Sod that: Deputy mayor of Fingal Robert O’Donoghue, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien and mayor of Fingal David Healy at the sod-turning on a new social and affordable housing scheme at Dun Emer, Lusk, Co Dublin. Photograph:  Damien Eagers/The Irish Times

Darragh O’Brien huffed and puffed and finally got a shovelful of dirt – disappointing

Richard Boyd Barrett told the Taoiseach he must be ‘living in a parallel universe’ if he thinks his plans for affordable housing are realistic. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Mary Lou McDonald heaps scorn on stated promise to tackle the housing crisis

It’s all about the cuckoo investors and the vulture funds and curbing their spread further and further into the housing market

Mary Lou McDonald is mining a rich seam of public discontent and she knows it

Jim O’Callaghan dutifully tried to sound enthusiastic when asked about his party’s campaign in a constituency not noted as a Fianna Fáil stronghold. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Senior counsel Jim O’Callaghan has his work cut out to get an FF candidate over the line

“How are ordinary house buyers who scrimp and save for a mortgage supposed to compete with this?” File photograph: iStock

A nasty ‘variant’ of Greed-09 has swooped through an entire housing estate in Kildare

Helen McEntee: from here to maternity. Photograph: Tom Honan

Congratulations pour in for Minister as knives come out in Dublin Bay South

Happy days: Minister for Culture and Sport Catherine Martin, Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar during the announcement of easing of Covid-19 restrictions and the reopening of hospitality, hairdressing and other services. Photograph: Julien Behal Photography/PA Wire

The Taoiseach was happy to do the heavy lifting: lifting restrictions, lifting our spirits

Racing heart: Senator Martin Conway. Photograph: Tom Honan

Martin Conway of FG was overheard doing some side business during a virtual meeting

There’s talk of light at the end of the tunnel, but Labour leader Alan Kelly is still stuck in the tunnel, trying to get past a large blockage of vaccine the Government is promising to ‘roll out’ quickly.  Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

It was hard to contain the excitement at the election of two Senators, but we managed

Former taoiseach Enda Kenny staying on track

Miriam Lord: the former taoiseach is networking away on abandoned old railway lines

Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe: No more Mr Nice Phibsboro.  Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Minister needed a protective layer of cotton wool after getting a kicking over kids’ shoes

 Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald: disconnected, mid-sentence, from the Convention Centre’s PA system. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

It’s a plucky individual who mutes the Sinn Féin leader when she’s holding forth

Micheál and Leo were wearing the same outfits.  They were like non-identical twins with nothing in common except their matching clothes. Photograph:  Julien Behal Photography

Micheál holds out a whiff of a carrot and a smaller stick with a promise of better days to come

Jimmy Deenihan. Photograph: Eric Luke

‘Jimmy’s Borehole’ might not sound very charitable, but that’s exactly what it is

Thomas Byrne, TD for Meath East, was disgusted. It’s bad enough to be compared to Cromwell in Dáil Éireann, but to make such an accusation to “someone born and reared in Drogheda” is particularly “outrageous”, he howled. Photograph:  Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Green soap forgotten as spirit of Cromwell evoked in Dáil

These women appear to have been subject to an Upstairs, Downstairs regime in Leinster House, left without basic facilities. Photograph: Alan Betson

The lack of recognition for the cleaners of this (very big) building is about to be rectified

All the best questions on the day were asked by Séamus the Dog on RTÉ’s Home School Hub when Taoiseach Micheál Martin dropped by for a chat. Image: RTÉ

Puppet pooch might have had more luck grilling Taoiseach about Gravy Stockbrokers

Derville Rowland, who heads the Central Bank’s financial misconduct unit, might as well have been talking about catching vampires for all the confidence her words inspired in her audience of politicians.  Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

For Derville Rowland, the silver bullet is a shaft of sunlight through the company wallet

