Saturday 24 February 2018

Enda had made a joke... It just took a minute to realise it

Lise Hand

Lise Hand

'THE new speaking time-clocks will be used today for the first time," announced the Leas-Ceann Comhairle Michael Kitt excitedly as the deputies shook the sand from their shoes and settled into the Dail chamber for the first day of the new term.

Now the shiny flat-screen digital clocks don't actually speak, which is disappointing as they might well have made more sensible contributions to parliamentary debates than some of the members passing the time in the chamber.

They simply provide big red numerical reminders to the windier TDs of the number of minutes they have left to throw verbal shapes.

Leo Varadkar, who has been fierce quiet on the Twitter machine of late, broke his 77-day silence with a few tweets today. He posted a photo of the new gizmo, declaring, "The new Dail waffle-buster. All we need now is the music from countdown".

But alas the clocks remained switched off for the first session of Leaders' Questions.

For, no sooner had Enda settled into his seat, than Micheal Martin hurtled out of the starting-gate like a hare with six hell-hounds on his trail.

He wasn't so much concerned with speaking-clocks, as with the Taoiseach hitting the mute-button.

Fianna Fail, having decided to campaign for the retention of the Seanad, are now busily professing outrage over Enda's refusal to partake in a toe-to-toe debate with their party leader on the referendum.

Now, our Taoiseach wouldn't be the nimblest on his feet when it comes to the fast cut-and-thrust oratory of live TV debates. Indeed, the likes of Horace and Cicero can sleep easy in their crypts, their oratorical crowns intact. And in fairness to Micheal, he has proved to be a bit of a dab hand at verbal sparring.

So no matter how much Fianna Fail poke sharp sticks at the Taoiseach in an attempt to goad him into action, Enda isn't budging an inch on this one. The Fianna Fail leader got stuck in from the get-go. "Given that this is your initiative and that you are putting it to the people, can you explain why you will not take part in a debate on the national airwaves with the Opposition party leaders, including Deputy Adams, to argue the merits or demerits of what is a fundamental change to our Constitution?" he demanded.

"The answer is. . . that I don't want to embarrass you," he said with a straight face.

It took his faithful troops a second or two to cop on that their boss had just cracked a one-liner, but they dutifully guffawed at the reply which, like all good cookery show cakes, had obviously been prepared earlier.

Micheal scrambled for a comeback. "Despite all your protestations about being accountable to the House, you show little sign of wanting to be accountable to the House or indeed to the people," he retorted. "You may give a glib, smart reply today but that doesn't really answer the substantive point I'm putting to you."

Behind Micheal, some of his foot-soldiers were less polite. "You're the Big Bird over there with yellow hair," Niall Collins jeered.

"You're chickening out of the debate, Big Bird."

Enda either didn't hear him, or ignored the fact that was effectively being called a Muppet.

Instead he firmly shut the door in Micheal's face. "You're not going to walk me down that avenue," he declared.

"I'm around long enough to have every faith and belief in the decision of the Irish people."

Those words may yet come back to taunt him. Time – digital or otherwise – will soon tell.

Irish Independent

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