Lise Hand: Shot yourself in foot, Enda? At least you can avoid A&E
JOE Higgins sprang out of his seat with such speed that a sonic boom echoed around the Dail chamber. And goodness, the Socialist TD put the 'dig' into 'indignation' as he unleashed a tirade in the direction of the Taoiseach over the Government's decision to close the emergency department at Roscommon Hospital.
"Taoiseach, do you realise what a contemptible figure you cut today, coming into this Dail and using the most pathetic excuses to cover up what is a cynical betrayal of the people of Roscommon?" he began. And it all went rapidly downhill after that, like a bobsleigh full of mixed metaphors.
"How pathetic is it to use HIQA as an alibi? It makes the young fella offering the dog chewing the homework as positively credible by contrast," barked Joe, before managing to shoehorn references to credit cards and women's underpinnings into the same jibe.
"Fine Gael policy is your new flexible friend to fit all occasions, the new Fine Gael brand of pantyhose to cover every possible emergency and every size and form of emergency," he informed a bamboozled Enda.
But he was right on one point -- Enda's in a rather (ahem) tight spot.
The removal of any services from a local hospital is always going to be emotive, even if handled with clarity and consideration -- neither of which the Taoiseach, nor for that matter, his Health Minister, has displayed.
For Enda spectacularly shot himself in the foot (though luckily for him, only metaphorically, otherwise he may have required a long spell in A&E) by last week taunting Fianna Fail to back up its attacks on his election promises. Dismissing his claims as "pathetic", Enda loftily invited Micheal Martin to come and find a quote if he thinks he's smart enough.
Inevitably a Sunday newspaper obliged, and yesterday Fianna Fail gleefully flung the damning quote back in the Taoiseach's egg-smeared face.
And of course Micheal got stuck in straight from the off of Leader's Questions. This clumsy carry-on by Enda is a godsend as it gives him a chance to show his mettle as leader of the Opposition.
"Taoiseach, every time you get asked a tough question, you attack the person asking it and you avoid answering it. You demanded that we show you the quotes," he reminded Enda. "You were caught out."
But the Taoiseach had his explanation ready. "I, as party leader, a leader of the Fine Gael party, enunciated what Fine Gael policy was at that time," he informed Micheal.
Micheal wasn't impressed. "After three days of ducking the media the best you can come up with is that others are confused. Everyone is confused except yourself, Taoiseach, and that you, reaffirming Fine Gael policy, is not the same as you personally committing to that policy," he charged.
And in truth the unpleasant aroma of weasel words hangs over Enda's it's-not-personal-promise-it's-party-policy defence. It has bad echoes of Bertie Ahern's justification for accepting a dig-out that the loot was "a political donation for my personal use".
All was quite tense and fractious, but a few minutes later the chamber was united in mirth over a contribution from the honourable member from Kerry South, Michael Healy-Rae.
He wanted to raise a matter "of national importance". And what could it be?
It turned out that the Ring of Kerry wanted "an assurance from the Taoiseach and the Minister for Justice that the awful practices that have occurred in England -- the hacking of phones -- (was) not happening here".
Well. A chorus of incredulous guffaws, cackles and howls rose from all sides of the Dail chamber. "It's the last edition of the Kilgarvan Herald," roared Barry Cowen with gusto.