Miriam Lord: Baby of the House throws a strop over a bypass

Dáil Sketch: O’Connor bags a meeting with the Taoiseach as MacSharry forgets who’s who

Baby Marc, doo doo doo doo doo doo

Baby Marc, doo doo doo doo doo doo

Baby Marc, doo doo doo doo doo doo

Baby Marc.


That damned tune. Those words. Lodged in the brain.

All sufferin’ day long.

Why? Just why?

James O’Connor, the baby of the Dáil. That’s why. Elected a TD for Cork East last year at the tender age of 22. He’s not afraid to speak up for himself, though, and has been a vocal critic of the leadership in recent months.

It's an open secret around Leinster House that young James has fallen in with a bad crowd, running with Fianna Fáil's wild set and its notorious ringleaders Barry Cowen, Éamon Ó Cuiv, John McGuinness and Jim O'Callaghan. Hot-blooded Marc MacSharry was once their most audacious outlaw, but he quit the gang because they were all mouth and no trousers.

Now Marc is a lone cowboy, battling from the outside to highlight what he claims is poor leadership at the top alongside a system of double standards operated by his party and the Government which routinely bends the rules for those who may transgress them depending on the position they hold.

He made his first Dáil contribution on Wednesday since resigning the party whip last month in a pre-emptive strike before he was kicked out for voting against a Government motion of confidence in Fine Gael's Simon Coveney.

But first, back to James O'Connor, who threw a major strop on local radio a few hours earlier, threatening to do a MacSharry and quit Fianna Fáil if senior colleagues did not honour promises to upgrade a road and build a bypass in his constituency.

A second TD leaving the fold would place undue strain on Micheál Martin’s three-cornered Coalition.

The baby of the House has learned quickly that the squeaky political wheel often gets the most oil.

James believes he was “lied” to by a “multitude of colleagues” with assurances that the projects were earmarked for construction. “I feel I have been deeply misled. I am hurt.”

In double-quick time, word filtered down from on high that James has bagged himself a meeting with the Taoiseach and Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan. In the meantime, Micheál Martin sent soothing words to his fellow Corkonian all the way from an EU meeting in Slovenia.

Sure there’s no need to be upset at all, boi!

“The National Development Plan is not an exhaustive list of projects. That is made crystal clear,” he stressed, making sure to point out that the Green Party leader is particularly partial to a nice bypass.

MacSharry may have left Fianna Fáil’s wild bunch, but it seems the youngest member of the Dáil has learned well. Suitably mollified, he’ll probably, reluctantly, stay put on the Government benches and torment his party leader with the rest of the gang.

Meanwhile, in an act of outstanding solidarity, former Cork East TD Kevin O'Keeffe described Baby Marc's reaction to the development plan as "over the top", suggesting he should "bite the bullet" and knuckle down with his colleagues to get the project off the blocks.

An ecstatically saddened O’Keeffe was most “disappointed” that the young fella who took his seat might “jump ship”.

Terrible substitute

As for MacSharry, he popped up after Leaders’ Questions with a rather intriguing query for Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien, who was standing in for Micheál. This was Darragh’s first outing as substitute taoiseach and he was a terrible disappointment.

He didn’t lose his rag once, although the fact that his Sinn Féin arch-enemy Eoin Ó Broin (or Eoin O’Smug as we hear he is called by some in Government circles) wasn’t there to goad him was probably a big factor in keeping the temperature down.

Darragh handled the session well. He was calm, reasonable and disconcertingly conciliatory. And clearly thrilled to be sitting in Micheál’s seat at long last.

Then MacSharry delighted him even further.

“Taoiseach,” he boomed, wrongly addressing the Minister for Housing, who appeared very happy about the new title as he would be nursing certain expectations in that regard.

“Sorry, Freudian slip there” said Marc, correcting himself. “It’s just you look, you look very, eh – the question was really for the Taoiseach and you do look quite comfortable in the role.”

The Minister, positively glowing, let out a hearty “modestly forbids” laugh. Delighted.

The whipless deputy for Sligo-Leitrim then floated a heavy yet very definitely pointed question about the Attorney General, who is a member of the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board. In light of the ongoing controversy over Paul Gallagher continuing some outstanding private litigation after his appointment to the State role, MacSharry asked if any judges the Attorney General may have appeared before during this period have been subsequently promoted to a higher court.

“I’m decidedly uncomfortable about this line of questioning,” remarked the Ceann Comhairle, uncomfortably.

MacSharry didn’t mention any names. Although he appeared to be hinting very darkly at something.

But he maintained he was merely raising the question in the context of the Programme for Government, which refers to transparency and enhancing democracy. Would the Minister kindly ask the Taoiseach to inquire into the matter and report his findings back to the Dáil?

Darragh set off on a pleasant path of waffle about the imminent publication of the judicial appointments commission Bill. “We intend to do that in this session. It can be debated fully at that stage.”

But MacSharry wasn’t on for being sidetracked. “It’s a very specific question,” he pressed. “Will you get the answer to it?”

An answer there came none, but the Minister pointed out that his question was now on the official record and he would certainly make sure the Department of the Taoiseach would receive his comments.

And will the Dáil be informed of any reply?

No reply.

Most intriguing.

Perhaps they should get James O’Connor on the case.

He gets results.

Baby Marc doo doo doo doo doo doo….