herald

Saturday 18 August 2018

He joked, he smoked, he drank until 3.20am

I HAVE a confession. I wouldn't have been fit to do a radio interview yesterday morning either, after spending the night with Biffo and his pals downing pints.

I left Blazer's Bar in the four-star hotel at the exact same time as our Taoiseach -- which for the record was 3.21am.

As the Taoiseach cranked up the party in Blazer's Bar on Tuesday morning, his backbenchers and so-called 'Drinks Cabinet' were loving it. Politicians and journalists had just been served up a stomach-lining five-course meal that was preceded by a free bar in Galway's The Ardilaun Hotel.

Earlier, the Taoiseach sat at the top table with, among others, Tanaiste Mary Coughlan, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan and Fianna Fail Chief Whip John Curran.

But the party really came to life when former Galway hurler Joe McDonagh took to the stage to sing The West's Awake. It was after 11pm as the entire dinner hall joined in for the final lines.

That was the point that the night took a turn and the Taoiseach and several ministers threw caution to the wind. Tanaiste Mary Coughlan brought drinks for myself and a dozen journalists in the dinner room, joking that we hadn't written anything too bad about her lately.

Justice Minister Dermot Ahern was regaling the media with tales of his chickens.

Tourism Minister Mary Hanafin arrived

It was around midnight when word filtered through that there was a sing-song in the residents' bar, the gathering moved in that direction.







Amused

Inside Blazers it was like the Kitt Family Cabaret. Proinsais Kitt -- the brother of Tom, Michael and Aine Brady -- was performing a story about a country who went to visit the cousins in America and brought his "wycycle".

Longford TD Peter Kelly was acting MC. Brian Crowley was on the piano, while Sean Connick picked up a guitar.

Bagatelle's Summer In Dublin rang out as the Taoiseach stood at the entrance to the bar downing pints and looking more than amused. He popped in and out a few times for cigarettes and was initially slow to take to the stage. When he did, he couldn't be stopped.

He launched into a 20-minute monologue that included an impression of Michael O Muircheartaigh.

He did a skit about a squeaky voiced Philip Walton and a seven iron with backspin. The place was in stitches. At one point, he stopped to say: "For God's sake, I know the press are here but don't report this ... " But one Cabinet member remarked to me that he wished ordinary people could see this Brian Cowen. Unfortunately for Mr Cowen though, what the public got a few hours later was a hoarse and sleepy version.

Things began to quieten around 3am and as I headed for the door at 3.20am, the Taoiseach was also, finally, making his move for bed.

Five hours later my phone started to hop with text messages asking "is Cowen pissed?"

I'm not going to say the Taoiseach was drunk, but if his excuse for the Morning Ireland interview was hoarseness, then that is definitely related to the lively session in the bar. He was jovial and having the craic.

But before he'd even had his breakfast he had returned to being dour, grumpy and hating the attention.

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