Braying in Dáil but no foal play suspected

Thu, Jan 17, 2013, 00:00

Dáil Sketch:Under starter’s orders once again after their long Christmas break, the good burghers of Kildare Street were raring to go yesterday.

Mattie McGrath was champing at the bit. Having been granted his wish for a top flight runout, the Independent deputy for Tipperary South was listed in the third race on the Dáil card – the Shane Ross Memorial Technical Maiden Bumper.

Gerry Adams looked like a dead cert in the second race – the lucrative Friends of Sinn Féin Average Industrial Wage International Classic.

Meanwhile, the feature race saw an unusual Wednesday morning excursion for Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, who found himself up against Cork-bred stayer Micheál Martin in the Horsemeat DNA Chase and Tesco Plate.

In the build-up to the new season, Gilmore underwent a lot of training in anticipation of the challenges ahead. As one of the main runners in the ongoing EU presidency stakes, he expects to be asked a lot of hard questions during the race to secure a deal on Ireland’s debt.

However, when contemplating the possible hurdles he might have to face at yesterday’s opening meat of 2013, the Tánaiste never expected to find himself addressing the shocking issue of horse flesh turning up in Irish beefburgers . . .

In fairness, nobody did.

But that’s the puntastic beauty of politics.

Enda must have been disgusted at being stuck in Strasbourg trying to persuade our EU friends to pony up on the bailout money when he could have been in Dublin wearing a long face and dispatching the cavalry to rescue our beef industry.

Instead, it fell to Giddy-up Gilmore to reassure a nauseated nation that these mongrel burgers are an aberration and do not pose any treat to health.

They might make you a little horse, but that’s about the size of it.

But consumer confidence is all, so Cabinet thoroughbred Simon Coveney was sent to calm the situation by doing the rounds of media outlets – national and international.

Certain burgers

Then the Minister for Agriculture rode into the chamber later in the afternoon to “set the record straight” about the contamination of certain burgers with pig and horse meat (minuscule levels in all but one case, where the product was found to have an astonishing 30 per cent of equine meat). He was armed with results from a lab in Germany.

It’s called Identigennet, or that’s what we thought we heard the Tánaiste say earlier during Leaders’ Questions.

Some deputies found it difficult to keep a straight face during Eamon and Micheál’s discussion of this very serious turn of events.

Such was the braying around Leinster House as the day wore on (particularly in the vicinity of the canteen), that it was mistakenly believed a donkey had found its way into the food chain and patties labelled “100 per cent Irish beef” should have been reclassified as “Bruton burgers”. A roast with creamed horseradish featured on the menu, but there was no sign of Beef Or Salmon – presumably still enjoying his retirement on a farm in Antrim. The only thing with any connection to a saddle was the lamb.

Back in the chamber, no one mentioned Shergar when Gerry Adams rose to speak. Not even when he flashed his trademark teeth. Why should they? The Tánaiste was in good form. He told Gerry he had heard of his recent surgery and wanted to wish him a good recovery.

Eamon’s kind words led to a mass outbreak of smirking and quiet Brutonesque braying on the Government and Fianna Fáil sides. While deputies were delighted to see the Sinn Féin leader looking hale and hearty, they seemed amused by the thought that Gerry had availed of private treatment for his complaint in New York.

Not that Eamon said anything about this. It was just the tone of his remarks that left an unspoken little swipe hanging in the air.

No matter. Deputy Adams, carrying the colours of the flags of Northern Ireland, surged ahead in the Friends of Sinn Féin Average Industrial Wage International Classic. He always does and rarely puts a hoof out of place when talking about issues in the North.

Speaking of colours, Eamon was wearing the red silk tie of Labour for his stint at Leaders’ Questions. The Taoiseach, meanwhile, sported the Austeriteal Green of Ireland’s EU presidency for his gallop around the European Parliament.

While Gerry talked about the flag protests in Belfast, Mattie “Hoss” McGrath was sweating up nervously in the stalls in advance of his appearance in the Technical Maiden Bumper. He has replaced Shane Ross as one of the Technical Group’s speakers at Leaders’ Questions.

Ross and Finian McGrath, aided and abetted by Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley and Barry Cowen, offered him some last-minute advice.

Pat Rabbitte waved his fist at him from across the floor in a gesture of encouragement.

When the flag went up, Mattie exploded into action.

He asked about the current spate of burglaries on elderly people living alone, blaming the Government for introducing policies “aiding and abetting criminality.”

McGrath need not have worried. He completed his first Leaders’ Questions course without a hitch and everyone agreed that it was a case of “winner all right” when he crossed the line.

By the end of the day, the exact nature of how the dodgy burgers made it into the food chain had still to be established, but as it stands, foal play is not suspected.

For now, all Irish agriculture can do is hope for a good outcome and pray to that little-known patron saint of meat processors – St Thomas Equinas.