Labour Party leader Alan Kelly: he has eased up noticeably on the histrionics and adopted a more considered and conciliatory approach during his Dáil outings.  Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Elsewhere Sinn Féin reminded us that if you have to curse, you should curse in Irish

Minestrone for Housing Darragh O’Brien – feeling the Opposition’s broth. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Opposition pours on the scorn and gives FF a good roasting over its Celtic Tiger past

Boastful: Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan handed black card for unsporting behaviour

Taoiseach Micheál Martin is rolling the dice on the success of the vaccine rollout. Photograph: Julien Behal

‘The variants are on tour,’ intones Alan Kelly as Government rolls dice

Taoiseach Micheál Martin addresses the nation at Government Buildings on Tuesday evening. Screengrab: RTÉ

Taoiseach’s big speech told us nothing we didn’t know and nothing we wanted to hear

Stephen Donnelly has confided his belief that “the vaccine offers the best chance of tackling Covid”.  Photograph: Laura Hutton/The Irish Times

Twee pancake videos on social media mean Minister for Health was not only one to fall flat

Talk to Pearse: Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

When it comes to striking fear into insurance firms, the Sinn Féin TD is the new Joe Duffy

Eamon Ryan, one  TD declared, needed ‘to be put back in his green box’. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Minister for Beer Gardens mortifies former hacks amid leaks of ridiculous proportions

Labour TD Duncan Smith:  ‘I’m not going to be lectured on understanding workers.’ Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Labour TD reminds Rural Independents they don’t have a monopoly on country matters

The National Children’s Hospital: When the famous report is published, look for it in the horror section. Photograph: Alan Betson

The sitting is a bit like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? when they phone a friend

Ian Marshall, the former president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union and Leo Varadkar’s nominee to the Upper House in 2016, has thrown his hat in the ring for the Agriculture panel.  Photograph: Patrick Bolger/Bloomberg

Never mind the vaccine rollout – all we want to know is when will the election take place

Taoiseach Micheál Martin: ‘In terms of policing someone in their bedroom, that does, obviously, raise obvious challenges’

When will mandatory quarantine be implemented? Depends on which Minister answers

Fianna Fáil’s James Lawless –Covid rules mean less time with constituents, more time in the garden

This week veered from green fingers in Kildare to Tubthumping in the Seanad

Donegal TD Thomas Pringle: ‘People always ask me when I do Leader’s Questions: what do I think of the responses? And I say I never listen to the responses because they mean nothing.’ Photograph: Eric Luke

Micheál Martin has feathers ruffled by Pringle over his missing zero Covid strategy

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan at the press briefing in Government Buildings

Captain Micheál Mainwaring’s new motto is ‘hold firm and stick to the basics’

New Irish Ambassador to Bulgaria Martina Feeney inspecting the guard of honour provided by the Bulgarian National Guard in Sofia.

Meanwhile, Bulgarians put on a show for new Irish Ambassador in Sofia

 Josepha Madigan  likened the very difficult circumstances facing children with additional needs and their families while their schools remain shut to the plight of vulnerable children in mother and baby homes. Photograph: Julien Behal Photography/PA Wire

No lessons learned as Madigan keeps digging through the medium of riddles

Dáil chamber: Scene of Seanad debate. Photograph: Alan Betson

News of Seanad’s return has heartsick country reaching for the tonic

Robert Watt is moving from Merrion Street to Baggot Street to take up his new job as secretary general of the Department of Health. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Forget the Fitbit – this short stroll is bringing one public servant a very healthy salary boost

Carmel Larkin, who was born in the Tuam mother and baby home in 1949, holds a statement of apology from the Sisters of Bon Secours  at the grotto on Wednesday, on an unmarked mass grave at the site. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Catherine Connolly’s compelling, clear-eyed speech stood out over all the apologies

 Stephen Donnelly:  in August  he takes bronze in the trampoline at the  Olympics in Japan

In May Labour Party leader Alan Kelly explodes during Leaders’ Questions. ‘It’s what he would have wanted,’ says a constituency co(...)

