Alarms ring out as Mary Lou and Brendan blaze
Courage undimmed and with not a thought to their personal safety, they courageously battled through the tumult.
Close on the centenary of the Rising, this handful of Leinster House heroes displayed a fortitude not seen since the GPO in 1916.
Such bravery amidst the relentless sniping.
Hearts swelled with pride – and no small amount of concern – when they refused to abandon their stations as acrid smoke rose from increasingly vicious exchanges in the Dáil chamber.
Brendan Howlin was smouldering.
Mary Lou McDonald ablaze.
Yet they battled on.
It was shocking.
Brian Hayes was so traumatised he was unable to speak. All he could do was sit beside his senior officer Howlin and gallantly nod.
And still the fire alarm rang.
Fianna Fáil’s Seán Fleming bravely shuffled his papers and stayed in his seat. Behind him, Independent TD for Kerry South Tom Fleming remained unmoved by the heat and noise. Although there’s nothing new in that.
Did they budge? They did not.
We haven’t had such a thrilling session in a long time.
Then the noise stopped and word came through of some sort of technical fault in the system: a false alarm. It originated in the Oireachtas creche, apparently.
(This is the second creche, across the road from Leinster House in Kildare Street, and quite different from the main creche, which is also known as the Members’ Bar.)
Emergency over, so? Not in the chamber, where the Howlin/McDonald bombardment continued.
They tore strips off each other. They hadn’t given a moment’s heed to the evacuation bell when it was going like the clappers outside, so they weren’t likely to cease hostilities now that they could take full advantage of the silence.
The conflict centred on the proposed Croke Park agreement. Mary Lou thinks it’s a terrible deal, declaring that the Government and some union leaders are protecting comfortable high earners while pickpocketing the pay of low- and middle- income workers.
“You didn’t even read the document before coming to your venomous conclusion,” spat Brendan, accusing the Sinn Féin deputy leader of “a shocking and shabby abuse of people who had worked hard to represent their members”. Furthermore, she had taken to the airwaves to denounce the agreement within an hour of the talks’ conclusion and had her mind made up before the document was even published. Mary Lou was incensed at such a notion.
The Minister for Public Expenditure explained the deal was a complex one, reached by competent negotiators and it was now up to public service workers to make their judgment.“I ask deputies not to use this House as a bully pit in terms of charging one way or the other on this,” he pleaded.