'Jibber-jabber' Shatter left unscathed by Adams's malapropism


DÁIL SKETCH:WHEN PUSH came to shove, a nudge was enough to nobble Cathal Magee. As Enda took Leaders’ Questions, an old joke came to mind . . .

Taoiseach: “The chief executive of the HSE is packing his bags and heading into the sunset.”

Micheál Martin: “Jamaica?”

Enda: “No. He went of his own accord . . .”

Honest. He did. Mr Magee was neither pushed nor shoved, insisted the Taoiseach.

“Having considered the new structure that is to be set in place, Mr Magee has indicated it is his intention to depart when the transition to the new structure takes place.”

The Fianna Fáil leader didn’t believe him. He could see the Minister for Health on the grassy knoll, handing the HSE boss his hat before heaving him out the door.

He wouldn’t put anything past that James Reilly.

“We have a volatile Minister here!” spluttered Micheál, sounding like a bomb-disposal expert. In his eyes, Dicey Reilly is nothing short of dynamite. Imagine the conflagration if all that facial hair went up!

The Minister for Defence, who has responsibility for explosive devices, stepped in to calm the situation. He dismissed Micheál’s assertion, deploying a technical term he must have learned from the military.

“Deputy Martin is suffering from end-of-term jibber-jabber,” shouted Alan Shatter. “Jibber-jabber!”

That left the Fianna Fáil leader flummoxed.

Then it was Gerry Adams’s turn. He decided against explaining to the House how James Reilly might or might not explode, not to mention short fuses and a dodgy timing device, which meant junior health minister Róisín Shortall didn’t find out about Mr Magee’s departure until she read it in The Irish Times yesterday.

Had he wanted to, the Sinn Féin leader could have blown Shatter’s lack of in-depth knowledge out of the water. Instead, Gerry decided to flummox the entire chamber by talking about the controversial Gaeltacht Bill, while making baffling remarks about a referendum on abortion.

At least that’s what it sounded like.

“This Bill has been pushed through to avoid a uterus election,” declared Gerry, as Pat Rabbitte and Richard Bruton dissolved into fits of the giggles.

“So why doesn’t the Government bring in just a one- line Bill to postpone the uterus elections for six months,” Adams continued. “That’s why there’s this rush, because the uterus elections are due in September.”

At this point, instructions were relayed to the ushers to prepare stretchers for Ministers Rabbitte and Bruton as they quivered, red- faced, on the verge of collapse.

Gerry needs to work on his pronunciation of Udarás na Gaeltachta, if only to stop Pat and Richard from splitting their sides again.

Yesterday was Enda’s last Leaders’ Questions before September, so he was in great form, too. He marked his temporary release by visiting the Seanad. This was a major event – his first visit to the Upper House since becoming Taoiseach.

It was a pity Enda didn’t go the whole hog and make an entrance wearing a cowled robe and carrying a scythe. He is the Grim Reaper as far as Senators are concerned, thanks to his plan to hold a referendum on their future.

The Taoiseach called to deliver a statement on the EU. But never mind that. The Senators had his ear and a chance to make the case for their retention.

Fianna Fáil’s Thomas Byrne was first out of the traps with it. The Seanad should have a role in the scrutiny of European legislation, he suggested. This would make the Upper House both invaluable and indispensable.

A string of Senators made the same point. There is so much legislation spewing out of Brussels that it’s far too much for the Dáil to consider. The Seanad could step into the breach and save the nation from doing something silly.

Maurice Cummins, leader of the House, humbly informed the Taoiseach that they had had “a good 14 months.” That woke everyone up. “Hear hear!” bellowed David Norris as Maurice resumed his seat, applause ringing in his ears.

“We’re going on holidays on Friday of this week for eight weeks,” noted Colm Burke (FG), but they could stay on and scrutinise a raft of European legislation, presenting “a huge opportunity for this House to be used in an effective way”.

By God, they must be worried.

Taoiseach’s nominee Marie Louise O’Donnell floated to her feet in a haze of white chiffon.

“You might have a fight on your hands in relation to the closure of the Seanad,” she boomed. “I don’t think it’s gonna happen!”

Independent Senator Rónán Mullen won approval with his pithy summation of their plight.

“We in the Seanad don’t mind being on probation but we don’t like being on death row.” But the Taoiseach lobbed the ball back into the Seanad’s court.

“I feel like I’m in a chamber of the condemned here,” he said, before stressing that the Seanad’s fate “lies in the hands of our people”. He spoke at length, until we prayed the authorities might do a “Springsteen” on him and pull the plug for performing way into lunch hour.

Finally, after more applause, the condemned men and women queued up to shake Enda’s hand. Before, presumably, they all went off to eat a hearty meal.