Lise Hand: A flash of Christmas light at the Dail but now comes the darkness
Published 05/12/2012 | 05:00
The Ceann Comhairle's visage was sporting a semi-beatific expression as he gazed upwards at the giant Christmas tree twinkling on the lawn of Leinster House. "I think this is a very joyous occasion," he beamed.
"As Ceann Comhairle, it's one of the pleasant jobs I have inside in Leinster House, and that's to switch on the lights. Because it's very symbolic from my point of view – I hope that this symbolic turning-on of the lights will turn on light in all our lives and we begin smiling and being positive to one another again," he added, as the good vibrations only poured out of him.
Golly – was it beginning to feel a lot like Christmas?
It was in its nelly. The tree might look lovely now, bedecked with its sparkly baubles, but it'll be off to the pawn with the lot of them this after-Noolin, once Michael and Brendan unleash the Budget.
And what's more, on the other side of Leinster House on Kildare Street, a pro-life rally was in full-blooded swing behind a large banner, which warned: 'Enda Keep Your Pro-Life Promise'.
Nor was there much sign of anyone smiling in the Dail chamber yesterday during the final pre-Budget Leaders' Questions.
Micheal Martin was doing his damnedest to paint a lurid picture of a Cabinet at War, with ministers giving each other skelps as tempers boil over during the Budget horse-trading. He read out with relish a newspaper report of a Labour parliamentary party meeting which claimed that Ruairi Quinn had few tidings of comfort and joy to spread about James Reilly.
"Minister Quinn is fast becoming the poster boy of breathtaking political cynicism in this House," he tut-tutted.
Micheal wanted to know if Enda had pulled Ruairi aside for a word in his shell-like over what he may or may not have said. And it transpired that the Taoiseach had indeed had a chat with the two lads in question.
"Let me inform you that I have spoken to both Minister Quinn and Minister Reilly," he told Micheal.
"Minister Quinn has full confidence in Minister Reilly," he insisted, then launched a counter-attack.
"You've been spouting on about motions of no confidence – put one down again whenever you want and the Government will deal with it."
The sniping came thick and fast from all sides.
When Gerry Adams rose to grill the Taoiseach about proposed cuts to child benefit, Enda remarked that he was "glad" the Sinn Fein leader had been able to dispose of the dark sunglasses he had been wearing following an eye operation.
"All the better to see you, my dear," retorted a wolfish Gerry.
But a short while later, a brief ceasefire was declared while the party leaders gathered around the Ceann Comhairle for the tree-lighting ceremony, posing merrily enough for the cameras – especially 'party leader' Finian McGrath who sidled quietly into the grouping.
But there was gallows humour about too. Senator Terry Leyden, who sings with the Oireachtas choir, flourished his hymn-sheet after the ceremony.
"Look, we sang 'Silent Night' in German," he pointed out.
"I thought maybe Angela Merkel was coming along today".
Good lord. It's shaping up to be a Dickens of a Christmas, without the German Grinch turning up.