Miriam Lord: Penrose plans to lead Enda on a merry dance

Labour TD talks of ‘impromptu concert’ to launch Bill on Irish music quotas

Willie Penrose: quoted a stellar list of homegrown performers who are in favour of his Bill.  Photograph: Frank Miller

Willie Penrose: quoted a stellar list of homegrown performers who are in favour of his Bill. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

That heartfelt whimper of relief we hear today comes from the poor unfortunate tin can – battered and abused after months in the political firing line. It’s been kicked so many times down the road it qualifies for mileage at the top Oireachtas rate.

The Taoiseach gave it a final kicking yesterday before he escaped from the Dáil chamber for the summer recess. He had endured his last Leaders’ Questions yesterday and won’t be back until the end of September.

Like the luckless can, he’s been kicked around a lot too. Enda must be relieved to be out of the place for a while. And when the House rises this afternoon, he won’t be the only one.

It’s heavy-going in the chamber. A number of TDs have gone on holiday, caught out by the late decision to sit for an extra week.

Micheál Martin decided to talk about the funding of third-level education. Will the Government be pumping more money into the sector as the recently published Cassells report recommended?

Hostilities with benefits

The Taoiseach said the report merits serious consideration, but he wouldn’t want to “predict the outcome of the budget allowances” at this early stage. And, naturally, the report will be sent off to the relevant committee for consideration and discussion.

Martin seems to be enjoying his newfangled partnership with Enda Kenny and Fine Gael. It’s called “hostilities with benefits”.

He was happy to express disappointment with Enda’s reply on the funding issue, but made everyone wince with his reply.

The Fianna Fáil leader was disappointed “because it kicks the can down the road by referring the whole report to the Oireachtas committee whose deliberations will not have concluded in advance of the budget and the key estimates’ formation and allocation”.

This gratuitous kicking by all sides of a defenceless can has to stop.

And the constant banging on about “new politics” should be gracefully retired before they return in the autumn. But that can’t happen until September 29th at the earliest, because that’s when Enda is due in the Seanad to discuss the new politics. Mind you, he’ll have to steal away to Glasnevin the night before and dig it up first.

Labour’s Willie Penrose managed to invoke it when introducing his Bill to require Irish broadcasters to include a quota of Irish music on playlists.

Musical trends

“Literally thousands of the finest Irish musicians are being excluded from our airwaves simply because we have allowed ourselves to be steered in the current situation by musical trends and fashions constructed primarily in the US and Great Britain,” said the veteran TD for Longford-Westmeath.

“I look forward in the context of the new make-up of the Dáil, the current political dispensation and the supposed new politics to seeing this Bill become a fully fledged piece of important legislation on the statute book.”

He quoted a stellar list of homegrown performers who are in favour of his Bill.

“A lot of prominent Irish musicians and composers who know the situation on the ground clearly endorse the idea of introducing a quota; people such as Danny McCarthy, Christy Moore, Paddy Moloney, Brendan Grehan, Paul Brady, Mary Black, Frankie Gavin, Míchéal Ó Súilleabháin, Steve Wickham, Jimmy MacCarthy, Seán and Dolores Keane, Finbar Furey, Finbar Wright, Seán Tyrrell, Máirtín O Connor, Peadar Ó Riada and Louis Walsh. All there.”

These artists “deserve nothing less,” said Willie, while the Bill would protect our musical heritage for future generations.

He was at pains to stress that all genres of Irish music are included, but he zoomed in on country and western for the purposes of his argument.

Beyond the Pale

“I know that people were shocked by the viewing figures of over 500,000 for RTÉ’s country music show on the Late Late Show. Mr Tubridy, I think, was in awe. Maybe he comes out – well, he does come out beyond the Pale – but maybe he should come out to the real country and, indeed, realise how important country and western is in attracting huge interest.

“They’re packing the venues across the country and even down in the Taoiseach’s own area of Westport. There’s a huge one in Ballinrobe as well. In my own constituency in Ballymore, the August weekend music festival is one of the biggest in the country and I invite my colleagues to attend.”

Something should be done. “It’s time our national broadcaster got its finger out.”

He finished with a promise. Or, perhaps, a threat.

“I intend to have a press launch on this Bill in late September and to contemporaneously meet with all deputies and Senators to discuss why it is necessary. I’ll be arranging a meeting in the AV room for that purpose, and, maybe an impromptu concert as well at that stage.”

Disturbing image

That cheered everyone up. Sinn Féin, led by Gerry Adams, broke into applause at the end. The very earnest Eoin Ó Broin, the party’s new TD for Dublin Mid-West, returned a little later Penrose’s promise.

“In his absence I’d like to thank Deputy Penrose. I now have the image of Enda Kenny and Willie Penrose line dancing in the AV room at the launch of his Bill, and it’s gonna take me some time to get that disturbing image out of my head.”

And now we all have it in our heads.

“Maybe you might join them?” suggested the Ceann Comhairle.

“I may well just do that.”

Perhaps Willie should move his gig to a bigger venue.

We’d buy a ticket.