Miriam Lord: An acting Taoiseach results in no action

Dáil suffers through a fruitless day of speechifying and ‘procedural wrangling’

Taoiseach Enda Kenny: ‘Yesterday, he was reduced to the role of mere actor surrounded by his acting ministers.’ Photograph: Eric Luke

Taoiseach Enda Kenny: ‘Yesterday, he was reduced to the role of mere actor surrounded by his acting ministers.’ Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Dáil for a Day!

It sounds like the sort of zany prize a radio station might offer to people with opinions on everything.

Or one of those novelty activity packages favoured by hen parties to keep them away from the drink during daylight hours.

Loads of things to do.

Experience Dáil life without a government.

Choose your own acting Taoiseach. See what it’s like to be a makey-up minister. Negotiate the Maze of Standing Orders. Make speeches. Act the maggot. Throw some mud. Climb all the way up the High Dudgeon.

Abseil down.

Make more speeches. Go for lunch. Talk some more. Shake hands with Mattie McGrath. Run around the plinth. Stand on your mandate.

Be your own party leader. Open negotiations. Avoid negotiations. Offer negotiations. Nearly enter negotiations.

Go to the bar. Run up a bar tab.

Pretend to be a Seanad candidate (very large group required) and beg for votes while trying not to look desperate.

Stagger back to hotel.

And best of all, the taxpayer picks up the bill. (Apart from the bar tab, which you may chose to ignore until embarrassment, death or a bad write-up in the local paper intervenes.)

The 32nd Dáil convened on March 10th, that’s a whole two weeks ago. Members met for the second time yesterday and after a long and fruitless day they went away to cogitate.

The next session will be on April 6th, after Easter, when it must surely be time for a well earned rest.

The whole affair was very confusing.

Janitorial duties

James Reilly was missing, because while he is still in charge of the Department of Children, he is not a member of Dáil Éireann any more so isn’t allowed to sit in the chamber.

Enda Kenny was parked in his usual spot – the stage where he became famous for hamming it up. Yesterday, he was reduced to the role of mere actor.

Acting Taoiseach. Surrounded by his acting ministers.

Not to be confused with the Sinn Féin troupe across the way, acting up with gusto as they played hide and seek with the Standing Orders and demanded that the day’s production be abandoned so they could perform their Irish Water showstopper.

Micheál Martin made a rare cameo appearance. During the general election, the Fianna Fáil leader couldn’t get enough of the limelight.

But now that the pressure is on over the formation (or not) of a new government, he has retreated behind the curtain.

As his FF cast of grizzled campaigners and hopeful political starlets remained silent in the background, he accused Gerry Adams and his party of play-acting.

But is Adams play-acting or acting up? There are a lot of workers in the public service who are in “acting up” positions, where they assume the job of colleagues in higher grades on a temporary basis.

Sinn Féin, due to the party’s increased number of seats, has been acting up big-time since the Dáil resumed, presumably in the expectation that the party may soon be installed full time in the higher grade of main opposition.

“This is the second day now where we are witnessing, clearly, procedural wrangling with political motivation,” complained Micheál.

“How dare we!” scoffed Gerry, with a grin.

The last time, said Micheál, “there was serial misleading” on what actually happened in the chamber. “There was no motion, for example, on water charges proposed last time out, yet it was sold and spun that somehow people had voted for or against a motion on water charges.”

Again yesterday, Sinn Féin and the Anti-Austerity Alliance/People Before Profit party insisted that the issue of Irish Water and water charges take precedence over all other issues facing the country .

Is water really the most important, urgent and critical problem screaming out for action by the acting/incoming government?

Apparently so.

Micheál Martin was convinced that all the noise about changing the rules so this favoured topic could be discussed was nothing short of grandstanding.

“I am putting down a marker that, under no circumstances, are we going to stand around and watch the amended Standing Orders or the new Dáil reform be exploited simply for political showboating in the House and for attempts to promote one party over the other.”

Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh said Martin was “the biggest showboater in the Dáil.”

Rules

The results of their deliberations may come before the Dáil when it next meets, ushering in new procedural reforms.

“We all know that all parties table motions, and have tabled motions for a long time in this house, and we all know that those motions are taken in Private Members time under the existing Standing Orders.

“So let’s not try and pretend to the nation out that, somehow, the motions of one party are being denied airspace as opposed to the motions of any other party,” he explained.

The way things were going, if the “procedural wrangling” continued they wouldn’t even get around to discussing what they agreed to discuss on March 10th, namely, housing and homelessness.

“That was some waffle,” snorted Ó Snodaigh, when he finished.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl, the new Ceann Comhairle, very clearly and concisely explained to Gerry Adams et al that the rules, as constituted, meant they could not get their way yesterday. Finally, the speechifying could begin.

Not that it meant anything, without a government in place.

As the day wore on, five independent TDs offered themselves up to Fine Gael for active service. Michael Collins, Noel Grealish, Denis Naughton, Michael Harty and Mattie McGrath.

Mattie rushed out a press release. “Remedying Our National Problems Must be the Overriding Concern” was the heading.

This spurred Micheál Martin into action, of sorts. Reports emerged that there had been some “initial contact” with Joan Burton.

Dáil for a Day.

It will take us until April 6th to get over the excitement.

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