Labour Party Leader Alan Kelly TD during a Labour press brieifng on The Sick Leave and Parental Leave (Covid-19) Bill 2020. Photograph:Gareth Chaney/Collins

Micheál Martin’s prediction about an ‘interesting’ year came true, and then some

Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh: like something out of Le Carré.   Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Christmas visits off the menu as Oireachtas restaurant only open to serving members

Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh: like something out of a Le Carré novel. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Christmas visits off the menu as Oireachtas restaurant only open to serving members

Taoiseach Micheál Martin at  the launch of Co-operative Housing Ireland’s Brookhill estate of 69 affordable family homes in Carrigaline, Co Cork. Photograph: David Clynch

Talk about spoiling the Opposition with presents of denials about bank bailout

Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley: It was the dearth of Sinn Féin TDs in the chamber when their colleague was making his apology which was the most striking thing about the short episode. That was not by accident. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

To lose one TD may be regarded as misfortune but to lose two looks more than careless

Response to Green leader’s climate change speech has him blushing under his mask

Taoiseach Micheál Martin  strongly resisted Opposition charges that his Government is wilfully refusing to pay these students for working during the Covid crisis. Photograph: Laura Hutton

Micheál Martin reaches for Fempi as Opposition denounces failure to pay student nurses

Micheál Martin didn’t even try to sound optimistic when opposition TDs wondered where we were at now in this crucial, last-gasp phase of the Brexit negotiations.  Photograph: Laura Hutton

Micheál Martin offers little comfort as the clock runs down on EU/UK trade talks

The big surprise about the furore over mild-mannered TD Brian Stanley’s tweet last weekend was the fact that it was seen as such a big surprise. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Tweets are dominating the Dáil, and who’ll blink first as Brexit talks go to the brink?

 Danny Healy Rae  accused the Taoiseach of hurting and “belittling” thousands of rural-based publicans and their patrons. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Shock news of deputy’s conversion to value of evidence pulses in global research community

Taoiseach does a quick bit of Christmas shopping in the Kilkenny Shop on Nassau Street but all he really wants is a dozen com-it-tees as stocking fillers.

But Micheál wants a buffer of taskforce proportions between a ministerial posterior and the blame

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney: Has reassured the nation’s kids that Santa is exempt from travel restrictions. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell

Martyn Turner’s Endgames; Santa cleared for takeoff; tie dies; MMO’C makes fresh start

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee. “One of the great strengths of the Irish judiciary has been its non-political characteristics,” said McEntee as she was rattling through her prepared script.  Photograph: Gareth Chaney

Micheál comes out of this saga looking like a patsy and Leo like a bit of a cad

Labour Party leader Alan Kelly (aka  John Wayne or Liam Neeson) vows ‘to get to the truth’. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/ Collins

Kelly vows to get justice – or at least the Minister for Justice – into the Dáil

The Taoiseach reminded the Dáil what happened when the country slowly opened up again during the summer after the first lockdown.  Photograph: Julien Behal Photography/PA Wire

Taoiseach under pressure to bring on his Minister for Justice to answer questions

RTÉ: Don’t stand too close.

RTÉ social distance, McEntee in Dáil, Woulfe pack, pints in public and moving statues

Taoiseach Micheál Martin arrives for an all-party meeting at Government Buildings in Dublin. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Manure hits the fan over FF-FG AG deal and appointment of Séamus Woulfe

 Minister for Justice Helen McEntee:  it looks like she didn’t tell two of the people at her pre-Cabinet meeting about the other three applicants. Did she tell Leo Varadkar, her boss? Photograph Nick Bradshaw

Minister for Justice keeps low profile as Opposition looks for answers

Christmas decorations at the GPO on O’Connell Street in Dublin’s city centre. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Ballybunion locals are on the ball as they fly the American flag for Joe Biden

 Taoiseach Micheál Martin on his way to the Dáil chamber at  the Convention Centre in Dublin. Photograph: Collins

