Tuesday 17 September 2019

Who's in charge here anyway?


Michael (right) and Danny Healy-Rae in the Dáil. Photo: PA
Michael (right) and Danny Healy-Rae in the Dáil. Photo: PA
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

We all love a bit of a parliamentary barney, especially when it happens in other countries. It makes us feel all smug and civilised and first-worldy and sophisticated.

When we see footage of people roaring at each other in some South American so-called parliament, we have a good laugh and nod sagely, 'Those crazy South Americans. They don't have a long and distinguished history of parliamentary democracy like us'.

Or maybe we see a bit of parliamentary fisticuffs in Italy or somewhere down that region. And we think, 'Ah, the Mediterraneans, too passionate, lack the cool heads and self-control we northern Europeans have'.

Our favourite kind of parliamentary hoo-haa is when someone pulls a gun out. We love that. That makes us feel very superior altogether, because you'd never get anyone pulling a gun in the Dail. Well, not recently anyway.

We got a taste of our own medicine last week when three scions of distinguished political dynasties started roaring abuse at each other. And of course it went viral and the rest of the world nodded sagely, and said, 'Ah those crazy Irish, drunk again, not fit to rule themselves'.

And we just hoped they didn't look up who the characters involved were, and find that two are brothers who inherited their voters from their father, that one of them believes in drink-driving and that God directly intervenes to create the weather, and the other refuses to take off his hat.

And maybe they discovered then that the row was over a bingo card system for who gets to talk in the Dail. (Legs 11: Micheal Martin? Two fat ladies: you can't say that any more.) Those crazy Irish. Who left them in charge of themselves?

But then again, you might argue that the parliament is not in charge here at all. We got a powerful reminder of that last week when the Oireachtas public accounts committee asked 10 of the largest companies operating in Ireland to come in and talk about Ireland's corporate tax regime.

Of the 10, one showed up. Apple, Google, JP Morgan, Citibank, Pfizer, Ryanair, Glanbia, Kerry and CRH all refused to come in.

Then again, presumably these guys don't feel there is anything to discuss about Ireland's corporate tax regime. Presumably they all think it is operating very nicely. And presumably they had a great laugh at the poor eejits from GlaxoSmithKline, who bothered to turn up. 'Are those guys on drugs?' they must have joked.

So when the foreigners all looked at our Dail, and wondered how these people were allowed run a country, they needn't have worried.

Because, in case we didn't know it, last week, nine of the 10 biggest companies in Ireland made it very clear who's really in charge, and who definitely isn't.

Sunday Independent

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