All calm in our Special Area of Conservation
All around the chamber, the protected members of the Upper House can puff and preen and pontificate – by special order of the people
The Crested Norris, whose cry will cotinue to ring out around the chandeliers. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
And on the third day, the Senators arose and showed themselves to many.
Bursting with dignity.
The Senators called for calm.
After the resurrection on Saturday they returned, glowing, to the Upper House, which has been newly
designated a Special Area of Conservation. Fidelma Healy Eames is now a protected species. They all are.
Professor Crown is free to roam and tweet unhindered. The cry of the Crested Norris will continue to ring out around the chandeliers. All around the chamber, they can puff and preen and pontificate – by special order of the people.
But with Added Relevance.
That sort of imprimatur could turn a Senator’s head.
But not ours.
As expected, they did not engage in any overt displays of self-congratulation yesterday. But the unmistakable strains of the vindication waltz played quietly in the background.
Needless to say, Fianna Fáil’s Terry Leyden couldn’t resist a little tilt at the press gallery as he made his way to his seat. He was humming a tune. “Will I sing it?” he asked. “Happy days are here again, Oh the sky above is clear again . . . ”
And off he trotted.
His colleagues won’t have been pleased. They had clearly agreed beforehand to be mature and dignified and not indulge in any crowing. Inside, though, they were dancing.
Maurice Cummins, the Fine Gael leader of the House, acknowledged in his opening remarks that the members were, of course, “satisfied” with the outcome of the referendum to abolish them. But he hoped there wouldn’t be “too much recrimination or retaliation” during the proceedings. They would be “professional, productive and collegiate”.
He need not have worried, as Senators took it in turns to remind each other of the need to remain “calm”. Coupled with the reference to retaliation and recrimination, it might have been wise to search the Senators for concealed weapons before allowing them back in.
The members trooped in solemnly, the Fianna Fáil contingent looking particularly sombre. They were just short of pressing crooked fingers against sealed lips as they filed into the chamber.
From the outset – safely ensconced in their Special Area of Conservation – the Senators set to work on spreading the blame.
Darragh O’Brien, the Fianna Fáil leader, set the tone. “What the public want is political reform in all the structures,” he said. This applied to the Dáil as well as the Seanad, along with the office of the President and local government.
But he couldn’t let the occasion go without reminding everyone how he had accused the Taoiseach of
“an act of constitutional vandalism” with his Seanad referendum and was pleased to say that the voters had found him guilty.
But now, they had to move on with their work as parliamentarians. “The campaign is over. People listened to our arguments.”
“Hear Hear!” they cried in cross-party unison.
Needless to say, it was only a matter of time before the sore subject of media coverage was broached.
John Crown was first out of the traps, after making his calm and reflective contribution. “I am delighted to see some people in the press gallery today, because another mandate has been given. The real problem of absenteeism in this House is absenteeism of the press.”