Gilmore cooks up quite a storm by bringing out red herrings and waffle
THAT'S politics. One day you're rubbing pinstriped shoulders with various presidents of the European Union after nipping over to Brussels on the government jet.
And then the next, you're hunkered down in the Dail chamber trenches as Health Minister-shaped bullets zing over your head from all directions.
Jamesgate is the story that just won't roll over and die. If it were a person, it would be a walking medical miracle.
And so it was that the Tanaiste, fresh from his day trip to Belgium, was once again obliged to try and unravel both the arithmetical conundrum that is the primary care centre list, and also the methods of a minister who moves in mysterious ways.
Labour in particular has been getting it in the neck, ever since its own junior minister Roisin Shortall walked the plank out of the Health Department, but yesterday in Leaders' Questions it was clear that Eamon Gilmore was in the mood for a bit of a scrap.
Inevitably, Micheal Martin lobbed over a couple of ministerial grenades as soon as he got to his feet.
First there was poor old Roisin, who had been "abandoned and isolated by the Tanaiste and her senior Labour Party colleagues", mourned Micheal. And then there was James and his enigmatic list.
"From the beginning and right up until yesterday, the answers about the site selection have kept changing," added the Fianna Fail leader.
Eamon kept his cool. He informed Micheal that he had sat down for a pow-wow with the secretary general of the Health Department and also the head of the HSE and they had assured him that no ministerial fingers had dabbled with the primary care centre list and that the job was oxo.
Micheal wasn't impressed. It was "a feeble response", he tut-tutted.
But now Eamon decided to get feisty. Micheal had some nerve, he reckoned, to be lecturing anybody about the health system, given his own spell in the departmental warzone which was known as Angola. "You were the architect of the HSE," Eamon reminded him with a degree of relish.
"You were in Government at a time when there was money in this country and you allowed the health system to deteriorate. You kept throwing money at it and ended up creating the HSE."
The Fianna Fail deputies were unhappy with the Tanaiste playing the you-were-14-years-in-power-and-look-what-happened card.
"Stop ducking and diving and answer the question," snapped Micheal.
"Are we to blame for Roisin Shortall resigning on your watch and without his support? Am I to blame for that? Keep repeating the mantra," he added disgustedly.
But Eamon knows that picking a fight is always a useful red herring.
"He is the man who said there should be an end to politics as usual but he is continuing politics as usual," he sniped.
However, the next ambush came from Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald, who got stuck right in. "I do wish you would dispense with what amounts to waffle when questions are put to you," she demanded. "I hope to God you're going to get to your feet and tell us you have an understanding of the criteria now, because I have to tell you, Tanaiste, none of the rest of us can make head nor tail of the incoherent bluster coming from Minister Reilly," she scoffed.
And she rounded off with a barb about the departure of Roisin. "You hung Roisin Shortall out to dry and you make no apologies for it".
"Rubbish," rose a roared chorus from the Labour benches.
Eamon rallied himself. "It's not waffle to the parents of a sick child going from Billy to Jack," he snapped back.
"HEAR HEAR," shouted the Labour backbenchers. There was even a bit of clapping.
The air was redolent with the fishy smell of red herrings. It was enough to make one sick as a parrot.