Chaos at Dáil presages post-Seanad apocalypse

Opposition do the birdy dance

The People’s Assembly protest outside the Dáil last night.

The People’s Assembly protest outside the Dáil last night.

Thu, Sep 19, 2013, 01:01

It was a taste of things to come. A small glimpse of post-apocalypse Ireland in the aftermath of Seanad abolition.

Traffic chaos. A ring of steel around Fortress Leinster House. Crash barriers guarding the entrances. Police with horses and dogs beating back the advancing hordes. Pepper spray. No buses. Ordinary workers seething with anger at having to walk home in the chill.

Inside, Lucinda Creighton, wandering the political desert demanding more speaking rights and a parliamentary party to call her own.

She ended up sitting with Sinn Féin at one point.

We’ve never seen them look so frightened.

Calorie count guidelines in the Oireachtas restaurants. And Enda Kenny in the Dáil canteen eating a green and red fairy cake topped with a little Mayo flag. (The Dublin ones had all been eaten, most likely by Leo Varadkar. )

This is what it was like down Kildare Street way on the day business resumed after the summer break.

And apparently how it will always be if the Seanad, our fragile bulwark against totalitarianism, is swept away.

There’ll be anarchy without those 60 men and women of the Upper House to protect us. We’d be lost without these ornaments on our legislative mantlepiece.

They’ve been so useful up to now. Two quorums were called during the afternoon’s opening Seanad session because there weren’t enough bodies in the chamber for the debate.

The ornaments were probably outside at the barricades, trying to keep the peace. Although we didn’t spot any of them.

“This new barrier isn’t great at all” remarked a TD, surveying the crowd of anti-austerity protesters on Molesworth Street from the safety of the plinth. “We could slip out fairly unnoticed with the old ones. They get a full view of you now.”

The leader of Fianna Fáil is already imagining the crunch of jackboots in the future.

Why, he asked the Taoiseach, will he not retain the Seanad and reform it?

Micheál Martin has woken up and he can sense the imminent danger. When his party was in charge for over a decade, the pressing need for Seanad reform never bothered them. It’s different now. He wants to debate the issue with the Taoiseach.

“For 50 years the political system failed to deal with Seanad Éireann” replied Enda. “I came to the conclusion that it is not reformable.”

As for not agreeing to debate Seanad abolition with his Fianna Fáil counterpart, the Taoiseach felt compelled to make a joke.

“I don’t want to embarrass you,” he told Micheál. As punchlines go, it was a good one. They laughed on all sides when the studio-shy Kenny came out with it.

Micheál was confident. As leader of the only main Dáil party opposing abolition, he offered to take on the Taoiseach and the Sinn Féin leader in a debate.

While Gerry didn’t respond, Enda left the Dáil in no doubt as to his position.

Fianna Fáil’s Niall Collins all but accused the Taoiseach of being a chicken.

“You’re like Big Bird with your yellow tie – afraid to come out and debate.”

Enda said he was looking forward to what the people of Ireland would have to say about the Seanad.

“Big Bird! Big Bird!”

You wouldn’t get that high standard of discourse in the Upper House.

Gerry Adams took the opportunity to wish his colleague, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, a happy birthday. Speaking in Irish, and at some length, he revealed that Caoimhghín had reached the fine age of 60.

Sharing of the green
Deputy Ó Caoláin didn’t look overjoyed, but it was probably the shock of seeing Fine Gael exile Lucinda Creighton, wearing a lovely Sinn Féin green, sliding into the seat beside Sandra McLennan.

Across the floor, on the Blueshirt margin, sat Lucinda’s fellow exiles Terence Flanagan and Peter Mathews. They gazed across at her, looking perplexed. She wasn’t expecting them to join her over there, was she?

Flanagan and Mathews, of the newly constituted Reform Alliance, seemed relieved when she left the ranks of Sinn Féin at the end of leaders’ questions to join her fellow members of the RA.

Micheál, meanwhile, was still gung-ho on the subject of reform. The Taoiseach’s recent announcement of a Dáil reform package hadn’t impressed him one bit. It was nothing more than “a charade”.

Enda countered that he had promised to meet him and the other party leaders by October 1st.

“It’s too late now,” grumbled the Fianna Fáil leader.

“Will you have Lucinda in on that too?” wondered Timmy Dooley.

Lucinda and Terence were waving at the Ceann Comhairle so they could make a contribution.

The Taoiseach had no sympathy for the members of the RA.

Perhaps the Seanad can help them. Because, apparently, there is no end to their power.

Unfortunately, there’s no beginning either.