Sunday 18 March 2018

Nicola Anderson: Brave new dawn is put on ice as horse-trading to begin in earnest

TDs take their seats in the Dáil yesterday. Photo: Maxwell's
TDs take their seats in the Dáil yesterday. Photo: Maxwell's
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

By the fourth vote, this brave new dawn was already starting to look stale.

No wonder some of the newbie deputies were dispatching frantic text messages saying how disheartened, let-down and weary they were feeling. And this was day one.

It might have been helpful to have watched a snippet of Oireachtas TV before they signed up for this, just to get a heads-up on how the wheels of democracy really grind into action. That's slowly. And, not to mention, painfully.

The new Ceann Comhairle too, had an amazingly short honeymoon period, Seán O Fearghaíl already sounding testy as he repeatedly asked Paul Murphy to "kindly resume" his seat as night began to fall.

Let's see how they all feel after two months of this, as Micheál Martin rather too cheerfully hinted - harking back to 1992 when it took that long to sort out a government.

In the meantime, we had a whole lot of 'hear, hears' when it came to the speeches - and none at all when it came to actually voting.

Enda Kenny for Taoiseach? No, or at least, not yet. Micheál Martin for Taoiseach? Ditto, only even slightly less enthusiastically.

Gerry Adams for Taoiseach? You must be joking. That is to say, only amongst the most loyal.

How about Richard Boyd Barrett for Taoiseach? Now that would be real Dáil reform. Just nine takers for that one.

Left or right, the deputies flocked to express their vote, the exotically clad female TDs clanking with extreme difficulty down the plushly carpeted stairs in too high shoes. But to no avail. Artfully, the deputies claimed to be still all at sea when it came to knowing who would be Taoiseach. Even though they all knew in their heart of hearts how they'll vote when push comes to shove.

In the meantime, they weren't looking all that pushed.

The people have spoken. At least they were all in agreement on that one.

But two weeks after the election, it doesn't suit the 32nd Dáil to listen. Not yet.

Dust needs to settle. Horse-trading must be done and bat phones will ring in the middle of the night.

Fear needs to properly descend about the possibility of another election.

Then and only then will a government be formed from the 158 deputies sitting right there before our very eyes.


And in the meantime, the business of running the country must be done, amid the multiple crises of healthcare failures and homelessness, and also the looming panic over Brexit.

As well as plunging markets in Japan and Germany, as the chamber was helpfully reminded.

Shane Ross talked himself hoarse as he told them that Dáil reform hadn't cropped up on the doorsteps but that negative equity and real economic issues had.

"We cannot support anybody who has not come to us with a solution for which we can vote," he said.

Eamon Ryan told them of his grandparents - one was a dyed in the wool blueshirt, the other a staunch Fianna Fáiler, who had managed to get into bed beside one another for 50 years and make it work.

In lilting Kerry tones that made privately educated deputies cock their heads with an indulgent little smile, Danny Healy Rae talked the most sense of all in his maiden speech.

"The people of Ireland did their part," he told them.

"They voted for every deputy here. Now there's talk of another election. What difference will that make?

"I don't know what happened in the civil war. It was long before my time."

There were sheepish guffaws at that one.

"Ye'll have to get together," he said, as the supercilious smiles faded.

"The ball is in ye're hands. Don't drop it."

In fact, they could all learn a lot from the Healy Raes - who commanded two carriages of the 7am train from Tralee for their 150 supporters. Not to mention the lone piper from Killorglin.

It was a glorious riot and on the bonnet of his 'Black Beauty', driven up by Danny the night before - taking in a funeral along the way - the triumphant new TD delivered a speech of thanks.

"We'll not be found ashleep any hour of the day or night," Danny promised them.

It was true, confirmed supporter John Kelleher from Castleisland, who talked of Healy Rae phones ringing in the middle of the night with requests for help.

"They're great workers. It's bred into them from Jackie," he said as the party continued into the Dáil bar.

There was talk of making the 7pm train back to Tralee. But that was sheer optimism.

Of course, it's easy to be jubilant when you're winning.

Joan looked completely dejected and lifeless.

There are eight empty seats in the Dáil now because of reduced representation - in them sat the lonely ghosts of the ruined Labour Party.

Enda was putting up a good front - even crossing the floor for an amiable chat with Gerry Adams and Mary Lou Mac Donald - who dropped his hand even quicker than he dropped hers.

The negotiation process will drag out painfully and the Dáil won't be back until March 22. It's only now that the real horse-trading begins.

Irish Independent

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