News Analysis

Friday 29 August 2014

Seanad sketch: Fawlty turkeys vote for Christmas

Lise Hand

Published 24/07/2013 | 05:00

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THE Taoiseach wasn't within an ass's roar of the Seanad yesterday as the final debates on its very existence raged in the Upper House – but the ears must have been burning off the side of his head all the same.

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For sensing that their own personal Christmas was well and truly nigh, a gang of turkeys turned on Axeman Enda to hurl dog's abuse at him for setting them up for the chop in the autumn referendum.

Fianna Fail's Diarmuid Wilson was irate over the single flying visit of the Taoiseach to the Seanad during the debate. "He acted like a school bully, throwing a box before running away to leave someone else deal with the ensuing chaos," he declared.

His party colleague Brian O Domhnaill was even more agitated. As far as he was concerned, Enda was showing a "dictorial" (sic) attitude to politics and by handing more power to the elite of the Executive. "We will turn Ireland into the most undemocratic country in the world," he proclaimed. (Brian's in for a rude awakening if he ever moves to democratic heartlands such as Uzbekistan, China or North Korea).

Labour rebel James Heffernan had his own theory about why the Taoiseach had – like Salome – called for the head of the Seanad. Its abolition was, he huffed, "a slap in the face for democracy and a solo run taken by a man who, after having a couple of jars at a presidential dinner, decided . . ."

He then screeched to an abrupt halt atop the dangerous ground, and before the first objection was raised, he amended his hasty jibe. "Maybe he was on Ballygowan. I apologise and withdraw that comment," he added hastily.

Ronan Mullen conjured up a more colourful metaphor. "The Taoiseach reminds me more of the Wizard of Oz," he mused. "He is a relatively small man hidden behind a smokescreen of advisers and handlers but who is making a loud noise and certainly managing to scare the people under his command."

Goodness, it was all very heated. But having simmered quietly through all the various diatribes, Junior Minister Brian Hayes was in no mood to grin and bear it.

"This isn't the last day of the Weimar Republic as some would have us believe," he replied sarkily, before getting stuck into his leader's detractors. "Now they were pitiful contributions, quite frankly, senators. Absolutely pitiful, in my view. It is the people who are sovereign, not some group of parliamentarians because it upsets their career plans."

Well that was them told.

Paschal Mooney was, meanwhile, wringing his hands over what he viewed as their collective lack of moxie. "Are we to go meekly like lambs to the slaughter?" he fretted.

Well, yes, as it happened. At 4.10pm, the final vote on the 32nd Amendment of the Constitution (Abolition of Seanad Eireann) Bill 2013 took place, and passed by 33 votes to 25.

"Turkeys, Christmas, turkeys, Christmas," chanted Fianna Fail's Mark Daly across the chamber.

Cathaoirleach Paddy Bourke made it official. "The question is carried, it's now over to the people," he announced.

"It reminded me of that scene in 'Fawlty Towers' when Basil turns to Sybil and says, 'Do I detect the smell of burning martyr?'," Brian Hayes joked outside the chamber.

It's all over now bar a shouty referendum. Between abolition and abortion, we can all do with a break from the Seanad.

So until September, let's not mention the war.

Irish Independent

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