Saturday 15 December 2018

Kevin Doyle: As the back-slapping comes to an end, it's political business as usual

Simon Harris, Minister for Health and supporters react as they celebrate the repeal of the 8th amendment at Dublin Castle. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
Simon Harris, Minister for Health and supporters react as they celebrate the repeal of the 8th amendment at Dublin Castle. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Another 24 hours and it will be business as usual in Leinster House.

After a fortnight during which Leo Varadkar, Micheál Martin, Mary Lou McDonald and Brendan Howlin all played for the same team, they will retreat into their political trenches tomorrow.

The abortion referendum showed that amazing things can be achieved when politics unites.

The fact the main parties were all on the same side of the debate even cleared some airspace for 'real people' to get involved, which was a help in securing the result.

But it also meant that we got to see how the various parties get along when they decide to park their differences. Solid parallel parking of ideological views tends to be the hallmark of good coalitions.

Over recent weeks we've seen Fine Gael and Sinn Féin engage in overt flirting while actively denying they even noticed the other existed.

Then there was the sight of Micheál Martin sitting side by side with Mary Lou McDonald during a TV3 debate.

They nodded approvingly as the other spoke and jumped to each other's defence in the heat of battle with Declan Ganley.

Taoiseach Martin and Tánaiste McDonald - or if the opinion polls keep going in the current direction, could it be the other way around?

As for Brendan Howlin, he put in a solid performance without gaining any real ground. Sadly for the Labour Party, the politicians who go on 'journeys' always make better headlines than the guys who have been beating the drum when it was just considered noise.

All of the party leaders will have watched with curiosity as Health Minister Simon Harris became something of a feminist hero.

It will be a short-lived time in the sun for the minister, who must return to dealing with the CervicalCheck scandal in the coming days.

Health is still high on the list of Government weak points, alongside housing.

But given Mr Harris's popularity, the Opposition is likely to target the latter in the coming days.

New homeless figures are due out tomorrow. Whether they are up or down, they won't be good.

Sinn Féin floated the idea of a no-confidence motion in Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy before the referendum.

Ms McDonald may not have the stomach for dicing with the potential for an election as we career towards the summer break.

Then there is Shane Ross's Judicial Appointments Bill, which has seen a meeting of minds between Fine Gael and Sinn Féin.

Fianna Fáil will be keen to point to this "unholy alliance" later this week, when the controversial legislation on vetting judges rears its head again.

And Richard Bruton probably couldn't find a more opportune moment to introduce the Schools Admission Bill, which will seek to reduce the Church's influence over education.

Meanwhile, it won't comes as a shock to readers that Theresa May didn't manage to find a Brexit solution while we were all distracted by the referendum.

But keep calm and carry on, it's nearly summer.

Irish Independent

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