Thursday 12 December 2019

Deja vu in Dail as bullets fly by in water war

Gardai outside Dail Eireann during protests move protestor 'Raymond' who is from the City centre.
Gardai outside Dail Eireann during protests move protestor 'Raymond' who is from the City centre.

Lise Hand

It may have been a 'Fresh Start' and a 'Brave New Dawn' when the curtains parted with a flourish on the first day of the new Dail term, but there was a fair frisson of deja-vu also.

There were a few protesters demonstrating over a smorgasbord of beefs outside the gates of Leinster House, and one familiar agitator within them - for there was Alan Shatter exactly where we all left him last summer, fulminating from the backbenches .

"I do not believe it tenable that the GSOC Commissioners remain in office," he intoned. Sadly for the former justice minister, it wasn't like the old days when everyone hung on his every pronouncement. As Alan stood and delivered his speech during Topical Questions, the Taoiseach was having a quiet chat with Leo Varadkar at the back of the chamber, while Michael Noonan was in the row in front of him, muttering with his junior minister Simon Harris.

And to keep the deja-vu at full throttle, there were a few early flurries of cross-chamber sniping between Enda and Micheal during the opening session of Leaders' Questions.

Micheal Martin worked himself up into a right old lather (that'll cost him when the water charges kick in) over the notion that thousands of put-upon citizens currently on boil water notices will have to fork out for contaminated H2O that one wouldn't risk using to wash the dog.

It is, declared the Fianna Fail leader, "monstrous". And not only that, he opined that it also smacked of "arrogance of the highest order and is illogical and incomprehensible".

The Taoiseach was predictably unimpressed by the voluble indignation emanating from the front row across the chamber.

"I've never had much time for your hypocrisy," he shot back. Your own programme was for higher charges, introduced sooner and with no exemptions. All of a sudden it is incomprehensible, monstrous and all these things. You come in here with the same attitude as before the summer break, and you let them languish in Roscommon for 40 years with poor water, leaking pipes, boil-water notices, lead pipes and did nothing about it," he declared.

And Enda reckoned he knew the reason why Micheal was in full flow about the matter. "Then, all of a sudden, because you're preparing for the big job or whatever, you suddenly feel that nothing should be charged for at all."

Michael was on a sticky wicket on that one, after his Roscommon Declaration that he was readying himself to restore the natural (Fianna Fail) order of things by becoming the next Taoiseach, so he let the fusillade of bullets whizz by.

In the chair, it was clear that the Ceann Comhairle was also in the grip of a Groundhog Day moment. "I know this is the first day back at school but I ask you all to settle down, please, and to get back to normal," he requested wearily.

"Ta Punch and Judy, ann aris," observed Gerry Adams, and he wasn't wrong. But the Taoiseach was cruising along, not a bead of worry-sweat on him, when he Freudian-slipped over his first reply to the Sinn Fein leader. Enda was so busy assuring the House that he thinks Leo is the bee's knees that he blithely announced that Universal Health Insurance would be rolled out "in the second term of this Government".

Gerry happily set him right. "Before the Government gets a second term, a very important element will enter the equation, namely, the people. The people will have their say on whether the Government remains in power for a second term," he reminded the Taoiseach.

Ah yes. One thing the electorate detests is cockiness from public representatives that a victory at the polls is a sure thing.

Just ask Fianna Fail. Or David Cameron.

Irish Independent

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