By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — The taoiseach and his 14 cabinet colleagues begin their summer break this week looking forward to relaxing after a hectic year and the grueling general election campaign.
After one summer recall of the Dail earlier this month to debate the Ansbacher report, the politicians will break their holiday and return on Sept. 4 to pass legislation for the second referendum on the EU’s Nice Treaty on enlargement.
It will then be back onto the campaign trail for the poll that is expected in October.
As usual, several ministers are starting their break with a trip to the Galway races, but for many that will be a mixture of work and pleasure.
“As well as the craic, there is a lot of business and networking done during race week,” one ministerial spokesman said.
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Many members of the cabinet regard their summer destination as a personal matter and others stress they are staying at home when the tourism industry is having a bad year. For those going abroad, Spain is the favorite location.
In the past, some politicians’ holidays have had a stressful fallout when they ended.
Tanaiste Mary Harney and Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy returned from a 1999 break in a villa in the south of France to a political row when it was revealed it was owned by a company controlled by millionaire businessman Ulick McEvaddy.
Opposition politicians accused them of “compromising themselves.”
This summer, Harney is taking her first holiday as a married woman following her low-key wedding last year to Brian Geoghegan, economic policy director of the employers’ body IBEC.
The couple managed to fit in a short honeymoon in Kenya in January but in August they are off to Cork and Spain.
McCreevy is not disclosing where he is going. A spokesman would only say, “He regards his holidays as a personal matter.”
Bertie Ahern is heading for the kingdom of Kerry for his break, after a stop at the Galway Races. “The taoiseach always takes his summer holidays in Ireland,” a spokesman said.
Brian Cowen, whose job in Foreign Affairs involves a huge amount of international travel, plans to take it easy “in the West.”
One of those Galway bound is Tourism Minister John O’Donoghue. A spokesman said he would be taking his family to the race week festival and so far had no other plans made.
Newly promoted Environment Minister Martin Cullen will take a break in Majorca.
Progressive Democrat chairman and Justice Minister Michael McDowell will spend his holiday in Ireland.
Seamus Brennan, who is heading up the new Transport Department, is spending a week in Connemara and then heading for Spain with his family for another week.
“Any other time he takes off will be spent at home in Dublin reading plenty of books, mainly on transport,” a spokesman said.
Health Minister Micheal Martin is staying close to home for the summer. “He will be holidaying in Cork. When you come from Cork there is no reason to go very far as there is beautiful scenery and lovely people on your doorstep,” a spokesman said.
Defense Minister Michael Smith, who is just back from four days visiting Irish UN peacekeepers in Bosnia and Kosovo last week, had hoped to take a holiday next month in Croatia.
“He will now be attending a wedding at home and will probably be holidaying in Ireland,” a spokesman said.
Newly promoted Social and Family Affairs Ministers Mary Coughlan hasn’t made a decision yet on where she, her husband and their two small children will take their break.
In Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, another newly promoted minister, Eamon O Cuiv, is taking a foreign holiday, but a spokesman said he was “keeping the destination private.”
Communications, Natural Resources and Marine Minister Dermot Ahern plans a family holiday next month, but a spokesman said “the details are a matter for himself.”
A spokesman for Education and Science Minister Noel Dempsey said details of his holidays could not be revealed for “security reasons.”
“He is taking a private family holiday,” the spokesman said.
Agriculture Minister Joe Walsh usually holidays at home and this year will be no exception. However, a spokeswoman said he regards the exact location as a “personal matter.”