Thursday 22 August 2019

Demoralised TDs lose will for political point-scoring

Dáil Éireann. Stock picture
Dáil Éireann. Stock picture
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

Agitated huddles scarred the corridors in Leinster House. The joyous relief at being yanked back from the brink of a Christmas election was short - though most sweet.

Now, their preoccupations had shifted to the worrisome question of what exactly was happening here - and what was going to happen next?

With a fixed smile on her face, but looking shaken, Frances Fitzgerald left Government Buildings shortly after 6pm for her last trip in the back of her ministerial transportation.

There was a minor collision with a photographer on the way out the gates.

Nothing serious.

Who had resigned here? An incompetent minister, a hostage to fortune - or 'a good woman leaving office without a full or fair hearing'? For now, it remains unclear.

Anguished soul-searching was the order of the day.

Not rage, but frustration was the flavour of the contributions during Leaders' Questions.

Mick Wallace wanted to know if things could ever be changed in there.

He cast his net far wider than justice. The health service - a "monster out of control". Housing - "Yiz are not dealing with the issue. It is not going away."

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He would love to sit down with the Taoiseach if he was interested, because he "knows how it works".

At one stage, passing his hands wearily over his face, Leo appeared to be such a broken and exhausted figure that he appeared to humbly take Mick up on the offer.

Yes, he would love to sit down with him before Christmas to discuss housing, he replied.

Nobody had the will to squabble or take any real satisfaction in scoring political points. They were far too demoralised.

Even Richard Boyd Barrett conceded nobody had wanted a Christmas election - before later adding they should have one as soon as possible.

It had been a long day - with a meeting between the Taoiseach and Frances Fitzgerald at around 8.45am. Then, a meeting with the Independent Alliance before Cabinet. The ex-tánaiste's resignation was the last item discussed, taking around 45 minutes before she formally handed over her letter to the Taoiseach. It was over.

But the fallout continued, with the Taoiseach startlingly blunt as he spoke of how major problems had been exposed once again within "a dysfunctional Department of Justice".

The Secretary General of the department, Noel Waters, promptly 'brought forward his retirement'.

Later, Charlie Flanagan, apologised to the Dáil for the inaccurate information furnished by his department regarding Maurice McCabe.

The burden has passed to his shoulders. It is a burden indeed.

Irish Independent

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