Miriam Lord: Don’t underestimate birds’ brains, says Danny Healy-Rae

Kerry TD reckons it’s okay to cut hedgerows, as birds are too smart to nest by busy roads

Healy-Rae corner.

An interesting contribution from Danny at a recent meeting of the Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht select committee, where there has been much debate about cutting and preserving hedgerows.

The Kerry TD stressed he was brought up on a farm, loves nature and has always treated animals well.

“But we have a scenario here now where Deputies are complaining that roadside hedges shouldn’t be cut because you’ll be destroying habitats or whatever for birds nesting.”

Danny, a man of the land, reckons birds are smarter than people might think.

“I say here again today, chairman: I don’t believe that birds are so foolish to make their nests on the side of a busy road or on the side of any one. They have the entire countryside wide [to do so].”

He made it clear he has no objection whatsoever to hedges being left uncut on the sides not facing onto roads. But on narrow country routes, he says pedestrians and cyclists aren’t safe because they are being pushed out past the yellow line by overgrown bushes and brambles, putting their lives at risk.

“Again I say, I have nothing against birds or anything like that. And I said here the last day, there’s a lot more damage being done to ground-nesting birds by animals and birds of prey – magpies, mink, foxes – and there’s no word at all being said by members in relation to that or how we could protect them. There’s a type of hawk that cleans out every nest and if we’re interested and really serious about nature and birds, like I say I am, that’s the route we should be going down and we could save a lot more.

“But to think our roadside hedges can’t be cut, is preposterous to me. I can’t agree with that.”

RTÉ panel show says no to Josepha’s ‘Yes’ necklace

Minister for the Arts Josepha Madigan is co-ordinator of the Fine Gael group – led by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Simon Coveney – campaigning to repeal the Eighth Amendment.

She was part of the panel of politicians on RTÉ's The Week in Politics last Sunday discussing the issues of the day. When she spoke, we admired Josepha's simple necklace. It was a small, shiny "YES" on a fine silver chain.

After a lively opening discussion about Friday’s referendum, there was a commercial break. When the programme resumed, the camera moved to Josepha and this time she wasn’t wearing the necklace. During the break, in the interests of balance, she was asked to remove it.

Meanwhile, we note that the Minister is on duty in her local parish church next Saturday – the day of the count.

Last month, the Dublin Rathdown TD told the Indo's Cormac McQuinn she believes her support for a Yes vote in the abortion referendum does not conflict with her "very strong faith" which is "extremely important" to her.

Describing a woman’s decision to end a pregnancy as “a last port of call”, she described the existing situation where at least nine women a day travel abroad for an abortion as unacceptable and “barbaric”.

While the clergy “are entitled to their view”, her view is that “the humane and compassionate thing to do is not to stand in judgement of somebody else and their decision”.

She said she knows there are people who feel the twin positions of supporting a woman’s choice to have an abortion while being a member of the Catholic Church are “not reconcilable”.

But she disagrees. “I believe they are.”

According to this month’s rota for ministers of the word pinned up in the porch of Mount Merrion Church, Josepha is delivering a reading at the 6pm Mass on the day of the count.

By which time – unless the final margins are exceedingly tight, which is a possibility – the result will be known.

Not the best of timing, perhaps.

Van Turnhout takes No campaigners to task over children’s rights

Former independent senator Jillian Van Turnhout was back in the news earlier this month when Minister for Children Katherine Zappone appointed her to examine the implementation of governance reforms at Scouting Ireland. The children's rights advocate was asked to take on the role in the wake of controversy over the organisation's handling of a rape allegation against an adult volunteer.

Van Turnhout, a former chief executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, a former chief commissioner of Irish Girl Guides and one of the drivers in the long fight to hold a children’s rights referendum, sent out an intriguing tweet on Thursday morning while listening to a radio debate between Katie Ascough, spokeswoman for the Love Both campaign, and Annie Hoey, representing the Together for Yes campaign.

“Listening to #TodaySOR on Referendum. As someone who has campaigned & advocated for children’s rights incl increased investment & services for early years I must say the majority of the individuals on the NO campaign have opposed and tried to hinder my work.”

Given her background and years of experience at national and international level in the field, it was a strong charge to make.

