regeneration; and a Tardis replica excites Paschal Donohoe

Tánaiste Micheál Martin was nonplussed when he got the text about his shoes.

He hadn’t a clue what we were on about.

So he asked around yesterday and one of his advisers confirmed it.

“‘Feck it,’ I said. Mary will kill me over this.”


Mary is his wife.

Micheál spent all day Monday wearing odd shoes and never realised it.

In fairness, you wouldn’t have noticed his footwear faux-pas going by on a galloping horse. But some of the reporters covering his stand-up press briefing in Iveagh House after the Brexit Stakeholders Forum did.

It brings to mind the celebrated case of former taoiseach Garret FitzGerald, who was once photographed on the campaign trail in Leitrim wearing odd shoes. There was consternation when the photograph, taken by the late Henry Wills, was published in the Western People and Garret’s shoes became the talk of the nation.

That was more than 40 years ago but those dusty old shoes still merit a mention in assessments of the former Fine Gael leader and taoiseach, who died in 2011.

MEP Seán Kelly posted a picture on Twitter a few years ago of the odd shoes he wore to the European Parliament, having risen at the crack of dawn to catch a flight to Brussels.

Incidentally, we profoundly apologise to Seán, a proud son of Kerry, for inexplicably calling him a Corkman in last week’s column, insulting two counties in the process.

But back to Micheál, who is very definitely from Cork. And mortified.

“I was up very early and it was a case of throwing on the shoes and out the door,” he told us on Friday. “Jesus, I had no idea. It’s an occupational hazard. At least they were both black.”

With one roundy toe and one pointy toe.

He wore them all day and didn’t even twig when he got home and took them off.

Senator Sharon Keogan has organised a meeting in Leinster House to discuss the World Health Organisation’s Pandemic Treaty.

Sharon emailed fellow politicians and Oireachtas staff this week inviting them to her lunchtime event in the AV room called “WHO Pandemic Treaty: Know the Facts”.

This accord would see closer co-operation between countries tackling pandemics, specifically in the crucial areas of prevention, preparedness and response. However, it has its fair share of critics, not least among conspiracy theorists who argue it’s a brazen power-grab by the WHO which wants to override governments and impose blanket measures such as lockdowns, border closures and mass vaccination programmes.

Attendees on Tuesday will “hear from a panel of international experts” on the proposed agreement, writes Sharon.

“Doctors, lawyers and politicians from Ireland, the UK, Germany, Switzerland and the United States have come together to offer a comprehensive and considered breakdown of the proposed measures and the impact they will have on member states. Join us as we examine the role and risks of supranational law, and how Ireland can best move forward in preparedness for the next pandemic.

“Feel free to reach out with any questions.”

The invitation prompted a cutting response from the Labour Party’s political director, Cathal McCann.

“Hi Senator,” he emails. “Just wanted to check on details of some of the speakers: Is that Christine Anderson, the Alternative fur Deutschland MEP you have speaking?

“Is Meryl Nass the Maine doctor who has her medical licence suspended for ...spreading Covid-19 vaccine misinformation?

“And is Tess Lawrie the person who founded the pseudo medical organisation ‘World Council for Health’ that spreads misinformation discouraging Covid-19 vaccination and promotes ivermectin as a Covid treatment when it is normally used as an anti-parasitic drug for treating worms and river blindness?”

And Sharon affords him a most courteous reply.

“Many thanks for your interest in our event, and your desire to better your knowledge regarding our speakers. I’m sure that they would be only too happy to answer your questions on the day – we look forward to your attendance,” she says, before signing off sweetly with this zinger:

“Best of luck to Labour in the next Business Post/Red C poll. Regards...”


Paddur and Heddur locked horns on Tuesday night over the need to revitalise rural town centres through grants for refurbishing vacant properties and more funding for community projects.

Peadar Tóibín, the Aontú TD for Meath West, told Heather Humphreys, the Minister for Social Protection, that the Government is showing no urgency about dealing with the problem of vacant and derelict buildings.

The State is pulling out of small towns, he said, citing the closure of stand-alone post offices and Garda stations. He said she closed down the social welfare office in Castlepollard while Fine Gael opened a new constituency office.

