The Secret Minister – Budget Tales
Welcome voters to my weekly column in the wonderful WWN.
They say a week is a long time in politics. One hundred and sixty-eight hours if we’re getting technical. Myself and my party colleagues experienced the ecstasy of the Fine Gael national conference and the agony of the budget. Such highs, such lows and I haven’t even got to the part were Leo Varadkar farted when we were stuck in that lift.
After leaving Limerick with memories of An Taoiseach’s brave speech ringing in our ears and visions of Simon Conveney executing the dance routine to ‘Single Ladies’ in the wee small hours of the hotel bar it was back to business.
Despite what the media may have you thinking the Sunday night emergency budget meeting was not a panicked affair. Sure in Government we feel the weight of the situation but we are a well oiled machine at this stage. Michael Noonan is always given a separate room to prepare, advisors working with him trying to perfect a smile that lacks menace and is void of sadism. All Labour TDs are made wait down the corridor but that story is for another day.
In between toilet breaks and watching Love/Hate I pressed my ear to the Min. for Finance’s door, cries of ‘Jesus Michael smile with your fecking eyes’, ‘how hard could it be?’ and ‘right from the start. Again!’ could be heard. A tense, tense night for all. However, despite taking over 3 hours the Finance Minister emerged victorious complete with sweaty brow, undone tie and crumpled shirt. His smile when displayed for the rest of the cabinet received warm applause.
Next, to my least favourite part of the annual budget preparations: when the cabinet line up in front of An Taoiseach to hurl abuse at him, mimicking the hostile environment of a budget day Dáil chamber. It is the hardest thing, standing in line waiting for your turn to insult a hero, a leader and a friend (we had coffee twice in the Dail canteen, my finest moments in political life). Not for Frances Fitzgerald though apparently, mouth like a sailor.
Suddenly it was my turn, my lips parted to form a blasphemous utterance and then there it was; ‘Dad!’ Had I just called An Taoiseach ‘Dad’? I had. Oh good God I had. My career as I knew it flashed before my eyes (it was essentially a series of assaults at the hands of voters and that time my suggested slogan was adopted on local election leaflets; ‘Fine Gael force winds of change’). As I drafted my resignation in my head a hand gripped my shoulder tightly and An Taoiseach responded. “You a truly strange strange man but that’s the sort blue sky thinking we need here’, he said. Sweet elation was mine. An Taoiseach never fails to see the bigger picture and had obviously saw something in my intense panic-ridden rambling.
I must confess I sit through the budget itself in auto pilot, we’ve all practiced our sombre yet in-control look for the cameras the night before but there was still time for a bit of last minute nerves. Varadkar, in his infinite wisdom, decided to press all the buttons on the fecking lift forcing it to a sudden stop in between floors. I don’t know what it is about the budget but it gets some of my fellow colleagues in a very boisterous mood. Whatever way nerves manifest in the Min. for Transport he let rip an almighty stink bomb in a space that couldn’t have been more than 4 x 4 foot but he refused to take responsibility for it. It was the longest and most pungent 15 minutes of my ministerial career.
We emerged in time to support An Taoiseach and I really think my ‘Dad’ comment paid off as he thought better of throwing me to the wolves on he-who-shall-not-be-named, primietime or the late debate.
Things are looking up. Until next week a chairde,
The Secret Minister