Waves of congratulatory indifference pulsed around the tiered velvet seating

If the lionising of Leo was hard to take, the lack of any fresh argument amid the overweening smug self-righteousness radiating from Sinn Féin  was even worse. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Party’s meaningless buzzwords, soundbites and rehashed arguments fail to find traction

Leas Cheann Comhairle Catherine Connolly said a record of what is said in the chamber has been kept since the first sitting of the Dáil 101 years ago. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Political anoraks rejoice as the Nealon’s Guide to the 33rd Dáil and 26th Seanad lands

Jim “Young Cuív” O Callaghan. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

As far as Taoiseach is concerned, if it didn’t occur on his watch, it didn’t happen

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney leaves Government Buildings  after a fraught Dáil seating which saw  Leo Varadkar defending his actions in the GP contract controversy. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov /

Cabinet incontinence is all about some things being more confidential than others

Former commissioner Phil Hogan with EC president Ursula von der Leyen. Photograph: Stephanie Lecocq/EPA

EC president drove five hours from Belgium, through Netherlands, to Hanover

Taoiseach Micheál Martin: dealing with explosive TNT revelation that the country’s much vaunted test-and-trace system collapsed when the very much expected second wave arrived unexpectedly. Photograph:  Johanna Geron/Getty Images

'Close encounters of the Covid kind, running on continuous loop in everyone’s head. And nobody knows the ending'

Hand-sanitising gel. Photograph: Hollie Adams/Bloomberg

TDs are used to ensuring their seats are safe but never in quite such a literal sense as this

 Dr Ronan Glynn, right, gave  Nphet members a  dressing down this week over the amount of times ‘Nphet sources’ are quoted in the media. Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

The House ushers in a special moment but has no time for unladylike behaviour

  Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe   at Government Buildings ahead of  Budget 2021.  Photograph:  Julien Behal

Mother-and-baby homes, Level 4 restrictions and Brexit shove big spenders off agenda

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe arrive at  the Convention Centre in Dublin to announce Budget 2021. Photograph: Julien Behal Photography/PA Wire

Paschal Donohoe and Michael McGrath’s largesse leaves Opposition struggling to find fault

Green tea Taoiseach Micheál Martin was sorely disappointed with Nphet but determined to move on in a renewed spirit of working together for the sake of the nation. File photograph: The Irish Times

Leo rages at public health chief; Cap’n Grealish frets about the arts; Harris and Holohan framed

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly: at the centre of the storm over the Taoiseach and Tánaiste’s public annoyance over learning at the last minute that the National Public Health Emergency Team  was recommending an escalation to Level-5 lockdown. Photograph:  Julien Behal

Timelines and clashing accounts as Minister levels on Nphet

Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar at the Convention Centre Dublin: the seats are built for the comfort of theatre audiences, not for taoisigh hopping up and down to answer questions. Photograph: Maxwells

Martin Kenny’s contribution to Leaders’ Questions had a few squirming in their seats

Michael Collins TD, a fan of carrying  the clear plastic visor, pictured during outside Leinster House on Tuesday with fellow Independent TD Mattie McGrath. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Mary Lou weathers aerosol bombardment from spitting-mad Independents

Supersleuth Alan Kelly is always one step ahead. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Snubbed TD’s 10-year-old daughter tells teacher what she thinks of daddy’s boss

Another helpline is needed but not for the beleaguered students

Former minister of State at the Department of Finance Michael D’Arcy. Photograph: Dave Meehan

Mary Lou McDonald serves up the latest farce du jour under Taoiseach’s wrinkled nose

Taoiseach Micheál Martin visited the Oliver Bond Street flats complex with a pep in his step. Photograph: Julian Behal

We are learning that a pandemic, along with a week, is a long time in politics

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald. Photograph: Crispin Rodwell

