Last evening Roma, my brother-in-law's wife Dorothy, my colleague Pramod, and I were entertained to dinner at the Oireachtas Restaurant in Dáil Éireann by the Minister for Social Welfare Mary Hanafin. Mary is also our local TD and I have voted for her at every election (number 1). I had bought the dinner at a Lion's Club auction and was looking forward to the evening. We had a bit of a wait when we arrived, but we were brought into the restaurant by Mary's P.A. - Martine. Mary joined us after a few moments - we were in the centre of the Member's Restaurant. I was already spotting some well known politicians such as Senator David Norris, Rory O'Hanlon, and Micheál Martin. We had a very pleasant chat about the Dáil and politics - she is very good company and very much at ease with strangers, though Roma, Dorothy, and I have met her briefly before. After the main course a vote was called in the Dáil chamber and she had to go to vote on the Crumlin Children's Hospital Private Members vote - she invited us to the public gallery to watch proceedings. I was impressed with the ceremony and grandeur of the occasion, though a lot of TDs looked bored. I was pointing out who everybody was to Pramod and having fun naming all the TDs and Ministers.
The TDs voted electronically, but this wasn't good enough for the opposition who called for a traditional going through the Lobby vote. It was during this time that Mary pointed us out to Taoiseach Brian Cowen and he recognised me from school - he waved and I waved back! When we were returning to the restaurant Mary told us that the Taoiseach wanted to meet us - he came out of the Dáil chamber to greet us. We were all delighted to shake his hand. The banter was about which of the two of us had aged the least - good stuff!
We returned to the restaurant and finished our meal - I was surprised that Mary had so much time for us as she stayed with us to the end. Beverly Flynn TD also came over to say "Hello" to Dorothy anad Roma (from her home town Castlebar). On leaving the restaurant I passed by the Taoiseach again and he stopped to shake hands - we chatted for a few minutes about Roscrea, and the Monastary. He also asked "what do you do with yourself?" and I told him I worked for NCI and even asked him for money for the College! We said our goodbyes and Mary brought us on a brief tour of Leinster House, including a visit to the Senate. A great end to a most interesting evening in Leinster House. Roma, Dorothy, and I stopped off at the Shelbourne Hotel for a jar before heading home.