It was Year Zero at the Ploughing Championships for Joan Burton. With an Irish Examiner opinion poll unable to find a single farmer who said they would vote Labour, the Tánaiste faced reaping a bleak harvest at the annual agri-fest.
The omens were not looking good when Ms Burton posed for a nice little photo with a beaming child at the beginning of the walkabout.
Unfortunately, she had chosen the farm safety display as a backdrop and just as the cameras clicked a giant bail of hay fell directly behind her and crushed a fake body. That’s the sort of thing that happens at the ploughing.
Then it was on to Diarmuid Gavin’s creation zone where the garden he constructed with school children may have inspired metaphorical hopes of a return to Labour’s glory days of 2011 as it was entitled “Back To The Future”. But as it featured an old car with the wheels coming off it was probably all too fitting a symbol for the party’s looming 2016 campaign.
But then things had not gotten off to the best of starts with Gavin as the Tánaistenoted another offering: “It’s reminiscent of that garden that ended up in Cork,” to which the horticulturist replied: “Don’t mention the war! Don’t mention the war!”
Whatever the opinion poll said, Ms Burton was the selfie superstar of the show as dozens demanded she graced their phone screens.
Indeed, the Tánaiste received an overwhelmingly positive response as she toured the stalls which ranged from the reassuring “Don’t worry, we won’t hold you hostage, rural people aren’t like that,” from an elderly wellie wearer, to the slightly unnerving “I’m from Roscrea. I love you. You’re a giant,” from a very excitable 15-year -ld boy.
There were only two negative reactions during the walkabout. Once, when a woman sarcastically told her: “Sorry Joan, are we in your way — please don’t have us arrested.”
The other in the IFA tent when one woman said: “Who’s that?”. “Oh, it’s Joan Burton,” her friend replied. To which the first woman said “I’d shoot her,” before turning away disgusted.
Ms Burton had a warmer reception in the Country Women’s Association tent which seemed to have been taken over by a mobile shopping channel as a male host manically shouted out random questions via a microphone so that people who had turned up for the butter making display could win a voucher for a free night in a hotel (if you paid for others).
Seeing the cash cow represented by Joan walk through the door, he boomed out: “Which is the best political party in the country?” Only muffled response came back so he shouted; “Look who’s here!” as more people were alerted to her presence, and the cry went up “Labour!”
“Joan Burton’s just won you all a free night in a hotel!” the compere bellowed across the tent.
Proof, if it were ever needed, that auction politics really does work, and the Coalition’s attempts to bribe their way back to favour with the electorate is the only one of their policies that actually works.
Ms Burton’s buoyancy was in marked contrast to an unusually gloomy Taoiseach. Enda Kenny had rocked up at 8.30am due to an emergency EU summit, so maybe it was that which had him in such bad humour.
Surely it was not because the Irish Examiner asked Mr Kenny if he was already a lame duck because he had been forced into announcing he would be stepping down in the next Dáil term?
Endless Enda insisted he would defy logic and history and serve a full term before retiring on the eve of the 2021 election, and then theatrically pretended not to hear the follow-up question: “You’re not quacking then?”
At least Joan knows that the only way is up from zero, for Mr Kenny, like all his predecessors, the only way is down from Taoiseach.
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