Although it was the “hottest ticket in town,” as Taoiseach Enda Kenny joked, it’s unlikely many of the 250-strong attendance were left with too warm a feeling.
While the rest of the electorate basked outdoors as temperatures tipped the mid-20s, the Fine Gael faithful found themselves in the darkened confines of Dublin’s Mansion House for a fiscal treaty rally in the final few days of the countdown to the May 31 referendum.
Despite the best efforts of European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton to rouse the troops with a warning that the referendum was a “battle of hearts and minds”, the response was more lukewarm than enthusiastic.
While Lucinda stressed that a key word was “stability”, one sensed the issue of “humidity” was even foremost in the mind of the assembled throng.
Behind Lucinda, under glaring spotlights that raised temperatures a further few notches, sat a group of Fine Gael ministerial heavyweights, including Phil Hogan, Alan Shatter, and James Reilly, as well as some of the party’s younger TDs. So low-key was the event that Denis O’Brien could have appeared in the back row without anyone noticing.
Despite the smart casual dress code befitting the Sunday event, the Fine Gael front bench sported a decidedly grey hue. Only Cork North West TD Áine Collins lent colour to the spectacle with a bright orange dress.
As MC, Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald probably realised attempts to warm up the audience were as futile as they would be unwelcome. The heat in the room even caused a few balloons to burst loudly, giving the Taoiseach’s minders an anxious moment or three.
Although their Cabinet colleague Leo Varadkar called by to lend his support, the sports minister had the good fortune to be able to skip the main proceedings under cover of his ministerial portfolio to attend the Rabo 12 final between Leinster and Ospreys at the RDS.
Fine Gael’s director of elections for the referendum, Simon Coveney, was complimented on his “cool” attitude, which unfortunately didn’t manage to rub off on the attendance. In turn, Simon seemed to evoke the spirit of a Ryder Cup player in praising Lucinda for being “passionate about her continent”. Surely, a slogan for some future European election campaign.
The Taoiseach duly acknowledged the fact that most people would probably rather be elsewhere given the beautiful weather, even though many of the party’s rank and file appeared “tanned and fit from campaigning”. Warning of the danger of complacency, he told party followers Thursday would be “our own general election” before making a speedy exit in advance of his TV address on the
Referendum last night.
Ultimately, it’s only if the electorate turns in an unexpected no vote on Thursday that things will truly heat up for the Government.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved