Miriam Lord: Cheers to the men calling for compassion

‘If a boy gets himself into trouble, can he not take the morning-after pilsner?’

Well done to those TDs who strongly and passionately argued their case in the Dáil this week.

These principled men were facing up to reality in calling for common sense and understanding in the consideration of what is a very complex question.

The truth is that life and death issues are never black and white. Health and mental health issues are never straightforward either, as certain matters discussed in the Dáil demonstrated.

A wrong decision, ordinary everyday living or just plain bad luck can lead to serious outcomes for a man’s health or mental health, ruining his life. Or worse.


Should the State have the right to come along, and, without logic, compassion or exception, automatically punish him for this?

Well done to those independents – the Healy-Rea brothers, Mattie McGrath, Michael Collins among them, along with Fianna Fáil TDs who later posed with colleagues for a Retain the Eighth photo, for taking a principled stand.

We must trust men.

Particularly men in rural areas who do not have proper access to public transport and are forced to travel alone or with a pal to access a public house and then risk arrest if they inadvertently drive home unintentionally buckled.

This cannot go on.

“Why aren’t all men on the pilsner anyway?” is what female TDs understandably ask, because they know what’s right for a man.

“If a boy gets himself into trouble, can he not take the morning-after pilsner?”

Women think there are better options for men, so we asked one.

“The media refuses to talk about the great joy that non-alcoholic pilsners can bring to tipsy men who might otherwise get their penis pierced or hang around vasectomy mills, with no thought to the precious fruit of their loins. It was proved somewhere in America that vasectomies cause testicular cancer and homicidal thoughts and genital piercings make men go mad in the head,” said Iona Yewtris, spokeswoman for the high-profile BarristersAndConsultants4CatholicLobbyGroups group, which graciously represents the condescending wing of its mother organisation Defoul (Defending the Fruit of Our Loins).


Unfortunately, the non-alcoholic pilsner is not suitable for every man.

So sometimes, despite taking every precaution, including self-administered spritzers, there can be consequences.

Obviously, if men are having vasectomies and sleeping around and then getting into their cars after popping multiple pilsners, the State should take their vehicles away and reserve the right to jail them for 14 years. It’s what the Road Traffic (amendment) Bill is all about.

Otherwise, there must be compassion and common sense.

The drink and the driver?

Love them both.

Rural Ireland explained in plain black and yellow

Kevin O’Keeffe, Fianna Fáil TD for Cork East, was among the deputies arguing passionately against the proposed amendments to the Road Traffic Bill which would see automatic driving bans imposed on first time drink-driving offenders with a blood alcohol level of above 50 milligrams/100 millilitres.

Currently, first-time offenders receive a fine and penalty points.

“Drunk-driving or excessive drink-driving, I do not condone it,” stressed Kevin, but the proposed measures would be “taking the heart out of rural Ireland”.

He then proceeded, not to mansplain, but to GAHsplain for the benefit of a rather baffled looking Shane Ross, aka Winston Churchtown.

“I’ll put it in simple man terms, Minister, what you are doing at the moment, seeing as you’re Minister for Sport as well. We have a sport: GAA. Up to recently, there was the red card and the yellow card. Red card – you’re gone. Take that as taking the irresponsible drinking driver off the road.

“Yellow card, which we are taking about at the moment, will give you a second chance. What you are trying to do here, Minister, is bring in a black card, but in GAA, and in the playing field, you get another player. You get an alternative – in other words, you have a substitute. But here you provide no alternative for an innocent person that inadvertently might be over the limit, for example, in the morning,” he informed the nonplussed minister.

“You have provided no alternative for transport, be it bus, taxi drivers or a second driver. That is the big issue here, Minister, that you are just trying to turn a yellow card into a black card without any proper consideration for the damage you are going to cause.”

Winston Churchtown was lost.

Knock-on effect

O’Keefe mentioned the effect a driving ban might have on people. Did the Minster think about people’s careers and the knock-on effect?

“I hope that those who lose their jobs in such situations do not go further beyond the mental health problem – I say as much sincerely.”

He then went from the GAA to international affairs.

“When people like us were speaking that the legislation not be changed, you came out with some of your pressure groups and threw it upon the people that they were the causes of killing people, which is incorrect. You were on about drunk drivers – those category of people – which is unfair.

“What I’ll say to you, Minister: If a Palestinian throws a little scud over the border into Israel, you and your cohorts come back like the Israelis with bombers. Bombers! That’s what you came back to us like. In other words, no proper balanced argument on the issue.

“ And that’s why, Minister, I am speaking tonight.”

Common sense prevails on digital age - just about

Children’s Rights campaigners expressed relief on Wednesday when an Oireachtas committee rejected proposals to raise the digital age of consent from 13 to 16 years of age.

Chief executive of the Children's Rights Alliance Tanya Ward said the groups were "pleased that common sense has prevailed".

But it was a very close-run thing.

