Three weeks ago, on a sleepy Friday afternoon, when the Dáil and Seanad were on vacation and the still-healthy ministers embarked on St. Patrick’s Week travels, a suspicious package addressed to Leo Varadkar has issued a security alert in government buildings.

It was deemed serious enough to force a 40-minute closure of Merrion Street as the bomb squad allegedly entered the premises. Gardaí rushed to the scene and closed off the street from Merrion Square to the junction with Baggot Street. Although staff were not evacuated, the front doors were locked and staff received an email asking them to leave through the rear entrance.

The Irish Daily Mail reported that the package was marked as coming from China and that gardaí had been called after it was x-rayed at government buildings. A subsequent review revealed that the contents did not contain any hazardous items or substances.

At the time, the government press office declined to comment on the report as it “does not comment on security issues”, while the Garda press office told journalist Louise Burne: “The Gardaí have been alerted to the contents of a package to the government. Buildings. After a preliminary review, no further action was required.

They did not confirm reports that the bomb disposal team had been called. The intended recipient of the suspicious package was in no way endangered in any way. The Tánaiste was in service on St. Patrick’s Day in Chile.

The Tánaiste may already be thinking about refurb when he takes over from Micheál Martin as taoiseach at the end of the year

Since the incident, we’ve been hearing that there’s been a lot of fun around government buildings about Leo’s mysterious package from the Orient which set off the alarm on the security front when what appeared to be electrical components and wires appeared in the x-ray machine.

It turns out that the package contained a new lamp. A very nice lamp, apparently.

We haven’t been able to determine if the Tánaiste bought it for his Merrion Street office (perhaps already thinking about the renovation when he succeeds Micheál Martin as taoiseach at the end of the year ) or for the newly purchased gaffe in Portobello.

As Tennyson might have written: In the spring a young man’s fancy turns lightly to thoughts of beautiful lights. . .

Minister of Health Stephen Donnelly: healthy dose of skepticism prescribed. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

A pinch of salt for Stephen Donnelly’s health check

Everything is going very well in the health service. We will be world leaders and world leaders in no time, if Stephen Donnelly’s phone address to the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party is to be believed this week.

During a complete overview of the evolution of his department and the many projects on which he is working, the Minister of Health regaled the small deputies and senators with a glowing report. He also snatched credit for the pioneering but ill-fated Mother and Child Scheme in the late 1940s from Dr. Noel Browne and gave it all to Fianna Fáil.

We understand that some TDs had large pinches of salt on hand as they listened to the Minister’s recap of the efforts underway and the many difficult issues that still need to be resolved. But rest assured, their man works “relentlessly”, particularly in the area of ​​waiting lists, diagnostics and the recruitment of consultants.

While he has done ‘enormous, enormous’ work, he also praised Ministers of State Mary Butler and Anne Rabbitte for also ‘doing incredible work’ in the areas of mental health and disability. They are of course members of Fianna Fáil, but he graciously recalled the other junior minister, the one who fights for Fine Gael. “A very good guy, Frank Feighan”, apparently.

During the build-up to the ministerial trumpet, Stephen, who jumped ship from the Social Democrats for Fianna Fáil in 2017, offered historical perspective to his audience of dyed-in-the-wool soldiers of fate.

Over the years, despite the challenges, he said the party had made huge differences in the quality of Irish health care, citing the decade from 1997 when child mortality plummeted and graduation nursing and a smoking ban were introduced.

He then listed the very many accomplishments under his own leadership. Although there is a lot of unfinished business and serious challenges ahead, there is “something to be proud of in terms of the national effort,” he said.

However, the really, really big launch this year is the Women’s Health Care Plan. The Minister told his delighted listeners that this plan is “probably the biggest evolution in women’s healthcare since mother and baby [sic] scheme”.

And it’s a ploy, he told his colleagues, “with which Noel Browne is credited” when in fact the previous Fianna Fáil government drafted the Health Act. He said it was not even implemented by Browne’s cross-party administration, without explaining the crucial reasons why. The Fianna Fáil government that came next implemented it, he said.

Barely a feather in the hat as the minister omitted this important technicality about being watered down considerably due to the same government bowing to clerical pressure.

Anyway, in the area of ​​women’s health, he is doing “a very big boost”.

Super Doolan moves on

Teresa Doolan, the first woman to hold the prestigious post of Superintendent of Leinster House, is heading for new pastures after two years in the role and taking on a new role within the Ministry of Justice.

Dáil Clerk and Head of the Oireachtas Houses Service, Peter Finnegan, pays tribute to him in his latest staff newsletter.

“Teresa has been a brilliant addition to our team; a calm, efficient and very effective superintendent who brought a fresh perspective to the position. We are sad to see her leave us and her expertise will be greatly missed,” he wrote, adding that it was “an immense pleasure” to work with her and wishing her every success in her new role.

The civil servant was previously Private Secretary to Enda Kenny when he was Taoiseach, and she has moved to the Oireachtas team at Leinster House from the Taoiseach’s Department’s Human Resources Unit.

As head of the superintendent’s unit, Doolan was in charge of all security functions related to the Dáil and Seanad, as well as the infrastructure and accommodation needs of TDs and senators. She broke with tradition on her first day on the job – traditionally the preserve of ex-army officers – by asking ushers to call her Teresa instead of using the conventional, formal “superintendent”.

There is talk at Leinster House that his predecessor, Paul Conway, who moved to Brussels as the Oireachtas’ representative in the European Parliament, could be brought in as a temporary replacement while Derek Dignam, head of communications and international relations , was also mentioned in Dispatches.

Teresa’s departure means two key security posts at Leinster House are now worryingly vacant. John Flaherty, a former stalwart of the Oireachtas Golf Society whose evidence in the Golfgate case in Galway in January was praised by Judge Mary Fahy, finished captain of the guard in 2020.

Dáil Drama Kings and Queens

It should come as no surprise to learn that Leinster House politicians were broadly supportive this week of Norma Foley’s plan to introduce theatre, film and drama studies into the Leaving Cert scheme, given the number theater queens and old hams populating the pews on all sides.

Former Fianna Fáil TD turned disgruntled independent Marc MacSharry was a leader in amateur drama circles in Sligo before reaching new theatrical heights in Kildare Street, while junior Fine Gael minister Hildegarde Naughton is a soprano in classical training; his Eliza Doolittle and Calamity Jane are still fondly remembered in Galway Musical Society circles.

Malcolm’s credits include the role of Juan Perón in Evita, Major General Stanley in The Pirates of Penzance and the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz.

Another paid member of the luvvie brigade is Wexford-based Fianna Fáil Senator Malcolm Byrne, who will take to the stage next week in the Gorey Musical Society’s production of The Sound of Music. The show opens on a Sunday matinee tomorrow and will run every night until Saturday’s two-show finale. Tickets sell out fast, with limited availability for some shows. Malcolm’s credits include the role of Juan Perón in Evita, Major General Stanley in The Pirates of Penzance and the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz.

He plays Admiral Von Schreiber (who forces Captain Von Trapp back into the navy) on this week’s show. A minor role, which leaves him free to join the choir for the waltz scenes.

Security analyst Tom Clonan secured a seat at Seanad this week.  Photo: Norma Burke/PA Wire

Security analyst Tom Clonan secured a seat at Seanad this week. Photo: Norma Burke/PA Wire

Meanwhile, speaking of senators, we have to congratulate Tom Clonan for triumphing in the Seanad by-election and taking Ivana Bacik’s vacant Trinity seat after what turned into a fierce competition in the final countdown. The former army captain, who became a whistleblower as a result of his research into sexual abuse in the Defense Force, is a disability activist and well-known commentator on defense and security issues.

Members of the Upper House are now wondering how their colleague on the Labor panel, Lance Corporal Gerard Craughwell (speech special ops), is going to cope with not being the Seanad’s sole national security and soldier authority. . Obviously, he will always be the leader. And he can show young Clonan the ropes.

Multilingual praise

Malcolm’s party colleague and namesake Thomas Byrne, the Minister of State for European Affairs, looked very pleased with himself on Tuesday. There were two reasons: he no longer wore his arm in a sling after an unfortunate funeral-related injury; and he had just returned from a conference organized by the French Embassy where he spoke four languages: English, Irish, French and Italian.

The ambassador, His Excellency Vincent Guérend, was so impressed that he tweeted thanks to the minister in the same four languages ​​for his commitment to “multilingualism, an essential driver of European citizenship”.

Thomas spoke at the conference on the theme “Inspiring plurilingualism: challenges and prospects in Europe”.

Is Byrne multilingual? We’re not sure, as he had a script, but we imagine that if a TD were to call him one in the Dáil, the Ceann Comhairle might kick them out for inappropriate use of language.

As for the aforementioned slingshot, the Meath East TD told us he stumbled into church on his way to offer his condolences to a constituent and suffered a minor broken arm. Politics is a dangerous profession.