Miriam Lord: A year of eloquence, hot air and cheese in the Oireachtas
In the picture, taken before Billy Timmins was drummed out for treason, we see Senator Martin Conway and deputies Timmins, David Stanton and Liam Twomey getting tips from Comdt Keith Murphy on how to quell mutiny in the ranks.
The other memorable photo stars Calamity James, stuck in a lift in Grangegorman. The Minister for Health was there to open a new mental health facility and ended up spending nearly 20 sweltering minutes suspended between floors with Minister Kathleen Lynch, assorted handlers and medical people and three photographers.
A late entry in the picture stakes comes from our newest Senator, Fine Gael’s Hildegarde Naughton, who was appointed by the Taoiseach this week to fill the seat vacated by Martin McAleese.
Hildegarde is a talented singer and a stalwart of musical theatre in her native Galway. Here, we see her in a publicity shot for her starring role in a production of Calamity Jane.
Fetching as it is, we think the picture of Calamity James is funnier, although it’s a pity he didn’t have his horse in the lift too.
Austerity’s bitter taste
A nice glass of “chilled buttermilk” goes to those TDs and Senators who overdid it on the drink during the two late-night sittings this year. Their antics have led to moves to bring the opening hours of the members’ bar in Leinster House in line with the public bar next door.
Socialist TD Joe Higgins suggested the buttermilk option when figures were released detailing the expensive contents of the wine cellar kept by the Department of Foreign Affairs in Iveagh House.
“The elite of Europe who are coming here to drink that fine wine are the ones who are demanding savage austerity on the Irish people,” he said. “Would it not be more appropriate perhaps to serve them chilled buttermilk instead of fine expensive wine, which is a further burden on the Irish people and thereby make them practise what they preach a little?”
The Bernard Durkan Award for Services to Windbaggery: This is named in honour of the Fine Gael TD for Kildare North, who won the admiration of political colleagues from all sides when he went on Vincent Browne’s TV programme and stumped the presenter by wittering on incessantly.
“Stop Bernard, stop!” wailed Browne. “Shut up!”
In order to give others a chance, Durkan is not eligible this year. Front runners are Fianna Fáil’s Jim Walsh and Brian O’Dómhnaill, who monopolised the abortion debate in the Seanad until guillotined into silence. However, as they don’t figure much on other subjects, they are dismissed as one-trick ponies.
Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin is a natural, but since the first-time TD Gerry Adams took his job as the party’s leader in the Dáil, poor Caoimhghín rarely gets a chance to cut loose.
Winner, by mile, is Peter “sure, we’re all going to end up dead anyway” Mathews, who can talk at great length on any subject and usually does. (He subsequently apologised for his “dead anyway” line, given when asked if a woman should be forced to continue with a pregnancy if it were to seriously damage her health.)
Where Peter is concerned, let us paraphrase Mr Collins on the subject of Lady Catherine de Burgh: “We have been treated with such affability, such condescension as we would never have dared to hope for.”