Miriam Lord: Driven round the bend by incessant Ring of Kerry

Danny Healy-Rae’s mobile keeps going off, and Alan Kelly is going off his rocker

Labour leader Alan Kelly has been accused of "doing a Roy Keane" - a reference to the then Ipswich manager's reaction to a journalist's phone ringing during a press conference - after Danny Healy-Rae's phone rang in the Dáil chamber.

 

How to make Alan Kelly’s day.

Creep up behind him and go: “DUHdah doodoo. DUHdah doodoo. DUHdah doodoodoo...”

The Labour leader will be absolutely delighted.

Danny Healy-Rae’s mobile phone keeps going off in the chamber. And it’s doing Alan’s head in.

While other TDs have mastered the art of putting their devices in silent mode, affording this basic courtesy to fellow deputies during Dáil sittings seems beyond Healy-Rae’s capacity. Either that or he doesn’t give a damn. Respecting the national parliament is all well and good, but this pales into insignificance when a constituent, who must be looked after above all else, phones up with a query.

We’re all used to the jingle now: The Ring of Kerry.

(Not to be confused with the original Ring of Kerry, as its celebrated forerunner was known back in 2011 after it emerged that Michael Healy-Rae, then a county councillor, won an RTÉ reality show in 2007 thanks to a tsunami of high-speed dialing to the premium voting line from at least one politician’s office in Leinster House. Some 3,636 calls were made, leaving the Oireachtas to foot the bill of more than €2,600. The winner of Celebrities Go Wild insisted neither he nor his father Jackie, a TD for Kerry at the time, were behind the telephonic pile-on. Healy-Rae jnr, who entered the Dáil in 2011, while maintaining his innocence, opted to pay the bill so he could get on with his new job without the controversy lingering over him. “I don’t owe the money, but there’s nobody else going to come along as far as I can see and say they’re going to pay it,” he said.)

But back to today’s Ring of Kerry, which some people think is quaint because Danny Healy-Rae has an impressively durable vintage Nokia which tootles out a nostalgic old ringtone. This may be why he gets away with it ringing all the time during Dáil business.

Infernal

Alan Kelly isn’t one of them. Yet again, as he asked the Tánaiste about the rising cost of living and the need protect people of fixed incomes and social welfare as winter bills mount, that infernal Nokia interrupted his train of thought.

“Is it ever going to stop, a Ceann Comhairle?” he pleaded.

“Every. Single. Day,” sighed Peeved of Portroe, shaking his head slowly. “Are you ever going to do anything about it? It’s just continuous.”

Not by the looks of things. Seán Ó Fearghaíl, despite Kelly’s frustrated query, seems to have thrown in the towel on the Dáil’s recidivist ringer.

Mick Barry, People Before Profit-Solidarity TD for Cork North Central, was instantly reminded of a famous Corkman with a similar aversion to mobile phones ringing at inappropriate times.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar: A ringer for the taoiseach. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar: A ringer for the taoiseach. Photo: Gareth Chaney/Collins

“Are you doing a Roy Keane now?” he smirked at the Labour leader, who was not in inclined to see the funny side. Keano famously hauled a journalist over the coals during a press conference when his mobile went off twice. “Oh, right. That’s good manners,” he scathingly dripped as the hack tried to explain.

Danny seemed to think it was hilarious, though. It’s a pity Roy wasn’t there. He would have gone through him for a shortcut.

“Who’d want to ring you? Because you’d do nothing for them anyway,” he whooped at Kelly, useless perspex visor tilted upwards like a welder’s mask.

His brother joined in. “That’s your answer. There’s no one ringing you anyway, you do nothing for no one. You’re not doing anything for anyone,” roared Michael from the family pew. “Only here yapping. If you minded your own business you’d be a great man.”

Unfortunately now for Alan Kelly, there’ll probably be a queue of people lining up to phone Danny when they see him on his feet in the Dáil, just to see if he throws another strop.

Sideshow

And when he began his contribution, the Labour leader bemoaned “the sideshow” he had just witnessed between Tánaiste Leo Varadkar (standing in for the Taoiseach, who is in New York) and Sinn Féin’s Housing spokesman, Eoin Ó Broin (standing in for Mary Lou McDonald, who only deals with the boss).

As ever, there was a row. Junior Minister Josepha Madigan took umbrage on her party leader’s behalf when Ó Broin kept interrupting his reply on Government housing policy.

Par for the course, shrugged the Tánaiste. “Don’t be concerned,” he told her. “This is the regular pattern of Sinn Féin. The truth hurts. It really, really hurts. And anytime anyone speaks truth to your party you interrupt, you get aggressive, you get nasty and you get personal...”

Mild-mannered gourmet cook Eoin was highly affronted.

“I am probably the least aggressive deputy in this House, Ceann Comhairle,” he protested, “with the greatest of respect.”

Michael Healy-Rae, sitting across the aisle from the Sinn Féin TD, voiced his agreement.

“You’re sound out!” he assured him.

Leaders’ questions lacked its usual bite because the main man was not present, although there was some confusion as to who that might actually be.

Temperature

When the Taoiseach doesn’t take the main session of the day, the temperature lowers in the chamber. But on Tuesday, many speakers fell into the familiar trap of addressing Tánaiste Leo Varadkar as “Taoiseach”. It’s an easy mistake, given that the Fine Gael leader has a tendency to forget that he isn’t head of Government anymore, even if he is in the frame to take over the big job again next year.

The Ceann Comhairle was mortified when he made the mistake from the Chair.

“The Taoiseach. The Tánaiste. Sure it’s all the same,” comforted Healy-Rae, again.

Micheál Martin’s ears must have been burning at the UN General Assembly.

But the big political development of the day was the return of the Seanad after the summer recess.

Everyone congratulated Labour’s Rebecca Moynihan on her wedding at the weekend and the returning Senators were delighted to be back in their old chamber. They talked about everything under the sun, because that is what they do.

Minister of State Pippa Hackett made an appearance (most people seem to forget that we have a Senator who is a member of the Government with a high-chair at Cabinet) and made a groundbreaking speech about the recently published Irish Times 20 best places to live in Ireland in 2021.

Indeed, what a singular honour for the Midlands. Pippa waxed lyrical and at length about the delights of Tullamore, Ballinakill and Abbeyleix.

Cutting-edge stuff.

Thank God they’re back.

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