Miriam Lord's Week: Donohoe and Ó Broin slug it out in battle of political nerds

Minister for Finance and Sinn Féin’s housing spokesman get all academic over carbon tax

It was a busy week for the Minister for Finance. Paschal Donohoe was in Paris on Thursday for the EU finance ministers monthly Eurogroup meeting.

On Friday, as president of the group, he joined French minister for finance Bruno Le Marie and their German counterpart, Christian Lindner, at a news conference to outline the EU’s current response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Christine Lagarde, head of the European Central Bank, and European Commission vice president Valdis Dombrovskis were also present.

On Wednesday, Paschal was in the Dáil sparring with members of the Rural Independent Group over their calls for a “mini-budget” to help people, especially farmers and those living in rural Ireland, cope with the rising cost of living.

Mattie McGrath told him he hadn’t a clue about what people were going through. “Cromwell wasn’t as bad,” declared a disgusted McGrath.


Donohoe hit back. “How much do your measures cost?”

“You know the answer to that,” retorted Michael Healy-Rae.

After much shouting from across the floor but with no figures forthcoming, Donohoe told them. “Approximately €3 billion.”

That didn’t go down well.

When his turn came to reply, it seems Paschal Donohoe had been busy on Google

Later on Wednesday, tempers were still running high when Sinn Féin brought in a motion to scrap proposed increases in the carbon tax. This led to what might be described as a battle of the political nerds between the Minister for Finance and Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin.

The Sinn Féin TD quoted a paper published by the University of Toronto to bolster his argument that carbon tax does not help reduce carbon emissions.

When his turn came to reply, it seems Paschal Donohoe had been busy on Google, researching academic papers from the same university. He then wondered if Eoin was referring to a paper by Jessica Green, published in 2020.

And he also wondered why Eoin didn’t mention Roger Martin, the dean of the School of Management at the same university, or Danny Harvey, a professor of geography at the same institution. They didn’t reach the same conclusion in the “meta-paper” cited by Eoin.

“And Deputy Ó Broin did not, I’m sure, consider a paper by Tracy Snoddon and Trevor Tombe” that stated carbon tax was an efficient tool to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Works also published by the University of Toronto.

Sadly, Eoin wasn’t in the chamber to mount his rebuttal, which would have been robust.

Meanwhile, Paschal finished the day with a quick canvass in the Cabra area of his Dublin Central constituency.

He knocked on one door and a couple answered. “Come in, we’ve somebody we know you would love to meet,” they said, ushering him inside and introducing him to a lifesize cutout of Tottenham Hotspur player Harry Kane.

Spurs supporter Paschal was overjoyed.

Dáil thoroughbreds

Fianna Fáil backbencher James O’Connor arrived for duty in Dublin this week with quite the spring in his step.

O’Connor, who is the youngest TD in the Dáil, lives on his family’s mixed dairy farm in east Cork, where his parents also breed thoroughbred horses for the National Hunt. They aren’t in the big league but have had some point-to-point winners over the years.

Last weekend their five-year-old mare Bombay Sapphire ran her maiden race at the Red Mills Day in Gowran Park. The bookies didn’t rate her, installing trainer Willie Mullins’s Walk in the Brise as 11/10 favourite. But James tells us the family had high hopes for their runner, which is trained locally by Ken Butts, even though they knew Mullins had a seriously good horse in the race.

The horrendous weather nearly put paid to the enterprise. “It was the last race, and the ground was fairly wet, so we still weren’t sure an hour before the race whether she was actually going to run or not.”

Despite the heavy going, the mare made a spectacular debut, defying the odds and beating the hot favourite into second place. It was a crowded field in the Ronan Lawlor Memorial Bumper. Runners included a mare owned by singer Ronán Tynan called Whose a Diva, which finished unplaced.

“It was lovely for the family, a brilliant day,” said the 24-year-old TD, who was thrilled for his parents, Barry and Catherine.

