Seanad’s fretful turkeys transformed into proud peacocks
Fianna Fáil found itself in the happy position of being the only political party on the winning side
Senators Sean Barrett, Feargal Quinn, Katherine Zappone and Irish Times columnist Noel Whelahan, at Dublin’s central count location, Dublin Castle. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill
The march of the triumphant Senators will be a sight to behold. Transformed in one momentous weekend from fretful turkeys to political peacocks, they’ll be cock-a-hoop when they return to Leinster House tomorrow. But they will be dignified. They will be magnanimous. They will be noble in their pain. There will be no conga-line down the plinth or yahooing in the chamber. If they have any sense.
True, some Senators may need special scaffolding to support their hugely expanded heads, but that is only to be expected considering what we are dealing with.
The spotlight may have switched for now from the Seanad’s general uselessness to the political fallout for Enda Kenny following his bad referendum result. It was his baby. The Labour Party is delighted for him.
But Senators take their seats again tomorrow in the knowledge that, while the result to save the second chamber may have been a close one, the view that they are part of a dysfunctional and undemocratic House is universal.
But a win is a win.
And even if they were never going to say it publicly, the majority of politicians in Leinster House are very happy to see the safety net of the Seanad in place for the foreseeable future.
From very early on – Labour’s Kevin Humphreys called the result 20 minutes into the count – supporters from the No side knew they had scored an astonishing victory.
Fianna Fáil found itself in the happy position of being the only political party on the winning side. Micheál Martin was keen to capitalise.
“People want reform,” he said earnestly, after his 14 years in government. “We took a stance on the issue.”
Keeping a wonderfully straight face, a scandalised Micheál was appalled by the notion that Fine Gael had resorted to “spin based on focus groups and soundbites.”
His director of elections thought he was analysing a coursing match. Niall Collins felt the television debates were crucial “as we got live into the open field”. Fine Gael was “demolished when taken into the open space”.
By the afternoon, Fianna Fáil people were referring to the “Sinn Féin/Fine Gael axis as SF was slithering swiftly away from any association with the failed Yes campaign. “I’m not getting into negatives here,” said Mary Lou McDonald. There was no sign of her party leader, Gerry Adams.
“Probably in Manhattan having his bunions done,” snorted a happy Fianna Fáiler, overcome with joy at his party getting one up on its opposition rivals.
And no sign of Enda, either. Why own a Richard Bruton if you can’t make him bark?
But the Taoiseach was in the vicinity – across the way in the main building at the Global Irish Economic Forum and in no hurry to face the media.
We learned later that he wasn’t in a sulk or hiding, but waiting for a doctor to come and examine the bruises on his electoral process.