Necktie proves a knotty problem for Dáil visitor

A Finn in the press gallery wasn’t to know that a two-tiered sartorial system operates in the Dáil chamber

Queen Elizabeth at the English Market in Cork on her 2011 visit. News of another visit next year gives ample opportunity too to get the bunting ready and prepare menus for the street parties. Photograph: Reuters

Queen Elizabeth at the English Market in Cork on her 2011 visit. News of another visit next year gives ample opportunity too to get the bunting ready and prepare menus for the street parties. Photograph: Reuters


Sometime next year, confirmed the Taoiseach.
It’s going to happen.

That gives them plenty of time to hoover the carpet in Buckingham Palace and hunt down all the gifts Herself was given when she was over here and put them out on the mantelpieces.

The fish from that lovely day in the English Market in Cork may be a bit whiffy, but once the Duke says nothing a diplomatic incident is unlikely. Ample opportunity too to get the bunting ready and prepare the menus for the street parties.

And Michael D will be able to work on a suitable cúpla focail to say in the English language after the state banquet in the ballroom, allowing David Cameron to mouth “Wow!” when the President confines himself to an erudite but remarkably concise reply to Queen Elizabeth’s speech.

We must begin the search immediately for a suitable tiara for Sabina Higgins. No, we won’t let ourselves down in front of the neighbours.

Finnish visitor
Certainly not when it comes to dressing appropriately. We won’t be found wanting in that department, as a Finnish visitor to the Dáil discovered yesterday afternoon.

It was in the middle of Leaders’ Questions when we saw the Captain of the Guard dart around the chamber in a blur of shiny buttons and gold braid. Seconds later an usher appeared on the press gallery to inform the bewildered representative of Finland’s national broadcaster (in Ireland on a work exchange) that he would have to remove himself immediately.

For the elegant Petri was not wearing a tie. An immaculate suit and pristine shirt but no tie. He looked somewhat confused as he was escorted out. For below him sat Mick Wallace, resplendent in a green polo shirt, along with at least six other TDs shamelessly disporting themselves in the national parliament without any neckwear.

He wasn’t to know that a two-tiered sartorial system operates in the chamber. One rule for the deputies, of course, when it comes to maintaining the fabric of Irish society.

Nobody seemed to have noticed that two schoolboys, obviously on the mitch, had insinuated themselves among the ranks of the Fine Gael backbenchers. They stuck out a mile, with their fresh little faces, grey jackets and matching green ties.

What’s that?

Our mistake. The schoolboys turned out to be Ministers for State Seán Sherlock and Ciaran Cannon, whose turn it was yesterday to wear the Government’s special EU presidency ties.

Enda hardly ever wears one now. You can’t blame him. The few they have in the Merrion Street wardrobe must be filthy at this stage – our presidency began back in January.

Still, the dress code kerfuffle provided an interesting diversion during a particularly dull Leaders’ Questions. Gerry Adams can take most of the blame for that. Long contributions from him on the state of affairs in Northern Ireland tend to have a tranquillising effect on deputies.

The Sinn Féin leader was on one of his favourite subjects: the Belfast Agreement. He could talk about it forever.

When he employed the phrase “I spent all day yesterday in Stormont”, you could hear the thud of chins on chests. Leo Varadkar looked off dreamily into the distance; Bernard Durkan began inspecting his nails; and a low hum of conversation rose from the Fianna Fáil benches.

But Gerry was on a roll. He continued talking about Northern Ireland during Leaders’ Questions and on into the Order of Business. He was happy.

Unlike Clare Daly, who brought up the Bus Éireann strike and slammed the Government for cutting the wages of public service workers while refusing to take more tax from millionaires.

“I am reminded of one of the Taoiseach’s predecessors, Charlie Haughey, who in the 1980s told the rest of us that we had to tighten our belts while he unwrapped yet another Charvet shirt.”

Enda got annoyed. “I get a bit fed up with this regular comment from Deputy Daly as if she is the only one in here who values the work the public service does.”

He cherishes our public servants, and the vital work they do.

“I value it because I know them, the very many people who work long hours and late nights to see that services are provided, whether frontline or not.”

Finian McGrath interjected. “You took three grand off them!”

But Enda stuck to his guns. “No more than any other sector of Irish society, there are people who do not perform to the optimum level. There are sectors in the public sector where that applies.”

That being said, “We value the work of the public service, and Deputy Daly does not have sole ownership of respect for the public service.” After this bout of competitive cherishing, he said he hoped that Croke Park ll would bring about an acceptable outcome for everyone. That’s Enda: always looking on the bright side.

Return visit
Later on he had more good news: “I can confirm that a proposal for a return visit to Britain by President Higgins following the historic and successful visit of Queen Elizabeth to Ireland is under active consideration.

“A date has not yet been agreed. I suppose it is a matter of arranging the schedules of the President and the Queen and deciding upon the other engagements with which the President might be able to be associated, or with which he might involve himself.”

So his people will talk to her people and in the fullness of time MDH and QEII will meet, eye to eye, on the tufted Wilton in Buck House and further cement the happy relationship between Ireland and Britain.

Now, about that tiara . . .