Miriam Lord: Kenny’s decisiveness is winter’s first casualty

Does Noonan say ‘I told you so’ every time he bumps into the Taoiseach in the corridor?

It must be difficult for the Taoiseach when Michael Noonan is around.

Does his Minister for Finance say, “I told you so” every time they bump into each other in the corridor?

Or does Noonan just grin and say nothing, deftly sliding the smiling silence into Enda’s insecurities?

In the Dáil on Wednesday, winter’s tale of trolley woe commenced in earnest. A couple, both in their 90s, forced to wait hours upon end in the crowded emergency department of Tallaght hospital.

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The man lay on a trolley for 29 hours in intolerable conditions.

“Nobody of any age should be subjected to this inhumanity,” wrote one of the A&E consultants in a letter to the hospital’s chief executive.

“I agree with the consultant concerned that this is a shocking example of dysfunctionality in the system. I agree with that,” said the Taoiseach.

He said he would like to find out who was responsible for leaving a 91-year-old man on a trolley for so long. This shouldn’t be happening.

“The facilities are being provided. The extra staff are also being provided, as is the money but it is still not making the impact that it should,” he explained.

Noonan was not in the chamber when the Taoiseach was condoling with the consultant over the state of affairs in his A&E department while trying to fend off Micheál Martin’s attack on the continuing hospital chaos. Micheál reminded him that two years ago he had promised to take personal charge of the situation.

“And you come in here today and say you’d love to know what’s happening?”

Enda, looking and sounding rather weary, insisted that great strides have been made but the benefits are yet to emerge. It’s hard to know what to do.

‘Shocking cases’

“I am sure that over the next number of weeks other shocking cases will be brought to light,” he sighed, in what sounded like a pre-emptive strike.

Somewhere in the vicinity of Government Buildings, Noonan was probably watching Leaders' Questions on a monitor and shouting at the screen, "I told you to go to the country in November. But you had to listen to that bloody woman from Labour and now look at us."

Government backbenchers – the few who were in the chamber – threw feeble taunts across the floor.

If there was chaos now, it was the Fianna Fáil leader's fault. "You set up the HSE," roared Bernard Durkan.

"They call it Angola, " bellowed Noel Coonan, who considers himself something of a wit.

Enda didn’t look happy.

Housing crisis

And then

Gerry Adams

got up and talked about the housing crisis.

The ongoing public failure of the Fine Gael Minister for Finance and Labour Minister for Environment to come up with an agreed approach to the problem is further denting the Government's carefully crafted pre-election carapace.

Stability versus chaos is a big part of this shiny armour. Adams took a chisel to it and began chipping away.

With any luck, Enda wanly promised, Michael Noonan and Alan Kelly should conclude their discussions by the end of the week.

"Up to 24 Fine Gael Oireachtas members are landlords," announced Gerry, asking why there seems such resistance to rent controls in Fine Gael. "Is this a factor?"

Cue a chorus of outraged squawks from the backbenchers.

"How many houses do you have?" yelled Ray Butler.

Adams continued, “Will the Government deliver rent certainty? Will it be Labour’s way or Fine Gael’s way?”

“Will it be Gerry’s way?” retorted Bernard Durkan.

"How many houses does Deputy Adams have?" repeated Jerry Buttimer.

"He'll be spinning a different story in New York" sniffed Noel Harrington from Cork South West, referring to Gerry's snazzy fundraising dinner in Manhattan tonight, where he's entertaining deep-pocketed supporters of Sinn Féin, many of whom are in the construction and property business.

The Taoiseach retreated to default mode when Micheál Martin made a smart-alecky remark.

“This man’s party destroyed the economy,” Enda declared, gesturing extravagantly towards the smirking Fianna Fáilers.

“Destroyed the country” echoed Harrington.

“Ye’ve been in office for five years. What have ye done?” yelped Willie O’Dea.

“Will the Taoiseach bring in the Army to mind the ATMs?” jeered Micheál Martin.

“You brought in Dad’s Army” shot back Harrington.

The Taoiseach looked on glumly.

Turning the screw

Mick Wallace

turned the screw on the housing shambles.

“How has the Government failed so miserably to deal with the problem?” he asked. “It beggars belief, how poorly ye have dealt with the housing crisis.”

The property developer turned Independent TD for Wexford, said the Government has "literally sold half of the country away."

In the midst of a severe housing shortage, "we sold the best sites in Ireland, through Nama, to investment trusts abroad. We have a cartel of investors, mostly foreign, controlling the rental sector."

A sobering thought. With little sign of much improvement.

The weather is set to turn nasty early in the new year too.

Should Enda have moved in November?