Sunday 21 July 2019

Wisecracks and fascist analogies make for wacky Wednesday ...

Ciaran Byrne

"I do not like to draw extreme analogies ... " began Fine Gael TD Lucinda Creighton.

Brian Lenihan sat up. Ms Creighton had already addressed him as Tanaiste.

"I must have had a sex change," muttered the finance minister.

Creighton blurted her punch line: " ... but the powers being vested in the Minister for Finance are somewhat akin to those seen in 1930s Germany."

Uh oh.

Mr Lenihan looked like he'd been punched by a storm trooper. His colleagues gasped.

Before the Hitler stuff, Ms Creighton had done a fairly decent fist of raising public concerns about the great €400bn guarantee.

Ms Creighton's evocation of the Nazi leader's rise to power in 1933 was not, it was agreed by some afterwards, a great analogy.

"It is important to say why we are here," Tanaiste Mary Coughlan had said as she kicked off proceedings just after 10.30am.

Why indeed. Labour leader Eamon Gilmore wanted an exact figure for the guarantee and a chance to read the small print first.

Ms Coughlan didn't seem too keen on that idea. TDs should instead just back the "principled decision" made by the Government on Tuesday.

"It is important to see that and bring it to finality as quickly as possible," she added.

Fat chance.

The world might be going to hell in a hand cart with Meltdown Mondays and Black Tuesdays but yesterday was most definitely Wacky Wednesday.

A good number of TDs apparently saw the day as an opportunity to try out clever analogies and hilarious wisecracks.

After Ms Creighton's unfortunate history lesson, another young Turk, Green TD Paul Gogarty, waded in calling Irish bankers "scum".

Shrieking

Bizarrely, he spent much of his time in the Dail yesterday tapping away on a laptop, occasionally raising his head to throw out another pointless one-liner.

He was followed onto the stage by Michael Ring, the Mayo Fine Gael TD shrieking so loudly he almost had to be restrained by colleagues.

"Deputy Ring's money is under his mattress," sniggered Gogarty.

Few heard the comment such was the racket being created by Mr Ring, who by now was literally roaring.

As Mr Lenihan reached for the earplugs, Mr Ring said Mr and Mrs Citizen deserved more protection. Few would have disagreed with that.

Ceann Comhairle John O'Donoghue bravely, if dangerously, tried to calm Mr Ring by insisting he kept to the point.

To laughter, the TD acknowledged he was possibly losing the run of himself.

The Big Beasts of the various parties tried to raise the tone, imparting pearls of wise counsel in these times of great uncertainty.

Former Fine Gael leader Michael Noonan rose to his feet, fixed sternly on Mr Lenihan and without jokes or gimmicks just said simply: "I hope this succeeds".

Mr Noonan said there was a lot to take on trust. The banks operate secretively and it was time for more transparency.

"I wish to know -- I cannot measure the effectiveness of the Bill without knowing this -- was the crisis a liquidity or a solvency crisis?"

Hmmm. Liquidity or solvency. The thing yesterday was nobody seemed to know. Labour's Pat Rabbitte rammed home that central point.

"It is all very well to watch economists for stockbrokers and banks being rolled out to say that this is a marvellous innovation.

"These are not stupid people so what would one expect them to say? They are after getting an insurance policy for their liabilities.

"Some of the more feeble-minded commentators will take that up and say that this is marvellous. They do not know whether this is marvellous. I hope it is marvellous, but we do not know."

And by close of business last night, we still didn't know. Strange days.

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