Monday 20 February 2017

Bad butter and bad blood as Dáil heads for final furlongs after 10 long weeks

Published 06/05/2016 | 02:30

Party leaders Micheal Martin and Enda Kenny Photo: Barbara Lindberg
Party leaders Micheal Martin and Enda Kenny Photo: Barbara Lindberg

'If you take too long churning the butter, you get bad butter," declared Mattie McGrath.

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Only he'd stolen the line from Willie Penrose who got there first on morning radio. An old Westmeath piseog, apparently.

Little wonder they are recycling each other's lines, their butter having reached 'bog' status. They tell us it's still edible - but can we believe them?

Ten weeks of softly-softly and then it all goes to hell in a handcart as they reach the final furlong.

Things had suddenly turned nasty.

So fraught was the situation, Barry Cowen had to roll out a posh legal word.

The deal was "not justiciable" and could not be enforced by a court, he said.

Whatever he meant to say, it sounded bad.

The Independent Alliance then tore into Simon Coveney for bouncing it into a deal without the ink being dry on their signatures, after Paul Kehoe rose in the Dáil three minutes before the agreed 4pm deadline to declare there would be a resumption of the order of business, with a vote on the Taoiseach at noon today.

"We weren't ready," cried the Independent Alliance. Even though everybody knew well this was likely to happen and surely 10 weeks was enough of a wait in any case.

Apparently, there were unseemly 'expletives' used.

With a deal finally within grasp, it was hard not to feel exasperated by the hissy-fits.

And harder still to find anyone that was actually excited about this whole new government thing.

Except maybe the key Independents, who have been revitalised by all the attention, dashing around with their phones glued to their ears, eyes glittering at the thoughts of all the loot; garda stations reopenings, high-speed broadband, community banking...

Is some of the stuff they're being promised even going to be possible?

There's a scant paragraph about how the government "recognises that domestic turf cutters have a traditional right to cut turf" with a commitment to de-designate 46 Natural Heritage Areas within the first 100 days.

What Europe will say about that is another thing.

Fledgling

In the meantime, there's talk of a week off to allow the fledgling ministers get to grips with their new titles in the bathroom mirror, said an elected representative in comfortable tones from his bench in the sun on the plinth. Possibly even two weeks. Look at all the talking they've done. The late nights, the hard work, the gruelling compromises.

Sure it's been stressful.

And a knowledgeable insider said it will take at least three months for them to get to know the ropes and for us to have anything close to a functioning government - if anyone can remember what that was like.

Do we even still need a government anyway?

We seem to have managed perfectly fine without one.

But apparently not.

"Things are piling up," said another source grimly, painting a picture of a holy mess of a desk awaiting triumphant ministers, after their initial ardour cools and they get a chance to look around the place.

Tempers were fraying all over the place. There were glum faces in Fianna Fáil as the realisation began to sink in about what the new reality was going to be like, not being able to use their opposition power as they might have liked.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin were getting comfortably into their stride. And Patrick O'Donovan, from Fine Gael, lighted on Paul Murphy, saying people were "absolutely outraged" that a member of the House, with a salary of around €87,258 had managed to qualify for free legal aid because he helps fund campaigns as well as his own party.

"There is something seriously wrong with our country when something like that can happen," he said.

If a person "on €100,000 decides to give €90,000 to cats and dogs' homes are they going to qualify for free legal aid?"

Possibly - if there's something in the new Programme for Government about tax breaks for furry constituents.

Well, it's not too late to ask.

Irish Independent

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