Cutting a dash: Deputy Maurice Quinlivan, Deputy Tom Neville, and Seamus Browne suited and booted at the count in UL Picture Michael Cowhey
TIME to come clean, Willie! We’re dying to know. Was it Max Factor, Smashbox, GOSH, or maybe Urban Decay?
On Saturday afternoon, under the harsh lights of the UL Arena, the secret was out – somewhere, someone had a powder pot or stick of slap with Willie O’Dea’s name on it.
The poll topper had snubbed bare faced cheek in favour of foundation. But in his attempt to paper over the cracks for the awaiting cameras, the Fianna Failer had clearly forgotten the number one make-up rule – blending, leaving him with a tell-tale flaky, cakey hairline that us girls dread.
Policies and principles are all well and good, but in the competitive world of politics, where a nod and a wink can earn votes, city slicker Willie knows it pays to look good.
And he’s not the only one! Even his county counterparts were not immune to a bit of metrosexualization when they got out of the bed on Saturday morning
Enter Tom Neville. Due to superstition the 40-year-old – who has had politics in his Cornflakes since the age of 10 - declined to speak to the prowling press until his Dail seat was secured. However, when it came to his suit, he couldn’t stay schtum.
“I got it in Scanlan’s in Newcastle West,” revealed the Fine Gael man of the burgundy three-piece which he accessorised with a delicately posed quiff, a pinky finger ring and some five-o'clock shadow. To say it divided opinion, is an understatement.
“I don’t know...It’s a bit showbandy,” quipped one political observer, who, admitted they would be more accustomed to a pint of Guinness than a spritz of Givenchy.
Even the political hacks were keen to look their best - our own cosmopolitan reporter, Nick Rabbitts took a trip to Tony Connolly’s where he splashed out on a fetching new fawn blazer and matching striped tie for the big day.
While Sinn Fein have been criticised for their fuzzy economics, their man in Limerick City Maurice Quinlivan gave a master class in belt-tightening and how to live within one’s means. He did a Kate Middleton on it – stepped out in an old suit, purchased on the high street - Marks & Spencer in Dublin – on special offer with 10% off.
“We bought it while in the shop but online on her phone,” he said turning to his wife Sue, “because it was cheaper than buying it in the store. It cost €130.”
And while Maurice was mulling over his choice of suit on Saturday morning, the other woman in his life, his mum Marie - confined to a wheelchair due to a foot injury - was praying to her late husband for divine inspiration.
“He is with us in spirit,” she said of former Ranks worker Paddy.
“I spoke to him coming out this morning and said; ‘Now, listen, Paddy you better do this’ and then I said; ‘No Paddy that’s not right, I’m always asking you to do things since you died’.”
Well, Paddy was listening. His youngest son went on to take the second seat in the Limerick City constituency with 5,894 first preference votes.
While Marie and Paddy were having their chat in the city, out in the county, another conversation on politics was taking place; this time in the O’Donnell homestead in Herbertstown.
The day after the last election Cllr Bill O’Donnell predicted the re-emergence of Fianna Fail.
“I said it straight away that they would be up to possibly 40 seats in the next election,” said a slightly giddy Bill at the realisation that his prediction had come true.
“My father (PJ) this morning, the first thing he shouted down the stairs to me was – ‘you were right about Fianna Fail!’”
One man who won’t be reading too much into predictions from now on is Independent candidate Emmett O’Brien.
Despite being widely tipped by national commentators and bookmakers to take a Dail seat, he was spotted licking his wounds in the Sports Club Bar on Saturday night. Winning Streak was on the television at the time. He didn’t stay long.
Back over in the arena, word had gone out that the Minister for Finance, Michael ‘milluns and billuns’ Noonan had arrived. But he couldn’t be seen.
“Have you seen Noonan?” queried an under deadline Eric Clarke from UTV Ireland, as our eyes scanned a room full of wide shoulders and shiny foreheads.
After the election of 2011 Leader reporter Anne Sheridan described how the deputy, surrounded by more than 100 people at the count centre, “had the look of a satisfied and sleepy predator after ravishing a fresh carcass”.
Well, at 11.45 on Saturday night he was more akin to a mild mannered Labrador, lying tired and lethargic by the fireside after too much chase and fetch. With a rub of the eyes he elicited a big satisfying yawn - the ones you smother when in strange company.
But here was the finance minister sitting down at a table, his anorak on his back, surrounded by a group of his closed confidants, a tin of Roses and a packet of Oaties biscuits. The assembled few included Pat O’Brien, originally from Mungret, who came up from Cobh for the count, and the minister’s daughter Orla who, by all accounts, “has a big job in Paris”.
The minister was mute – to the press at least – declining to comment until after the official count was announced.
“I’m with him for the last 37 years,” said Pat, as the minister munched on a Maynards wine gum.
How are you feeling about it at the moment?
“We have a seat,”
“How is the minister at the moment?”
“He is in great form, very happy to have his seat, never lost an election! We have had it tough along the line but very happy to have our seat”.
At 1am the anorak came off. The minister strolled across the hall for the official declaration.
There was no shoulder-high business – the old firm hand shake more than sufficed.
“You said this is your last election ... is that still the situation?” asked the Leader’s very own Eugene Phelan, a seasoned campaigner himself.
“When did I say that Eugene?” the Minister asked, his low, signature drawl, drawing laughter all round.
”You did, you said that ... ”
“I think you dreamt that Eugene,” smiled the minister in an exchange that begged to be mimicked by Mario Rosenstock.
“That was the night in South’s you told me you were retiring,” the minister went on, “and I said I might retire myself. All the best, lads!”.
The laughter faded, the curtain came down, and we all left the stage.