Ministers follow the pack and go to the dogs

The country’s gone to the dogs, and a group of Fine Gael TDs are planning to follow the pack.

A 14-man syndicate — which includes Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Environment Minister Phil Hogan — are preparing to put their ‘Blue Shirts’ on a greyhound bitch.

The TDs stumped up €250 each for a share in Swift Starlet after the 17-month-old bitch showed impressive form at recent trials.

The syndicate includes Shane McEntee, the junior agriculture minister as well as the party’s whip Paul Keogh.

Tom Barry, a TD for Cork East, said it was the first time he’d ever been involved in a racing syndicate and hoped it would be a bit of fun.

“Ray Butler [Meath West] is chairman of the group and he organised it. Michael Noonan was also anxious to do it,” the TD said.

“She [Swift Starlet] has had a few trials and done well in them.

“What we’ve paid up also includes some training and we’re aiming to have her first competitive race in Mullingar in six or seven weeks’ time. Then she’ll race in Shelbourne Park after that,” Mr Barry said.

He said the TDs in the group were not much used to going to the Dáil gym, so walking the dog could help keep them trim.

“We might get the party whip to organise a walking schedule,” he joked.

Mr Barry said he expected as many of the syndicate as possible to see the dog run in Shelbourne Park because it was in easy reach of the Dáil.

“It’s a bit of fun as far as we’re concerned.

“It will also help build up relationships between deputies. A lot of the lads are too busy to have hobbies so this will be an outlet.

“I don’t know if we’ll make any money, but I hope we don’t lose too much,” he said.

The other syndicate members are Jerry Buttimer, (Cork South Central), Paudie Coffey, (Waterford), Frank Feighan, (Roscommon South Leitrim), Paul Connaughton, (Galway East), Joe Carey, (Clare), Michael Creed, (Cork North West), Brendan Griffin, (Kerry South), and Noel Coonan (Tipperary North).

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