Miriam Lord’s Week: The lives of De Udders
Trashing about in the pure waters of Reform Alliance Bay
Filming has started for ‘Citizen Charlie’, the RTÉ drama on the life of late ex-taoiseach Charles Haughey, played by Aidan Gillen. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Keep an eye on Billy the Fish. He’s swimming with a vicious crowd. Billy Timmins operates in the Dáil with a school of underwater predators who call themselves “De Udders”. This name might be more suited to a herd of sea cows, but do not be fooled, Billy the Fish is a piranha.
De Udders aren’t happy. Wicklow TD Timmins, who cut his ties with the Fine Gael parliamentary party over the abortion legislation, spoke on their behalf during Thursday’s stormy debate on the Government’s uninspiring Dáil reform package.
“Is there speaking time for the group of ‘others’?” he asked the Leas-Cheann Comhairle, as Opposition leaders protested they weren’t getting a proper chance to discuss the issue.
Billy the Fish made a pike, sorry, point of order. “I, as a member of the ‘others’ group, have no speaking time today. This is not a debate. Little more than 5 per cent of people have made a contribution here. No Government backbencher has got to speak, [except] maybe Deputy Tuffy.”
Labour’s Joanna Tuffy had, indeed, made known her frustration. “The average deputy, like me, has been excluded from the debate on Dáil reform, which is totally inappropriate. These decisions have been made by leaders and they have never really consulted with people like me. I object to that.”
Paul Kehoe, the Government Chief Whip, rushed to set the record straight. “I remind the deputy that in July 2011 we had a full day of debate on Dáil reform, which was the first time there was a full debate on Dáil reform.” Only two and a bit years ago. Still fresh in no one’s memory.
But back to the shallows and Billy the Fish. “I have not been afforded an opportunity to speak. It is a complete and utter farce, as was the budget process,” he complained.
At this point he revealed his teeth. “If the Government continues to try to treat people such as me and some of my colleagues as political piranhas, we will behave accordingly. I put the Government on notice that we will make this House unworkable if the Government continues with its behind-the-scenes measures.”
The Leas-Cheann Comhairle, slightly green around the gills, told Billy the Fish to desist – but this “political piranha” wasn’t going away.
“They think they are smart with their petty, small-minded measures, as represented by the timing in this debate. This is an outrage. This is not a debate. It is a complete and utter farce that does justice to nobody.”
On he went, thrashing about in the pure waters of Reform Alliance Bay until he ran out of energy. “We will take it up with the Ceann Comhairle.”