Miriam Lord: Elevation of nonsense is the new normal

Thanks to Johnson and his ‘non-papers’ it’s only a matter of time before . . . non-budget leaks

‘After the weekend, the Dáil reluctantly examined the latest gobbets of nothingness hacked up by the British prime minister to avoid saying anything meaningful about his withdrawal intentions.’

‘After the weekend, the Dáil reluctantly examined the latest gobbets of nothingness hacked up by the British prime minister to avoid saying anything meaningful about his withdrawal intentions.’

 

The non-budget leaks should be starting in earnest any minute now.

The non-papers will carry all the relevant points and so will the print editions. As a result of the widespread dissemination of the non-details, next week’s Brexit Budget 2021 will be dismissed as a non-event.

It’ll still be huge.

In these mad days, non means nothing in the fullest sense of everything.

It’s the elevation of nonsense, thanks to Boris Johnson and his tactical Brexit non-strategies. All supposedly dreamed up by Dominic Cummings, the brains of the outfit who apparently models himself on great military strategists like Bismarck and the ancient Chinese General Sun Tzu.

Or is it the guiding influence of great nonsense poets like Edward Lear and Spike Milligan? It’s hard to tell.

The non-papers floated the wholly unacceptable idea of customs posts miles away from the Border on both sides

After the weekend, the Dáil reluctantly examined the latest gobbets of nothingness hacked up by the British prime minister to avoid saying anything meaningful about his withdrawal intentions, probably because they have proved problematic for him throughout his philandering adult life.

In recent days he tried to sidestep questions about “non-papers” which his people opened to the EU task force in strict secrecy only for the contents to mysteriously leak. Among other suggestions, the non-papers floated the wholly unacceptable idea of customs posts miles away from the Border on both sides with a weird class of no-man’s land in between.

By Tuesday, Johnson was dismissing the idea when he had to address them in interviews.

That afternoon during Leaders’ Questions, the Taoiseach welcomed the fact that the PM had “disowned himself” that morning on the radio. An unexpected display of leadership and courage, if it were true.

Somebody had to do it.

But as he was speaking, Leo Varadkar quickly shifted from “disowned” to “distanced”. The PM had distanced himself from the proposal.

Or had he? You can never be sure with Johnson and what he might say at any given time. Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin intimated this when telling Varadkar he needed to be very careful in welcoming everything Johnson said that morning because while he may have been dismissing the non-papers he has already said a lot of things about Ireland and the UK Border in Northern Ireland which are hardly a cause for optimism.

Martin wanted to know everything about the non-paper, since disowned by the British PM as a non non-paper

As nonsense is the new normal, the Taoiseach and the Leader of the Opposition held a discussion about the non-papers and who said what about them and where did they come from and what was in them.

Martin wanted to know everything about the non-paper, since disowned by the British PM as a non non-paper. This was around about the time that Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney was ruling it out as a non-runner.

There was a touch of the old wartime sitcom about the Dáil exchanges. We imagined Leo prefacing his opening reply to Micheál on the non-paper papers in a hammy “Allo Allo” voice while warning Micheál to “Listen carefully, I will say this only once”.

Followed by a conspiratorial, “I am conscious, in answering your question, that I am talking about non-papers that I haven’t seen and I don’t mean that as a double negative, I actually haven’t seen them but I was aware of their existence indeed”.

The possibility of a no-deal Brexit is very worrying. But wasn’t the only “bizarre” or “mad” situation considered in the chamber.

Mattie McGrath wanted to talk about the victimising of “small greyhound owners” by Tourism Ireland and its decision not to promote greyhound racing to tourists.

He began by telling the house that he finds the whole episode confusing. We found it confusing too. Was he talking about the owners of small greyhounds or greyhound owners who are small?

What about the big greyhounds? Or the big owners?

Needless to say, when the Rural Independents are up in arms, Shane Ross is usually somewhere in the picture

But Mattie, whose concerns on behalf of people in the greyhound world were shared by fellow rural independent Michael Healy-Rae and Fianna Fáil TDs John Brassil and Kevin O’Keeffe, meant all people involved in the industry.

“I think this is bizarre,” he told the Taoiseach. “This is a mad decision.”

Needless to say, when the Rural Independents are up in arms, Shane Ross is usually somewhere in the picture. This time, the Minister for Sport is squarely in the frame for this latest assault on rural life.

How could his “interference” in the affairs of Fáilte Ireland be tolerated? Ross aka Winston Churchtown apparently had a quiet word with the organisation about promoting the greyhound industry and this was the result.

“This is blackguarding rural Ireland again,” roared Mattie, calling on the Taoiseach to reverse the decision.

It was like those heady days back in 2010 when the Independent TD for Tipperary was still a member of Fianna Fáil but lost the whip when he refused to vote for a Bill banning stag hunting by dogs. He left the party a few months later, a judicious move because most Fianna Fáil TDs were annihilated in the general election.

The main pressure group agitating against that controversial Wildlife Bill was called Rise (Rural Ireland Says Enough).

In keeping with the fashion of the day, Paul’s departure was a non-split split

The Dáil’s representative for Rise wasn’t in the chamber for the angry response to Tourism Ireland’s decision not to promote greyhound related activities. But then, Paul Murphy only launched his Rise group on Monday having cut ties with the Socialist Party.

In keeping with the fashion of the day, Paul’s departure was a non-split split.

The Taoiseach said neither he nor anyone in the house would condone cruelty towards or mistreatment of animals, which is what promoted the Minister to approach Fáilte Ireland following recent revelations about practices in the greyhound industry.

However, he revealed that he likes nothing better than a good night out at the dogs.

“For my own part I got to Shelbourne Park every Christmas and have a very enjoyable evening. I intend to go again this year.”

“Take Minister Ross with you,” bellowed Mattie. “If you can find him.”

As far as Leo knows, Winston Churchtown asked Fáilte Ireland to consider the matter but the organisation “made the decision for itself”.

Just a routine case of non-influence by an influential Minister when non means nothing in the fullest sense of everything.

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