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Lise Hand: Talking is latest extreme sport in this house of fun

THERE'S a new extreme sport around Leinster House, as dangerous as bungee jumping or barefoot waterskiing.

It's called talking.

Oh it's a fierce perilous business altogether, and participation in this activity can lead to all classes of injury, from noses out of joint to U-turn-related whiplash to spells of confusion and involuntary blushing.

Not that Loose Lips Leo was in the least bit scarlet when his head popped up over the parapet in Leinster House yesterday.

There wasn't a bother on the Transport Minister in the wake of the ructions caused by his remarks on bailouts and bond markets.

He strolled into the Dail chamber for his bout of Ministers' Questions as if he was walking on to a yacht.

Perhaps he's lucky insofar as this 31st Dail has (so far) turned out to be remarkably polite.

And so Leo skated through Leaders' Questions in the morning without having to suffer any smart-aleck asides hurled from the Opposition benches, and then sailed through his own question session in the afternoon.

This time he conscientiously stuck to his prepared answers.

Though, in fairness, given the sprawling nature of his portfolio (Transport, Tourism and Sport), anyone would need plenty of cog notes to deal with the dizzying array of questions which ranged from airport charges, Metro North, and tourism in Inishowen to the low number of women in sport.

Such was the extensive smorgasbord of subjects up for discussion, that even the handful of deputies in the chamber became utterly confused.

At one point Leo rose to deal with a question put down by Fianna Fail's Micheal Martin seeking an explanation for remarks made by the minister on the sports capital programme in his speech to the GAA Congress.

"I can't answer this question on behalf of the Taoiseach," replied Leo. "I attended the GAA Congress dinner in April but did not attend the congress itself."

The Ceann Comhairle looked puzzled. "The question on the order paper is directed to the minister," he prompted Leo. But it turned out that on Leo's paper the question was being put to the Taoiseach.

Over on the Fianna Fail side, a sheepish Timmy Dooley rose to his feet. There was, it transpired, "a degree of confusion", and he was happy to withdraw the question for the moment.

Leo looked satisfied. "In a nutshell, I attended the dinner but did not make any comment," he explained. Being well-brought up, Leo knows it's rude to talk when one's mouth is full. Especially if it's filled with one's own foot.

For talking can be hazardous to one's political health.

Witness the slagging which erupted in the wake of Enda Kenny's tribute to Barack Obama when he 'borrowed' a few lines from one of the US president's previous speeches without attribution during his own address at College Green.

He unwisely drew attention to this during the Order of Business yesterday when Micheal Martin brought up the speech.

"Did you enjoy it?" interrupted Enda cheekily.

Micheal retorted: "It was powerful but I thought I had heard it somewhere before."

Enda attempted a comeback, but only landed himself in more bother. "I assume if I started off talking about comely maidens dancing at the crossroads, people would have said, 'I heard that speech before somewhere,'" he joked.

Sadly for the Taoiseach, 'Dev Og' himself happened to be in the chamber and was having no truck with such loose talk about the Long Fella. "They would not, because it was never given. He never mentioned it," said Eamon O Cuiv sternly.

"I know," sighed Enda through gritted teeth. Him and his big mouth.

Irish Independent