“If the town got a swap of a social welfare office for a Fine Gael constituency office, I know what they would prefer.”

But Heddur was not going to let Paddur away with all this negativity.

There has been “massive” investment in refurbishment projects all over the country, she told him, throwing out a list of examples.

“Deputy Tóibín, you should go out around your own constituency because I’ll tell ya why: In Enfield, there’s a fine community and enterprise hub there. It got €727,000 – I visited it.

“I worked on its reopening,” retorted Paddur.

“Also in Enfield, only a couple of weeks ago, we purchased a building for €250,000 – the old parish hall, right?” continued Heddur.

“I worked on that too,” he said.

“And if you go into Trim also you’ll see a fine library and cultural centre ... €4.47 million and I can tell YA...”

“I campaigned for that.”

At least Damien English, the Fine Gael TD in the constituency, worked very hard to get these projects up and running, said the Minister. He supports her when deputy Tóibín votes against everything she tries to do.

“I campaigned for all three of those projects,” replied Paddur.

“He supported me in trying to get the funding, but you criticise. That’s all you come in here to do – to give out!” blazed Heddur.

“You’re talking through your hat most of the time.”

Which makes a change from what they usually elect to talk through in the Dáil.

Senator Timmy Dooley is up to his eyes these days organising a major two-day conference on climate change and renewable energy which opens on Thursday at Glór Theatre in Ennis.

Timmy, recently elected co-president of the liberal ALDE group in Europe, has assembled an impressive line-up of speakers for the conference including EU energy commissioner, Kadri Simson, government ministers from Sweden, Lithuania and Latvia and Spanish MEP José Ramón Bauzá.

They will be joined by a high-powered panel of speakers from local and international energy, transport and tech companies.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue and Minister of State Jack Chambers will also address the conference, while Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher will moderate some of the discussions.

The event is called “Powering the Future” and Timmy will be hoping that this high-profile and prestigious event might help to power his own future.

The former TD for Clare, who lost his Dáil seat at the last election, would dearly love a return to the lower chamber but he will have to power past party colleague and sitting deputy Cathal Crowe to do it.

Paschal Donohoe was happy out on Wednesday when he joined a number of ministerial colleagues at the launch of a ground-breaking training facility on Dublin’s northside aimed at helping people with disabilities become familiar with public transport while teaching authorities how to design more accessible services.

The National Transport Authority and Vision Ireland, formerly the National Council for the Blind, opened the €7.89 million Wayfinding Centre for a special preview on Wednesday. Housed in the old Smurfit-Kappa printworks in Dublin’s Glasnevin, the building has been redesigned to provide access to different modes of transport including Dart and Luas carriages, a Bus Éireann coach, a double-decker bus and the forward fuselage section of an Airbus A319.

Streetscapes have also been replicated to simulate everyday transport scenarios.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan and Minister for Equality and Disability Roderic O’Gorman were joined at the launch by Minister of State for Disabilities Anne Rabbitte. Paschal Donohoe came along as the local TD.

Fine Gael senator Martin Conway, who is registered blind, looked thrilled as he waved out the window of the Airbus.

Guests at the preview, many from disability organisations, were hugely impressed by the 31,000sq ft facility. “There is nothing else like this in the world” said Chris White, the chief executive of Vision Ireland. The centre has links with DCU, TU Dublin and University College London and will be used by future architects, surveyors and planners to gain a better understanding of accessibility and work it into designs.

Transport anoraks would be in heaven at this facility.

But for Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe, a sci-fi buff known for his collection of Star Wars and X-Men bobble heads, there was one stellar mode of transport on display which outshone all the rest.

The Wayfinding Centre includes a replica of the Tardis, Dr Who’s space- and time-travelling machine. Paschal found it and was ridiculously delighted. Naturally, he also has Dr Who bobbleheads.

A new Dr Who has just taken over.

“It’s about the only job I haven’t been associated with” he quipped.

Congratulations to Senator Malcolm Byrne, who has just been appointed Fianna Fáil director for the referendum campaign on the unified patent system. The vote takes place in June.

Right so.

“It is an important new European system of making patent recognition and enforcement easier and so is critical for inventors,” says Malcolm.

We hear he is the envy of his colleagues with his big new job. Or at least he would be if they knew what it was.