In John Leonard’s book, Dub Sub Confidential, about his life and the GAA, he talks about what it’s like to be the substitute wishing in hope to get a go on the pitch during a big game or indeed any game. John describes in fascinating detail how he wished that Stephen Cluxton, a man on his own team, would be sent off the pitch, either through foul or injury to allow him on in his place.

But, you need to be careful what you wish for.

It was newly appointed Minister Finian McGrath who found out the hard way this week. Having finally managed to get all the Stephen Cluxtons out of the way, the Independent TD found that it’s tough at the top.

The Junior Minister for Health said that he would like to see more smoking facilities in bars and restaurants. Imagine that – people smoking in a special area inside a restaurant while you try to eat your dinner? It’s a testament to the success of the smoking ban, that such an idea seems so preposterous.

We asked our Claire Byrne Live/Amarach Research panel this question:

Do you support new Minister Finian McGrath’s idea to re-introduce indoor smoking areas in pubs?

Claire Byrne Live/Amarach Research

Claire Byrne Live/Amarach Research







A massive 84% said no, 13% said yes and 3% don’t know.

It’s safe to say, that Minister McGrath realised his folly pretty quickly and retracted from his position – lesson learned. Saying stuff when you are a minister is a totally different proposition than firing rockets from the opposition benches, particularly as an Independent TD, where you don’t have a party line to adhere to.

It was the late Seamus Brennan who told the Green Party that they were playing ‘senior hurling’ when they entered government with Fianna Fail and painful lessons come with the elevation to cabinet.

A long-standing Fine Gael minister told me this week that the strategy here is to give Finian McGrath and the other government Independents a bit of leeway at the beginning of this new government, until they settle into cabinet and the protocols around it.

Getting onto the pitch is only half the battle.