Saturday 1 October 2016

Bring out your political dead - and send them off for their summer holidays

Published 20/07/2016 | 02:30

Soaking up the sun outside Leinster House yesterday were Fianna Fáil Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee and her daughter Kitty Photo: Tom Burke
Soaking up the sun outside Leinster House yesterday were Fianna Fáil Senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee and her daughter Kitty Photo: Tom Burke
Soaking up the sun outside Leinster House yesterday was Senator Lynn Ruane Photo: Tom Burke
Soaking up the sun outside Leinster House yesterday were Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams and deputy president Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Tom Burke

'Bring out your dead' was how a seasoned political correspondent wearily described the penultimate of the Cabinet briefings before the summer jolly days.

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The corpses were well and truly charred in the hour-and-three-quarter- long meeting on the hottest day of the year, when the mind tended to wander dreamily off to more pressing matters such as ice-cream, picnics and the sudden emergence of itchy hives.

Wilting and bedraggled in the unaccustomed Saharan swelter, the Cabinet had hauled themselves along - bar Paul Kehoe, currently in Lebanon.

They cleared their desks, throwing everything to the floor - from the potential border poll to the practicalities of pulling a postage stamp because the Cycling Ireland association had mystifyingly turned up their nose at one of a forthcoming set of a four. It depicted a cyclist in reflective gear on the road at dusk. Apparently, they wanted to switch it for someone wearing "bright colours" by day to show cyclists in a more 'positive light'.

There was a "tonne" of reports.

Heather Humphreys asked the Government to note a new "culture strategy", there were new judicial appointments, planned upgrades to the "prehistoric" garda fleet and the "significant" rise in applications for entry visas to this country was raised.

There was a touch of Marie Kondo's 'Magic of Tidying' about it: take everything out, examine it, give it a pat for a job well done and put it all back again looking, well, tidier.

Very therapeutic. Though not necessarily more productive.

A languid air blew gently through the open windows of Leinster House with the holiday mood heightened all the more by the trickle of a fountain and the availability of ice-cream at the LH2000 building.

It belied the urgency surrounding Simon Coveney's Action Plan for Housing and Homelessness - which was the real meat of the day.

Arguably his Ardnacrusha, Coveney unveiled this mammoth project with a steely resolve.

It's not perfect and he's not wedded to every detail -but it's a start, he declared.

As tense and tightly wound as a greyhound, Enda gave him the stage after a brief introduction.

Sitting on the steps with his chin in his hands, Leo Varadkar looked wistfully out of the loop.

Finally making an attempt to tackle the single biggest crisis of our society, the culmination of five years of government inaction - and the reason they were hammered in the election, Simon was all too aware of what is at stake. Everything.

"We'll be judged on that in terms of delivering it," he said grimly.

As he outlined each strand of the crisis - the urgent need to move families out of hotels, to get rough sleepers off the streets, to act so that more families do not lose their homes because of mortgage arrears and to help struggling young buyers on apparently decent pay to get a roof over their heads - it sounded like a herculean task.

Much depends on too many variables. The return of the developers and the builders to these shores, the willingness of local authorities to stop sitting on their hands. For the planning system to act in a different manner.

Can it be done?

With almost 140,000 families on the housing list and ever rising, it must.

Amid their urgency, the summer recess stretches out in dreadful luxury.

Irish Independent

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