Miriam Lord: It’s nothing personal but . . .

No apologies for Frances Fitzgerald and no women for new ministerial appointments

Frances Fitzgerald – the woman who would be vindicated. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Frances Fitzgerald – the woman who would be vindicated. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

 

People didn’t want to be personal about personable politicians on Nothing Personal Day in the Dáil, but politics is politics.

The Taoiseach was talking Brexit and the tortuous withdrawal negotiations with the UK, but it was nothing personal against the British. He buttered up the neighbours with a little flattery.

“I am sure a country like the United Kingdom, with its proud history, would want to do no less than honour the commitments that it made in black and white and in writing through the course of this year.”

Meanwhile, there is no one more personable than the Minister of State, Pat “RSVP” Breen, who likes nothing better than a nice get-together with his billionaire neighbours who live down the road from him in Co Clare. Or Breen the Unseen, as he was on Tuesday.

Nowhere-to-be-seen Breen had been “unwise” to issue the invite, said Leo, “but I don’t think it is a resigning matter”

Not a sign of the Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection as Opposition TDs took a very dim view of his decision to pass on a dinner invitation from one of the bidders for a lucrative State contract to the minister who would sign off on the deal.

RSVP Pat wasn’t seen in the chamber until teatime, when he came in to vote for the appointment of the man to replace Denis Naughten as minister for communications. Suddenly-Seen Breen was lucky to be still in his job, given that he organised Denis’s dinner in the home of a bidder tendering for a government contract.

Nothing personal, but politicians across the floor were not at all happy over RSVP Pat’s willingness to bring the two men together.

Nowhere-to-be-seen Breen had been “unwise” to issue the invite, said Leo, “but I don’t think it is a resigning matter”.

He always felt Frances Fitzgerald should never have had to resign as minister for trade because of her actions or, to be more precise, her inactions while minister for justice. Time and a tribunal report would vindicate her, he predicted.

Glow of vindication

She was duly vindicated in Judge Peter Charleton’s report. When the Dáil returned, she sat near her old seat radiating that special vindication glow which is unique to politicians who have climbed out of the mire. She joked and laughed with the Taoiseach, who, in turn, praised his former tánaiste to the heavens and demanded that her Opposition tormentors come in and eat their words for the benefit of the official record.

That will not happen. Varadkar’s demand to the Opposition “to do the decent thing” was met with a stony silence.

“There is nothing personal in any of this, but Dáil Éireann holds Ministers to account,” said the Fianna Fáil leader, who has no intention of dancing the vindication dance with Frances.

He accepted the Taoiseach held a view that Frances had been “grievously wronged” but he pointed to the political storm over the then minister “claiming at the time that she had no knowledge of events of which it turned out she had clear knowledge. That was the problem.”

This week, your Government only survives thanks to the votes of a deputy who epitomises crony capitalism himself

He added the political “issues in question were not explicitly addressed by the tribunal”.

Vindicated of Dublin Mid-West bridled. “That’s wrong.”

Micheál explained the nature of politics to Leo. “Most of the people who are baying at the Opposition today accepted last year that the resignation in question was regrettably necessary.” He wanted to put the Opposition’s perspective on the record. “The Opposition lost confidence. This is a political domain.”

The resignation was down to politics, not wrongdoing. It was why the Taoiseach accepted his tánaiste’s resignation while continuing to assert she had done nothing untoward.

Lack of women

When the Dáil moved on to voting on the ministerial appointments, Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary got rather personal when noting “negatively” that it was a special day for the four men who were elevated. No women in the reckoning.

The Sinn Féin leader had to break the “dramatic news” that her party would not be supporting their nominations. “I don’t wish them to take it personally because it is not personally intended,” smiled Mary Lou McDonald.

Nothing personal either from Labour leader, Brendan Howlin, who wouldn’t be supporting the lads either because “this is not a normal government”.

Solidarity TD Mick Barry got very personal about the independent TD Michael Lowry. He declared: “Last week a minister had to resign from your Government because he left himself open to accusations of crony capitalism. This week, your Government only survives thanks to the votes of a deputy who epitomises crony capitalism himself.”

It was nothing personal for another Green Party TD, Eamon Ryan (*). “They are good men” was his view of the appointees. “The only problem is, not one of them is a woman.” He recalled that Olwyn Enright, the wife of new Minister for Education, Joe McHugh, is a former Fine Gael TD.

“The only pity is we can’t have Olwyn Enright today,” he sighed. Little did he know, but the same Olwyn was sitting directly above him in the public gallery with her young children, all of them looking down with pride at a beaming Joe.

* This article has been amended. The original incorrectly attributed the "they are good men" quote to Independent TD, Tommy Broughan, rather than to Green Party TD, Eamon Ryan