Miriam Lord: The Dáil's answer to John Wayne overcooks the ham slice, by slice, by slice

Kelly vows to get justice – or at least the Minister for Justice – into the Dáil

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has likened Labour leader Alan Kelly to John Wayne in a Dáil row over the appointment of Supreme Court Judge, Séamus Woulfe. Video: Oireachtas TV

 

There used to be a great song out called John Wayne. It must be nearly 30 years since it was a hit for Irish rockers The Rhythm Kings, but it was a good tune. The irresistible one-line chorus was proper earworm material.

Now, how did it go again?

Ah yes, we have it. We have it now.

“Is it a bird?

Is it a plane?

Oo-oh no….

It’s Alan Kelly! ”

That doesn’t sound right. But we know had AK47 been on the scene when Rocky de Valera wrote John Wayne, he would definitely be the subject of the chorus.

Wednesday’s blast of musical nostalgia was brought on by the Taoiseach’s reaction to Kelly’s persistent badgering and doom-laden threats about a dark day of Dáil reckoning coming for him and his coalition Government.

The Labour leader’s latest bout of gloomy prognosticating is going on for over a fortnight now. He’s been levitating like a fairground fortune-teller over a bad Tarot card because he can’t get a straight answer from the Government on the procedure it followed when appointing our latest Supreme Court Judge, Séamus Woulfe.

It’s all very entertaining, with Alan warning Micheál there is nowhere to hide because he will get to the core of the selection process or lack of selection process, no matter how long it takes.

As proof of his determination, he demurred when the Ceann Comhairle called on him to speak because the Sinn Féin leader was enjoying a good run in the Make Micheál Squirm Over Keeping Schtum stakes.

“I’ll give way to deputy Mary Lou McDonald,” declared Alan as a surprised Mary Lou did a delighted double take and the Ceann Comhairle nearly toppled off his throne.

“De-de-this is very unusual procedure,” fluttered Micheál, slightly unnerved.

Even though he is well used to Kelly’s overcooked ham – all those years leading the party of keen amateur thespian Marc MacSharry are standing to him now – the Tipperary TD’s relentless assertion that he was avoiding questions was clearly annoying the Taoiseach.

After another wave of contributions with menaces from Alan about what he is going to do once he uncovers the truth, Micheál hit back.

“No impersonation of John Wayne is going to faze me, I can tell you that, in terms of how you keep melodramatically suggesting you’re going to deal with people’s lives and all that.”

AK47 looked rather flattered, it must be said. John Wayne, no less.

Although in fairness, Big Al was trying to go for more of a Liam Neeson in Taken vibe.

As this saga of how aware the Minister for Justice (or her predecessor) was of the circumstances around the choice of a judge and what her leader and then taoiseach Leo Varadkar knew and what the Fianna Fáil leader and now Taoiseach didn’t know is rehashed in the House, Alan Kelly repeatedly vows to get justice, or at least to get the Minister for Justice to come into the Dáil to account for her actions.

Mark his words. “Drip, drip, drip. Slice, by slice, by slice.”

That would be the ham. Fairly thick slices, so.

The way it usually goes is that he rises wearily to his feet and fixes Micheál with a serious look before gravely announcing he is going to tell it as it is, call a spade a spade, put the Taoiseach right on a few facts of political life and find out what really happened for the good of the country and parliamentary democracy.

As he said on Tuesday: “Just know this. This will be sorted out one way or the other. We will get to the truth.”

A minister’s gotta do what a minister’s gotta do, like.

Drama

All this drama could have been avoided if the Taoiseach and Minister for Justice Helen McEntee had acceded to the request from the combined forces of the Opposition that she come into the chamber to make a statement on the appointment process and answer questions.

On Tuesday, Micheál was resolutely holding out on behalf of Helen and, presumably, her boss Leo.

Pleas from the Opposition to give up and give in went nowhere. Hadn’t Helen McAbsEntee answered questions at a committee meeting and other places?

On Wednesday morning, the Justice Committee had to issue a statement confirming for the absent-minded Taoiseach and Tánaiste that the Minister had definitely not answered any questions at their gig.

In the meantime, Alan Kelly is practising his Liam Neeson in the mirror in advance of Helen’s long-awaited Dáil appearance

In the Dáil, Opposition deputies kept up the pressure, noisily interrupting as a pained Micheál launched into a meandering reply about how forthcoming he and his Minister have been. They barely noticed his closing remark.

“She is prepared to come into the House tomorrow to make a statement and answer questions on this as well,” said the Taoiseach who, 24 hours earlier, told the Labour leader: “That type of browbeating doesn’t work with me, deputy Kelly. I just want to let you know that.”

His surprise inclusion of Minister McPresEntee caught his tormentors on the hop. They continued to argue with him, this time over the bona fides of his undertaking. Kelly and McDonald suspected a double-cross was brewing.

The Ceann Comhairle was deeply fed up. Did they want the Minister to address the House or not? Seán Ó Feargháil said Micheál Martin had been abundantly clear. “People have been asking the Taoiseach, understandably, would the Minister come in and answer questions” and he agreed that the Business Committee would meet to make arrangements for the Minister to appear.

Ó’Feargháil’s use of the word “understandably” was telling.

Funny business

Mary Lou wasn’t convinced there wouldn’t be some funny business from the Government at the meeting, trying to row back on their request for a full statement and sufficient question time.

“That is precisely what I heard the Taoiseach say and it is precisely what I am proposing to facilitate,” replied the CC.

Alan Kelly was also suspicious.

“Cos I’ve been down this road before with Ministers and I will not stop until I get my questions answered…And I will. We will get there, Taoiseach. Trust me on that. Slice. By slice.”

More ham please!

The committee met later in the afternoon. And there was a major row over the allocation of speaking time with the Opposition thundering that the Government was still trying to “protect” the Minister for Justice.

All will become clear soon enough.

In the meantime, Alan Kelly (not John Wayne) is practising his Liam Neeson in the mirror in advance of Helen’s long-awaited Dáil appearance.

“I want to know who else knew. I want to know what they wanted. If you are looking for sympathy, I can tell you I don’t have shame.

“But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you level with me now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you.

“But if you don’t, I will look for Micheál and Leo, I will find them and I will burst them.”

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