Lise Hand: Mac Lochlainn lights the fuse, sits down and watches Dail explode into inaction
IT'S a busy time in the Dail. Lots to do before the Christmas holliers next week. Most importantly, the Social Welfare Bill has to be steered carefully to a vote. But for almost an hour yesterday, Dail business came to a halt due to Sinn Fein's Padraig Mac Loch- lainn (pictured) throwing all his toys out of the cot.
A humdrum Leader's Questions had just ambled over the finish line and deputies were settling in for the Order of Business, when at about 11.10am the Ceann Comhairle announced he had a bit of unfinished business to settle.
The day before, consternation had broken out in the chamber when People Before Profit's Joan Collins named people who allegedly had penalty points inappropriately struck off. A scandalised Alan Shatter rounded on her, accusing the Dublin South-Central TD of "outrageous behaviour".
Sean Barrett wasn't in the chair at the time, but it became clear that nonetheless he was taking a very dim view of the matter.
And so, after Leader's, he read out a bollocking.
He reminded the trio of deputies – Joan Collins, Clare Daly and Mick Wallace – that he had already issued a written warning to them not to use parliamentary privilege to name names. And what's more, he had decided to refer the matter to the Leinster House watchdog.
Padraig Mac Lochlainn shot to his feet. The previous day he had tangled with the Ceann Comhairle when the red mist descended on Gerry Adams. The enraged Sinn Fein leader was demanding that the Taoiseach withdraw a remark he had made concerning the death of Jean McConville when Padraig promptly joined in, protesting loudly about hecklers. All the ri-ra led to an exasperated Ceann Comhairle suspending the House for 15 minutes.
But the Donegal North-East TD had evidently simmered overnight, and this edict from Sean was the last straw.
"Yesterday the Taoiseach was asked to withdraw a remark and you didn't apply the same standard to him," he shouted.
Usually when there's a bit of argy-bargy the Ceann Comhairle allows the odd roar before calling order. But this time he took off like a behind-schedule Ryanair plane.
"Resume your seat," he barked, but Padraig persisted. A choleric Ceann pointed to the door. "Leave the House. LEAVE THE HOUSE," he yelled.
But Padraig wasn't moving. Ulster was saying No. And so Sean called a vote to expel the rebel and suspended the House for 15 minutes, and stomped off.
Alas for Sean, Padraig dug in. And so when he returned to the chamber and saw the deputy still in situ, his face grew thunder-ous. This time the suspen-sion was for 30 minutes.
And there was suspense in the chamber. The Sinn Fein deputies circled around as Cork North-Central's Jonathan O'Brien pored over the House rules. Padraig sat in the back row with the air of a man going nowhere, as the Captain and Superintendent, the House's guardians of law and order quietly conferred, and perhaps even tried to figure out how many ushers it would take to carry Padraig up the steps and through the door.
But finally, at 11.45am, Padraig decided to forgo the honour of being the first deputy in decades to be carried out of the Dail, and saw himself to the door.
And so the session resumed almost an hour after the hullaballoo erupted. Democracy in action? Democracy inaction, more like.