Miriam Lord: Hot air and rainy days - there’s less weather talk in the Met Office

‘Do you feel wanted this morning,’ Simon asks Mary Lou in one of the weirder moments

The Tánaiste took a swipe at Mary Lou McDonald (above) during Leaders’ Questions, calling out Sinn Féin for showing no interest after the last election when the country needed a government: “At least Fianna Fáil engaged.” File photograph:  Gareth Chaney/Collins

The Tánaiste took a swipe at Mary Lou McDonald (above) during Leaders’ Questions, calling out Sinn Féin for showing no interest after the last election when the country needed a government: “At least Fianna Fáil engaged.” File photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

 

Like the rest of us, the Dáil is obsessed with the weather.

Sure what else would TDs have been talking about after a weekend of high temperatures and blazing sunshine?

Fair-weather friends, rainy-day funds, climate warming, flooding, heatwaves and leprechauns. The Little People got their obligatory mention from Kerry’s Danny Healy-Rae, who cannot talk about global weather issues without bringing them into the debate.

The leader of the Labour Party started the beach-ball rolling. Brendan Howlin was back on his favourite topic these days – the Government’s rainy-day fund. When, if ever, will Paschal Donohoe dip his parsimonious paw into it?

Brendan argued that back in his day, when he was a rather stingy minister for public expenditure and reform in Enda Kenny’s recession coalition, the financial crisis was so severe he hadn’t a few spare bob to address pressing “social needs” in the country.

He outlined the lack of services in the health sector – the waiting lists, the trolley backlogs, the lack of rural doctors, the risk of losing psychiatric services for children and adolescents in the southeast – and said there were many areas which needed investment as all TDs, including Government ones, knew.

Now that the economy “is back on its feet and growing again” it is time to invest in areas such as health and housing, said Brendan. “These services are necessary, not optional, to maintain both our social fabric and a growing economy.”

Why is the Government not using the rainy-day fund to improve public services?

The Tánaiste, standing in for the Taoiseach who was in New York, was surprised to hear the former minister advocating such an approach. “To be honest, I was a little surprised by your argument given your knowledge of what it is like to try to steer a country through a financial crisis,” said Simon Coveney, before adding a little sunshine.

“By the way, I think you did it very well.”

Simon said they had to be sensible and keep money aside in case “we have shocks into the future”.

The fund is worth €500 million.

But we have money set aside under the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, countered Brendan. A whooping “€20 billion of directed and undirected funds”. So break out the rainy-day stash and put it to good use improving society for the people who made sacrifices during the lean years.

He got no change from Simon.

Richard Boyd Barrett got all nostalgic, the way we do when the sun shines, about the good old days. In his case, that would mean the heyday of the water charges protests.

“We don’t need a rainy day fund, we need a sunny day fund,” he informed the Tánaiste. This is because the current heatwave and the accompanying water shortages have exposed “the completely decrepit state of Ireland’s water infrastructure”.

And now Irish Water and the Government is trying to blame householders for the shortages.

Yet there are leaks everywhere. Everywhere.

“There’s a leak on Kildare Street that’s been there for two weeks. Go out and look at it,” he told Coveney. “Two weeks!”

Mind you, it would be a bigger shock to discover that Kildare Street isn’t leaking. Leaks in the vicinity of Leinster House? Hardly a first.

It wasn’t long before the fair weather friends question came up.

Early election

Do Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil want to sunder their deal and really precipitate an early election? They’ve been goading each other about it for weeks now. If they are blundering towards striking a Confidence and Goodbye Agreement, is it because Sinn Féin might prove better partners?

The Tánaiste took a swipe at Mary Lou McDonald during Leaders’ Questions, calling out Sinn Féin for showing no interest after the last election when the country needed a government: “At least Fianna Fáil engaged.”

Whereupon the Fianna Fáil leader gallantly rose to the Sinn Féin leader’s defence.

Micheál Martin thought Simon has been “somewhat lacking in gratitude” to Mary Lou, particularly when there exists “a very strong electoral alliance” between the two parties “as manifested in Sinn Féin voting in its entirety” to help FG’s Anthony Lawlor get a Seanad seat. “It was very noticeable – the most striking electoral alliance so far in the House this year.”

Not to mention the Shinner’s “enthusiastic support” which was “quite revealing also given Sinn Féin’s relationship with the judiciary over the years”.

The Tánaiste reckoned Micheál was deluded due to the heat. “The reality is that Fianna Fáil have voted with Sinn Féin a lot more regularly in this House than Fine Gael has.”

Then deputies from both sides bickered over which of them supported Sinn Féin the most.

When Mary Lou’s turn came, the Tánaiste murmured: “Do you feel wanted this morning?”

“Pardon me?”

So he repeated his query.

“Are you feeling wanted?”

“Am I what?”

The Ceann Comhairle stepped in.

“Are. You. Feeling. Wanted?”

“Kind of,” replied the Sinn Féin leader. “What do they say: the worse thing than people talking about you is people not talking about you.”

Climate change

The weather surfaced again during a debate on the setting-up of the Special Joint Committee on Climate Change. Danny Healy-Rae treated the Dáil to his well known views on the subject. “The climate has changed over the centuries when there were no fossil fuels or when there was a very limited number of cows, which are being blamed now for the change in the climate.”

This committee, he predicts, will be just a talking shop.

It will cost the Government millions to try and change the weather and that money will come from the workers’ pockets, he told the Environment Minister, Denis Naughten. Where else will it come from?

“You’ve no leprechaun, Minister, or if you have I don’t know where he is living or where you are keeping him.”

Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley interjected: “They might have a couple of your fairies, Danny.” Danny is on record as saying he believes fairies are to blame for much of the state of the roads in Kerry.

The leader of the Green Party listened with a pained expression. He very much welcomes the committee.

But Eamon Ryan fears the Government is “itching” for an election, so he issued a passionate plea to Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to stay together for the sake of the climate.

Don’t split up until the committee has done its critical work.

Under European legislation, Ireland has to have a draft national climate and energy plan by the end of the year and it is vital that the committee concludes its work at the end of November.

“It is for that reason I say that this Dáil stays together for another year.”

We can restore Ireland’s international reputation, which is in the dog house, he cried, hastily adding: “I’m sorry for insulting dogs.”

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