Friday 26 May 2017

Shaun Connolly: The last Dáil - a potted history of controversy

The Dáil chamber. Photo: Tony Gavin
The Dáil chamber. Photo: Tony Gavin

Shaun Connolly

BEGINNING OF THE ENDA

Enda Kenny announced on results night: "Paddy likes to know what the story is," as he promised unprecedented transparency.

Unfortunately, over the next five years, it would often transpire that not only did "Paddy" not know what was going on, but, at times, neither did Enda seem to either.

BURN BABY BURN

Michael Noonan's valiant attempt to make good on promises to burn bondholders were stopped in their tracks by a terrifying telephone bomb threat.

The warning did not come from a terrorist organisation, but the head of the ECB, Jean-Claude Trichet, who warned that if the Coalition went ahead with its plans. "a bomb would go off in Dublin", not in Frankfurt. Mr Noonan lacked the nerve to call the banker's bluff and treat it has a hoax bomb bid, and the Government's credibility was severely shaken as a result.

A BOW TO HISTORY

The air crackled with tension as Britain's Queen Elizabeth II bowed her head in a mark of respect to the Republican dead at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin amid a massive security presence during a visit that turned a new page in Anglo-Irish relations.

GAME OVER

Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore hailed a "seismic" and "game-changing" bank debt deal at an EU summit. It wasn't mentioned much again after Angela Merkel blew the whistle, with the loser being the Government's battered pride.

IT'S MAD, TED!

Overwhelmed by a star-studded international audience at the Davos economic summit, Enda Kenny did his party piece impersonation of Dougal from 'Father Ted', insisting the crash was caused by the Irish going "mad".

SEX AND THE TD

Mayo FG deputy Michelle Mulherin revealed to the Dáil: "Fornication, I would say, is probably the single most likely cause of unwanted pregnancies."

LAPSE OF TASTE

The Dáil drew global attention for all the wrong reasons when footage went viral of Tom Barry pulling fellow Fine Gael TD Áine Collins onto his lap in the early hours of the morning as deputies were dealing with the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.

WALLOPED

Government arrogance saw voters distrust it on plans to abolish the Seanad and a knife-edge defeat left Mr Kenny to concede: "Sometimes in politics you get a wallop in the electoral process. I accept the verdict of the people."

GARTH FARCE

The emergency seemed to leave normal life in limbo for several days as Lord Mayor of Dublin Christy Burke channelled the emotions of the entire country over Garth Brooks's no-show at Croke Park, philosophising: "This, to me, is like a funeral without a corpse. There's a sadness throughout the nation."

Despite being offered three nights at the venue after initially asking for just two, the celebrated country singer refused to appear because his belated bid for a five-night run was vetoed.

The situation soon escalated to an international incident, with Tánaiste Joan Burton pleading in the Dáil for a resolution as, somehow, the Mexican ambassador become involved in the row, and there were calls for the White House to intervene in what Fianna Fáil described as a "crisis".

HEAD SHOT

"Not even John the Baptist could have saved Labour," Pat Rabbitte declared as the local elections collapse saw Eamon Gilmore decapitated as party head.

DEATH AT THE DáIL

The discovery of rough sleeper Jonathan Corrie's corpse just metres from the gates of the Dáil shamed the Government into belated action on homelessness.

TRIAL AND ERROR

Rape survivor Mairia Cahill's claims of a cover-up of the crimes against her rocked Sinn Féin as the party hierarchy said it believed her story - but only up until the point it damaged them with revelations about kangaroo courts. Gerry Adams seemed unaware Ms Cahill had become a Labour Senator in the aftermath of the controversy during the TV leaders debates.

TIME OUT

Alan Shatter, who at one point announced he was Minister for Time when reminding people to put the clocks forward, finally ran out of time after putting the Coalition through a stream of exhaustive, and easily avoidable, controversies.

DARK ARTS

Just days after the Government appointed John McNulty to the board of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Enda Kenny nominated him for a vacancy on the cultural panel of the Seanad. The ensuing cronygate rumpus saw McNulty ask Oireachtas members, who are the only ones with a vote in the by-election, not to back him, leading to the Government losing its majority in the upper house as Enda Kenny admitted the incident - which dogged him to the election TV debates - was not his "finest hour".

WASH OUT

After botching the property tax and turning on the taps for the water tax rage which at times looked like it might sweep away the Government, Phil Hogan was, inexplicably, rewarded with one of the top jobs in Brussels, overseeing a €60bn portfolio as Agriculture Commissioner - and people fear Brexit is the biggest danger to the EU's future?

GAY DAY

Ahead of the marriage referendum vote, Health Minister Leo Varadkar announced: "I'm a gay man, it's not a secret."

But when the Taoiseach was asked if his enthusiastic support for same-sex weddings would have unexpected consequences, he insisted: "I have no intention of becoming a gay icon."

HEAD WRECKER

The Taoiseach did not effectively sack Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan. He merely sent a senior emissary to the police chief's house at night to express his displeasure, which according to the Fennelly inquiry acted as the "catalyst" for the departure from the post a few hours later.

But that's not the same as effectively firing someone - apparently.

When the odd chain of events first emerged, Leo Varadkar admitted: "I have difficulty getting my head around it."

KELLY'S ZEROS

Labour deputy leader Alan Kelly was reduced to tears at a party meeting as he emotionally denied charges of leaking a damaging poll in order to boost his chances of toppling Joan Burton - though he later admitted seeing power as a drug.

Irish Independent

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