Miriam Lord: Scourge of the scripts has a Ring of truth

Minister of State for Sport Michael Ring: “No scripts today! If you cannot speak without a script for thee minutes ye shouldn’t be in the job you’re in,” he told his EU counterparts.  Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Minister of State for Sport Michael Ring: “No scripts today! If you cannot speak without a script for thee minutes ye shouldn’t be in the job you’re in,” he told his EU counterparts. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins


What’s going to happen next month when we aren’t in charge of Europe any more?

All we’ll have to amuse us is the fight to save the Seanad. It’s concentrating minds wonderfully in the Upper House. With its future in the balance, we hear some of the younger senators are talking about resigning and running for council seats next year in order to keep their political ambition on track.

Post-presidency, Eamon Gilmore will have to stay home more and reacquaint himself with the Labour Party. Lucinda Creighton will return to discover her colleague in Dublin South East, the dashing Eoghan Murphy, has grown a beard in her absence. (And maintained a high profile in the constituency.)

Ministers will have to come to terms with being unimportant Irish people again after six months of hosting meetings and swanning around the conference halls of the world.

On the plus side, they’ll finally be able to put those polka-dot presidency ties into a washing machine.

When Ireland hands over to Lithuania at the beginning of next month, Ministers will be keen to tell us how they left an indelible mark on the “European Project”.

Sports Minister Michael Ring might actually have made a difference. At the Council of Sports Ministers in Brussels, the Ringer pioneered a new approach to these meetings. The usual drill sees each of the 27 ministers reading a prepared script outlining their country’s viewpoint. It’s tedious stuff.

Minister of State Ring decided to change this. He announced to his fellow sports ministers: “No scripts today! If you cannot speak without a script for thee minutes ye shouldn’t be in the job you’re in.”

The politicians looked a little uncertain. Their civil servants looked horrified.

”Let me tell you this,” he continued, “I came through Westport town council and the county council, I’m in the Dáil and now I’m a Minister and we had more debates in the town council than we’ve ever had here.” The ministers were discussing drug misuse in sport. They had brought their scripts, but after initial misgivings and a bit of cajoling from Michael, they decided to throw caution to the wind and have a proper discussion. Ring banished officials to the margins and let the ministers do the talking.

“It was mighty. Mighty altogether,” he tells us. “I was told this was the most successful meeting in Brussels for 20 years. We had a lively exchange of views and a frank and open debate. The place was packed and the meeting went on for nearly four hours.”

Ring invited Travis Tygart, the head of the US anti-doping agency and the man who brought down Lance Armstrong, to address the group and take part in a question-and-answer session.

Now he is hoping his approach might change the way these sessions are structured. “It’s the first time at a ministerial council that scripts weren’t used. All these people are elected representatives who are well able to talk and they should be allowed do it. I’m hoping Lithuania will keep it up.”

And now, Michael, any chance of doing away with the over-reliance on scripts in the Dáil? Thought not.

Lollipop ladies not so sweet on some cyclists

Finian McGrath has stepped up the tempo in his battle with irresponsible city cyclists. The Independent Deputy for Dublin North Central raised the dander of the lippy and chippy lycra brigade recently when he dared to suggest some of them should show more respect to pedestrians and other road users when zooming around.

Now a formidable group has backed his crusade and Finian rushed out a press release yesterday. “Lollipop Ladies Back McGrath On Cyclists,” he trumpets, welcoming the huge response he has received on the issue.

“Lollipop ladies and school wardens are really upset by the attitude of some cyclists. Last year a school warden was hospitalised when she was knocked down by a cyclist in the Beaumont area,” he says, adding that school wardens have problems with cyclists refusing point blank to observe their stop signs.

“Lollipop ladies regularly talk about the cavalier attitude of some cyclists. At least with motorists they can take their registration number.”

But it isn’t only the lollipop people who have contacted him with their tales of woe. He cites a motorist who told him: “If you criticise these untouchables then they equate your comments to being anti-Semitic or anti-gay.”

Then there’s the constituent’s wife who was hit by a racing cyclist in Raheny and suffered a broken wrist, and the young woman in Marino who was hit while stepping off a bus. “He was cycling between the bus and pavement. He hurled abuse at her and she was out of work for six months.” He has loads of examples. Take women, for instance. Finian says they make regular complaints to him about being verbally abused by cyclists when they are challenged about cycling on paths. “My objective is road safety and good manners on the road. I am not anti-cyclist, but anti-bad-behaviour and arrogance.”

Slow down, and think of the lollipop ladies, he pleads. (And while you’re at it, get a bell on that bike).

Durkan and Vincenzo in almighty sound clash

The impenetrable wall of sound that is Fine Gael’s Bernard Durkan emerged as an unlikely hero in Leinster House this week.

The backbencher from Kildare North was in TV3 on Tuesday night for a stint with Vincent Browne and he stumped his host by his refusal to stop talking.

This won’t have surprised anyone who has a passing acquaintance with Dáil business, where Bernard routinely blathers on to his heart’s content. But his TV tangle with Vincenzo went down a storm with political colleagues on all sides of the house. In the chamber on Wednesday, we noticed quite a few deputies watching YouTube clips of blustering Bernard’s finest hour on their smartphones and iPads.

The subject at issue was that evening’s no confidence motion in the Minister for Justice. Browne wanted to know if Alan Shatter had adequately dealt with the questions asked of him.

At considerable length, Bernard attacked Mattie McGrath for making “wild allegations” and praised the Minister for his “tremendous response,” barely pausing for breath as Vincent roared at him.

“Stop Bernard, stop! Shut up, Bernard!”

Durkan waffled on regardless as Browne bellowed to no effect. It was highly entertaining (in a mortifying sort of way).

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