Dáil Sketch: Ming in deep water as he taps into anger
The Ceann Comhairle had never seen anything like it before
Luke “Ming” Flanagan: holding up a jar of water, he said it was contaminated with cryptosporidium. “Kids in my area can’t even brush their teeth with it and you’re going to charge them for it,” he thundered.
The Dáil never fails to surprise, whether it’s walkouts, swearing or vulgarities. But things have reached a new low – a case of vandalism. It’s just outrageous altogether.
The Ceann Comhairle had never seen anything like it before in the House.
Unprecedented, it was.
He had everyone’s attention. What was it? Did someone scratch their name on a bench? Or even worse break one of the benches? Surely they didn’t break a TV monitor?
Or, God between us and all harm, knock down and damage one of those statues of iconic figures from Irish history, dotted around the back of the chamber?
The chamber and press gallery were silent, all ears for the Ceann Comhairle’s explanation for such dastardly doing down of parliament.
It was a moment of great drama. The reality, however, was somewhat more prosaic.
A TD had walked down the steps of the chamber and handed a glass of dirty water to a Minister. “That is just outrageous and unacceptable behaviour,” said the Ceann Comhairle.
It was an act of vandalism, he told the House. The vandalism, however, may actually have been in the language the Roscommon TD used.
Or perhaps it was in the guillotine imposed after three hours of debate on major and controversial legislation to introduce water charges that will come into effect in January 2015.
The jumper-wearing Ming challenged Minister of State Fergus O’Dowd, who remained impassive throughout the entire drama, to drink a glass of “glorified piss”.
‘Can’t even brush teeth with it’
Holding up a jar of water, he said it was contaminated with cryptosporidium. “Kids in my area can’t even brush their teeth with it and you’re going to charge them for it,” he thundered.
He then walked across the House, plonked the offending jar – with a cover on it, it must be said – on the bench in front of the Minister and then marched up the other staircase and out the chamber door. As an outrageous publicity stunt, it was phenomenal. And it made a point.
But apparently by parliamentary standards, such action was totally unacceptable and damaging to the reputation and standing of the House.
And not a word about the damage dirty water from the taps does.
So unprecedented was it that the Ceann Comhairle asked for an immediate meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.
And the committee duly reprimanded Independent TD Luke Ming Flanagan, expressing “strong disapproval” and condemning without reservation his actions and warning of repercussions if he did anything like it again.
He could not be suspended apparently because the Ceann Comhairle was not in the chamber at the time and action cannot be taken retrospectively.
Other TDs and Senators spoke privately of water problems, including one area of west Cork where there has been a boil notice in operation for the past five years.
Hogged the limelight
Ming incensed the Ceann Comhairle but he probably won no favours either with the other Opposition parties and Independents because he hogged the limelight on the controversial Bill.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin led his party in a walkout because of the guillotine on legislation that will have a major impact on all householders.
Sinn Féin also boycotted the debate on the legislation with the Independents and all were represented later on the plinth when they addressed the media, to condemn the Government’s actions in limiting total debate on the Bill to three hours.
But while the Opposition boycotted the Bill, they insisted on a vote at every stage to ensure the Government could not throw accusations against them that they didn’t even debate the Bill.
Ming’s constituency rival Denis Naughten was among the few Opposition TDs who remained in the chamber to highlight the inadequacies of the legislation.
But while all that vandalism and drama was under way in the Dáil, in the reprieved Seanad ambition raised its head.
An unvanquished Seanad is showing global ambition after thwarting the Taoiseach’s wish to abolish it.
Praising Pope Francis for his powerful and humble actions and words since he was made pontiff, Norris said he believed the pope might actually take up the invitation if it was offered.