Opinion Lise Hand

Monday 29 August 2016

Don't mention the (coalition) war... Enda's foot soldiers may lose their leader

Published 13/06/2014 | 02:30

The Government was compared to Hitler in the Seanad yesterday
The Government was compared to Hitler in the Seanad yesterday

ENDA'S ears must've been only scorched off the sides of his head, given the fusillade of dog's abuse hurled at him from the vicinity of the Upper House yesterday.

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The bad lads of the Third Reich had nothing on the Taoiseach and his government – who also had about their collective person the whiff of Communist Russia.

And given the day that was in it (with the World Cup kicking off in Brazil), suitable sporting metaphors were invoked, too. The government was "like a child who doesn't get its own way on a football field, so it picks up its ball and goes home," declared Paschal Mooney. "You've made a complete and utter balls of it," declared former Labour senator, James Heffernan, whose severe beard and bristly belligerence brought to mind none other than Kerry football hero Paul Galvin.

And in fairness, James had a point. The coalition seem to be going through some sort of benighted phase at present whereby it is demonstrating an uncanny ability to transmogrify every political molehill into a mountainous union of Everest, Mount Fuji and Kilimanjaro. And the shambles surrounding the selection of two senators onto the banking inquiry committee simply demonstrates their undiminished skill at making a right liathroidi of things.

Due to a seeming inability on the part of various Labour senators to communicate and\or count, the Taoiseach and Tanaiste were aghast to discover that the coalition were a man down when it came to the balance of power on the committee, with Fianna Fail's Marc MacSharry voted into a spot which had been intended for Labour's Susan O'Keeffe.

Mutterings along the corridors suggested that Enda was fit to be tied over the cock-up, and so the backroom Blackadders devised a Cunning Plan which was unveiled in the form of a revised order of business in the Seanad yesterday.

If they couldn't take back the own goal, they would simply move the goalposts, and slapped down a motion proposing that two extra seanadoiri be added to the committee, Susan and Fine Gael's Michael D'Arcy, thereby neatly restoring the government majority.

Unsurprisingly, all holy hell broke loose when the opposition realised they'd been nutmegged. United in outrage, the Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein teams tried to launch some class of counter-attack by demanding that the Taoiseach and Chief Whip Paul Kehoe be hauled before them for a proper debate on the matter.

That piece of the Seanad chamber representing the high moral ground was akin to a heaving Hill 16 for a Dublin-Kerry final as the opposition plundered the Thesaurus of Outrage.

Fianna Fail's leader for the occasion, Paschal Mooney declared it was "skulduggery at the highest level." Quivering with indignation, he decided that the Taoiseach wanted them all "to be good little Muppets and do what the government want you to do".

Labhras O'Murchu was beside himself. "There's a whiff of Communist Russia here," he charged. "It strikes at the foundations of democracy". But his Fianna Fail comrade, Ned O'Sullivan went one better. He revealed that the Taoiseach was "coming in to dump down on this House in a way that Hitler himself with the Enabling Act would have been ashamed of. He has no interest in a real meaningful banking inquiry".


Labour's Ivana Bacik demanded he withdraw that remark, but she drew howls of wrath from the opposition when she declared the selection committee had been "ambushed" by the opposition.

Cork's Denis O'Donovan took serious umbrage. "It was not a question of an ambush," he scolded Ivana. "You might do well to reflect on the parable of the wise and foolish virgins. There was a few foolish virgins missing on that occasion and it was not the fault of me or the committee, and it is a disgrace to say that there was an ambush."

Now Denis really was straying into dangerous territory, and under normal circumstances the formidable women in question might well have fashioned a part of his anatomy into ear-rings for suggesting they were any such mythical creatures. But such was the hullabaloo that it passed largely unnoticed and Denis was spared a punishment of Biblical proportions.

The government side erupted only occasionally.

But the opposition could holler all they liked. The government side had done their sums properly this time and they had the numbers to get their two players off the subs benches and onto the team, and despite various delaying tactics involving a string of walk-through votes, the coalition prevailed 26-21.

"It's a disgrace," fumed Sinn Fein's Diarmuid Wilson.

It wasn't so much democracy in action, as Muppetry in motion. At least the opposition can take comfort in one fact – despite the comparisons to the Third Reich, this coalition ain't going to last for 1,000 years. Or not even 1,000 days. Its general may even end up taking a big job in the EU.

So it could be Springtime for Enda in Germany . . .

Irish Independent

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