Dáil mud-slinging is like ‘Wagon Wheel’ at a country wedding 

The first day of school is always nerve-wracking, even more so when you know you’re already in trouble.

The Dáil returned on Wednesday, after a shaky August, much like the shaky August that came before.

The buzz around Leinster House was still palpable, despite the upcoming no-confidence motion in Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney, and the staff in the canteen even put gold Christmas crackers on the tables, an invitation to pull the other one, as it were.

The TDs returned, faces tanned from holidays home and abroad, some looking more rested than others, others looking like they’d rather be anywhere else in the world, except maybe the Merrion Hotel.

One Fine Gael TD suggested he considered tabling a bill “to get rid of August entirely”, as his colleagues couldn’t be trusted not to hand scandals to the press.

Fresh from all their organised thinking at their various think-ins, TDs seemed keen to get back into it. 

Cross-party TDs discussed the mica crisis between themselves in the car park, one noting the Tánaiste had been told in no uncertain terms at his party get-together that the issue was coming to a head thick and fast.

One crisis at a time

Taking it one crisis at a time, Simon Coveney had a motion of no-confidence to get through and Mary Lou McDonald wasted no time at leader’s questions reminding Micheál Martin that his Foreign Affairs Minister had contravened the Freedom of Information Act.

Fresh from his own holiday in West Cork, because there is absolutely no need to ever leave the real capital, even when you’re the leader of a small nation, the Taoiseach called on Ms McDonald “to play it straight,” without any awareness that he probably should have said the same to Simon Coveney.

Nature began to heal 17 minutes into the long-awaited first debate, when Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae’s Nokia mobile phone rang out its dulcet tones across the chamber, as sure as death and taxes.

Other set pieces also began to emerge during the day too. 

For instance, in the first leader’s questions, five men spoke, with just one woman’s voice heard and a row started over the order of business, despite a whole committee formed to agree on Dáil business who met that morning.

Then, just when we had settled back into our usual routine, all hell broke loose.

Fianna Fáil’s Marc MacSharry had finally had enough and
handed in his notice.

The resignation came just as a post-Cabinet press briefing was beginning, prompting the Government press secretary to leave the room briefly with a deputy. 

The spokesperson would later say the Taoiseach “regrets Mr MacSharry’s resignation and wishes him well”.

Circus rumbled on

MacSharry voted against Coveney, comparing Fianna Fáil to a totalitarian regime, and the circus rumbled on in the chamber.

The usual mud was flung in all directions as Fine Gael accused Sinn Féin of playing politics, and Sinn Féin said cronyism had become the swan song of Leo Varadkar’s party, with some well-placed jibes about leaking thrown in to embarrass a few ministers while they were at it.

All the greatest hits were played, despite them all sounding a bit played-out 20 months in.

The Irish public has heard this particular album more than ‘Wagon Wheel’ at a country wedding and at least then you can have a pint when you’re being asked to sit through it.

Mr MacSharry’s departure from the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party, which should have been seismic, was a footnote in a performance everyone is sick of watching.

Though Micheál Martin might be glad to see the back of the boisterous Sligo TD, he’d do well to remember that at least Marc said it to his face.

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