In wake of Redrawing of the Doorsteps


SKETCH:‘I’ve lost the bogs and septic tanks,’ said one Labour TD, looking on the bright side

THE GREAT obsession swept across Leinster House yesterday morning, engulfing everyone in its irresistible path.

Normal business was a write-off for the rest of the day as TDs and Senators were buffeted in its wake. There had been fair warning, but this didn’t lessen the air of panic at its approach.

For the Redrawing of the Doorsteps was nigh.

TDs huddled together, anxious to learn their fate. There was no talking to them. They were were suffering from SAD syndrome – nothing to do with the gloomy weather, just a terrible case of Seasonally Adjusted Democracy.

Just after 10 o’clock, the report of the Constituency Commission struck land, washing whispering politicians into the nooks and crannies of the corridors.

It swept some to the sanctuary of the members bar, sparing them the attention of the political ambulance chasers in the media.

There, among their own, the TDs assessed the damage.

They may be elected by the public, to serve the public, but none of this matters when their Dáil seats are at stake.

It is The Great Obsession of Leinster House.

And it possesses them all, even the ones who won’t admit it.

The country is in a state of chassis. There are people in crisis, serious matters demanding attention, major issues to be discussed, work to be done.

But not when the Redrawing of the Doorsteps has just been announced.

As TDs scrutinised the redrawn boundaries and pondered the implications, the only outside voice guaranteed to get any attention in Leinster House was the one shouting: “Let me through! I’m a political geographer!”

However it looked like that rare breed of academic had decamped en masse to RTÉ, shouldering the miffed celebrity economists out of the limelight for at least one day.

The Tánaiste took Leaders’ Questions. There may have been a good smattering of TDs in the chamber, but Eamon Gilmore was more or less talking to himself.

Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary raised Tuesday’s harrowing report on the death of children in State care and asked when the Government intended to hold the children’s referendum.

Then Dara, sounding disappointed but not surprised, noted with sadness the lack of interest in the chamber. “I hope that this report we are now discussing gets as much attention as the other report everyone is reading in this House this morning.”

Most of the TDs were too engrossed in the document and accompanying maps to hear what he was saying.

Only Mick Wallace seemed unaffected, slumped in his corner seat up in the gods, looking melancholy.

Fine Gael’s Jerry Buttimer wandered in briefly, but left again. Jerry has lost a huge chunk of his Cork heartland in the shake-up.

“I think he’s going to need counselling,” confided a colleague later. He could talk – his constituency wasn’t touched.

There was good news for voters living on Dublin’s coastline, who now reside in Dublin Bay North and Dublin Bay South. Or Seán Dublin Bay Loftus North and South, as it was quickly christened.

If it hadn’t been for the weather, they might have been living in San Francisco. Still, nobody will laugh any more when local radio presenters tell listeners about “dah wedder in de bay area . . . ”

Terenure, we hear, is en fete, having escaped the ignominy of being pushed into Dublin South West. One assumes the residents of Tallaght and the surrounding areas are breathing a sigh of relief at their lucky escape.

The general view was that Bertie Ahern’s bailiwick around Dublin North Central had been “slaughtered”, with Fine Gael’s hardworking Paschal Donohoe losing half his vote along with Drumcondra and the Navan Road.

Olivia Mitchell applied the analogy to South Dublin, which is now no more. “It’s butchering, certainly, and its going to be a challenge.”

Everyone agreed that Roscommon was going to be a “bloodbath”.

Michael Healy-Rae was looking glum with the news that Kerry was losing a seat while Mattie McGrath shrugged and sighed: “I’ve lost some of Waterford.”

It’s all about swings and roundabouts though. “I’ve lost the bogs and septic tanks,” said a Labour TD, looking on the bright side.

Offaly and Laois have now become independent republics and Leitrim can hold her head high again. TDs who once soldiered shoulder to shoulder in neighbouring areas found themselves lumped together in merged constituencies with fewer seats on offer.

Every man and woman for themselves now. They eyed up colleagues. “How old is he now? He’ll have to be retiring at the text election.” Word began to come back from some of the older troops that the boundaries had been kind and sure they might go again . . .

After the initial shock, TDs trooped out to the plinth to put a good gloss on things. They all said the same thing: “It will be a challenge.”

Back inside, the universally challenged continued to consult their maps, looking for a silver lining. Strangers to the place must have thought they had stumbled into a huge orienteering course as deputies stumbled about with their Ordnance Survey guides and compasses set in the direction of the next election.

Back in the real world, the voters were wondering what all the fuss was about.

They don’t suffer from The Great Obsession though. It only afflicts politicians.

And they will have thought, as they endured all the palaver about a handful of people possibly losing their Dáil seats, that if the political minds of Dáil Éireann could remain as concentrated on the running of the country as they are about running for election, we’d be on the pig’s back in no time.