Smokers to the left of him, singers to the right and there he was, stuck in the middle, the Minister for Health, in the beer garden of a Cork pub, rain dripping down, looking as uncomfortable as a patient on a trolley.
In the South County Bar for the election campaign launch of Fine Gael colleague Jerry Buttimer, the beer garden was about the only corner of the pub with enough “sshsh” for an impromptu media interview.
Not that anyone could hear his responses, lost as they were to the rousing chorus of “Grace just hold me in your arms and let the moment linger” as Sunday night pub-goers got into the swing of whatever there is to swing about with Monday morning looming.
One chap, definitely the worse for wear, and looking tired and emotional in the wake of Ireland’s failure to seal a Six Nations win, stood transfixed, staring, as if he’d seen a vision. He blinked and wiped his eyes, and looked again. Could that be the Health Minister? In the South County beer garden? In the pouring rain? Maybe it was time to go home. But before he did, he fumbled for the iPhone and, with unsteady hand, took a quick pic, perhaps to prove to himself in the morning that sometimes, the strangest things do happen, whether or not you have drink taken.
Back inside, in the cosy warmth, sat Jerry Buttimer.
“Hi, I’m Jerry,” he said, shaking hands.
But he wasn’t. Or rather he was, just not the Jerry Buttimer on the election posters. It was Jerry Buttimer’s dad, a good conversation starter on the doorsteps.
“I’m tell them I’m Jerry Buttimer and they say ‘you’re not’ and that gets us chatting,” he said.
Does he fancy his son’s chances in Cork South Central, where seats have reduced from five to four and where redrawing of boundaries have cost Jerry Jr 1700 votes in Bishopstown?
“I’m optimistic” he says. Last time out though, in 2011, it may well have been the woman who brought Jerry Jr’s campaign literature to Lourdes that sealed it for him. This time around? His beloved mother Nancy may have to use her higher influence — she passed away nine years ago Jerry Sr says, but not before telling her son to “stick to the job and stay away from the politics”.
Then it was time for a photo-op with the party colleagues who bothered to turn out on a wet Sunday night — Deirdre Clune, Deirdre Forde, Sean Kelly, Colm Burke and Leo, back in from the cold and wearing an even more pained expression on account of being waylaid by a punter with an axe to grind about below-cost selling.
No sign of Simon though. Where was Simon? Anyone know? Simon and Jerry Jr support each other, Jerry Sr said, not like the Fianna Failers in the constituency.
“Fellows canvassing out in Bishopstown for Fianna Fáil told me they’re asking for number one for Michael McGrath but they’re not even mentioning Micheál Martin,” Jerry said.
But shur that’s politics for you.
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