“Over the years in my work I’ve experienced a lot of opposition from the same people and throughout the years it’s been the same people – it’s uncanny, the coincidence is beyond coincidence,” she told us yesterday, explaining her tweet referred to people who are “part of the Pro-Life campaign”.

She was not referring to Katie Ascough, who is a student.

“I respect her view but I just had to say something when I heard her arguing for a No vote along with greater investment in services and supports for mothers and babies,” she said.

Not even a week to the referendum and Ireland is already sliding into a cesspit of profanity and vulgarity

The former senator claimed that when she was running the Children’s Rights Alliance, a leading campaigner in the Pro-Life movement requested and was granted a meeting with then minister for finance Brian Lenihan, where she urged him to cut the funding of the Children’s Rights Alliance because it was undermining the special place of the married family in Irish society.

Van Turnhout's experience is documented in the book Brian Lenihan: In Calm and Crisis.

In it, she writes how one woman from “a large organisation” which broadly believes “the family always knows best” berated her on the phone about the organisation’s work, before asking her how she got her name. Van Turnhout explained it was her husband’s name.

“I naively thought that this was a safe answer. She then shouted at me that she now knew where I got my morals from since ‘they all sleep with one another in that awful country’. She then slammed the phone down.”

She says the same woman repeated “her insults about my morals” to Linehan and his advisor. They later told Van Turnhout that the minister stood up and said he was leaving the room and would return in 15 minutes.

“If she was still there, he could continue on the basis she had withdrawn her remarks. If she was not in the room, that was her choice.”

The woman in question is not a member of the Iona Institute, but she is involved in the Pro-Life campaign.

“Iona opposed the affordable childcare scheme. Iona were silent on the Children’s Referendum. Those people who opposed it said the State would be interfering with family life and that vulnerable children, like those living in poverty, would be taken into care,” she recalls.

“I respect their views and their absolute right to hold them, but I when I hear them now calling for more support and investment for children, it’s just too much.”

Never mind the bollocks – what about the asterisks?

Will nobody think of the poor little asterisks?

We’ve all run out of them.

So what did Shane Ross really say to Mattie McGrath when he called him a bollocks in the Dáil canteen?

Fiach Kelly delivered a wonderful account in this newspaper on Friday of the heated encounter between the two erstwhile political companeros, before Government came between them.

Ross, aka Winston Churchtown, was elevated to ministerial greatness after the election while Mattie decided to spurn the delights of power and the Independent Alliance, choosing instead to torment the Minister for Transport from the opposition benches.

Winston is not taking it well.

Hence Thursday’s mini-meltdown near the cash register. Mattie was having lunch at the time with his daughter and his Rural Alliance colleague Michael Collins, when a very riled-up Minister approached and immediately launched into the startled McGrath.

“You’re a bollocks. You’re a fucking bollocks,” is what Winston Churchtown actually said, words which were cleaned up in translation to become “an out and out” bollocks.

Then, as reported, he proceeded to lacerate Mattie for trying to ruin everything he does, liberally throwing around the F-word as he fumed away.

The TD went to square up to the Minister, but Mattie’s daughter was a restraining influence on him. He remained seated.

Winston Churchtown disappeared around the corner towards the food, then reappeared having purchased a bottle of water and set about calling McGrath “a fucking bollocks” again.

It was highly entertaining, by all accounts. Mattie was delighted. And Ross is thoroughly unrepentant.

What is it about bollixes in Irish political discourse?

You could be waiting hours to encounter one and then a whole shower of them arrive.

First Ross losing the rag in the canteen, then his old pal Eamon Dunphy and John Waters having a moment on air during a podcast. What a shower of broadcasters.

Dunphy was sinned against in this particular episode. His wan little plea, “Aah, don’t go,” to his “great friend” and deep thinker of the anti-abortion movement as he stormed out of their interview is touchingly hilarious. What made Waters break was an attempt by Dunphy to get him to define when life begins.

John took umbrage.

“This isn’t a fair interview! You’re a bollocks! You’re a fucking bollocks! You can fuck off, Eamon!”

Deepest apologies for all of the above. Not even a week to the referendum and Ireland is already sliding into a cesspit of profanity and vulgarity.

We should have heeded the warnings.

The floodgates have opened. Watersgate.

Will nobody think of the poor little asterisks?