Wednesday 17 July 2019

Plenty of words to eat as senators take part in Last Supper

Lise Hand

TERRY Leyden wasn't a happy camper. The Fianna Fail senator had a rake of things to get off his chest during what may turn out to be the Seanad's last Order of Business before being transmogrified into an officially abolished entity.

First he had a go at the Taoiseach for what he viewed as Enda's "extraordinary" refusal to debate on the Seanad, and then he worked himself up into a right old lather of indignation.

"Have you worked out a strategy in terms of getting legislation through this House in the event of a Yes vote tomorrow?" he asked the Leader of the House, Fine Gael's Maurice Cummins.

Uh-oh – Terry obviously sees a lot of rattles flying out of the pram should the Seanad get the chop, with all sorts of foot-dragging on passing pieces of legislation.

But he wasn't finished yet. "Will the Government consider the dissolving of the Dail after the vote tomorrow, if the vote goes either way?" he demanded. "I want to see this Government put itself before the people as quickly as possible. Dissolve both Houses at one time and get a new mandate from the people, based on trust and facts, not on austerity," he thundered.

A general election, eh? Holding one of those right now may well convince the exhausted citizenry that this democracy lark is seriously overrated.

Nor was Labour's Susan O'Keeffe too impressed with Terry's bit of ball-hopping. "That's a pretty useless thing to be saying at this point. I don't believe anyone would thank us for calling for such a thing at a time like this and you know that perfectly well."

Golly, but the senators were a bit fractious yesterday. The mood was a pungent pot-pourri of self-congratulation and self-flagellation.

On one hand, the opposition were cock-a-hoop over their first-ever victory during this Dail the previous evening, when the Government lost a vote on a bill from Senator Feargal Quinn by 27 votes to 23, but on the other hand they were mostly all up in a heap about their own possible demise.

Senator Sean Barrett was no happier than Terry.

"When we said the prayer earlier we did so with more fervour than ever, given today is, if the Taoiseach gets his way, the day before this House is moved to death row," he declared.

"I call on the decent people in the Fine Gael Party, in that parliamentary tradition from Griffith to Garret FitzGerald, to vote No tomorrow. We need this House. The cowards mark the patriot's fate who hangs his head in shame. We have been mocked from every lamppost in the country. We cannot have 'Alas, that might should conquer right' on this issue," he concluded on a stirring note.

Some senators tried to bring up other topics, such as Fine Gael's Michael Mullins, who mentioned the prevalence of online scams. But Terry Leyden sprang back into action. "The Fine Gael manifesto is the greatest scam of all," he sniped.

The Cathaoirleach hastily intervened. "You've already spoken," he advised the simmering senator.

'I would like to speak again. It may be the last chance I have to do so," retorted Tetchy Terry.

"You're simply looking for a headline," she sniffed.

The woebegone senators scented all sorts of conspiracies. Fianna Fail's Mary White was fretting about just who is actually in charge of the whole shebang.

"I wish to speak this morning about the lack of balance in the running of our country. We have a four-man economic council running the country and I do not believe that any one of them has any commercial experience whatsoever. It is a state of anarchy that we have with the four men up there. We do not have any women on it and they do not have an ounce of commercial experience," she declared. On and on went the litany of woe. Fine Gael's Martin Conway reckoned that the day before the poll "is like the parliamentary form of The Last Supper. We do not know whether we will be executed or survive or what will happen", he said.

Moreover, he described the campaign as "probably the dirtiest campaign we have ever seen in a referendum in the history of the country".

And Labour's Mary Moran agreed with him. "It's been an extremely dirty campaign," she concurred.

Finally, Maurice Cummins rose to reply. "Irrespective of the result, I assure members that this House will carry on until the next government is formed and I am sure we will carry out our duties with the same dignity and respect we have shown during the past two-and-a-half years," he vowed.

Bless his innocence. If the Seanad is axed tomorrow it'll carry on alright – Carry On Up The Creek Without A Paddle. . .

Irish Independent

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