Miriam Lord: Kenny survives motion of no consequence
The Fennelly report was quickly ditched by all speakers in favour of election speeches
Taoiseach Enda Kenny: Confidence? No confidence? Actually, it was a motion of no consequence. And everyone in Leinster House knew it. Photograph: Eric Luke
A day lost discussing a spelling error. It took an English teacher to recognise it.
The Dáil returned from its lengthy summer break to debate a motion of confidence in the Taoiseach.
This was tabled by the Government to trump the Opposition’s original one of no confidence.
Confidence? No confidence? Actually, it was a motion of no consequence. And everyone in Leinster House knew it.
Carried so, with bells on.
Which is why the meat of the matter - the Fennelly report - was quickly ditched by speakers on all sides in favour of election speeches.
Independent TD for Dublin Central Maureen O’Sullivan summed it up: “I find it absolutely bizarre, and I find it out of touch with the reality that I know, that this is the first topic in the Dáil after the summer recess.”
She believed the scheduling of the vote was “misplaced and mistimed” as the electorate would have a chance in a few months’ time to pronounce confidence or otherwise.
She asked: “Why is the work of the Dáil, the normal Tuesday business, being diverted, cancelled, delayed? It’s not an emergency.”
She listed some areas where real emergencies are in full spate, such as the homeless crisis in Dublin and the plight of 1,500 children living in emergency accommodation.
“Now, whether Commissioner Callinan was pushed or shoved or encouraged or went of his own volition, I have to ask myself: ‘What difference does that make to the real issues taking up the lives of the people whom I represent and other people represent here?’”
Across the floor, Simon Coveney gave her an approving glance. “I have to say, that’s the most sensible contribution we’ve had so far.”
But he would say that, wouldn’t he?
The judge concluded Enda had “no intention” of pressurising Martin Callinan into stepping down, even if a midnight visit to his home from the secretary general of the Department of Justice bearing a grim message from the Taoiseach would have left the commissioner with no option but to hand in his pips.
Enda insists the man retired – which technically is correct – while choosing to ignore the unmistakable imprint of his own boot on the commissioner’s backside.
But, technically, the Taoiseach and his Government are in the clear.
He laid out the facts as we know them. Only the most partisan supporters would, he said, believe the Taoiseach’s spin about a saga he had “steadfastly refused” to answer questions about for 18 months.
As Micheál Martin spoke of Kenny’s “dishonesty” in describing his part in the commissioner’s exit, the Taoiseach looked affronted and hurt from behind Fennelly’s fig leaf.
The report has been “buried in a political snow job in order to protect an arrogant Taoiseach and Government incapable of admitting error” thundered Martin; and “it appropriately bookends his Government’s term”.
“It started by ignoring Moriarty and will end by ignoring Fennelly,” he said.
The Sinn Féin leader took a similar line. He pointed out, as many Opposition speakers did, that the party wouldn’t have complained had the Coalition given Callinan the heave.
It was just the manner in which it was delivered.
“A classical case of media management” was Gerry Adams’s authoritative verdict, spoken by the leader of a party that knows a thing or two about that particular art. He went on to call for a general election.
Government backbenchers chortled and Enda smiled back with a threatening “don’t tempt me” look at the Sinn Féin contingent, currently experiencing a reversal in the opinion polls.
But Gerry didn’t dwell too long on Fennelly. Like Micheál he was soon in general election mode, attacking the Government’s record.
That didn’t discommode the Coalition, only too happy to talk themselves up.
Circling the wagonsJoan Burton
“Circling the wagons,” harrumphed Róisín Shortall.
Meanwhile, Alan Shatter listened to the Taoiseach absolve himself of any involvement in the sacktirement of a Garda commissioner.
The former minister for justice is on record saying that Enda’s version of events is “fantasy”.
Shatter sat through the speech then left the chamber immediately, showing a speedy turn of foot.
Sonia O’Sullivan will have been impressed. Ireland’s greatest female athlete was in the visitors’ gallery as guest of Minister for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan.
She is heading a project to attract hundreds of US runners to the Dublin marathon.
Afterwards, she told us she found the proceedings very interesting and entertaining.
As the day progressed, Government speakers roundly congratulated the Coalition on its achievements. Michael Ring nearly took the roof off as he pilloried Fianna Fáil’s record, “the troika coming into this country under your care” and with the centenary of 1916 almost upon us.
“And you,” he bellowed at Martin. “You, the cheek of you to even open your mouth . . .”
Shatter didn’t open his mouth either, to the disappointment of many.
And the Government won its motion of no consequence by a mile.