Micheál decided not to treat the chamber to a festive warble on his last Dáil appearance of 2021.
Mary Lou was scarlet for him.
Understandably, with the end in sight, he was in good spirits. But he had no intention of losing the run of himself either.
“I won’t take off Chris de Burgh,” promised the Taoiseach.
Aah, go on. It’s Christmas.
He was spoilt for choice. But what particular song was on Micheál’s mind before his final Leaders’ Questions of the year?
Patricia the Asset Stripper?
A Corkman Came Travelling?
High on Boiled Eggs?
The Taoiseach didn’t say, but there could be only one Chris de Burgh tune worth crooning under the circumstances, for sitting across the floor from him was a Sinn Féin vision in crimson.
What a way to round off the session. Micheál serenading Mary Lou across a crowded chamber: his Lady in Red.
We’ll just leave that image there, so as not to ruin the Christmas entirely.
This was all the Ceann Comhairle’s fault. Seán Ó Fearghail was so desperate for some seasonal cheer he wondered, as he called on the Sinn Féin leader, “Are you going to inject some Christmas spirit?”
If he was looking for a dollop of yuletide merriment he can’t be faulted for turning to that party’s president for a dig out because when it comes to the Christmas craic, Sinn Féin is an absolute hoot. And if it’s good enough for Merry Gerry, her predecessor, then it’s good enough for Mary Lou.
Perhaps he was hoping she might delight the Dáil with another little number from Gerry’s IRA handbook, sorry, songbook.
Then Eoin Ó Broin could apologise afterwards for her poor judgement, swiftly followed by Matt Carthy and David Cullinane taking the apology back, followed by Carthy apologising for his apology but still not taking it back.
Wisely, Mary Lou left the dodgy singing to former deputy Adams but, in an effort to help the chair, she pointed out that she made an effort on the sartorial front.
“I dressed for the occasion in red, a Ceann Comhairle,” she replied. “I think it would be a bit much to don the beard and the hat, so I left it.”
Whereupon Micheál remarked bashfully about not doing a reprise of Chris de Burgh’s hit song, the one which became synonymous with the late Princess Diana.
“Although I might get a more polite response from An Taoiseach if I was attired in that manner,” she added, long of the view that she never gets a proper answer to her questions during their weekly heckle sessions.
Mary Lou looked very glam in her scarlet satin jacket with matching scarlet skirt and camisole. All dressed up, but had she anywhere to go? Her Sinn Féin colleagues in the chamber on Tuesday seemed in great form too, maybe they were going to enjoy some Covid restricted acceptable socialising later in the evening?
Best not to tell fun-lovin’ Crimbo party animal Gerry though. He’d probably be the one roaring “Shots! Shots! Shots!” at his former charges between rounds and dropping Jägerbombs into their pints, for the laughs.
The Taoiseach is away in Brussels on EU business for the next while so he got his greetings in early, wishing Opposition deputies and Leinster House staff a Happy Christmas and thanking the Ceann Comhairle for his tolerance and patience.
“I hope it can last another session.”
Mary Lou also extended compliments of the season to one and all before launching into the vexed question of booster shots and how quickly they can be jabbed into as many arms as possible before Christmas. The Government hasn’t been fast enough with the rollout, she contended, telling the Taoiseach his urgency has come very late in the day. “We needed the ‘all hands on deck’ approach two months ago.”
Furthermore, she said, “the slower number of boosters administered in this third round of vaccinations has nothing to do with a public lack of willingness to come forward” and all to do with “operational” issues.
“We are a highly vaccinated population,” she reminded Micheál as we yearned for those less complicated days when politicians talked of a “highly educated” population or a “highly progressive population”.
The Taoiseach is among the highly vaccinated. “I took Moderna myself on Friday. I waited in a queue, in a line. The mood was great. People talked to each other. Lots and lots of people are waiting in line and happy to get the booster vaccine.”
Away from Covid, Mattie McGrath pleaded for funds to complete the refurbishment of South Tipperary General Hospital. He said the Taoiseach recently visited the hospital and met management. The building is three quarters finished and he was quoted at the time as saying he couldn’t understand how the job wasn’t done as it was “low hanging fruit”.
Mattie kept up the fruit theme.
“Whether it be apples, pears or oranges – I hope it’s not bananas – we want this fruit. And it has to be delivered for the management there, the very hardworking staff and to the patients. . . Why don’t you give them the low hanging fruit?”
Micheál, a great man for the fruit, was concerned that Mattie didn’t appear to have much time for bananas.
“Can I just say, bananas are very good for you and you should eat one a day,” he told an unimpressed McGrath.
“They repeat on you,” he responded.
“But they contain plenty of potassium.”
The Taoiseach assured him that the department and the HSE was actively looking into providing extra capacity. And he finished with some parting advice for the Independent TD for Tipperary.
“Anyway, you should not forget the odd banana in future.”