Sympathy but no promises on meeting Kenny
Dáil Sketch:The Taoiseach and the Tánaiste must have been glad of the Brussels bolthole yesterday. It provided a brief respite from the political coalface back home, as the controversy surrounding Savita Halappanavar’s tragic death intensified.
Enda Kenny and Eamon Gilmore were working to retain as much as possible of the €1.7 billion share of the annual agricultural and rural development spending at the budget talks.
It must have seemed less challenging than what was facing a visibly uncomfortable Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton, who was taking Opposition Leaders’ Questions on behalf of the beleaguered Government back in the Dáil.
Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher referred to Miriam O’Callaghan’s interview with Praveen Halappanavar on Wednesday night. It was, he said, the “the most moving, emotional testimony that a person could witness”.
He said the Taoiseach should intervene personally and meet Praveen to find out exactly what investigation would satisfy his concerns and those of his family.
“How much more must this family endure to try to come to the truth of what happened to his late wife in Galway ?”
The Minister replied at length but failed to deal with Kelleher’s proposal that the Taoiseach meet Praveen. She said anybody who had seen the TV interview could not fail to be “moved by what must be the immensity of his grief, shock and trauma at what happened to his late wife”.
The net point, she added, related to the safety and care of women so that “this episode or some tragic happening like this does not occur again”. She said the inquiry chairman, Prof Sabaratnam Arulkumaran, was an internationally renowned expert.
Kelleher tried again. “I am urging the Minister one last time to have behind-the-scenes discussions with Praveen and the family to try to find a mechanism to deal with this.” Independent Finian McGrath lent his support. “Yes. Hear, hear.”
But for the Minister, the putative meeting was the issue that dare not speak its name. All she would say was that “every effort will be made by the Government to do everything we can to support Savita’s husband in his understandable and deep grief”.
It was then the turn of Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin to press for a meeting between the Taoiseach and Praveen. “Will the Taoiseach make that direct approach to Mr Halappanavar and sit down with him to address the issues concerned ?”
Again, there was no definitive response in a reply heavy with platitudes. The Minister said there was an offer of “whatever comfort and support this State and the Government can offer to Mr Halappanavar and his family”.
No doubt the possibility of a meeting Praveen will be raised again with the Taoiseach next Tuesday when he has returned.
Meanwhile, President Michael D Higgins, who made many a wave during his long Dáil career, was in the minds of some in the House again yesterday. Kelleher referred to the President’s remarks, made during his English visit, that the inquiry must meet the needs of the Halappanavar family as well as those of the State. He said the President was reflecting the views of the Irish people.
There was a rare moment of agreement. Burton said the President’s comments were “considerate, thoughtful, reflective and humane”.
Some Fine Gael TDs were less tolerant of the remarks, muttering in the corridor about the President going beyond his remit. But nobody was going to say it publicly.
All agreed it was unlikely to be the last Áras missile aimed at Government Buildings.