Those Fianna Fáilers who fancy a flutter were raging they missed out

The word was already out among his Fianna Fáil colleagues when he returned to the Dáil. They weren’t so much interested in the horse as they were in how much money James had on it. This was because Bombay Sapphire was priced on the morning of the race at a whopping 50-1 before going to post in Gowran Park at a very handsome 28-1.

Even the Taoiseach, at Wednesday night’s Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting, congratulated O’Connor on his racing success. It might explain why young O’Connor was ambushed by a bunch of colleagues in the Dáil bar after the meeting and dragooned into buying a very large round of drinks.

So how much did he have on the horse?

James didn’t go into detail. “I had a few bob on her all right, only for the luck.”

Those Fianna Fáilers who fancy a flutter were raging they missed out, not least because word went around that another politician in Leinster House also made a tidy sum on the O’Connor mare.

It seems Green Party Minister of State Pippa Hackett, an organic farmer and thoroughbred horse breeder who is an excellent judge of form, also backed the right horse.

Wooden hearts

On Wednesday afternoon, Minister for Sport Jack Chambers and Seanad spokesman on sport Shane Cassells made a video to wish Ireland’s cricketers the best of luck in their World Cup qualifying match against the UAE in Oman.

The short video, which was shot by Fianna Fáil, features excruciating lighthearted banter between the two lads. The opening scene sees a mystified Shane, in shirt sleeves and wearing an Ireland scarf, holding out a cricket bat and saying: “Jack, this ain’t a hurl!”

Inhabiting the role.

And Jack, who has thrown caution to the wind and removed his tie, drawls: “Ah now Shane, did you not know we are playing UAE in the morning. We qualified for the T20 World Cup only in the last number of days.” He is holding a tennis ball in one hand while trying to say his lines and move his arms.

It’s proving a bit of a struggle.

“We play cricket?” cries an incredulous Shane, hamming it up something terrible.

“It’s a cricket bat,” mumbles Jack, half-heartedly pointing at it.

Then they walk towards the camera. Shane does all the talking, sending “real congratulations to the lads for qualifying for the seventh consecutive time for T20 finals”. He rabbits on for a bit as chief whip Chambers ambles along silently beside him and then he says: “Jack, maybe me and you should have a go as well.”

Channelling his inner Cumberbatch, Chambers squeaks “Will he be able to hit it?” before timidly tossing the tennis ball towards his party colleague, who smashes it towards the entrance to Government Buildings and almost takes the head off Leo Varadkar who has just emerged on the steps with some visiting dignitaries.

“A few more inches to the left and I would have guaranteed the full term in office for Micheál Martin,” joked Shane afterwards.

The video went out on social media, with one viewer commenting that Jack Chambers was more wooden than the cricket bat

He had borrowed the cricket bat from former Irish women’s cricket captain Heather Whelan and got some strange looks from colleagues as he walked around Leinster House with it.

“This party has gone to hell,” quipped Cork’s Michael Moynihan when he encountered Shane (steeped in Meath GAA; his uncle Joe Cassells captained the All-Ireland winning side in 1988) strolling along the corridor swinging his bat.

The video went out on social media, with one viewer commenting that Jack Chambers was more wooden than the cricket bat.

Later that night, to round off an action-packed day, the Minister of State visited Coolmine Rugby Club, which recently received a large sports grant from his department. He went for a run-out with the under-23 team, gathering in a long pass and offloading it with what may have been a forward pass.

On this occasion, Jack didn’t take off his tie. He didn’t even remove his coat, but fair play for managing to stay upright and run on the soft turf in his leather work shoes long enough to get the video clip for Twitter.

The following morning in the Dáil, Joe Flaherty, the Fianna TD for Longford Westmeath, gave his verdict on the Minister’s rugby skills.

“Don’t think you’re going to be any threat to Johnny Sexton or Joey Carbery.”