Before the meeting, there were very strong indications in Leinster House from Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin that the parties would not accept the amendment, despite having previously agreed to it.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan didn't look too confident at the beginning of the meeting, when Fianna Fáil sought to raise the age limit as expected.

This was despite their representative, justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan, indicating at an earlier committee his support for the Bill following a thorough briefing on the issue by numerous experts in the field, including Special Rapporteur on Child Protection Dr Geoffrey Shannon.

Sinn Féin representative and the committee chairman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin also approved the Bill.

At the outset, Charlie Flanagan made a point of acknowledging their work and reminded Ó Caoláin that the committee he chaired stated the Bill would “provide particular protection to children” was therefore setting the age of consent at 13 “allowing for a review at a later date”.

Thus informed, the Sinn Féin TD duly stuck with his original decision. Before the Minister could get to him, O’Callaghan jumped in.

“I’m sure people will say ‘you were part of the committee that set the age of consent at 13’,” he began defensively, explaining that when he is at a meeting, he is not “running to the fourth floor to see what the Fianna Fáil stance on this issue is”.

Cut no ice

However, he said the front bench had since had “a thorough discussion” and he would now be pushing for the age to be changed to 16.

So while senior counsel Jim was convinced enough by the expert evidence given to him at committee to vote for the lower age, it cut no ice with his front bench colleagues who were not present.

Maybe the fourth floor should give Jim a walkie-talkie so he can take instructions on what way to vote in real time at committees. That way, he wouldn’t even have to bother listening to the expert evidence and making informed decisions on the back of it.

Flanagan won the day and the proposal was lost.

Captain's Day put in the shade by Kenyan 'tribal leader' O'Flynn
The captain of the Oireachtas Golf Society, Fianna Fail's Robert Troy, hosted a very successful Captain's Day at his home course in Mullingar last weekend.

There wasn’t a huge turnout of serving parliamentarians, with most of the players retired TDs and Senators. Guests of honour for the day were the EU commissioner for agriculture, Phil Hogan and former commissioner for the internal market, Charlie McCreevy. And what an honour it was for everyone – we hear the two distinguished gentlemen gave up a day’s racing at Punchestown to grace the midlands with their presence.

Also playing were former tánaiste and Labour leader Dick Spring, who brought along a brace of bottles of Dingle whiskey which was gratefully received by two members of the officer board – Galway independent TD Noel Grealish and former labour TD Jack Wall, the society’s PRO whose job it is to tell journalists nothing.

There was one woman player – former Labour TD Lorraine Higgins, who is now with Retail Excellence Ireland. The society is conspicuously devoid of female members.

Insulting Troy

Winston Churchill, aka Shane Ross the Minister for Sport, was not in attendance. He was at their last big day, which was the President’s Prize in Wicklow, but ended up insulting Troy, his FF nemesis in Transport in the course of his speech. Funnily enough, he never got an invitation for Robert Troy’s Captain’s Day outing.

The Australian ambassador, Richard Andrews, came along to play a round. He presented the two former commissioners with a bottle each of very special Australian wine which you’d be hard pressed to find in any shops in Europe. Although that could change if the EU and Australia could see their way to striking a nice trade deal in the future, he quipped, with an eye on the current commissioner.

Two local players, Ann-Marie Conlon and her husband Peadar, won the women’s and men’s long drive competition. President and self-styled “international secretary” Donie Cassidy won the long speech competition in the clubhouse.

The winner of the Captain’s Prize was retired Circuit Court judge and Workers Party/Democratic Left TD back in Old God’s time Pat McCartan. He gets his name on the silver perpetual cup, which dates back to 1927. He can keep it at home for a year or leave it for display and safekeeping in the members’ bar in Leinster House, where it usually lives. Runner-up was former FF TD Tom Kitt while Barry Cowen, the party’s spokesman on public expenditure, was third. Former cathaoirleach of the Seanad Paddy Burke just missed out on glory.

Hogan and McCreevy were presented with commemorative scrolls and honorary life membership of the society. This means they don’t have to pay their annual subs of €25 any more, which will be a great help to them as they only have a few fat pensions to fall back on.

Nursing homes

In years gone by, the day would have been sponsored by the likes of a drinks company or a big bank. This year it was sponsored by The Newbrook Group, which runs nursing homes.

We don’t know if former FF TD for Cork North Central Noel O’Flynn ever tees- off with the Oireachtas society. But he couldn’t have attended last week anyway, because he was apparently in Kenya.

O’Flynn was a TD for 14 years before stepping down at the 2011 election. His former colleagues were fascinated to read on Facebook yesterday that he has been made an honorary tribal chief in Kenya, which rather puts Hogan and McCreevy in the shade.

Judging by the photo posted by Cork businessman and family friend Michael Mulcahy, O’Flynn looks like he could do with a bit of shade.

Mulcahy posted that Noel “was honoured by being appointed a tribe leader in Kenya last week in recognition of his support of businesses in Kenya. Appointment as an honorary tribe leader is one of the greatest honours in Kenya.”

Congratulations, Noel.