Miriam Lord: Séamus the Dog beats Mary Lou to the hard questions

Puppet pooch might have had more luck grilling Taoiseach about Gravy Stockbrokers

Some great questions to the Taoiseach on Wednesday.

This was the best: “What do politicians play in the park?”

Micheál Martin was stumped.

“Ball Éireann!”


Here’s another: “Taoiseach, can you commit to ensuring that the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel will work to expedite the senior executive accountability regime in the Department of Finance?”

And, for the sake of clarity, Jennifer Carroll MacNeill was not talking about rushing in a law to bring senior executives in the Department of Finance to heel.

She was referring to the SEAR legislation which should have been introduced years ago and is designed to soften the cough of cocky bankers and financiers who think they can act the maggot with impunity because their companies will carry the can for their individual transgressions.

Anyway, Micheál promised that the legislation is nearly ready and will be brought forward as soon as possible.

“No stone will be left unturned” by his administration in strengthening laws aimed at making corporate big-shots personally accountable for their own dodgy deals.

Yes, it is true to say that not all questions to the Taoiseach were scintillating.

But this one was an absolute zinger.

“And you are...? Who are you?”


That’s the kind of question you’d half expect Mary Lou McDonald to ask dismissively as she peers over her glasses in a disapproving manner at Micheál. But all the best questions on the day were asked by Séamus the Dog on RTÉ’s Home School Hub when the Taoiseach dropped by for a chat.

The Sinn Féin leader asked about Gravy Stockbrokers instead, which was fair enough. We can’t have enough questions about Gravy Stockbrokers these days, but only if they are posed by entities not associated with or hired by the aforementioned firm.

Because in light of recent revelations you wouldn’t be inclined to trust it now as far as you could throw it. It’s a terrible situation for all the honest people working there who have had their professional reputation besmirched by a privileged group of in-house wide boys.

“Will you join me, Taoiseach, in stating very clearly that Davy bringing in a third party to carry out an investigation into these matters is wholly unacceptable, wholly insufficient, and that it ought to be the Central Bank that sets the terms for such an investigation and oversees it?” asked the Sinn Féin leader.

Many TDs echoed her point, unhappy at the idea it may not be possible to pursue criminal prosecutions against unscrupulous individuals carving up lucrative deals for themselves by taking advantage of clients who have already paid through the nose for their much-vaunted services.

At one stage Mary Lou’s colleague Martin Kenny dropped the F-word: “fraud”.

The Taoiseach had no problem going along with requests for the Government to throw every book in its possession at the swaggering untouchables. But he didn’t want to say too much in case it prejudices any future actions.

But back to Séamus the Dog’s marvellous question.

“And you are...? Who are you?”

Micheál did a double take. He’s not usually stuck for words. Quite the opposite, which can be tough going sometimes.

“I don’t know. I’m still trying to find out,” he stuttered. “But they say I’m Micheál Martin. I’m the Taoiseach, in charge of the Government and all of that.”


Séamus wanted to know what animal would he like to be and why?

“I think an elephant,” Micheál replied. “Elephants have great memories, and I need a good memory.”

No he doesn’t.

Mary Lou can remember everything so she can remind him about stuff he would prefer to forget.

As to who he is, she continued her efforts to identify him with his party’s Celtic Tiger excesses while working hard to hitch today’s Fianna Fáil to the Davy gravy train.

“The toxic culture that brought this country to its knees a decade ago, it seems, is truly alive and well. And people now ask themselves, correctly, are we back to the beginning? Here we go again,” she wailed.

Mary Lou declared that anyone who imagines the “toxic culture of acquiescence in all that from Fianna Fáil and successive governments” is a thing of the past will think otherwise after listening to the Taoiseach’s response to her questions on Davy scandal.

Is there any wonder there was foot-dragging on Central Bank calls for legislation to hold senior executives to account? “And it seems now,” she insinuated, “only when the pressure comes on you, Taoiseach, will you concede that this is necessary.”

Micheál wasn’t going to take that lying down.

Mary Lou might be gung-ho to accuse other parties of having questionable big business links, but what about Sinn Féin’s unwillingness to answer questions about its own financial culture? He reminded the leader of the country’s “wealthiest political party” that it accepted a €4 million donation into its accounts in the North when the money was bequeathed to Sinn Féin in the Republic.

“Now that was a shady enough transaction to make even a stockbroker blush.”

Accountability regime

Irritated by the attempts to tie in his party to the Davy scam, the Taoiseach stressed he has been in office for just nine months and the new accountability regime, as set out in his Programme for Government, is almost ready.

The non-appearance of the legislation in the last few years can hardly be pinned on Fianna Fáil, as the party was in the political wilderness for a decade before last June.

Micheál was on a roll as he continued with his theme of Let She Who Is Without Sin Cast the First Stone.

If Mary Lou McDonald wants to talk about schmoozing big business, she should start closer to home.

“There’s only one party here now at this stage that travels the world cosying up to high finance and big construction companies, raising funding and so on. You’re eager to brand other parties in relation to this,” he fumed.

"Jeeesus," sighed Mary Lou. "The bottom line is this: you do cosy up in the United States and elsewhere to high finance when it suits you, and you sell a different story there and tell a different story there."

“Ding Dong! The time is up – wrap it up now,” harrumphed Sinn Féin’s whip, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn.

It was better when the questions were coming from Séamus the Dog.