Tánaiste Joan Burton falls out of boat in flood-hit Kilkenny

By Conor Kane

Tánaiste Joan Burton experienced the flood water at first hand today when she visited Thomastown and ended up closer to the ground than she'd hoped.

Ms Burton was in the Co Kilkenny town this afternoon to visit businesspeople and residents affected by Storm Frank and its aftermath when she landed in the water along the town’s quay. The quay has been submerged in flood water in the last few days.

Both the Tánaiste and her Labour Party colleague, Minister of State and TD for Carlow-Kilkenny Ann Phelan, got into a canoe being pulled along the quay by local artist Shem Caulfield.

The purpose of the exercise was to allow the politicians see at first hand the extent of the flooding which hit Thomastown, and many other towns and villages, in recent days but the boat itself took the mission literally and within minutes of leaving her entourage of officials, the Tánaiste fell into the water.

An Tánaiste Joan Burton and Minister of State for Rural Affairs Ann Phelan TD end up in the water on a visit to Thomastown today. Picture: Rollingnews.ie

As backroom staff and party brethren looked on agog, and photographers and TV cameramen pointed their cameras, the small two-seat craft tilted to its side, leaving Ms Burton nowhere to go but into the drink.

Luckily, the flood water only went waist high and both the Tánaiste and Minister of State were able to right themselves pretty quickly, helped along by a mortified Shem Caulfield, and jump aboard once again.

After having a look at Mr Caulfield’s flooded house, the wetter-than-anticipated visiting party returned to dry land, laughing off the incident.

“I’m grand,” the Tánaiste said, “I’m very fast on my feet,” adding that her boot-covered feet had remained dry throughout the ordeal, and it was just her legs that got wet. A change of clothes in the ministerial car quickly remedied that situation.

“Well you can’t say we didn’t experience the flood,” Ann Phelan said. “We’re grand, we’re tougher than that now.”

The two politicians could laugh, but poor Shem Caulfield was a picture of mortification. “How to drown a Tánaiste,” he said with a rueful grin, adding to Joan Burton herself before she left: "Sorry I nearly…", leaving the rest unsaid.

“Will this go out?” Shem asked the photographers before being assured that, yes, indeed, the pictures would go out.

The incident got a near-immediate reaction on twitter, with one suggestion that the Tánaiste’s fall into the water was symbolic of Labour’s current standing.

Joan Burton tweeted herself after the spill: "I believe in politics you must push the boat out. Maybe not this way though!"

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