We bring you some very sad news this morning. Noel Whelan, our political columnist, barrister, author and well-known political analyst, died last night after a brief illness.
Noel was a familiar voice to many and a friend and colleague to many of us in The Irish Times. We send our deepest sympathies to his wife Sinead, son Seamus and his family.
Today is the last sitting of the summer term, so when the Dáil adjourns – due at 9.48pm this evening – the House will rise until 2pm on September 17th.
There was a time when opposition deputies would fiercely dispute the long summer recess, insisting that there was much urgent parliamentary business to which they wished to attend, important bills to be discussed, fearless holding the government to account urgently, and all the rest of it – all the while secure in the knowledge that the Government would just vote through the adjournment, and off everyone would go, happy as a trout.
However, with this minority government business, this is a trickier proposition – as Micheál Martin found out a few Christmases ago when he objected to the Christmas holidays and everyone ended up staying for another week. He was not a popular Micheál that Christmas.
Nowadays the weekly order of business is agreed on a Tuesday, so TDs have already voted for the adjournment until mid-September. There was however a ferocious row over the Government’s deployment of a procedural device – the withholding of a money message, necessary to allow bills to proceed – which it has used to block over 50 Opposition Bills.
Here is a flavour of the spirited exchanges, from the official parliamentary record:
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I am going ahead. Is the business for Thursday agreed to?
Deputy Bríd Smith: No, it is not.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I deem it is agreed.
Deputies: Not agreed.
Deputy Bríd Smith: No, it is not agreed.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I just said it is.
Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: But you cannot say that.
And on it went. Ah, the cut and thrust of the democratic process.
As it happens, the Opposition are entirely correct – the Government is utilising the money message as a ruse to block Bills it doesn't like. Now many of them may indeed be a bit loopy. But the place to decide that is on the floor of the House. Incidentally, Fianna Fáil voted with the Government on the adjournment – they didn't just abstain. The issue may well rear its head in the Dáil today.
Fitting that we end the term on Brexit, as it dominated so much of politics in recent months. Our lead story today reveals comments at a private meeting (well, not that private, obviously) yesterday by the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney in which he is highly critical of the two contenders to succeed Theresa May, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt.
Mr Coveney criticised what he called the "utterly disingenuous debate between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt". He said both men are "well aware of the facts" of the situation.
Elsewhere, a report from the Northern Ireland civil service lays out the economic damage that awaits the North in the wake of a no-deal. For many firms, exports to the South will become impossible, while cheap imports from outside the EU could undercut their products in the UK market. The Northern mandarins, surveying the available expert opinion and studies, estimate at least 40,000 job losses. The previous date, the Irish Government's Brexit contingency document predicted 50-55,000 job losses south of the border. But if the Republic will be badly hit, the North will be crucified.
Meanwhile, in the North, the main news is about bonfires. Yep, bonfires.
Why the Government needs a break (don’t we all).
Mercosur trade deal
There was an angry demonstration by farmers yesterday outside the Dáil against the Mercosur trade deal, which will be the subject of a vote in Brussels today. In the Dáil, opposition TDs dialled up the rhetoric, directing much of it at Phil Hogan, the soon-to-be-reappointed European Commissioner. Government sources were temporarily discombobulated yesterday when President-designate of the European Commission Ursula von den Leyen said she wanted a male and female nominee from each country – a move that could spell trouble for Big Phil. No way, said the Government, though. Phil is our nominee. Most other countries will say the same of their nominees. Paddy Smyth's assessment of the state of the process is here.
Still, the Mercusor row remains a problem for the Government. And it is under fire on military pay, which will be the subjects of statements in the Dáil today. Governments always welcome recesses. Few have needed it so much.
Jennifer Bray has a page one story about a row between the National Oil Reserves Agency and the Government, which is seeking to get its greasy paws on the agency's whopping €200 million cash pile to fund its climate change plan.
Congratulations everyone – Ireland has the highest birth rate and lowest death rate in the EU.
Denis Staunton has a super take on the resignation of the British ambassador in Washington: this will be the first of many acts of abasement.
Stephen Collins says the Government will need to at least think about compromising on the backstop.
Newton Emerson on why the DUP should accept defeat on same sex marriage and abortion.
A busy final day in the Dáil, with questions to Michael Ring (never a low decibel session), then the last leaders' questions before a slew of Government legislation.
Busy day at the committees too, where Comreg are in to discuss the National Broadband Plan.
Full details of all the day's delights at www.oireachtas.ie.
Elsewhere a delegation of Bavarian Christian Democrat MPs are visiting the border. The trip is the culmination of a four-day visit here, the highlights of which included drinking pints with the Taoiseach in the Guinness Storehouse and attending a meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party. This latter engagement is the kind of thing that would give a Bavarian a healthy thirst, alright.
And tonight is bonfire night in the North.
The imminent parliamentary recess, of course, means that this is the last Politics Digest of the summer. We know you will miss it as much as we will miss the late nights and early mornings putting it together. We’ll be back in September and we hope you enjoy the summer.