It’s all go these days for the leader of Sinn Féin.

Then again, these are busy times for all party leaders, with just four weeks to go to the European and local elections.

But Mary Lou McDonald isn’t on the campaign trail next weekend – at least not in Ireland. There is another constituency which is close to the heart of Sinn Féin and its assiduous cultivation does not stop for mere domestic considerations.

Next Saturday morning in Springfield, Massachusetts, she is addressing members and guests of the John Boyle O’Reilly Club, one of the oldest Irish-American organisations in the world. It was founded in 1880 and is dedicated to supporting all things Irish.

The JBO Club is pulling out all the stops for their special guest from Dublin.

The Friends of the John Boyle O’Reilly Club group posted a notice on its Facebook page earlier this week: “Due to Mary Lou McDonald and the immense planning needed to take place the [Friday] Club supper has been cancelled.”

An appeal went out for members to assist on the day.

“People will be coming from all over 4 states to see the president of Sinn Féin Mary Lou McDonald on May 18th. We can expect potentially upwards of 500 people, dignitaries, and other invited guests to come to our home at the JB … we need certain tasks to be done.”

These included power-washing the stage and setting up chairs and moving tables, cooking and selling burgers and hot dogs and providing “small baked goods” for the morning. Parking attendants were also needed along with somebody to paint the metal shed door “grey or green”.

And not forgetting “children to hold and wave small Irish and American flags”.

This should gladden Mary Lou’s heart.

It’s not like back home, where there is no shortage of adults willing to turn out and wave very large Irish flags at members of Sinn Féin – and not in a nice way.

Hosting the Sinn Féin leader is quite a coup for the western Massachusetts organisation. “This is a special day for all the members, so let us enjoy and savour this moment as we are honored to have such a special occasion happen here at our great club.”

They are making a day of it.

The event starts at 11am and after all the talk is done there will be a barbecue, a beer station outside and the Pavilion Bar will be open.

It’s a free event and Irish tunes will be provided by The Bards.

No Klingons

The media rules of engagement for election campaigns are so strict these days that TV and radio journalists are counting down the days until voting is over. The merest mention of a candidate during a live broadcast means the programme presenter had to read out the full list of runners and riders in the constituency concerned.

This is an irritation at the best of times, but with very large fields going to post in the European elections, frazzled presenters and their producers are trying – with limited success – to keep contributors in check. This is extremely difficult when politicians routinely refer to candidates they met while out and about around the country.

They can’t help themselves.

RTÉ sent out warnings to all the parties this week asking them to remind their politicians to stop the on-air name-dropping and candidate placement.

And this applies to all politicians, regardless of party or rank.

Good luck with that.

For the next four weeks, candidates can only be seen or heard about in controlled conditions.

Interview doughnuts are also off the menu for the foreseeable. A senior politician can still appear in front of a camera surrounded by a knot of nodding local colleagues, but only the ones not running for election can join the huddle.

The difficulty this presents was evident when the Taoiseach visited Corrin Mart in east Cork on Friday.

RTÉ’s cameraman had to point out that if the smiley heads around him didn’t move he would have to crop the image so tightly only his nose and mouth would be in the shot.

Then the Virgin Media cameraman had to ask Simon Harris to redo an interview because Noel O’Donovan, the party’s local election candidate for Skibbereen, had drifted back into the shot while he was speaking the first time.

This is a very disappointing state of affairs for Klingon candidates everywhere who must now slope off when the cameras are on.

Still on the campaign trail, Minister for Expenditure Paschal Donohoe bumped into the Independent TD for Clare, Michael McNamara, on Thursday in Wicklow.

Michael, who has had a good start to his European election campaign with some high-profile Dáil and committee displays, is standing in the constituency of Ireland South. He was a long way from home when he ran into Paschal and one of Fine Gael’s candidates in the same race, John Mullins from Cork.

The two groups were loitering in the vicinity of Greystones Dart station and they belted off in opposite directions as soon as courtesy allowed.

Space man

Ireland’s Mr Universe is deeply involved in the local elections in Kildare.

His wife, Dr Lorraine Benson, is running for the Greens.

“I’m just a significant other,” clarifies Leo Enright, in case of confusion. The former RTÉ broadcaster and expert on all matters cosmic is helping to run Lorraine’s campaign by manning the phones and providing media advice if needed.

“She is a woman of great competence and is not in need of any assistance,” he boomed, sounding slightly disappointed. “She writes her own press releases – she’s just written a stinker about the scandalous state of the water in Co Kildare and the failure of successive governments to do anything about it.”

Dr Benson is an economist turned environmental scientist and this is her first foray into local politics.

“The schoolchildren of South Kildare weren’t even born when the Irish government was first directed by the European Commission to set standards for the quality of our drinking water in Ireland,” she says. “Seventeen years later, despite intervention by the EPA and the European Court of Justice, we are still waiting for something to be done to improve the water quality.”

Space commentator Leo has been out canvassing and is “noticing a lot about water on the doors”.

Meanwhile, he can also answer questions about China’s mission to the far side of the moon – or Seanad Éireann, as it is also known.

Photo op

What a lovely photograph of the Minister for Health, framed by what looks like a blue bedpan and matron’s hat and taken at the annual conference of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) in Croke Park on Friday.

Stephen Donnelly bravely endured his annual trip to the INMO conference this week and we hear he was given a lovely gift by the nurses when he came to visit.

What’s that? You mean they didn’t give him a dressing gown?

Apologies, they gave him a dressing-down. Not exactly unexpected.

Still, he enjoyed his second outing to Croke Park in just under a week. He was in Jones’ Road for last Saturday’s Heineken Cup semi-final between Leinster and Northampton, joking to the nurses that he’d complimented an official on the speedy way the GAA was able to change all the seats to blue for the occasion and for Leinster. Only then he had to reassure the GAA official that this was a joke and he knew all along that Dublin play in Croker and they play in blue.

The nurses weren’t exactly in stitches.

But back to the photo, taken by Sam Boal of the Collins Agency. It sparked different reactions when we showed it around.

“It has something of a stained-glass window/saintly aura about it. Almost beatific.”

“Is that a toilet seat around his head?”

“I’m getting strong Nurse Ratched vibes here.”

That last one is a bit harsh.

If he were a member of a different coalition party he might be an unlikely Florence Nightingale.

Or more like a Florence Night-in-A&E.

I’ll get me (white) coat.

Table manners

Staff in the Leinster House canteen were in excellent spirits this week, despite the fact that the cutlery tray has had to be moved within the eye line of staff on the cash desk because people keep nicking the good forks.

Given the location, one would have thought that knives are more in demand around the corridors of power – the sharper the better.

We hear one serial offender was chased out through the swing doors and ordered to surrender a fork.

However, a message from the new Taoiseach cheered them up no end.

It’s a month since Simon Harris took over the top job and the day he became Taoiseach was a special one for him and his family.

He wrote separately this week to the catering staff, the bar staff and the ushers, thanking Julie Lyons, Darren Brady and Alan Ruane and their teams for all their work on the day.

He asked Julie to pass on his gratitude to the staff in the restaurant and canteen. She promptly sent them all a copy of the letter.

“When I knew you were minding my family, I knew they were in safe hands,” he wrote. “You are the heart of Leinster House … Without you and all the team, the place would not function.”

He invited them all to visit the Taoiseach’s office so he can thank them in person.

Similar letters went to the bar manager Darren and head usher Alan.

Fair play.

Manners cost nothing and they mean a lot.