Wednesday 16 January 2019

Lise Hand: Joker Gerry and Micheal 'Martian' fail to land a blow on regretful Enda

Lise Hand

THE new Sinn Fein deputy for Louth is quite the comedian. Gerry 'Chuckle Ar La' Adams had them rolling in the aisles of the Dail chamber yesterday during Leaders' Questions.

He was doing a spot of hand-wringing over the $50,000 donation to Fine Gael which has been given the forensic treatment in the Moriarty report, and was much disturbed by the fact that the dosh had turned up in an offshore account.

"Can the Taoiseach explain how any of this, in terms of offshore accounts, invoices, money laundering of a very classical kind ... " began Gerry, but alas, the rest of his question was drowned out by howls of laughter from the government benches.

Oh how they cackled and rocked in their seats in amusement at the notion of the Sinn Fein president enquiring about the intricacies of money laundering. The words "Northern" and "Bank" were merrily flung back at the stony-faced deputy and his equally po-faced party colleagues, the Adams Family.

"It's the way you tell 'em," guffawed Fine Gael's Jerry Buttimer.

"Well may you laugh, my friends," Gerry declared severely, but it was no use, for laugh well they all did.

But Chuckle wasn't the only brazen member of the Dail yesterday. Also sporting a brass neck was Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin who was continuing with his tricky task of beating the Government over its collective head with the hefty 2,300-page Moriarty report while simultaneously choosing to ignore his own party's rather colourful history involving donations and tribunals.

Micheal was ready with his big bucket of mud. Brow furrowed and sporting his expert more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger expression, he slung everything he could across the chamber in the hope that something would stick to Enda's nicely-pressed suit.

"The Taoiseach was in Government when the licence was awarded and he participated in fundraising events targeted by Esat to help that company win the licence," he reminded Enda.

"Does the Taoiseach accept that the findings of the Moriarty report are very serious with regard to Fine Gael's fundraising practices and the link between those and a major government decision?" he demanded.

One would swear by his collected demeanour that there wasn't a thought in Micheal's head of that peculiar place known as Planet Bertie, a parallel universe of dig-outs and donations. For two days now, he has busied himself throwing the bucket of blame across the chamber at Enda Kenny, prompting mutterings among government deputies that the Corkman's inhabiting a planet of his very own -- a theory which was loudly expounded in Tuesday's question time by Labour's Ciaran Lynch who gleefully dubbed him "Micheal Martian".

However, unlike the previous day when it was Enda the Unready who was in the hot-seat when the brown stuff began to fly, the Taoiseach had his act together by the time Leaders' Questions kicked off in the afternoon.

He kept his cool and sidestepped the incoming missiles. "I regard the incident in respect of a donation of $50,000 to the Fine Gael Party as being wrong, he declared, adding that when then-Taoiseach John Bruton found out about it, he ordered the money to be returned to sender.

"I regret the circuitous route it had to follow before it was sent back to Mr O'Brien," explained Enda.

But his regrets didn't extend as far as being prepared to take a lecture on financial morality from anyone in Fianna Fail, and he fired a mud Scud of his own. "No leader of the Fine Gael party ever pocketed whiparounds at dinners," he sniped. "You've got some record in talking about fundraising activities and reputational damage to our country from the party activities that you've had."

"Hear, hear," chorused his relieved troops.

But where was the hero/villain of the hour? There was no sign of Michael Lowry in the chamber, and so Enda and the Fine Gael party had no chance to turn on him like the feral boys in 'Lord of the Flies' turned on poor Piggy.

Nonetheless, the screws began to turn on the North Tipperary deputy.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore -- in the ironic setting of Dublin Castle, home to both the Moriarty and Mahon Tribunals -- called on him to step down.

"I think that he should consider resigning as a consequence of that report."

Fat chance. The poll-topping politician wasn't having a bar of it.

Phew. For the spectacle of Sinn Fein worrying about money laundering and Fianna Fail lecturing the Government about ethics was discombobulating enough.

Ming Flanagan may have given up the jazz Woodbines, but spliff or no spliff, this odd turn of affairs would give him or anyone the dizzies for sure.

Irish Independent

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