Guillotine working overtime as TDs head into recess


Dáil Sketch:The Government’s guillotine has been much used in the Dáil this week in the run-up to today’s adjournment for the Christmas recess.

It is the same guillotine that Fianna Fáil-led governments used in the past. Fine Gael and Labour expressed outrage from the Opposition benches then. This week, Fianna Fáil joined Sinn Féin, the Technical Group and Independents in voicing similar outrage.

On a day marked by tetchy exchanges, the Opposition rounded on the Government for guillotining the Personal Insolvency Bill which passed all stages in the House last night.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said it was “particularly inappropriate”, given the Bank of Ireland’s increase in credit card interest rates. Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said the Bill gave the banks a veto but, as a result of the guillotine, the House would not hear the alternatives.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett targeted Government Chief Whip Paul Kehoe, who is responsible for the Dáil’s timetable. He claimed Kehoe was “beginning to look a bit like Madame Defarge, with his predilection for guillotines coming down on important legislation”.

Kehoe replied: “As long as I do not look like you, I am happy.” Taoiseach Enda Kenny attempted to be reasonable. It was almost the end of the Dáil session and the Government wanted to move on with setting up the personal insolvency service.

Kenny and his colleagues shed the reasonable approach when the Sinn Féin leader challenged the Government on the credit card interest rate increase. Adams claimed the Bank of Ireland was cashing in on people when they were most stretched at Christmas time.

“We deal with the banks in a different way than Sinn Féin did,” said Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn.

Adams insisted there was one rule for the banking sector and another for citizens. He wanted to know if the Taoiseach had discussed the matter with the bank’s public interest directors. Kenny repeated Quinn’s observation about Sinn Féin’s approach to the banks, adding that the Government was in constant contact with the regulator about customer costs. There was an equally sharp Government response to the Fianna Fáil leader when he raised cuts to colleges of further education and questioned Labour’s role in the Government.

“I know the Fine Gael party will always protect the wealth,” said the Fianna Fáil leader. “However, fundamentally, what is the purpose of the Labour Party in Government?”

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin replied: “Fixing what Fianna Fáil had broken.” Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte added: “Cleaning up the mess after Fianna Fáil.” An irritated Martin said it was not a laughing matter for the students involved.

As the guillotine fell on the Personal Insolvency Bill last night, Government TDs could not wait to avail of today’s Christmas escape route.

The Opposition feels it has them on the run.