Dreaming of a Mattressgate to get us started on a new term
SKETCH:THE CEANN Comhairle entered the chamber. Somewhere in the ether, a hypnotist clicked his fingers and uttered the magic words: “And . . . we’re back in the room!” Dáil Éireann shook itself and looked around. A bit dazed. A little fuzzy.
No memory of the antics of the past couple of months: Government deputies puffing and panting up Croagh Patrick. Leo Varadkar, bog-snorkelling. Brian Hayes, flying a kite. Joan Burton, shooting it down. James Reilly falling down a rabbit hole and disappearing. Enda embarking on a flight of fancy with Vladimir Lenin. Tall ships, beefy quarterbacks and gold medals. Did any of it really happen? The summer recess already forgotten.
Click! And they were back in the room. Business as usual.
Which, in a way, was rather depressing yesterday.
Dicey Reilly was back in the firing line. The Taoiseach waffled. Micheál Martin got cranky. The backbenchers heckled. Gerry Adams mangled some more Irish. Shane Ross reprised his Sindo column and stood up for the middle classes. Peter Mathews delivered a lecture on the economic crisis. Mick Wallace and Clare Daly sat together in touching solidarity. And nobody knew what Mattie McGrath was talking about. On the first day back, a display of new term enthusiasm and energy wasn’t too much to expect from the Dáil.
A large number of deputies were so excited that they didn’t turn up at all for Leaders’ Questions, such was their eagerness to return to the fray.
Their loss, in a session which saw the Taoiseach regaling the house with the thrilling story of the Mattresses of Kiltimagh.
It was the highlight of this Oireachtas production, with its topical take on the Olympic opening ceremony and its dancing public servants and waltzing hospital beds.
The continuing crisis in health was the main theme of yesterday’s session. Hospital ward closures, job losses, cuts in payments for the disabled and carers and the rumoured poisonous state of relations between Minister for Health James Reilly and his junior minister, Roisin Shortall, was the main cause of concern for the Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin leaders.
Enda explained it all away with his folksy homily about the forgotten mattresses of Kiltimagh – not forgetting beds, hoists and wheelchairs. “Who are ya coddin?” sniffed Micheál.
But the Taoiseach was treading a well-worn path of conveniently deflecting hard Opposition questions with his usual attack on the policies of the previous administration.
The rest of the House may have been baffled by Enda’s sudden lurch into the world of “decontaminated medical devices” and hundreds of mattresses in storage in a warehouse in Kiltimagh, but this was the Taoiseach’s chosen line of waffle for the day.