Deputies get a little out of hand on day of Historic Handshake
DÁIL SKETCH:For all the goodwill breaking out in Belfast, there was precious little of it in the Dáil
ON A slow news day in Leinster House, Gerry Adams drew quite a crowd to the plinth for his official reaction to the Historic Handshake.
Perhaps he was going to award marks out of 10.
Technical merit? 8.5 (excellent grasp). Artistic impression? 9.5 (genuine warmth conveyed). Overall score? Full marks. (“A real gesture beyond the rhetoric” – Adams).
This marked a great improvement on Sinn Féin’s personal best last year when the party refused to meet the queen of England in Dublin and organised a protest against her visit.
While Gerry very much welcomed the development up North, he felt it couldn’t be compared with what happened last year in the Republic.
“The visit here was different to today’s visit, not least because what happened here – and it was a good thing – was a normalisation of relationships between this State and the British monarchy. In the North it’s a different matter entirely; the island is still partitioned. What we were doing was trying to reach across partition...”
Gerry understood the subtleties, if few around him on the plinth did. Last year, as part of the “normalisation” process, Sinn Féin chose to reach across the partition of crash barriers and riot police and loudly boo.
He rejected a charge that these very different reactions to the British monarch’s presence smacked of hypocrisy.
“We have moved to a different plane,” Gerry explained.
At this point some commentators thought he was referring to his party’s ongoing difficulties with the Oireachtas expenses regime and was indicating a move to budget airlines for members travelling abroad to fundraisers.
Yet while the huge significance of the handshake between Martin McGuinness and Queen Elizabeth was not lost on people in Leinster House yesterday, it wasn’t a major talking point. The economy, Europe and the banks took precedence.
Events in the other jurisdiction merited just one mention, and that was only so Enda Kenny could deliver a vicious one-liner to a flat-footed Adams.
On the eve of the Brussels summit, he heaped scorn on the what he saw as the Taoiseach’s lack of negotiating ability, and accused him of supporting a federal Europe.
After a lengthy reply from Enda, Gerry dropped his guard and declared the Taoiseach was engaging in “extreme revisionism”. Howls of derision greeted that unintentional clanger.
“You’d know all about that!” snorted Minister Reilly. “Never in the IRA!” roared Minister Howlin.