Miriam Lord: Power couples locked in a battle for control of the ecosphere

Green soap forgotten as spirit of Cromwell evoked in Dáil

Thomas Byrne, TD for Meath East, was disgusted. It’s bad enough to be compared to Cromwell in Dáil Éireann, but to make such an accusation to “someone born and reared in Drogheda” is particularly “outrageous”, he howled. Photograph:  Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Thomas Byrne, TD for Meath East, was disgusted. It’s bad enough to be compared to Cromwell in Dáil Éireann, but to make such an accusation to “someone born and reared in Drogheda” is particularly “outrageous”, he howled. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

 

Unfortunately the Dáil sat on Wednesday, forcing political observers to drag themselves away from Eat Yer Greens, the political soap opera providing excellent entertainment in these depressingly dreary times.

Eat Yer Greens. Not a bad title for a rip-roaring saga about a junior Government party trying to devour itself in public. It is the story of two ambitious new families on the eco-block: the Costello-Chus and the Duffy-Martins and their clashes with venerable old family the Ryan-Greens. Vincent the P Martin, Senator and amateur vigneron, plays a supporting role.

The power couples (Lord Mayor of Dublin Hazel Chu and Patrick Costello TD; Minister Catherine Martin and Francis Noel Duffy TD) are locked in a battle with the Ryan-Greens for control of the ecosphere.

The latest plot twist saw Lord Mayor Chu announce she is running for election to the Seanad against the wishes of patriarch Eamon Ryan and his old-school Greens.

Emotions are running high and when the credits rolled on Wednesday morning’s episode Hazel was holding forth from the bandstand in St Stephen’s Green and declaring the Costello-Chus would never want to fall out with the Ryan-Greens, if at all possible. And she will be running as an Independent candidate.

But why go to war over a seat in the Seanad she cannot win? Why did deputy leader Catherine of the Duffy-Martins nominate the lord mayor to run when she had to be aware of party leader Ryan’s opposition to the move?

Huge cliffhanger.

While everyone in Leinster House couldn’t wait to know what will happen next, the small matter of a Dáil sitting got in the way. However –spoiler alert – word got out of possible ructions at the parliamentary party meeting later in the evening with supporters of the Ryan-Greens threatening to get heavy with the Costello-Chus and the Duffy-Martins for disrespecting them.

But this storyline was deferred until a later date, leaving passions to simmer. Perhaps matters will come to a head at the legendary Anti-Oil Barons Ball with the two families duking it out over the canapés before somebody gets pushed into the swimming pool. A new way for the Greens to wash their dirty linen, if nothing else.

Some diversion

Still, even if the latest instalment of Eat Yer Greens was a bit of a damp squib, at least it provided some diversion from the usual Wednesday afternoon speculation about what Marc MacSharry would spontaneously combust over at the Fianna Fáil parliamentary meeting before leaking uncontrollably in lurid soundbites to waiting journalists.

At their virtual moan-ins, members of the two main Government parties echoed the view made strongly in the Dáil by the majority of Opposition speakers that the lockdown has gone on too long and the Government must move to ease the situation for the long-suffering public.

Independent TDs Mattie McGrath and Michael McNamara got very passionate about the issue during statements in advance of the EU summit, although it was late in the day when they got a chance to speak and they had to direct their remarks to Minister of State for Europe Thomas Byrne instead of the Taoiseach.

Mattie was disappointed that Micheál Martin wasn’t around, but not surprised. “We need to take leadership in this debate. We have had no leadership whatsoever. We need to stand up and speak up,” he wailed, decrying the Government’s efforts to secure more from the EU recovery funds.

As for the 200 day lockdown? “It’s penal.” The sort to thing Cromwell would do.

Medical experts

“The people are weary, frustrated, angry and beyond boiling point with the ineptitude and the messages every night from. . . ” he began, becoming very exercised as he attempted to list some of the medical experts now living in our heads.

“Mr De Gascoigne, Mr Stan Ronan. eh, Ronan, eh Ronan, em, the other fella Ronan, I can’t even think of his name but they’re household names now. All the people rolling-out the reasons why through RTÉ. The media propaganda to frighten the people. That’s what you’re doing, frightening the people.”

The Government is treating the public shamefully with the same “To Hell or To Connacht” attitude that was here during Cromwell’s time.

“Go to Europe, get our fair share of the vaccines and get our fair share of what we need from Europe” he roared. “I’m calling now for an end to this lockdown. It’s terrorising our people and let the people live.”

Folley dat, you might say, except that Michael McNamara from Clare, who increasingly exists in a state of righteous indignation, was more than up to the job.

He wanted to know about a EU vaccine passport, because Irish people are being “criminalised” now for leaving the country. Not many people know this, but Michael is a barrister.

“Last year, people in Ireland believed they were prevented from leaving the country by guidelines, but they were not. In the case of social welfare recipients, they particularly were penalised. There was a restriction to the right of freedom of movement and that restriction was not pursuant to the law as is required by European law and so it failed at the first hurdle without ever looking at the proportionality of the matter.”

Rest his case

But he didn’t rest his case there, bringing in the Scottish supreme court’s recent ruling that closing places of worship is contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights and going on to people’s right to exercise freedom of movement.

“The Taoiseach of this State said on the radio that we live in a liberal democracy. Now, either he doesn’t know what a liberal democracy is or the man is deluded. I suspect it’s the latter,” he thundered.

Micheál Martin may have promised to govern as “a republican” when he became Taoiseach but which republican tradition did he mean?

“There are many republican traditions, one of which is the tradition of Oliver Cromwell, ” continued McNamara, helpfully suggesting the Taoiseach and his Government are following this model before turning his attention to Junior Minister Byrne.

“As somebody coming from Drogheda you will be quite well aware of what the republican tradition of Oliver Cromwell is all about.”

“Hear, hear,” cried Mattie.

Thomas Byrne, TD for Meath East, was disgusted. It’s bad enough to be compared to Cromwell in Dáil Éireann, but to make such an accusation to “someone born and reared in Drogheda” is particularly “outrageous”, he howled.

“The man is revered across Britain,” remarked McNamara, which is neither here nor there.

Thomas nearly had a seizure. “He is revered in Britain; he is certainly not revered in Drogheda and east Meath, I can tell you that much.”

“He is also not revered in Clare,” came the pointless riposte.

The Meathman – and proud Fianna Fáiler – was furious.

“In fact, the Byrnes, our Byrnes, were moved from Wicklow to Mayo, actually, because of Cromwell. So don’t give me that. I think it’s outrageous. Outrageous.”

McNamara had to have the last word.

“But true. It hurts sometimes.”

At which point Byrne, wisely, gave up.

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