SHAUN CONNOLLY: Alan Kelly believes he can fly to the planet he inhabits

The joy of the scientists who discovered a giant planet beyond Neptune soon turned to disappointment as they realised it was only 10 times the size of Earth — meaning Alan Kelly’s ego was still the biggest thing in the solar system this side of the sun writes Shaun Connolly.

Our thrusting Environment Minister’s many critics (who happen to mainly inhabit his own party) hoping some kind of scandal, revelation, or crisis will bring him down will be equally disappointed because none of those things could lay our hero low — his own mouth and mammoth self-opinion will take care of that.

R Kelly clearly lacked ambition by merely singing “I Believe I Can Fly”, because Our Kelly believes he can fly, walk on the moon, and have breakfast on Pluto, with still enough time to slip back down to Earth and slide you a nice little hundred quid in the form of a “conservation grant” if you’d just stop whining on at his “legacy” achievement that is Irish Water and recognise his genius as the minister who took the whine out of water.

Alan Kelly believes he can fly to the planet he inhabits

Cronyism? What Cronyism? Pah! This is the political Titan of Tipperary who will save the nation — just as soon as he’s tried to hoover up every vote he can locally.

Why, Alan Kelly is so in awe of Alan Kelly he can sometimes only speak of Alan Kelly in the third person, as when addressing what he called “anonymous cowards” in the Government who dared criticise him over his dismal efforts on homelessness, the environment minister showed the humility for which he is rightly known and mused, thoughtfully: “Alan Kelly on his own cannot solve this issue.”

Surely not, Alan? If not you, who? A nation turns its eyes to you, and only you.

But fear not Ireland, Mr Kelly showed how on top of his game he still is in a Newstalk Breakfast phone interview which began:

Ivan Yates: “Good morning, Alan.”

Alan Kelly: “Good morning, Alan, er, good morning, Ivan...”

Maybe it was a slip of the tongue because Alan was gazing lovingly at himself in the mirror at the time, but things did not get much better from there on in.

Pressed on why so much sports cash just so happened to tip-up in Tipp, which just so happened to be his political base, when he just happened to be junior sports minister, Mr Kelly was indignant as he insisted: “It’s absolutely not cronyism. I am a government minister, and I am very privileged and proud to be in that position, I am also a TD for Tipperary... you know that you fight for your constituency and fight for your people, and I make no apologies about doing that on behalf of my constituency.”

Showing an audacious attitude only fools would take for arrogance, Alan dismissed reports that €780,000 went to Tipperary soccer clubs while he was junior sports minister as sounding “on the low side”, before brushing away the whole beneath-him controversy as “hilarious” — but who’ll be laughing when the election results roll in?

Quizzed on whether it was wise to go canvassing on his home turf with FAI chief John Delaney as the organisation received so much Government funding, Mr Kelly again appeared bemused, noting: “We went for something to eat, we walked down the street — how we weren’t going to meet people and bump into people, I don’t know.”

John Delaney
John Delaney

Erm, I know, Alan — how about not walking down the street and canvassing with him?

Then, in a classic deflective play, Mr Kelly said it was the other people involved he cared about, not himself.

“I think this whole story has been quite unfair on John Delaney to be quite honest with you,” he sighed.

And there he does have a point, because it is very unfair — unfair on the population of Tipperary, to think they would be swayed by someone with Mr Delaney’s somewhat underwhelming record at the helm of Irish soccer.

Also, given the nation’s hopes for Euro16, perhaps it was not the best omen for the Boys in Green for Mr Delaney to hang out with the walking own goal of Irish politics?

It may indeed be a long way to Tipperary, but it was also becoming a long way down that hole Mr Kelly was digging for himself with the aid of Ivan’s shovel as he despaired he was just trying “to do my role as minister for an area and trying to help out various different clubs”.

Erm, Alan, maybe I’ve got this whole national government thing wrong, but weren’t you supposed to be minister of sport for 26 counties, not just minister of sport for the Tipperary Area?

It all sounded very much as if Mr Kelly was abandoning the great sinking ship of state that is Labour and scrambling for the lifeboats, where, seemingly, it is every man for himself. Alan really was on another planet — Planet Tipp — and staying there.

But then Mr Kelly is desperately trying to scrape back home with the final seat in Tipperary — a county that is certainly over-blessed with “character” actors amongst its political class. Disgraced former minister Michael Lowry is almost certain to top the poll; with politically eccentric Mattie McGrath not far behind him.

Mattie McGrath
Mattie McGrath

One of Mattie’s more memorable Dáil interventions came when debating the Fiscal Bill in 2012 as Enda Kenny appeared on the cover of (the British edition of) Time magazine: “To see our Taoiseach, on this front page of Playboy magazine, I wish him well, I voted him as Taoiseach, but I expected a lot different of him. Sorry, what magazine did I say? Oh, sorry. I meant to say.... sorry, sorry, I’ll correct that — I meant to say, like a playboy on Time magazine.”

Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell O’Connor was fierce fast as she trilled across the chamber at Mattie: “Maybe you should be getting your advice — your economic advice — from Time magazine, rather than Playboy magazine?”

And while time may wait for no man, surely the cover of Time waits patiently for when man of the future Mr Kelly deigns to adorn it?

With one hand the environment minister is claiming responsibility for every job vacancy within 100 miles of Tipperary Town; with the other hand he is still wiping away tears from when he was forced to deny those outrageous claims from colleagues accusing him of leaking private party polling data damaging to Labour in order to help his personal leadership ambitions.

Scientists are still searching for a name for the new planet — shame it isn’t important enough to be worthy of being called Planet Alan. Mr Kelly may believe his glorious record is whiter than the Oscars, but, unfortunately for him, it is the voters who will decide who the winner is come election night.

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