Stunning outburst shakes the House as Gogarty undone by his tormentors

Sat, Dec 12, 2009, 00:00

DÁIL SKETCH:Even by the standards of yesterday’s bitter debate, the Green Party TD surprised, writes MICHAEL O'REGAN

OPPOSITION TDs scented blood on the social welfare cuts in the Dáil yesterday, with Green Party TD Paul Gogarty one of their prey.

Speaker after speaker challenged backbenchers, and Independent TDs supporting the Government, to vote down the Social Welfare Bill later in the evening.

Fine Gael’s Shane McEntee suggested that Gogarty live up to the ideals of equality enshrined in the 1916 Proclamation and walk through the “Nil” lobby.

Gogarty looked pale and tense. When his turn came to speak, he noted that his name had been mentioned by a number of speakers.

“Yes, it is hard for me, and I would hope for any other God-respecting humanist republican – you name it – to support measures that hurt the vulnerable,” he said. There was no respite from his tormentors.

As he continued to defend his support for the Bill, he was heckled by Labour TDs.

Rounding on Emmet Stagg, he shouted out the f-word. A term usually reserved by politicians for late-night meetings at times of crisis.

“With all due respect, in the most unparliamentary language, fuck you, deputy Stagg, fuck you,” he said.

He quickly apologised for his “unparliamentary language”, claiming that he was outraged that his sincerity was questioned.

Even by the standards of yesterday’s heated and bitter debate, it was a stunning outburst.

When Gogarty later apologised “profusely”, it was dismissed by Fine Gael’s Lucinda Creighton, who said that he should have been expelled from the chamber.

In the corridors and offices, Green Party colleagues were privately less than pleased with Gogarty’s performance.

Earlier, Kerry South Independent Jackie Healy-Rae, who supports the Government, was equally aggrieved by Opposition taunts about his voting intentions.

Healy-Rae was clearly stung by a statement from Labour’s Roisín Shortall calling on him to resign as chairman of the Oireachtas Social and Family Affairs Committee. This, she said, was because of his support for an “unfair and divisive” Budget.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore upped the ante yesterday morning when he predicted that the Government would “round up its six strays and get here this evening to vote on the measure”.

This was a reference to the Fianna Fáil TDs without the party whip – Jim McDaid, Eamon Scanlon, and Jimmy Devins, and Independents supporting the Government Noel Grealish, Michael Lowry and Healy-Rae.

“I have a very simple message for deputy Gilmore and Lady Shortall,” said Healy-Rae.

“If they were short of people like myself and Deputy Michael Lowry to make up the numbers in the House, they would be damn glad to have us.”

The Bill later passed all stages and TDs returned to their constituencies, those on the Government side to explain and those on the Opposition side to complain.