Marc MacSharry and The Fears of a Clown

The senator from Sligo has a big interest in amateur dramatics, but he isn’t very good at it

Senator Marc MacSharry from Sligo has a big interest in amateur dramatics, but he isn’t very good at it.

Hams have been known to ask him for his autograph.

He surpassed himself in the chamber yesterday with a hilariously overwrought performance which had his audience in uproar.

Career senator Marc: that's Marc with a "c" – as in "clown", has been an adornment to the Upper House for 11 years. He may not be a household name (his daddy is a former EU commissioner and Fianna Fáil minister for finance, Ray MacSharry) but Marc's political achievements are many. We just can't think of any at the moment.

Even by the Seanad’s high standards, his capacity for pomposity is quite something.

So naturally, he is extremely piqued at the notion that a chamber as wonderful as the Seanad could be abolished by referendum later this year. He has also been highly insulted by derogatory remarks the Taoiseach made recently about the Upper House.

To be fair to MacSharry, Enda’s contention that the Seanad proved its uselessness by not stepping in to prevent our economic crisis was a particularly stupid thing to say.

Going by this line of reasoning, we’d have to abolish the Dáil in the autumn too.

Back though to our ham- dram aficionado, who burst without trace into our consciousness yesterday afternoon with an astonishing rant during the Order of Business. This is the daily Seanad session (on the few days the Seanad happens to be in session) when members can talk about anything they like under the sun.

Speaking of which, maybe young MacSharry spent too long under the sun when the Oireachtas was in recess last week. It's as good an explanation as any for his ridiculous carry-on.

He began quietly enough, talking about VAT rates and job creation, working himself into his big role.

And then, he moved on to the explosive part of his script or “the main issue I want to speak on today”. This was “the Taoiseach’s conduct in recent weeks” and Marc wanted a debate about it.

He spoke more in sorrow than in anger, because he had been proud, as a Sligo man, to see somebody from the west of Ireland elected Taoiseach. But Enda has turned out to be a massive disappointment – not least because he "urinated all over this house". MacSharry pointed this out more than once, making it sound as if the Taoiseach was routinely short taken in the vicinity of the Seanad.

This was interesting, as across the way in the Dáil, Enda was up to his oxters in effluence answering questions from the Fianna Fáil leader about a proposed Monster Sewage Plant for Dublin.

They had better include new drains for Leinster House as more toilets are clearly urgently needed.

What's worse, fulminated MacSharry, Cathaoirleach Paddy Burke has allowed the Taoiseach to do this.

Paddy was so outraged that he could barely squeak out a protest and almost lost the power to bang his bell.

Marc found Enda's remark about the Seanad's lack of response to the excesses of the Celtic Tiger era to be "objectionable in the extreme".

Rather like his own remarks yesterday.

"We see him clowning around Europe and, it has to be said, acting like a clown, turning into a circus ring of government and, indeed, the Office of the Taoiseach."

That woke them up.

Taoiseach’s nominee, Marie-Louise O’Donnell strongly objected to MacSharry’s “kind of language”. He, in turn, ungallantly reminded her that Enda put her into the Seanad.

“When somebody looks like a clown, talks like a clown, performs like a clown and insists on making government a circus ring,” roared MacSharry, to howls of protests from across the floor. His Fianna Fáil colleagues said nothing.

On he thundered, making his scene, as the chair pleaded with him to sit down and a scandalised Marie-Louise tried to uphold Enda’s honour.

Then he turned on the Cathaoirleach and told he if he didn’t stand up for the Seanad, then he should “bloody well resign.”

Labour's Marie Moloney was horrified. "May I apologise on behalf of my colleague for the way he treated you with disrespect?" she said to Paddy Burke. This only made things worse.

"How dare you apologise for somebody!" shrieked MacSharry. "Don't apologise for me. Ever!" And he was off again, this time waving his arms and thumping the the chair in front of him, like he was auditioning for the main role in the Sligo Player's production of Downfall.

“The Taoiseach and your own party have urinated all over this house,” he yelled at Moloney, who had only been trying to calm things down.

Cathaoirleach Burke had allowed his friend Enda “to urinate on this House as a colleague of yours over the years”.

There was bedlam.

”You’re totally out of order,” cried Paddy.

”No, I’m completely in order,” insisted Marc.

He was grand when he finally sat down. Truly, an adornment to the Seanad. Another reason to keep it going.

Amid the protests over his buffoonish and intemperate display, MacSharry sniffed: “Somebody had to say it.”

That’s what 11 years in the Seanad does for you.

At least with his outburst over his future he’ll be remembered for something – Marc MacSharry and The Fears of a Clown.