Novices make easy targets as vets battle for territory
LOOKING like Bambi lost in the woods, the youngest deputy in the new Dail, Fine Gael's 24-year-old Simon Harris, loped into Leinster House yesterday afternoon.
Wide-eyed and a little unsteady on his feet, the unsuspecting Wicklow representative was easy prey for prowling senators fearful of losing their seats and looking for votes from the councillors and TDs who make up the senate electorate.
Spotting the new arrival, Fianna Fail's Terry Leyden wasted no time in pouncing. Micheal Martin is looking to replace some of the stalwarts of the upper house with fresh blood, and Senator Leyden is in the firing line. He quickly shoved an election flyer into a bemused Mr Harris's hands.
Mr Harris continued on with his girlfriend, while Mr Leyden shuffled off in a flurry of best wishes, defying Mr Martin's order that no Fianna Fail senators are to canvass for votes.
At least the Labour newbies travelled in packs. They gathered together on the plinth for a photo call, were shown the ropes by Oireachtas staff and attended a meeting of the 37-strong parliamentary Labour party.
Meanwhile, two of the mavericks were huddled together on the plinth, the distinctive blonde mop of Mick Wallace leaning into Joe Higgins of the Socialist Party. Mr Wallace -- wearing a blue t-shirt and jeans -- was meeting other Independents yesterday, including Ming Flanagan, about forming a technical group in the Dail. And there was a strange atmosphere around Leinster House. Enda Kenny, Eamon Gilmore and their negotiating teams shuffled to and fro as they hammered out a deal for a new government.
New TDs filed into the Dail wearing broad grins as Kildare Street basked in the first sunshine of March. There were handshakes all around as well-wishers greeted them as "deputy".
But there were handshakes of another kind as former Fianna Fail TDs like Charlie O'Connor, Tom McEllistrim and Peter Kelly arrived to go through the offices they'll have to clear out in the space of two weeks.
The 20 Fianna Fail TDs who emerged from the rubble of the general election were also around, as Mr Martin gathered them for a post-mortem.
"It's like the first episode of 'Lost' -- the one after the plane crashes," one said. And what a demoralising experience it must have been, with their reduced numbers sparking talk they'll have to leave the fifth-floor HQ that has played host to legendary party dust-ups down the years.
But Mr Martin's first problem is the senators, who are meeting later today to decide what tactics to use to hang on as long as they can -- irrespective of whether they're wanted.
They'd want to hurry up -- the Fianna Fail national executive meets tomorrow to ram through Mr Martin's plans. The battle with the old dogs will be the first step on Mr Martin's long road to recovery.