Another historic milestone for Taoiseach Simon Harris on Saturday when he embarked on a trip to the United Notions of Dún Laoghaire, Glasthule and Howth.

It was a pier-to-pier occasion.

On a beautiful day with just a whisper of a breeze in the affluent air and happy dogs and happy people everywhere enjoying sunshine and ice-cream. Not even an incoming swarm of relentlessly upbeat Fine Gael canvassers struggling to keep pace with speed merchant Harris was going to upset their day.

Apart from an agitated man in Glasthule angrily complaining about government politicians working for a higher world power and another in Howth accusing the Taoiseach of “giving away our sovereignty”, it was all awfully nice.


Here’s a typical example – a woman on Dún Laoghaire’s east pier clocks the Taoiseach and, with a very determined look on her face, makes a beeline straight for him. They stand, nose to nose, and then she smilingly whispers: “my grandmother was a Cosgrave” and shakes his hand.

The canvassing group included Euro election candidate Regina Doherty, local TD and Minister of State Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Dún Laoghaire-based Senator Barry Ward, Péig the Irish wolfhound, Connie the Jack Russell and Beau the miniature golden cockalabradoodlepoo, or something like that.

Péig is the secret weapon. People can’t help running over to greet her and then all of a sudden they find themselves shaking the Taoiseach’s paw. Péig takes it all in her stride, the noble dignity of her ancient breed shining through the proliferation of Regina Doherty stickers on her wiry coat.

Simon gets in an early start on his traditional Taoiseach’s canvass bingo-card. Before the photogenic dogs in Dún Laoghaire, he attends the Marley Parkrun in Rathfarnham and kisses a baby.

He is clearly still on a high from his visit to Bloom the day before when, as one young Fine Gaeler proudly confides “the aul ones were flinging themselves at him”.

Outgoing MEP Frances Fitzgerald is waiting to meet him on the pier but he veers off to meet two women excitedly photographing the scene.

“Hello,” he cries, hand outstretched. “I’m the prime minister. Where are you from?”


Tourists. Check!

Down to the bandstand for a group photo with local election candidates (check!) and two women (a pattern is emerging) wave down. He runs over and jumps on a wooden bench to shake hands.

“It’s nice to meet you. Nice to meet you. It’s soo nice,” giggles one of the women.

On to the Happy Out cafe on the seafront where Frances happily accepts responsibly for starting this whole Simon Harris thing. Then a senator, she advertised for an assistant and Harris tuned up.

“He came to me when he was 20 and said he wanted to work in politics. He gave up his degree when I offered him a job. He is a decision-maker, people don’t realise that.”

In an uncharacteristic bingo-card slip-up, the Taoiseach fails to notice a nearby hen-party because he is greeting a young couple who revealed they are on a first date.

Jessica Hayes from Sandymount and Edward Harrington, an Irish citizen from Rhode Island living in Blackrock, didn’t expect the Taoiseach to turn up too. “Yeah, I arranged it to impress her,” jokes Edward.

What do they think of him?

“He’s very professional, very nice and he advocates for minority groups,” says Jessica. “He’s an approachable, familiar and friendly face and he’s done a lot of work to get where he is today.”


“Bet you weren’t expecting me to say that,” she laughs.

Thankfully, Edward doesn’t seem put off by this.

There is the obligatory stop at Teddys for ice-cream. The politicians spot a couple and their grandson standing beside their car, which has a flat tyre. Senator Barry bustles over first. “Do you want help?” he asks, before admitting he’d be useless.

The Taoiseach hurtles towards the scene, like he too knows what he is doing. An adviser hisses at him to wipe the ice-cream off his face first.

Brendan Dunne and Frances McNeill and grandson Fionn Mallen (6) are fascinated. “They all offered, in fairness, but we’re getting the professionals,” says Frances.

The team race on to Glasthule and we learn at least one thing from a morning spent traipsing behind the Taoiseach; Simon Harris has one thing in common with Britain’s Prince Andrew – he doesn’t sweat.

As they near Cavistons famous seafood restaurant, a man in an open-topped car stops, holds his phone out the window to film the scene and shouts “Why are you playing a game? Why are you pretending to be something you are not? Why?”

He returns on foot a short time later when the Taoiseach is busy posing for a photograph with a box of strawberries (check!) and shouts again about the Government working for a powerful global master.

“When are you going to represent the people of Ireland?”

“I represent the people of Ireland everyday.”



Simon disappears into the fish shop with owner Peter Caviston to shouts of “Fiasco! It’s a fiasco!”

Then he poses enthusiastically with a large dead fish (check!). Fishy water starts trickling down his arms.

“I have a lot of hands to shake,” he says.

Peter directs him to the sink.

We go home to soak our feet in a bucket and rejoin the canvass in Howth. Even though he is on a trip to the United Notions, the Taoiseach does not stop off at Clontarf along the way. He says he will visit later in the week.

He has fish and chips in Burdocks (check!) after a pleasant bustle up and down the prom and harbour and looks even happier than those photos from Bloom when all the aul ones were flinging themselves at him.

There is a reason. The results of the Sunday Independent opinion poll landed when they were driving across town. Fine Gael is up three points, on level pegging with Sinn Féin, down seven points.

The Taoiseach said he doesn’t pay much attention to opinion polls (check!). But he would be happy to see the party go up another few points to at least the 25 per cent mark before….well, before whatever.

He is well aware of the gathering talk about an early general election but he doesn’t let on.

No plans to hold one any time soon, more work to do (check!). But the results of the local and European elections will be very interesting and did you know that the minimum campaign length is 18 days?

Not that he has been thinking about it, or anything.

The warm reception in Dún Laoghaire is mirrored in Howth, where the recognition factor among locals is high and the tourists approach for selfies.

Hopes of finding a decent row are briefly raised when we hear a woman tell the Taoiseach: “You don’t even need a muzzle. All you need is good behavioural training.”

But he is talking to Vanessa Fagan, a dog behaviourist from Kildare, who wants him to do something about Ireland’s tenancy rules for renters with pets. With rental property in such scarce supply, she says more and more owners are having to surrender their dogs for rehoming as they will be evicted if they keep them.

Near the Dart station, a man approached to complain about the “WHO pact” on international pandemic prevention and the EU’s asylum and migration pact.

“Seriously, you’re giving away our sovereignty. It’s not good,” he loudly declared before walking away.

The day ended with one more schlep up a very steep hill to work a few more tables outside a few more pubs before finally coming to a stop outside the Abbey Tavern. Whereupon a real live bride and groom appeared. (BINGO!)

Séan Doherty, a lecturer in Maynooth and Eileen Doherty (née Byrne), a nurse, were married in a ceremony in the Ardán show garden in nearby Windgate Road. They live in Leixlip and were delighted to pose for a photograph with the Taoiseach on their big day.

Guests began arriving, among them were the familiar faces of Riverdance supremos John McColgan and former chair of the RTÉ board Moya Doherty, the groom’s sister.

The Taoiseach was oblivious to their presence until John toddled over and invited him to Riverdance.

How we wanted him to say, “I’ll go to your show if Moya goes before the Media Committee”, but he didn’t.

We walked back to the harbour with patient Péig, the wolfhound.

“Hang on a minute,” said her owner, plucking something away from her.

“She’s got a sticker of Regina on her arse.”

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