Opportunity for Sinn Féin to get involved in stroke politics - literally

Fri, May 18, 2012, 01:00

DÁIL SKETCH: CHEESE WAS on the parliamentary menu in the Dáil yesterday as the referendum campaign intensified.

The Yes and No sides are privately concerned about who will have to eat humble pie after the May 31st poll. Political reputations are at stake, as was evident from yesterday’s Dáil exchanges.

Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty conceded that Minister for Finance Michael Noonan was adept at the soundbite and he then went on to practise the political art himself. He asked Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore if he shared Noonan’s contention that the only impact of a Greek departure from the euro would be less feta cheese for the Irish.

Gilmore was in no mood to break ideological bread with the Sinn Féin TD. “Sinn Fein’s fairytale economics will drive us in the direction of Greece,” he said.

When that verbal repast concluded, Independent TD Shane Ross rose to address the Tánaiste, waving a copy of a Private Members’ Bill he had drafted.

If accepted, it would give the Government power to have a longer referendum campaign than scheduled, he said, doubtlessly provoking groans from weary voters from Bantry to Bunbeg.

Government TDs, feeling the heat on the doorsteps on a variety of non-treaty issues, did not look too happy either.

It was a short Bill, said Ross. “Unpaid!’’ sneered Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen.

Ross, still undecided on his attitude to the treaty, was challenged to come off the fence and say if he was voting Yes or No.

Fine Gael’s Bernard Durkan painted a picture of the Dublin South TD wrestling with the decision. “The agony and ecstasy,” said Durkan.

Ross urged the Government to accept the Bill, arguing that voters were unclear about the detail of the treaty.

“The Humpty Dumpty Bill,” said Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte.

Fellow Independent TD Mattie McGrath rose to complain that the heckling was preventing him hearing what Ross had to say.

“Will the deputy take a pill for a moment, please?” advised Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett. “Stop getting excited.”

McGrath remarked that he had not known the Ceann Comhairle was a medical doctor. “You should not make fun of me,” he added.

Barrett replied he presumed the Tipperary South TD had not lost his sense of humour.

“I have not,” replied McGrath – nor, clearly, his sense of parliamentary timing.

Ross continued to press his case. He noted that an opinion poll had revealed that 35 per cent of people were confused about the treaty.

“It is very important that the clarity which we need is given to the people by delaying events if necessary,” he said.

Dismissing the Bill, Gilmore claimed Ross had introduced it “to avoid a situation where he cannot make up his mind as to where he stands on the treaty”.

Meanwhile, Doherty later joined his Sinn Féin colleagues to brief journalists on the party’s forthcoming ardfheis. The motions include one regretting the absence of the fada in many official Irish language publications these days.

Sinn Féin will, no doubt, see it as an opportunity to literally get involved in stroke politics in the first official language.