Thursday 29 September 2016

There's no time for Christmas goodwill - we are already at war

Published 18/12/2015 | 02:30

Tánaiste Joan Burton
Tánaiste Joan Burton

Christmas brought an unofficial truce to the World War One trenches - but Christmas at Leinster House brought nothing of the sort.

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After several bouts of raucous but indecipherable ranting, roaring, and shouting of general abuse, Tánaiste Joan Burton (pictured right) managed to deliver a withering verdict on one of the main protagonists, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn of Sinn Féin. The usually genial Donegal TD was trading non-stop invective with another TD not known for political brawls, Dinny McGinley of Fine Gael. "We want to see more women in this Dáil precisely to avoid the kind of behaviour you've just indulged in. A bar-room brawler, a bar-room brawler, you're a disgrace," the Labour leader launched at Deputy MacLochlainn.

The last session of Leaders' Questions before the Christmas break had begun with a business-like, if non-festive, tone. Fianna Fáil's Michael McGrath was fighting the good fight for motorists being soaked for car insurance which was about €400 last year - and likely to be €700 by next year.

Tánaiste Joan Burton felt the motorists' pain.

But she evoked the memory of another female Tánaiste, Mary Harney, with the advice to "shop around".

Then the Christmas episode of the weekly 'Joan versus Mary Lou Show' kicked off.

Ms McDonald, the Sinn Féin deputy leader, said Labour in Government had failed to deliver a fair and adequate health service to citizens - despite lavish election promises in 2011.

Ms McDonald listed health service failings which included 4,000 fewer nurses, 68,000 people waiting for hospital treatment, 400,000 waiting for out-patient appointments and the 2016 HSE spending plan was €150m short of requirements.

In response, Ms Burton argued that Sinn Féin's newly published health service policy contained no costings. She also accused Ms McDonald of reading from a carefully prepared script when criticising Labour in Government. "Your response lacked any sense of conviction," Ms Burton said.

Those angry scenes then ensued. Or, put another way, soon they were all at it, including the Donegal boys Mac Lochlainn and McGinley. It was at that point Ms Burton intervened to liken Mr Mac Lochlainn's behaviour to that of "a bar-room brawler".

Later, Ms Burton said she wanted to wish everybody a "happy and peaceful Christmas".

Ms McDonald echoed those sentiments but noted her "unending frustration" with Ms Burton's answers during Leaders' Questions.

But the Labour versus Sinn Féin incident was a reminder that, Christmas, or no Christmas, our politicians are already "at war" with an election on the way.

And that 'Labour versus Sinn Féin war' is coming soon to a doorstep near you - especially if you live in Limerick, Galway, Waterford, Cork, or large swathes of suburban Dublin.

All political leave is cancelled for Christmas 2015. There are seats to be won… and lost. The election has yet to be called - but the campaign is already on.

TDs return to Leinster House on January 13.

Irish Independent

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