Pithy Pat holds court as tempers flare
EVERY little hurts, but it seems some jibes hurt more than others. Labour's Pat Rabbitte – who loves nothing more than his own witticisms – stepped into Eamon Gilmore's shoes for Leader's Questions in the Dail yesterday.
Maybe it was a strategic substitution, a defensive move designed to shore up the lads and ladies at the back who may be a bit wobbly.
Labour's Tesco-style 'every little hurts' pre-election advert – when they warned of cuts Fine Gael would introduce – now looks like a shopping list.
Car tax hikes? Check. VAT increases? Check. Child benefit cuts? Yeah, that's done. Tax on savings? Yup, got that too. And €1 on the bottle of wine? Sure go on.
All that's left now is water tax, but that's coming soon. Pithy Pat was there to soothe nerves among his own.
Micheal Martin – whom Pat previously accused of coming into the Dail "and putting on your Mother Theresa face" – is now the "Dalai Lama of Ballinlough" because of Fianna Fail's opposition to property tax.
The Independent TDs were a bunch of "flaky stuntmen", with Finian McGrath "stuntman number one".
Sinn Fein's Mary-Lou McDonald "makes less sense economically" than the Evil Knievels in the Technical Group. But it was mostly Fianna Fail who took the brunt of Pat's stick.
"It is the utmost of humbug for Fianna Fail, having brought the country to the verge of ruin, to take these positions," he said. "It would appear the leopard does not change its spots."
"How many spots are on Deputy Rabbitte's back, with all the parties he criss-crossed?" asked Fianna Fail's Barry Cowen.
Cowen the Younger has perfected a nice line in heckling since he entered the Dail last year, taking the seat left behind by his older brother – that fella, you know, what's-his-face?
It has irked government politicians, and they've skirted around Barry's family connections for a long time.
But Pat went for the throat, telling Barry: "If my name was Cowen, I would stay quiet in this debate."
The jibe stung, and Barry Cowen was visibly annoyed.
Ming Flanagan accused the Ceann Comhairle of commenting on how he dressed, and said his children were being teased in school.
The Dail was suspended, and there was a shouting match between Ming and his constituency rival in Roscommon South Leitrim, Fine Gael's Frank Feighan.
But Pat obviously had a change of mind during the suspension. "In the heat of exchanges with Deputy Cowen, I made a remark which I regret and I want to withdraw," Mr Rabbitte said when the Dail resumed.
"I knew the former Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, better than most in this House. I have a great deal of regard for the fact that, like his father, he did his public service in this house according to his own lights."
The initial jibe was surprising, since Mr Rabbitte and Brian Cowen were friendly. But Pat won't find it as easy to withdraw broken election promises.