Friday 28 October 2016

An unaccountable itch of discomfort seemed to afflict TDs on both sides

Published 28/09/2016 | 02:30

AAA TDs wear their Repeal sweatshirts in the Dáil Chamber as Ruth Coppinger questions the Taoiseach.
AAA TDs wear their Repeal sweatshirts in the Dáil Chamber as Ruth Coppinger questions the Taoiseach.

A ring of steel had been erected at the top of Molesworth Street across from Leinster House. There was a strong garda presence, with the public order unit on standby.

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It was a lockdown situation and nobody seemed to know who was expected.

In the end, a handful of students, nurses and home carers turned up, made their peaceful protest and left.

The ring of steel remained - an incongruous and expensive symbol of somebody's vague fear that some threatening group might show up and start causing trouble.

That didn't happen.

But if the Government had their way, they would have lugged that clanking ring of steel up the sweeping Georgian staircase and into the Dáil chamber to protect them from the Anti-Austerity Alliance and their pernicious sweatshirts.

Because you can never be too careful when it comes to rogue cotton with its ISIS-like qualities of infiltrating the organs of democracy.

The first day of the new Dáil term was jogging along nicely, despite the strange absence of many of our elected representatives. Those who did show their faces for Leaders' Questions talked about the looming Budget, Brexit and the funding of universities.

Five months into the 32nd Dáil, most of Fianna Fáil were still getting to grips with the seating arrangements, studying the leaflets they'd been issued.

Mattie McGrath was tinkering with a new smartphone, before giving up and reverting back to the old reliable.

Micheál Martin had suffered a minor mishap, with one of the fingers of his right hand bandaged up.

Stephen Donnelly, formerly of the Social Democrats, had abandoned his seat altogether and was sitting up in the public gallery.

The Anti-Austerity Alliance members began to slip into the chamber, their faces innocently neutral and all wearing their jackets.

Nobody could miss Gino Kenny in a bright red bomber which suddenly made Mick Wallace look like a preppy golfer in his mint green polo.

You would have had to be very lax not to observe that underneath, they were all wearing black tops printed with a Repeal slogan.

Ruth Coppinger rose to her feet and brought up the Repeal the Eighth march which took place in Dublin on Saturday, with 25,000 people on the move. The polls showed 73pc support a referendum, she said.

The AAA deputies had quietly shed their jackets to reveal their Repeal sweatshirts.

An unaccountable itch of discomfort suddenly seemed to afflict the Taoiseach and some deputies on both sides of the chamber.

"It's not a black and white situation - this is about people," insisted Enda.

As AAA TD Brid Smith rose with a question on the trial of a 17-year-old over the water protests, the angle of the Dáil camera suddenly switched to her back.

The ushers at Leinster House took a couple of the TDs aside quietly to suggest that political clothing was "not appropriate attire" in the chamber, Gino Kenny said afterwards.

Fine Gael's Ciarán Cannon also thought it wasn't appropriate since he'd had a group of 20 kids up on a tour who had to cover up their CoderDojo logo T-shirts.

They may face disciplinary action, as it turns out.

The Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl confirmed the incident would be reviewed by the cross-party committee on procedure and privileges and by the business committee, saying emblems of a "party political nature" should not be worn or otherwise displayed within parliamentary precincts.

"It wasn't an Easter lily, it wasn't a poppy or a fist in the air," insisted Brid Smith.

"The Repeal is what the people are talking about, even if the old fogies in here aren't."

Irish Independent

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