Tipp TD shows Dail how to put 'Isis' into 'crisis'

Noel Coonan, Fine Gael deputy for Tipperary North

Lise Hand

Maybe some of the Government backbenchers were feeling a trifle left out. After all, it was the rowdy crew in opposition who were getting all the attention over Irish Water while kicking lumps out of the Coalition.

And among their own troops it was Labour Minister Alan Kelly who was walking on water.

The water whirlpool was even showing some signs of calming down, before every deputy had their say.

And so enter Noel Coonan, Fine Gael TD for Tipperary North. The same constituency as Alan Kelly.

Noel had much to get off his substantial chest during the water charges debate.

He was in a state of Red Alert over the "extremist" Klingons who have been swarming over the Government's starboard bow at every turn, in protests from Sligo to Jobstown.

"That must be nipped in the bud and the people have given us the signal to do so," he proclaimed.

"If not, we potentially face an Isis situation, like in the Middle East. If those people are allowed to do as they wish, God help this country."

Having painted a heart-warming picture of water protesters indulging in a spot of beheading in between hurling water-balloons, Noel was only warming up.

Determined to put the word 'gob' into 'gobdaw', he expanded on his theory.

"The people protesting in Dublin are led by socialists and do not care about country people," he declared.

"Through the years, country people have paid for water through group schemes, private wells and so on. The protesters in Dublin act like parasites and live off country people as they have never acknowledged the role of country people."

Goodness. It seems Noel got the words 'Jackeen' and 'Jihadist' mixed up.

Joking aside, it was no laughing matter later when the TD received death threats. He told the Irish Independent that a woman rang his office around 4pm and told a secretary: "You can. You can tell that f***er he's dead. And you're dead too. You're with him. You're dead too."

Gardai are investigating the phone call.

Noel wasn't the only Fine Gael TD with things to say.

Kerry South's Brendan Griffin explained how he had tried to get information on pricing from the former Environment Minister Phil Hogan earlier in the year, "but at the time we had a Minister who would really only give a smart-arse answer to anything that was raised", while Dublin South East deputy Eoghan Murphy gave a thoughtful speech, opining, "I'm not really sure the announcement yesterday will be sufficient".

But the day's debate on the water charges was (for the most part) a reasoned back-and-forth. There was plenty of criticism from the Opposition - Waterford's John Halligan was most direct. "You've won this battle, but you've lost the war," he reckoned.

The Independent deputy didn't think the Coalition is a lame-duck government. "It's duck á l'orange. Dead." Perhaps, perhaps not - but surely these days it's more of a swan - serene on the surface, while paddling like hell below.

There was no telling if Leaders Questions would be as stormy as last Thursday, when Mary Lou McDonald staged a Dáil sit-in for over four hours.

But there was to be no such dramatics yesterday.

Indeed, there was even a bit of cross-chamber solidarity from both Barry Cowen and Mary Lou, who deplored the treatment of the Tánaiste in Jobstown last Saturday.

Joan was most grateful - but her gratitude went on at some length. Mary Lou's patience was wearing dangerously thin.

When the Tánaiste appeared to have successfully talked down the clock without answering her questions on whether the Government considered scrapping water charges altogether in the face of such widespread opprobrium, the Sinn Fein deputy shot to her feet.

"I appreciate that the Tánaiste wished to make comments on the events at the weekend but she has covered it very comprehensively," she pointed out.

But this time Joan rose from her seat and eventually addressed the topic, and peace settled back on the chamber.

Phew. A potential 'Isis situation' averted, and no mistake.