Matt the Thresher lets loose on Labour
Very quiet this week in Leinster House.
Most of the action took place outside the building, with James Reilly doing his thing on the children’s hospital, the referendum campaign building to a messy finish and all manner of social events taking place on the margins.
On Tuesday deputies and senators decamped to St James’s Gate for the American embassy’s election night knees-up, while former deputy government press secretary John Downing launched his entertaining biography of Enda Kenny in the Shelbourne Hotel on Wednesday evening.
Everyone was so distracted, the Dáil performance of the week was overlooked.
Mattie McGrath, Independent deputy for Tipperary South, was stung by disparaging remarks thrown at him during a debate on Tuesday.
As he railed against extravagant payments to politicians, Labour’s Colm Keaveney and Michael McCarthy taunted him for being a member of Fianna Fáil when the party bumped up those payments.
“More cheek than the backside of a retired jockey,” snorted Keaveney.
Mattie didn’t like it. When the debate resumed the following evening, he went on the attack. “Most people spoke fairly but Deputy McCarthy last night – and indeed the chairman of the Labour Party – decided to be vitriolic in their attack on me,” he complained.
“I can quote from the Corkman...Deputy McCarthy is here, but I won’t bother with the other man... (his other tormentor, Colm Keaveney, was sitting next to his colleague from Cork South West)”.
“ In a nine-year period you pocketed €1 million as a senator. So how dare you; you have no business to talk to anyone,” roared McGrath.
McCarthy leapt to his feet. “That’s not true!” he insisted.
But Mattie, still brandishing the article, refused to back down.
Acting chairman Jack Wall attempted to impose order. “The Deputy should withdraw the statement.” No chance of that. The noise levels rose.
McCarthy: “It’s not true. I wouldn’t expect anything less from you.”
McGrath: “You had your chance last night!”
McCarthy (disgusted): “I expect nothing less.”
Mattie switched his attention to Michael’s colleague.
“The chairman of the Labour Party, this brilliant deputy from Galway...”
Whereupon the said Deputy for Galway East directed Mattie’s attention to the empty Government benches. “You sat up there and you rubbed Bertie’s belly,” he scoffed, caressing the air with his hands.” Mattie was fuming.
McCarthy chimed in: “You left that sinking ship like a rat.” Referring to the aforementioned Seanad payments, McGrath retorted: “You have the rats in your pockets!”
Wall pleaded for calm.
McGrath: “The truth hurts.”
McCarthy: “You deserted a sinking ship.”
Mattie was still confused over Keaveney’s name.”
“Chairman Coveney, chair or chairman, em, chairman Fop.. . chair... eh... ”
Finian McGrath helpfully intervened: “Chairman Mao. Chairman Mao.”
“Of course, the Labour Party messiah.”
Mattie addressed the messiah’s outrageous allegation. “I was accused of rubbing Bertie’s belly. I never had a personal relationship with Bertie Ahern. I never got on with him here ”
McCarthy: “A monkey grinding!”
McGrath: “But now, chairman, you might remember what an ass and cart was, or a railhorn or a gennet. There was always a bellyband underneath the gennet’s belly to hold down the shaft.”
Keaveney: “You’re a monkey, grinding away.”
McGrath: “That chairman of the Labour Party now – he’s the bellyband holding the fat blueshirts together...”
There wasn’t much more to say after that.