Saturday 23 June 2018

Chaos breaks out as Dáil bingo meets 'Strictly Come Dancing'

Michael (right) and Danny Healy-Rae in the Dáil yesterday
Michael (right) and Danny Healy-Rae in the Dáil yesterday
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Willie O'Dea didn't flinch. To his right fellow Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry was screaming about 'Strictly Come Dancing' and to his left were the Healy-Rae brothers roaring about trips to Kilgarvan.

Across the chamber Taoiseach Leo Varadkar must have been wondering what was so important that the Opposition TDs were taking scalps off each other in order to question him.

The hottest game to keep TDs entertained in Leinster House right now is 'Dáil bingo', which sees speaking time allocated based on a number printed on a laminated A4 sheet of paper.

The wily Healy-Raes and Mattie McGrath were quick to cotton on to the 'first come, first served' policy and regularly show up early to ensure they are near the top of the queue.

Marc MacSharry became angry at the Healy-Rae brothers as he waited, 11th in line, to ask the Taoiseach a question
Marc MacSharry became angry at the Healy-Rae brothers as he waited, 11th in line, to ask the Taoiseach a question

Mr MacSharry thought he did well to secure 'legs eleven' for yesterday's sitting - but the Kerrymen have another trick.

If you want to speak on the same topic as somebody with a number ahead of you then you can skip the line.

Keeping up? In simple terms, imagine Christmas Day when the board games come out and one smart sibling has actually read the rulebook.

Mr MacSharry reacted: "We have 44 deputies here [in Fianna Fáil] but we have Kofi Annan McGrath and Ban Ki-moon Healy-Rae up every day, undermining this country's…"

And from there it took off faster and with more hot air than Elon Musk's 'Falcon Heavy'.

Danny Healy-Rae shot to his feet: "Do not call us names. We were elected here in our own names and we will take no rubbish from MacSharry."

Michael blasted next: "When MacSharry was looking for Seanad votes, he was damn glad to come to Kilgarvan."

The Leas-Cheann Comhairle Pat 'The Cope' Gallagher tried to intervene but it was too late.

Mr MacSharry: "This is a joke. It is 'Strictly Come Dancing' and they are the half-time performers."

Mr Gallagher: "I am going to move on. MacSharry, control yourself."

Mr MacSharry: "For Christ's sake, control them."

Tensions flared as Mr MacSharry suggested he might form a cross-party Sligo-Leitrim technical group in a bid to get more speaking time.

The Leas-Cheann Comhairle waved his hands, pleaded for calm and threatened to suspend the House.

"This is a disgrace. Suspend it if you like. It may as well be suspended. The same people have the floor all the time," Mr MacSharry roared.

And with that the chairman threw his pen down, whacked the bell and called a break.

When things got back to normal, Mr MacSharry's number eventually came up. What was so urgent for the Sligo-Leitrim deputy to bring to the Taoiseach's attention?

Well, he wanted a timeline for the McKinsey report being undertaken by An Post and what impact it would have on rural post offices, specifically Ballygawly and Easkey in his own constituency.

If they weren't so worked up, the Healy-Raes (Michael is a postmaster in his spare time) would have been proud at Mr MacSharry's brazen name-checking of constituency towns.

The insults continued to fly after calm was restored with Michael Healy-Rae telling the Irish Independent words were also exchanged off microphone.

He said Mr MacSharry used "unparliamentary language" which was met with a response that he was a "cheeky pup".

And, taking none of the blame, he added: "It was a nonsensical interaction. It should never have happened."

Irish Independent

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