Adams's native tongue can't put Old Father TIME off his stroke

Wed, Oct 10, 2012, 01:00

DÁIL SKETCH:He might be Father of the House but Enda was skipping around like a two-year-old yesterday

AS THE longest-serving TD in the Dáil, the Taoiseach is also known as the Father of the House.

Although now that he’s become the cover-boy for an international news magazine, perhaps Old Father TIME might be a more apt title for Enda these days.

But enough of the old. He was skipping around town like a two-year-old yesterday thanks to a major announcement on the jobs front.

It’s a Taoiseach’s prerogative to go to these good news events and make speeches and get into the photographs. If it’s a relatively minor occasion – like new opportunities for car clampers – then Enda’s people might allow the Minister in charge of job creation to make the announcement all on his own.

Some people say Richard Bruton got away fairly lightly after he mounted an unsuccessful challenge to Kenny’s leadership.

But maybe not. Richard now toils away in a peculiar type of political purgatory. Enda made him boss of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, and he is nothing if not diligent. Witness all the big announcements on those fronts.

Except when it comes to spreading the joyous word, the Taoiseach invariably sweeps in to steal his limelight.

And there’s nothing Bruton can do about it except smile and hope he isn’t cropped out of too many photographs. All the same it must rankle.

Yesterday’s good news was imparted from the comfortable confines of Dublin’s Shelbourne Hotel. Government TDs from Kildare (that’s where the new jobs are to be created) were instructed to turn up and sit in the front row.

Just as well James Reilly and his Cabinet cohorts were caught trying to sex up the list of primary care locations otherwise they’d have had to hire a bigger hall to accommodate all the TDs turning up to share in the credit at the official launch.

With quite a few newsworthy topics to choose from, Enda was probably confident that the James Reilly controversy would fade into the background at Leaders’ Questions. As it turned out it didn’t.

Micheál Martin talked about the “entirely unacceptable” differential between tracker and standard rate mortgages.

A pessimistic Shane Ross wondered if Ireland’s “deal” on bank debt, supposedly reached at an EU summit back in June, had gone down the tubes. “June’s breakthrough is October’s non-event,” he declared.

The Taoiseach, buoyed by his trip to the Shelbourne, didn’t seem overly worried by the questions.

But Gerry Adams wasn’t prepared to let go. He returned to the unanswered question.

The Sinn Féin leader said his party had been trying to find out for the last three weeks why the Government decided to put two primary healthcare centres in the Minister for Health’s constituency.

Why was the Government refusing to publish the criteria used to reach this decision? Did the public and Dáil not have a right to the information?

Enda replied, giving his answer completely in Irish. He went on and on, as smiles grew broader on all sides of the house and Gerry attempted to keep up. But he had Mary Lou on one side of him and no sign of the likes of native speaker Pearse Doherty to whisper a running translation.

Gerry doesn’t like people criticising him for trying to improve his Irish on the floor of the Dáil. He particularly doesn’t like sketch writers drawing attention to his efforts to speak the first language during Leaders’ Questions.

In fact he went out of his way to point this out in no uncertain terms to this particular writer during a recent encounter in the corridors.

We should be “encouraging” him, was Gerry’s view. It’s “lazy journalism”, he sulked.

Leo Varadkar is learning Irish. He doesn’t feel the need to practise on the floor of the Dáil chamber. There are places like Conradh na Gaeilge for that.

For all we know Micheal Noonan might be learning the clarinet but he doesn’t bring it in and give us all a blast during Finance questions.

After Enda sat down, Adams said the Taoiseach gave a very long reply but hadn’t answered the question. That was clever. Given that the question was about the criteria used by Reilly, Enda could have replied in Swahili but you could have still bet the House on knowing he wouldn’t supply an explanation.

Fianna Fáil would never have found themselves in this situation. Their ministers would have engineered the criteria in the first place to achieve the desired outcome.

At least that was the joke among some of them about the amateurs in the Coalition.

“Different folks, same strokes,” quipped Adams, hardly looking at his script.

Good one, that.

But line of the day goes to Joe Higgins who found himself at the end of a few jibes about the departure of Deputy Clare Daly from the Socialist Party.

“A little bit of ice cracking off the edge doesn’t sink the iceberg!”