Miriam Lord: Gerry’s €30 vino brings an instant hangover
SF chief fluffs lines on pensions and you could see he felt he had been treated very Chablis
It took a moment.
Just the teeniest pause, and then the cork popped.
Everyone piled in. Except Gerry Adams, because he had startled himself and was scrambling inelegantly to retrieve the situation.
A bit like when someone is opening a bottle of bubbly, thinking they’re the bee’s knees, and then it spurts all over the place triggering a mad panic to grab a glass and save the escaping foam.
It was during Leaders’ Questions and the Sinn Féin leader was delivering the usual string of champagne soundbites from his script. He demanded that the Taoiseach reverse a change to the State pension which has resulted in 35,000 people, the majority of them women, receiving reduced payments.
“Do you accept that these people are entitled to full pensions?” he thundered.
“Do you accept that they cannot afford...” And here, he stopped, having suddenly thought of a good example to illustrate what the loss of €30 a week might mean for the pensioners concerned.
“I mean, €30 is a bottle of wine,” proclaimed Gerry loftily, looking over at the government benches, as TDs around the chamber snapped to attention and the first incredulous squeak rose from an alert backbencher.
Dead right, Gerry. The legless pensioners of Ireland deserve the very best.
He looked down immediately to his script, shuffled some papers and mumbled “Eh... or um...y’know, some such little ornamentation for the people in the Cabinet.”
But the cork had popped and deputies gurgled in delighted astonishment. The noise levels rose, higher and higher as they loudly ridiculed Adams for his statement.
“Thirty euro for a bottle of wine?” they guffawed. “Thirty euro?”
“Where do you buy your wine?” wondered Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen.
Noel Rock, the effervescent Fine Gael backbencher, was quick off the mark. “Provosecco!” he shouted. “Tiocfaidh ár lá-de-dah!”
Adams tried to retrieve the situation. “I said, as they heard, what the Cabinet...but...let me...”
A voice inquired: “Was that Cabinet, or cabernet?”
The Ceann Comhairle tried to impose order. “Ah deputies, act responsibly.”
“Drink responsibly,” somebody chortled.
“Well, see, I’m sure the pensioners that are watching the Oireachtas reports see the unity between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael on this issue,” ventured Gerry, in a weak attempt at a fightback.
“He’s sipping his glass of wine during Oireachtas report,” barked Barry Cowen, in what sounded like a rather ungallant reference to the fact that Adams recently turned 69.
It didn’t matter that Adams finally managed to explain that he meant €30 might be a small amount for a member of the Cabinet but it’s a lot for those pensioners who are deprived of it.
Gerry had fluffed his lines badly. He looked deflated. You could see he felt he had been treated very Chablis.
There was no sympathy from Leo Varadkar.
He went straight in with the studs showing, no intention of bottling it.
“Every time I listen to Deputy Adams speak it is just so evident that he doesn’t fully understand the detail of the issue he is raising. It’s just remarkable.
“Every time deputy Adams stands up in this parliament it is so evident that he neither understands the policy issues that the Government is grappling with, nor does he understand his own party’s proposals.”
Again and again, he said, he finds Adams’s “lack of knowledge and understanding” to be “extraordinary”.
Leo’s backbenchers looked admiringly at their leader. There wasn’t a peep out of the nodding Fianna Fáilers, who were smiling.
The Taoiseach, meanwhile, wasn’t finished.
He treated the Sinn Féin leader to a withering finale.
“I suppose it isn’t surprising that he thinks a bottle of wine costs €30. I know the deputy likes to travel first class whenever he can find someone to pay for him. I’m not sure who’s buying his bottles of wine for him, but, eh, it’s some bottle of wine that costs €30.”
Gerry Adams tried to grin, but he looked disgusted.
With all this talk of expensive bottles of wine, we couldn’t help but think of Bertie Ahern, a man who wouldn’t be mad for the vino but has a life-long devotion to pints of Bass.
Way back in the day, when all the dirt about Charlie Haughey’s lavish lifestyle was hitting the headlines, little innocent Bertie was asked about it and he said: “I wouldn’t know a Charvet shirt if I saw one and I never drank the Lynch’s barges.”
You’d have to go to the Falls Road for a decent drop of the Lynch’s barges.
Lay in a few cases
The bosses in the big banks are probably partial to the occasional glass of claret. They would be well advised to lay in a few cases for next week.
When Labour leader Brendan Howlin brought up the issue of the banks’ disgraceful conduct in diddling thousands of people out of their money by wrongly removing their tracker mortgages, the Taoiseach read a carefully worded reply.
It was printed on pages which were Financial Times pink.
Leo didn’t pull his punches.
“The Government believes the behaviour of the banks in relation to removing people from tracker mortgages was scandalous. We also believe the banks have been dragging their feet in solving this problem at a real human cost.”
What he was saying sounded very much like a threat. Although, are the banks bothered? They seem to think, for good reason, that they are untouchable.
The comings weeks will test Leo’s mettle.
The Taoiseach said the victims of the banks’ scandalous actions should have been fully compensated by now, with their trackers restored.
“As a Government, we have lost patience,” he stated.
Because of this, he has decided to unleash Paschal.
“The Minister for Finance has arranged to meet the CEOs of the main banks - Bank of Ireland, AIB, Ulster Bank, PTSB and KBC, on Monday and Wednesday of next week, and he will admonish them for their conduct on behalf of the Government.”
Oh, dear God.
Paschal Donohoe will savage them.
“Hello everyboddie and thank you VERY much for coming....”
He will lull them into a false sense of security, and then he’ll strike.
Paschal didn’t get to where he is today by just being nice.
He is The Admonisher.
Be afraid, bankers. Be very afraid.
Go for it, Paschal.