Thursday 14 November 2019

Perfectly scripted as Leo and Mary Lou ramp up the drama

Sinn Fein TD Mary Lou McDonald Picture: Collins
Sinn Fein TD Mary Lou McDonald Picture: Collins
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

The curtain rose with a swish on our two players for act one, scene two of this compelling new drama.

Each character more determined-looking than the other, each with their script placed neatly in front of them.

The bit-players dutifully ran through their lines but those of us in the cheap seats were pink-cheeked with excitement at the prospect of the row kicking off again. All we had to do was wait.

The plot had been teed up nicely the day before, with the Taoiseach blithely muddying political waters by accusing Sinn Féin's Mary Lou McDonald of being like Marine Le Pen, in much the same spirit that some in the United States are currently claiming the Nazis were 'socialists'.

"Because she reads from a script," Leo explained.

Most of the time, everybody reads from a script in Leinster House, by the way.

Leo's suggestion, of course, being that shadowy people in shadowy places are writing Mary Lou's scripts - rather than the highly paid advisers who write his own. But each has the other in their sights. The Civil War divide has shifted and Fianna Fáil, neutered for now on the sidelines, can only sit and watch.

Mary Lou began. The day before, the Taoiseach came in and told them his aim was to balance the books. Meanwhile, she said, the finance committee had heard the same day that AIB will not pay corporation tax for the next 20 years.

Mary Lou called it a "golden arrangement" with the banks, scoffing: "Is it any wonder we have a tight fiscal space?"

Families are struggling to keep the wolf from the door while "your Government dances to the tune of opportunistic bankers", she said.

Leo arose smartly, buttoning his suit jacket.

"I wish to compliment Deputy McDonald on the flawless delivery of your script," he said.

"Pauses, intonation and everything was absolutely perfect as always. Hope you didn't spend too much time practising it this morning," he recalled smoothly from his own.

Mary Lou fixed a furious, wounded gaze at the press gallery as the curtain fell.

Act one, scene three, opened in the afternoon in a virtually empty Dáil chamber over Taoiseach's Questions as Leo answered queries on the North.

An interruption by Mary Lou sparked his soliloquy.

"This is the constant pattern of debate we have in this parliament. The only time you're not scripted is when you're interrupting," he said, musing with some enjoyment that this was "interesting".

"Is it any small wonder that the people of Northern Ireland don't have a first or deputy first minister?

"Is it any small wonder they don't have an executive, because this is the attitude of Sinn Féin, constantly hectoring, smart-aleck remarks, lack of temperance, lack of respect for other people, inability to listen to them, and inability to listen to compromise?" he said.

"It should be of no wonder whatsoever that the people of Northern Ireland have no voice, because this is the style of politics favoured by Sinn Féin, to shout people down who don't share their views."

In the chair, Alan Farrell noted that Mary Lou was on her feet so she "might as well leave".

"I'm going anyway," she retorted, crossing the chamber to stand before the Taoiseach.

This was very, very unusual, protested the Cathaoirleach.

Mary Lou asked Leo what compromises he thinks Sinn Fein should make to have the assembly restored.

Compromises would have to be made because that's how coalitions are formed, he told her.

"You're very cranky today," he added.

"No, I'm not cranky at all, I find you facile and dismissive on important issues," she replied.

It was a flawless performance.

By both.

Irish Independent

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