As a light December rain fell from the sky and the winter breeze bit hard, the great and the good from Leinster House gathered yesterday evening on the back lawn for the annual turning on of the Christmas tree lights.
Nearby, about 100-strong anti-austerity protest clashed with gardaí in the Brown Thomas store on Grafton St.
They had earlier attempted a sit-down protest outside the Bank of Ireland on College Green before travelling under a significant garda presence to Ireland’s most expensive shopping street.
As bemused customers looking on, approximately 50 protesters entered the iconic Brown Thomas building before being quickly escorted out by a large number public order unit gardaí, including five members of the mounted support unit.
A further 40 protesters then attempted to occupy the nearby AIB building on Grafton St, which was at that stage closed apart from a small number ATMs inside the foyer, before marching to the gates of Leinster House.
Despite the fiery scenes on the streets around them, a far more sedate atmosphere descended in the home of Irish democracy, if only for the briefest of moments.
The usual hostilities were parked momentarily as Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett did the honours and pushed the all-important button to light up the tree.
Children from the Holy Family Primary School in Derry were on hand to delight shivering attendees with their selection of festive musical treats. They travelled down last year to perform only to be cancelled at the last minute, so the Ceann went to great lengths to extend them a warm welcome this time around.
Party leaders Enda Kenny, Micheál Martin, and Gerry Adams along with Cathaoirleach of Seanad Éireann Paddy Burke downed tools in order to mark the official beginning of the Christmas period.
Tánaiste Joan Burton was a late arrival, having been detained in the Dail chamber and she made her way over to the tree just as the choir belted out ‘Joy to the World. A coincidence, of course.
“Never mind the cold, there is enough hot air coming off the stage,” one TD mischievously quipped as the various leaders huddled under the glow of the lights.
The giddiness continued a short time later up the road in the Shelbourne Hotel as TDs and senators took to the catwalk for the annual Oireachtas Fashion Show in aid of Research Motor Neurone.
The brainchild of junior minister Jimmy Deenihan, the fashion show was first held in support of Fine Gael TD Nicky McFadden, who passed away in March 2014. Among the willing participants included Timmy Dooley, Averil Power, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, Catherine Noone, Martin Heydon, and Sandra McLellan.