Thursday 27 April 2017

Tanaiste rains on TDs' parade as holliers deferred

Lise Hand

Lise Hand

THERE'S a time-honoured set piece which takes place on the last day of every Dail summer term.

And it goes like this: during the final session of the Order of Business, the leaders of the Opposition parties get stuck into the Government for having the brass neck to skive off on their holidays for the bones of three months.

And the Government blithely ignores them all and handily wins the inevitable vote to either extend the Dail term or recall it at an earlier date in September.

Then everyone packs their buckets and spades and heads happily for the hills.

However, the traditional ritual suffered a bit of a setback when the 31st Dail convened in March and the eager new Government announced that the summer term would be extended by a fortnight and would return earlier also.

The Opposition must've been gutted. What to do? And then the crunch EU summit in Brussels was announced, and the job was oxo.

And so in yesterday's last Order of Business, it didn't take long for the annual hand-wringing and tut-tutting to break out among the sorrowful deputies.

Fianna Fail's Eamon O Cuiv read out a speech on the matter at his leisure -- a practice which would usually guarantee a choleric Ceann Comhairle, but what the hey it's the last day.

At some length, Eamon explained that he and his party weren't going to indulge in the traditional ritual and that everyone should realise just how hard-working are all the poor wee dotes in the Dail.

"It is fair to record that many politicians work between 80 and 100 hours a week. The work we do in this House is a small part of the overall work we do," he explained to approval from all sides.

But. (There's always a but). "However, I would like to make one request," continued Eamon. "In view of the major importance of the summit taking place today, the House should reconvene next week," he stated.

"Hear, hear," chipped in Finian McGrath.

"The Taoiseach should report to the House on the summit and give us a chance to debate its outcome," continued Eamon.

And then they all joined in.

"We do not accept that the House should be adjourned, given that the Taoiseach is today attending an EU summit of immense importance to the State," announced Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald.

And then Joe Higgins got in on the action. "In the past the proposal to adjourn the Dail for the summer was often routinely opposed with a level of cynicism and grandstanding that only the Labour Party and Fine Gael could muster," sniped Joe to an outburst of scoffing from the aforementioned parties.

"The serious point is that more time is needed on this occasion. The Taoiseach should report back to us and give us an opportunity to discuss the outcome of the summit."

Even Richard Boyd Barrett was in rare agreement with everyone.

"Whatever differences I have with the members on the other side of the House, I recognise it has been a fairly intense few months in here and all of us have a difficult situation to deal with," he concurred.

But -- "the issue of the European summit is a serious matter. People are anxious and deserve to hear a full report and to have this House interrogate fully the outcome of that summit," he added.

So far, so predictable. But then the Tanaiste rose to reply. He appeared to be sticking to the usual script -- "I'm sure everybody in the House will wish the Taoiseach well in the discussions taking place in Brussels today," he said.

But then he did the unthinkable. The Government granted the wish of the Opposition.

"However, it is appropriate that the outcome of the summit meeting today is considered by the parliamentary system," he said, and explained that the finance committee would meet next Tuesday afternoon. And all were invited.

"If it's the case that the number of members interested in attending that committee is more than what would be accommodated in the committee room, we can have that meeting of the committee here in the Chamber so that any member of the House who wants to discuss the outcome of today's summit can do so here in the House," he added. Golly.

There was the muffled sound of buckets and spades hitting the floor. Now anyone who had agitated for such a meeting would really be obliged to show up on Tuesday.

Maybe the Opposition should've heeded that old proverb -- "Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true".

We're all going on our summer holliers. But not just yet.

Euro crisis, Pages 20-23

Irish Independent

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