As the seasonal summer rain storm lashed the little Donegal town of Glenties, former cabinet minister (and wanna-be future Fianna Fáil leader) Mary Hanafin was raising the temperature with a risqué (for her) quip with saucy overtones.
“I had the pleasure of being government chief whip between 2002 and 2004, I was the first female whip, and you have no idea the number of male TDs who told me they were looking forward to being whipped by a woman. I had my very own 50 Shades Of Grey,” she said to an audience whose age and political profile made the hall resemble a day room in a decidedly right-wing old people’s home.
It is probably a well-worn line from Ms Hanafin, but at least she was trying to be deliberately comical, former Enda Kenny strategist Frank Flannery drew laughter by accident when he opined that in these days of gender quotas gone mad we should all feel sorry for the ambitious young men who are struggling in politics because of the glass ceiling now being slammed down upon them by uppity women.
One grand old man of the political stage was former tánaiste Micheal McDowell, whose political peak came at the unfortunate time of all that unpleasantness about Bertie’s bank accounts exploding. With bare-faced Bertie insisting the Mahon corruption probe done him wrong by insisting his evidence was not believable on the where the dollar and sterling lodgements sloshing around the 20-plus bank accounts he held while finance minister came from, former attorney general Mr McDowell was keeping his own counsel on the matter.
Quizzed on who he believed, Bertie, or a distinguished, senior judge, Mr McDowell was strangely coy, stating; “I don’t want to go on the record on that, I have strong views on those subjects and I will put them into writing at some stage.”
Is that an implied threat of a future torture tome for the ex-taoiseach to rival Ms Hanafin’s brush with 50 Shades — The Little Book Of Bertie And His Big Bank Accounts, perhaps?
Tánaiste Joan Burton had her own troubles as she mused on the state of her political “marriage of convenience” to Enda, admitting life with him could be “tense” at times.
So when the Tánaiste began her speech with the line: “I’ll start tonight with a confession,” all ears pricked up. Luckily for Mr Kenny, said confession turned out to be that Ms Burton used to bunk business classes at UCD to sneak into English ones where she enjoyed “a lovely book called The Land of Spices by Kate O’Brien whose feisty protagonist Helen Archer fleetingly observes her father in sexual intimacy with another man”, and the novel was banned because of that one sentence she told us, as an example of the repressed, censor-ridden Ireland we need to leave behind.
Maybe it is all the rain, but there is definitely something in the Glenties water this year.