Enda the executioner hears senators’ last requests
Taoiseach moves Seanad Abolition Bill
Taoiseach Enda Kenny: “He escaped after an hour and a half, promising to return when he’s done with his duties in Europe. The Senators looked less than gratified.”
The Taoiseach arrived with two undertakers in tow.
Or civil servants, as they are more usually known.
There was talk that Fianna Fáil would stage a walkout during his Seanad execution speech, but in the end, the few who came to hear him stayed sullenly put.
Why the change of mind?
“Aah, we couldn’t be arsed” said one of their number, who registered his silent protest by sunning himself on the plinth.
The Taoiseach was given a frosty welcome when he arrived in the Upper House, presumably with the aid of Sat Nav. It was sulkily noted on all sides that this was only his second visit to the chamber since he took office.
On his way in, Enda encountered Fianna Fáil’s Marc MacSharry beating a retreat. They blanked each other, which was a major disappointment. MacSharry didn’t crack as much of a smile at the sight of the man he recently called “a clown” and the Taoiseach resisted the urge to slap a custard pie in his face.
A uniformed garda materialised outside the chamber door. Labour Senators Marie Moloney and Mary Moran thought this hilarious.
”Did the authorities think we were going to attack him and beat him up?” Mary asked us, while Marie said the poor policeman wouldn’t have stood a chance had the Senators decided to go on the rampage.
From the outset, it seemed the Taoiseach’s strategy was to bore the Senators out of existence as he ground through his dull and technical address in a low monotone.
However, any hopes he had of his audience surrendering on the spot were dashed because most of them fell unconscious before he was half way through his turgid script.
It was probably somewhere between the potted history of Seanad Éireann and his exposition of “consequential amendments”.
After Enda outlined in bewildering detail why his Government is asking the people to decide whether to scupper the Second House, and the Senators told him why he is wrong.
Darragh O’Brien, Fianna Fáil’s Seanad leader, set the tone of dignified huff as he made the case for reform instead of abolition.
He pointed out what Senators have achieved and could achieve if only allowed. “Even in a system that is not perfect, they bring a high degree of scrutiny, professionalism and experience to the debates that take place here,” he remarked, “and if you were here a little more often you would understand that.”
There was much annoyance at Enda’s recent comment that Senators didn’t prevent the economic crisis.
John Crown said expecting them to save the day was “a little bit like Neville Chamberlain blaming the Mexicans for failing to stop the Germans from invading Poland”.
As for the savings to be made by doing away with the Upper House, the figures being bandied about were universally derided as nonsense.
With the Anglo tapes still fresh in the mind, Crown agreed with his colleagues who talked about a figure of €30 million being “plucked out of the air, in truth, one of the cleaner places figures have been plucked out of in the national debate this week”.
No wonder our Fianna Fáil friend hadn’t been arsed about attending.
Fine Gael’s Maurice Cummins, a loyal supporter of the Taoiseach, stressed that Enda would be “treated with respect” during this rare trip to see them, but he did not agree with abolition.
”Democracy is a fragile flower” he quivered, invoking the names of Fine Gael heroes who had died for their country.
After a long and thoughtful contribution, Taoiseach’s nominee Jillian Van Turnhout declared herself undecided.
Feargal Quinn tried to put the frighteners on. “Do people really want all the power in the hands of the Cabinet, dominated by the whip system, or a Seanad that can put a brake on government when things are going the other way?”
Enda escaped after an hour and a half, promising to return when he’s done with his duties in Europe. The Senators looked less than gratified.
Meanwhile, the media turned to the more pressing issues of the day.
Brian Cowen had been spotted driving in the vicinity of Leinster House, putting journalists and photographers into a state of high alert.
Then came news that Leinster House’s expensively constructed and appointed sweetie shop was to close by the end of the week, sparking a panic about dry cleaning collections, which relegated the worry over the Seanad’s future to the minor league.
Then Labour’s half-resigned parliamentary party chairman, Colm Keaveney, took himself out onto the plinth and fully resigned from the party. He managed to do this without spouting Latin, and with “a heavy heart”.
Back at the mother ship, hearts were so heavy at this turn of events that Eamon Gilmore was said to be on his second bottle of Bollinger as Emmet Stagg nearly danced down the plinth to comment on the departure.
“No, it’s not a blow, it’s a blessing to get rid of somebody who’s inside sniping at us for the last number of months. It’s good that he’s gone. It’s good riddance.”
And we recalled that famous episode in the Dáil chamber when Green TD Paul Gogarty lost his rag with Emmet and roared: “F*** you, deputy Stagg! F*** you!”
The Labour whip just stopped short of doing a Gogarty on Keaveney.
Whereupon a single shot rang out. But it was merely a car exhaust backfiring and not an attempt by headquarters to silence the troublesome Keaveney for once and for all.
He was later spotted in deep conversation with those other Labour outcasts, Tommy Broughan and Róisín Shorthall.