Reilly asks Mary Lou to step outside in season finale
Dáil SketchSmile and get that out of the way first. That was the way things were on the last day of the Dáil year. Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin reversed the tradition whereby TDs take verbal lumps out of each other and then wish everyone a happy Christmas.
He got the smiling pleasantries out of the way first using the cúpla focal to wish everyone a Nollaig Shona. Then he made his political punches about the fear people with disabilities and their families have about more cuts next year.
He wanted Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore to give a guarantee there would be no more cuts. But with a bit of verbal dexterity the Tánaiste suggested TDs had a responsibility “to ensure this sense of fear and worry is not added to”.
Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald was up next and after very brief pleasantries went straight for the jugular – Minister for Health James Reilly’s jugular, that is.
Brandishing briefing notes for his meeting with Nama, she noted direct references to Balbriggan in his north Dublin constituency and its inclusion on the list of potential primary healthcare centres. And then she accused him of corruption.
Reilly, sitting opposite, looked at her fiercely and challenged her to repeat her allegations outside the House. He muttered something to his Cabinet colleague Brendan Howlin, who shared it with Minister of State Kathleen Lynch, who passed it on to the Tánaiste before he rose to his feet to respond.
The Tánaiste insisted there was no political involvement in the choosing of any site as an internal audit had shown. And as the best defence is offence, the Tánaiste hit out at Sinn Féin’s past, pointing his fingers at the party’s deputy leader and announcing “Sinn Fein has a neck”.
“A bit like your neck, Tánaiste”, Mary Lou retorted. “So much illegal activity,” said the Tánaiste. “How many bodies are buried on this island because of Sinn Féin? You have a neck.” Uproar, points of order, accusations and counter-accusations ensued.
The Tánaiste took up the Minister for Health’s call and urged the Sinn Féin deputy leader to repeat her allegations outside the Dáil.
United Left Alliance TD Richard Boyd Barrett appeared to observe the pleasantries, talking about the joys of Christmas trees and their decorations and lights.
But the Coillte-owned trees were being sold to “make a quick buck” for private investors who had no interest in maintaining the woodlands and it would result in more job losses for the forestry service.
The Tánaiste, with a straight face, told his constituency colleague the whole idea was to sell the trees to make money and making his own Christmas suggestion he told him to buy a copy of Little Red Riding Hood.
“You’ll learn all you need to know there about the economics of woodlands.”