Dáil war stops as all sides stand united in mourning
Published 18/06/2015 | 02:30
There aren't many events which have the power to unite the Oireachtas, to silence the eternal sniping between the ever-warring parties, to engender a rare air of solidarity.
But the heart-breaking tragedy in Berkeley, which took the lives of six young men and women and which left seven others broken and maimed on an American city street has that power. The sorrow, the shock and sense of loss which swept the country also suffused the corridors of Leinster House.
With the Tricolour at half-mast on the roof, nobody under its shadow could summon up the heart for the usual pitched battles. The guns were stilled as Leaders' Questions began.
The Taoiseach, as he instinctively does when empathy is required, went to the core of the wave of emotion sparked by the horrific deaths. "When you look at the papers this morning, don't you see the faces of your own children, sons and daughters at the start of this great adventure of life?" he asked the sombre faces around the chamber.
It was a question which went straight to the heart of the country's grief.
And so there were no objections, only unanimous assent when the Taoiseach proposed that the party and group leaders would make statements on the tragedy after Leaders' Questions, followed by a suspension of the business of the House until the afternoon. There was that feeling of wanting to be doing something, anything to declare support for those in distress on a distant shore.
"This is not a day for normal engagement," agreed Micheál Martin, who confined himself to asking Enda for assurances that the Government would continue to offer every support to all affected by the tragedy. "We as a State must ensure that every possible assistance is given to the families".
Gerry Adams, a man graced with exquisite empathy, saw no reason not to proceed with his line of questioning as planned, quizzing Enda over the plight of the Clerys' workers. After Leaders' Questions, even seasoned political speakers grappled to find words to express their sadness at the cruelty of fate; a band of bright young adults laughing under a night sky, horizons of possibility stretched before them, dashed brutally to earth in an instant.
A subdued Tánaiste recalled her own excitement when she travelled to America as a J1 student. "For a lot of young people, it is a summer of love and a summer of fun," she said.
Then everyone stood for a minute's silence: TDs, visitors in the public gallery, Oireachtas staff and journalists. No sound could be heard, save for the loud ticking of the chamber's clock measuring out time - time which six bright and beautiful sons and daughters of Ireland should have had so much more of, to laugh and love and live.