Tuesday 19 September 2017

Familiarity helps TDs forget Brexit on first day back

Fianna Fail Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs & Trade Darragh O'Brien TD, Fianna Fail Spokesperson on Public Expenditure & Reform Dara Calleary and Senator Catherine Ardagh speaking to media on the latest public sector pay developments and about Theresa May's Brexit speech on the Plinth of Leinster House. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Fianna Fail Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs & Trade Darragh O'Brien TD, Fianna Fail Spokesperson on Public Expenditure & Reform Dara Calleary and Senator Catherine Ardagh speaking to media on the latest public sector pay developments and about Theresa May's Brexit speech on the Plinth of Leinster House. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

Has ever a national parliament felt more like a regional bus shelter in a snowstorm - with frenzied travellers determined to hop on the next service whatever it be, without knowing where they may end up?

Industrial strife, hospital beds, and Paschal's estimates all were pressing national issues on the first day back of the Dáil term, but they were the distracting buzz of a gnat in contrast with the looming grey blizzard of Brexit.

There was a bit of concern about the imploding political situation in the North - but, as usual, their concern arose out of a vague sense of what constituted good manners more than anything tangible or useful.

There were admittedly 'statements' on the North - but to a practically deserted chamber, only the tumbleweed taking any heed. Buffeted helplessly by winds blowing in from foreign parts, it's every jurisdiction for itself - though we stand or fall together.

"There's not a lot in it, in terms of the Irish perspective," Micheál Martin noted of Theresa May's words.

No mention of any special status for Northern Ireland and everything was about strengthening the British union, he said.

Understandably enough, Gerry Adams had been even more observant of Mrs May's disinterest - she gave just 21 words in total to the North.

"Which shows how much consideration she gives to that," he added grimly.

Fianna Fáil is looking for a Brexit minister to take charge.

"This is too important for this country," insisted Darragh O'Brien.

"Government has been passive and the facts of that bear that out.

"We're not match ready and the Government is not match ready and the people expect a lot more from them and they really need to up their game on this."

But we already have a Brexit minister - and that's the Taoiseach himself, Enda Kenny's own spokesperson rather sniffily pointed out afterwards.

In the meantime, the 32nd Dáil teeters along on shaky legs, dodging the many obstacles like a drunk at a funfair.

The future of Irish Water will go to a vote in spring.

Can it survive it?

An election is the last thing it wants - or can afford. But has it the skills, the wit and the sheer good fortune to avoid it? And what of Enda himself?

The leadership question has surely been put on hold while he tackles this very important Brexit business.

Who could topple a man focusing on his journey across the tightrope - but how long can it wait?

The deadline he has set himself is the Pope's visit in 2018. So long as he gets to be the one who greets Francis on the tarmac, they can do what they want after that, Enda seemed to shrug.

At least there was one thing they could all agree on: Transport Minister Shane Ross.

Mick Barry was deeply concerned by the threat of key Expressway bus routes being axed, as per the recommendations of a consultants' report.

Was the minister even aware of allegations that private operators were paying drivers cash in hand? Enda's reply was prompt - the minister hasn't seen the report. He hasn't received it. A stunned slab of silence stretched out across the room, broken by laughter.

"He's the only journalist in the place who hasn't seen the report," howled the Opposition benches.

Amid their happy sighs, Brexit was forgotten. All was right in the world.

Irish Independent

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