Cheesy smiles the order of the day as Pelosi visit brings warm fuzzy feeling

Thu, Mar 15, 2012, 00:00

SKETCH:MUCH WAVING and twinkling from the floor yesterday at the VIP guest in the gallery.

But then, Nancy Pelosi is no stranger to Irish politicians. As leader of the US House of Representatives between 2007 and 2011, she met more than her fair share during those years.

So when she arrived in the Dáil chamber to view proceedings, the welcome from party leaders was particularly warm.

There was applause when the Ceann Comhairle introduced Ms Pelosi and her congressional delegation. Nancy gave a friendly little wave down to some of the familiar faces.

Enda Kenny – about to embark on his second shamrock shuttle to Washington this week – clapped until his hands nearly fell off, simpering at the beaming Pelosi.

Micheál Martin, a former Fianna Fáil minister for foreign affairs, looked similarly smitten, while the Sinn Féin benches experienced a brief white-out as Gerry Adams flashed the full force of his impressive teeth.

“I know I speak for all members of the House when I say it is a great honour for us to have such a distinguished delegation with us in Leinster House,” said the Ceann Comhairle, sounding chuffed.

“It goes without saying that the relationship between our two countries is deep and meaningful. We have a rich tradition of mutual respect and friendship born out of the long history and association that we share.”

After more applause, the chamber settled down to a particularly lacklustre Order of Business. It didn’t really matter though what was happening on the floor: they were too busy accepting the good wishes of deputies beetling across to pass on their personal regards.

After about 10 minutes, an official motioned that it was time to move on, but not before Gerry Adams had made the trip up the stairs and around the railings.

Adams knows his way around Capitol Hill. As he approached the delegation, they smiled in recognition. Nancy gave him a big wave.

Gerry plunged in and there were hugs and kisses all round and shades of those halcyon days of the peace process, when the Sinn Féin leader seemed to have a personal key to the White House.

We remembered April 2008, when Bertie Ahern delivered a keynote address to the joint houses of Congress.

The then speaker Pelosi was lost in admiration for De Bert’s oratorical skills. “He’s a man who certainly knows his way around the English language,” she marvelled to reporters, some of whom had difficulty keeping a straight face.

She was right though. Bertie knew his way around the English language all right, but his chosen route was invariably baffling.

It was nice to have visitors to distract us from the promiscuous notes. They spoke of little else during Leaders’ Questions.

“Thanks for 1,000,000 welcomes, for contributing to America’s greatness and for keeping the peace. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!” wrote Nancy in the visitor’s book on the big desk outside the chamber.

At least somebody – apart from Enda, who can’t help himself – was keeping chipper around Leinster House. With all the talk of economic gloom, it can be a trial sometimes.

At least we had the Tropical Issues slot to look forward to in the afternoon. In particular, an issue of topical interest from Fine Gael’s Charlie Flanagan.

He wanted to discuss “the proposal by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland to categorise cheese as a so-called junk food product”. Can we not talk about anything these days without reference to the BAI? Tweetgate has a lot to answer for.

Flanagan referred to a proposal currently under discussion by the Broadcasting Authority which, if implemented, would ban the advertising of cheese on TV and radio before 9pm.

“This is a case of regulation and bureaucracy gone mad and I ask the Minister of State present to use his good offices to introduce an element of common sense into this debate” said Charlie.

“There is very little in terms of a link between moderate consumption of cheese products and obesity,” he added, saying such a rule would have negative effects on the dairy industry.

“I ask that before this regulation takes effect . . . that there be ministerial intervention and that each and every party and independent member in the House join me in issuing a clarion call to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland to stop this madness.”

It came as news to us that the children of Ireland are bingeing on unsuitable types of cheese, but there you are.

Perhaps Charlie should enlist Shane Ross to his cause. Shane sounds like a man who enjoys a decent cheese board. It rounds off a decent meal, to be sure.

But try telling that to our faceless rulers in Europe, who are currently trying to foist an absolute abomination on the people of Ireland. One that must be resisted at all costs.

He was referring to the outrage that is the table d’hôte menu.

During Leaders’ Questions, he urged the Taoiseach to tell Ollie Rehn that Ireland would not be lectured by him about our financial obligations.

Why should we be so badly treated when the likes of Spain and Greece are given concessions? It seems the “big countries” and the “malingerers” are becoming part of an “à la carte Europe” where they can pick and choose what part of the fiscal treaty they want to breach, but the likes of Ireland and Hungary will be left “at the poor man’s table – the table d’hôte”. The Winston Churchtown of Dublin South was appalled at the very idea.

Have we not suffered enough?