Party leaders in bitter exchanges as spirit of acrimony endures

Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Decision to provide special advisers to junior ministers comes as pandemic payment is cut

Minister for Culture Catherine Martin and Catherine Heaney, chair of the National Museum of Ireland, at the launch of the ‘Glendalough: Power, Prayer and Pilgrimage’ exhibition. Photograph: Julien Behal

Virtually no challengers for deputy leader's job as Greens hold their online conference

 You know they know they’re in trouble when Emergency Paschal is deployed to talk on a non-economic related matter. Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

Gaviscon Fireman Donohoe summoned to ease Government indigestion

The Taoiseach sounded like a man fighting for his political future.  Photograph: PA

Only disappointment for the Opposition would have been running out of popcorn

Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar. Closer than ever, apparently. Photograph: Julien Behal

McGuinness puts some FG noses out of joint while Dáil rumour mill goes into overdrive

Taoiseach: Micheál Martin: “I do have a lot of experience of negotiations. You allow things to… evolve.” Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill / The Irish Times

Taoiseach’s cautious approach draws boos from opposition benches

Mattie McGrath, it seems, was the only one making that case at the Business Committee, for a move back to Leinster House. File image: Collins Courts

The Dáil’s move to the Convention Centre continues to generate negative vibes

Would a €9 pork chop be a suitably priced food offering to appease the hungry Covid gods? Photograph: iStock

Gardaí now have the power to hunt down a new sub-class of cocktail sausage criminals

Newly appointed Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue (L), with President Michael D Higgins and  Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Photograph: Maxwells

The fledgling Government has already brought about a truly monumental C-change

Richard Bruton: Dishy Dickie gets the Washboard of the Season award

Things can only get better for Taoiseach Micheál Martin as he turns 60 today

The sight of Richard Bruton in his Speedos led to a nasty altercation with one of the Three Ugly Misters (Leo Varadkar)

Sinn Féin’s Principal Boy turns on chief member of the Three Ugly Misters

Minister for Agriculture Dara Calleary and Matt Dempsey of Tillage Industry Ireland at the launch of new report on the Irish tillage sector on Tuesday

Government bumbles on as risible sacrifice fails to rescue flagging fortunes

Richard Bruton, the new chairman of Fine Gael’s parliamentary party. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

The country crew were not about to let the Dubs bag all the top parliamentary party jobs

Mary Lou McDonald arriving at the Convention Centre for the Dáil session. Photograph: Alan Betson

Sinn Féin leader regards Martin with barely disguised contempt. It seems to be mutual

 Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar at a Dáil sitting in the Convention Centre, Dublin. File photograph: Maxwell Photography/PA Wire

‘Business is booming and more people don’t know whether they are coming or going’

Barry Cowen. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

Leo’s pomp, orchard-robber analogy, plastic forks and a six-minute Dáil to Dockside dash

 Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Anything that can go wrong for Micheál has gone wrong for him. Photograph: Alan Betson

Martin makes another trip to the park before returning to Dáil for an Opposition savaging

Taoiseach Micheál Martin: “This is a very sad day for Barry, his family and for me,” he told a hushed Dáil. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Martin knew he could not keep defending minister who would not defend himself in Dáil

Doing the Riverdance: Minister for Finance and new Eurogroup  president Paschal Donohoe. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/EPA

Donohoe’s campaign to be elected head of the Eurogroup was ‘like the Eurovision’

Taoiseach Micheál Martin arriving at the Convention Centre in Dublin to take Leaders’ Questions at the Dáil session. Photograph: Alan Betson

Ministers few and far between at Convention Centre – taking social distancing a bit too far

Minister for Agriculture  Barry Cowen:  was forced to make his inaugural statement to the Dáil in his new role all about himself. Photograph: PA

Barry Cowen’s big apology rounds off Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s big day

Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s announcement of senior and junior ministers sparked Olympian levels of whingeing in the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA Wire

Upset hopefuls in Fine Gael and Greens manage to hold their emotions in check

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