All-party dash to exit gates at Oireachtas

Mick Wallace and Ming Flanagan’s row with the technical group over speaking rights at Leaders’ Questions has intensified, with the pair said to be taking legal advice.  Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Mick Wallace and Ming Flanagan’s row with the technical group over speaking rights at Leaders’ Questions has intensified, with the pair said to be taking legal advice. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Sat, Jul 20, 2013, 01:31

TDs staggered over the line on Thursday, delighted to reach the end of a bruising parliamentary session.

All the main parties have had their difficulties, but Micheál Martin and Fianna Fáil will be most relieved to escape for a while from the Leinster House spotlight.

And it had all been going so well. Micheál winning credit for steering his broken party back up the opinion polls so soon after the general election rout – a sense of belief beginning to return.

Then everything went pear- shaped. TDs and Senators openly defied their leader’s decision to back the abortion Bill. A very large majority – all men – argued against the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill. In the Seanad, outdated rhetoric from some of Micheál’s men was calculated to cause upset. Senators argued among themselves in the chamber. It didn’t look good.

Meanwhile, the Technical Group has more splinters than a broken plank. Mick Wallace and Ming Flanagan’s row with the group over speaking rights at Leaders’ Questions has intensified, with the pair said to be taking legal advice.

They insist they are being denied their chance to perform at the high-profile Dáil slot, even though Séamus Healy and Stephen Donnelly were chosen in a straight vote. “Defunct democracy” is how one of them put it.

The talk of court action and injunctions continues, with Ming insisting at this week’s group meeting that Healy and Donnelly’s turn in September “is not going to happen”.

And there are rumblings that former Labour junior minister Róisín Shortall has opened talks with a number of left-leaning Independent TDs with a view to giving voters an alternative to the Labour Party. We understand she had talks with Thomas Pringle, among others, this week.

In Fine Gael, Enda has lost seven overboard. Even Sinn Féin has cast Peadar Tóibín temporarily into the wilderness. The politicians and their staff are exhausted.

Such was the sense of relief as the term drew to a close that all the parties threw parties to mark the happy event.

Fianna Fáil went to the Grafton Lounge for their get-together, although the atmosphere over the barbecued burgers may have been strained due to their abortion- induced differences and the rather nasty edge souring the debate in the Seanad.

But some of the younger intake made the best of things, well into the night, we hear.

Fine Gael staff went across from Government Buildings to Dan McGrattan’s popular watering hole, where the fallout from their abortion debate upheaval was also discussed.

They didn’t eat all the sausages, which was a stroke of luck for Labour as they had their barbecue in McGrattan’s the following night. Pat Rabbitte put his Doheny and Nesbitt’s ordeal behind him and bravely nursed a pint in public again.

Even Sinn Féin had a knees up. They went to O’Donoghue’s on Merrion Row to unwind after the long Dáil term. The Taoiseach popped in for a pint and ended up having a friendly chinwag with Aengus Ó Snodaigh. That must have pleased Enda’s special branch shadows.

The political correspondents, sick of the sight of politicians, partied too, with an enjoyable night of backbiting, gossip and finger food aboard the MV Cil Áirne on the Liffey.
Nobody went overboard.