Post-Budget blues abound but Taoiseach only sees red
THE deputies were all martyrs to the oul' PBT (Post Budget Touchiness) yesterday morning.
The adrenaline surge prompted by all the roaring over the cuts and hikes had long ebbed away, and the hair-shirt hangover had set in with a vengeance.
And the Taoiseach in particular came in like the divil and all. He had a grumpy head on him that would make Roy Keane in a strop look like Dougal from 'The Magic Roundabout'.
He clearly wasn't looking forward to his day, and sure who could blame him? He was, in all likelihood, awakened by the clamourous din of disapproval over his On Yer Bike Budget; he then had to drag himself back onto the Dail battleground to endure harangues, rants and lectures from the opposition.
And if that wasn't bad enough, he then had to climb aboard the jet and take the pilgrim trail to the EU summit for yet another grilling by the Brussels bigwigs on why the Paddies showed their collective middle digit to the Lisbon Treaty.
But, worst of all, he was leaving behind in Ireland a growing mob of provoked pensioners who, whipped up by their favourite mullah, 'Liveline's' Joe Duffy, are on the brink of slapping a fatwa on his battered bonce. Never mind the banks or the Brussels bureaucrats -- if the old folk go on the warpath he's a goner for sure.
So Brian was in no mood to take any lip from the enemy, who had a whole night to work themselves into a state of righteous indignation. He probably hoped he had dodged the bullet at first, as Enda contented himself with picking a squabble over nursing home charges, but he knew Eamon Gilmore was lying in wait like a fanged snake in the long grass.
"which of the treacherous 30 cuts and charges that were introduced is the Taoiseach most embarrassed by? Is it the 1pc tax on the widow who takes a part-time cleaning job to supplement her pension? Is it the taking away of the medical card from old-age pensioners?" he enquired, reading out a list of other possible contenders.
But he'd saved a sneakily venomous one for last. "Is it the fact that, to date, the only organisation to welcome the Budget is the Construction Industry Federation?" he hissed.
Brian is never pleased when it is suggested that there's a possibility, however infinitesimal, that any of his decisions may have been wrong or unwise.
"It is not a question of my being embarrassed by any of these measures, which are necessary in the interests of trying to provide a sustainable public finance position," he retorted.
Enda was working himself up into a bit of a temper. "There is no plan. None," he huffed. The red mist began to settle around the Taoiseach's head.
He wasn't taking an economic lesson from the Blueshirts. "If the Fine Gael budget, which has been outlined by its finance spokesperson, is that we would have a 5.5pc deficit and not raise any taxes..." he thundered, before being drowned out by howls of protest from Fine Gael.
"Those are the facts," continued an irate Brian. "Whether one is on the Opposition benches or the Government benches, two plus two is four, and you add the zeros later," he scoffed.
A few seats away from Brian, the Justice Minister was having a bit of a meltdown himself. "You're talking out of both sides of your mouths," Dermot Ahern shouted twice. He was hopping mad, half out of his seat and jabbing a finger across the floor as if he wished it was a samurai sword. Dermot was so apoplectic, he even failed to notice a dagger's look flung in his direction by his boss.
Mini-minister Conor Lenihan got so caught up in the heat of battle that he threw a few jabs while Brian was struggling on over the babble.
"Enda cannot even get the people behind him to calm down. He has no leadership skills whatsoever," he roared. But his over-enthusiasm hadn't gone unnoticed by Richard Bruton. "The Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, should not shout down his Taoiseach," he slyly suggested.
But the Taoiseach hadn't finished shouting yet. He picked a scrap with the deputy who winds him up the most, Fine Gael's James Reilly, and then got into a mill with Labour's Ruairi Quinn over health spending.
It was quite a fractious morning, but luckily there was John Gormley and his Carbon Budget to soothe everyone's frazzled nerves in the afternoon. To a packed house of nine deputies, he outlined his Hempshirt Budget plans to save the planet, including a "national walking strategy", which irresistibly conjured up a new Pythonesque portfolio in the Ministry of Funny Walks.
As John expounded at some length about emissions, beside him a weary Communications Minister Eamon Ryan first began emitting huge yawns and then finally emitted a few brief Zzzzs.
Whew, what a relief. After all the palaver, normal Dail service has been resumed.