Who Says Bankers Can’t Be Entertaining?
Deaglán de Bréadún
There’s no shortage of drama in Irish politics these days. Sometimes it descends into farce, as in the sequence of events at the Finance Committee last night. Read my colleague Mary Minihan’s report here.
You can imagine how his Fine Gael colleagues feel about Deputy Peter Matthews at the moment. The Dublin South TD is rapidly becoming the most colourful character in the Dail.
We were fooled at the start by his sharp dress and grooming and his background as an accountant and a banker. But just because you don’t have a Ming Flanagan beard or a Healy-Rae cap on your head and you don’t do a little dance with a collection basket in the chamber like the inimitable Mattie McGrath it doesn’t mean you can’t be entertaining.
Remember Deputy Matthews pulling the rosary beads out of his pocket at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting when the issue of the Vatican Embassy closure was being discussed? You don’t expect a man with a banking background to be carrying such an item in his pocket – they are meant to be focused on material rather than spiritual matters. When I asked him about it later in the canteen, he whipped out the beads again. Semper fidelis.
The Deputy is now a regular panellist on the Vincent Browne nightly TV show where he somehow manages to sound like an Opposition backbencher without ever actually disowning the Government. It’s a good tightrope to walk since the electorate could well be in vengeful mood at the next election.
Monty Python fans will remember “The Accountant Who Wants to be a Lion-Tamer”. But who will tame Peter Matthews?
Meanwhile, the next Big Show will of course be the referendum on the European fiscal compact. Enda Kenny told his Fine Gael ministerial colleagues last week that he wanted the vote to be held by the end of May. Since May 31st is dangerously close to a bank holiday, that suggests he might have it on May 24th or 25th.
The only difficulty there is that it doesn’t leave a lot of time to get the legislation passed by the Dail and Seanad. The Bill to enable the holding of the referendum is to come before Cabinet on March 27th. There’s no meeting next week because of the absence of so many ministers at St Patrick’s Festival events abroad.
Unless the Bill can be hurried through before the Easter break, the timetable is going to be very tight indeed. Once the Bill has been passed, the Minister for the Environment appoints a polling day which must be between 30 and 90 days of making the order.
You can imagine the furore that will be kicked up by the Treaty’s opponents if a minimal amount of time is given to debating it in the Dail and then the period allocated for the public discussion is much closer to 30 than 90 days.
At the same time, the Government would be taking a big risk in letting the referendum slip into the autumn. We know at this stage that anything can happen in Irish politics – and probably will!