Brian was unamused and reeled off a lengthy list of statistics to prove that his government was indeed making a serious effort on the jobs front
ENDA Kenny was doing an admirable impression of Peig Sayers during Leaders' Questions yesterday morning.
Granted, the grim news -- 436,936 on the live register last month, on top of the previous day's wojus tax takes -- is enough to make anyone break into a chorus of "ochon, ochon", but he was vigorously channelling the dolorous shawlie who blighted more than one generation of Ireland's youth.
"These are very fretful times for families in this country," he began, zeroing in on the dole figures. "Will the Taoiseach inform the House of what that figure is?" he demanded, eager for Brian to put the bad news on the record.
And when the Taoiseach coughed up the frightful figure, Enda was instantly inconsolable.
"Those are devastating figures. Following on the exchequer returns yesterday, they are a litany of despair from a government that has failed to put any plan or strategy in place to deal with this situation," he keened.
The situation, wailed Enda, is "that is a litany of despair and disaster. A total of 60,000 young people under the age of 25 have left the country. Those young people are gone. They are in Australia, Canada, America and Britain", he lamented, in full Peig flight.
"There is despair and depression all around."
"Deputy Kenny's accounts of despair are not where the people are at. They recognise that the country is being led in the right direction . . ." he retorted, sparking gales of laughter from the stalls behind Enda.
"The Taoiseach is deluding himself. He must have been in the head shops," reckoned Bernard Durkan.
"The Taoiseach said it is not as bad as the figures are suggesting but it is worse. Does he know that one out of every three young men aged between 21 and 24 is on the dole?" he declared.
"When will we see a serious effort by the Government to get a jobs strategy in place?"
Brian was unamused and reeled off a lengthy list of statistics to prove that his government was indeed making a serious effort on the jobs front, and all sorts of percentages to show that the live register numbers weren't as bad as they seemed. But when this failed to impress his audience, he went into automatic pilot -- that is, on the offensive.
"The idea that the Government is not involved in seeking to protect jobs is a nonsense," he protested. "Were we to pursue the policies promulgated by the Labour Party over the past year, where we would increase our indebtedness, we would have fewer jobs," he needled.
A babble of disgust rose from the Labour benches who were even unimpressed by the fact that Brian managed to use the word "promulgate" in mid-insult.
"That's abracadabra economics," snorted Eamon.
"The Taoiseach seems to think he can wish away the number of people who are out of work because of the number of days and so on they are on the live register," he snorted. Nor would he stand for any loose talk from "embedded economists" that the country had turned any sort of corner.
"When it comes to recession, we are first in and we are last out," he declared, omitting to point out that when it comes to a pub session, the same rule usually applies.
To this point, the Fianna Fail backbenchers had sat quietly enough through the opposition attacks, upset perhaps that an unnamed one of their herd had publicly declared yesterday that all party revolts were over and "the sheep are back in the shed".
But Eamon's sustained haranguing of the Taoiseach brought the boo-boys (or baa-boys) to life, and jeers broke out. The Labour leader flung down his notes and for a breathless moment it looked as if he was about to ask his deputy leader, Joan Burton, beside him to hold his coat. But he contented himself to throwing verbal punches. "It has looked after the better off and it has ignored, run away from, neglected and abandoned those who are out of work and who need some hope," he shouted over the heckles.
But the Taoiseach was sick of the Peig-style accusations that it was his government's fault that the country was going to hell in a hand-Blasket.
"If we had not taken the decisions we did, we would see Ireland moving deeper into recession," he countered crankily.