Thursday 27 October 2016

Pat's bark proves worse than his bite as fresh Cabinet clear-out beckons

Published 04/07/2014 | 02:30

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte
Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte

There's no going gentle into the political good night for Pat Rabid, no sirree. Unlike his frontbench buddy Ruairi Quinn who chose the path of least resistance by throwing in the ministerial towel before next week's expected Cabinet clear-out, the Communications Minister is on a different wavelength altogether.

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Pat proceeded into the hot-seat for Leaders' Questions like a yacht under full sail yesterday, and the Opposition wasted no time in waving a jolly roger at him. "Minister, it's good to see you in the chamber today rather than pirouetting on the plinth or giving a press conference," sniped Fianna Fail's Dara Calleary.

But it was karate rather than ballet that Pat had in mind. He may be one of the odds-on favourites to be heading for the backbenches next week, but not before unleashing a flurry of chops in the direction of an unsuspecting backbencher.

Sinn Fein's Jonathan O'Brien was hectoring the frontbench over what he described as unashamed acts of cronyism when it came to appointments to State boards and to stacking the deck in its favour with regards to the banking inquiry.

The minister rose to reply, and began mildly enough. "I don't accept your point about the banking inquiry," he replied, before transmogrifying into Postal Pat. "I do know that this controversy provided an opportunity for an attention-seeking deputy to duck out when he saw the quantum of work that would have to be done and that it would divert him from his extracurricular duties," he charged.

What unfortunate deputy was the subject of this sudden ambush? Up in the back row, Independent TD Stephen Donnelly was sporting the slightly stunned expression of a chap being savaged by a lame duck. For Stephen had a somewhat inglorious moment in the spotlight recently when he somewhat precipitously resigned from the banking inquiry committee in protest over the Government cramming an extra two Coalition senators into its ranks after a spectacular outbreak of ineptitude left it in the minority.

Later, Calleary was back on his feet. "This is the last Order of Business prior to the approaching regime change in the Labour Party and I wish Minister Rabbitte well, although judging from the bite in his responses this morning, he is doing a Luis Suarez on it," he reckoned to roars of approval from his compadres. "I don't know if Minister Burton has given him a 30-match ban but we wish him well," he added. Pat appeared to offer an olive branch of sorts in his response – "I'm a Liverpool supporter and I apologise if I bit anyone," he replied – but an hour later during a media doorstep in the city centre, he accidentally fell over and once again found his gnashers buried into the shoulder of Stephen Donnelly.

"As the one still standing from the last banking inquiry – the DIRT inquiry, I know the kind of work that has to go into it," he explained. "It is a big undertaking and I don't for a moment accept Deputy Donnelly's complaints. I believe that Deputy Donnelly recognised the workload that would have to be undertaken and he took the opportunity to duck out."

Nor was he a bit put out by being compared with the bite-happy footballer. "Luis Suarez is the top goal-scorer in the English league last year," he shrugged. The Communications Minister seems sure that the new captain won't transfer such a heavy-hitting striker of his quality from the first team, no matter what the inky-fingered wretches of the media proclaim.

Perhaps Pat is right. And perhaps Luis Suarez will convert to vegetarianism.

Irish Independent

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