Giddiness fills the air – but not from blue Peter Mathews
Dáil Sketch: the deputy for Dublin South didn’t appear to be taking well his new status as one of the Expelled
Peter Mathews leaves Leinster House after voting against the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill on Tuesday. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
After the rising, Micheál Martin is left with flour on his hands and a baker’s dozen of dissidents to keep under control. Government deputies were all too happy to remind him of this fact yesterday.
“Watch out behind you!” they gleefully shouted when he thundered about the government’s “authoritative streak”. He could do with a bit of that himself.
With the spotlight very firmly on Fine Gael during Tuesday night’s contentious Dáil vote on abortion, the behaviour of the men from Fianna Fáil was somewhat overlooked. The loss of four TDs from the Taoiseach’s party was always going to be the main story.
Yet, when the dust cleared following the departure of Messrs Walsh, Timmins, Flanagan and Mathews from the Government benches, the image of those 13 dark suits rising in unison from the ranks of Fianna Fáil to oppose the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill is the one that stays in the mind.
Their leader wanted his men to back the legislation. The overwhelming majority of them decided to defy him.
Including Willie (Or Won’t He) O’Dea, who, late in the day, got in touch with his feminine side and decided to change his mind. It isn’t just a woman’s prerogative, you know.
Still, having clearly demonstrated to the nation that it’s the men who wear the trousers in Fianna Fáil, the happy dissidents fell back in step with their leader and the five colleagues who supported him when normal business resumed on the morning after. If Micheál was embarrassed, he didn’t show it. But when the leader of the Opposition should have been taking full advantage of his main rival’s difficulties, he couldn’t say a word.
It’s hard to make hay over Fine Gael losing four men out of 74 when 13 troops out of your meagre complement of 19 have just mutinied.
The Taoiseach was in Berlin for the day, so nice Richard Bruton was in his place for Leaders’ Questions.
He didn’t have a difficult time of it. There was giddy air in the chamber, as if deputies on all sides were just glad to have put the stress of the first abortion vote behind them.
Mattie McGrath, featuring for the Technical Group, should have been the star of the show with his entertainingly unfocused attack on the Government.
But while Mattie performed in the chamber, an interesting cameo was being played out at the rail behind the Government benches.
For it was Peter Mathews, coming to terms with his new status as one of the Expelled. The deputy for Dublin South didn’t appear to be taking it well. As business proceeded, Peter sat alone at the top of the stairs, leaning on the rail, chin resting disconsolately on his arms.