Ceann Comhairle exasperated as Kenny fails to see the bigger picture


The Ceann Comhairle was not prepared to give his imprimatur to a debate on freedom of expression and the merits or otherwise of the Cowen portraits

THAT INFAMOUS portrait of the Taoiseach was considered in the Dáil yesterday by the practitioners of the black art of politics.

Enda Kenny was unhappy with the “grovelling, unreserved apology” issued by RTÉ for its use of “a piece of political satire”.

He argued that Brian Cowen was well aware of what happened in political life when it came to satire.

“This is a restriction on freedom of expression,” thundered the Fine Gael leader.

Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue was not prepared to give his imprimatur to a debate on the merits, or otherwise, of artistic expression.

“Deputy Kenny will have to find another way to raise that,” he said. “It is not in order now.”

Kenny persisted.

“A detective garda was assigned to go to a radio station . . . to get e-mails about this,” he said.

O’Donoghue had no interest in hearing the Fine Gael leader’s views on the Garda search for the putative Picasso.

“I am not going into that business now,” he said.

He called on the Tánaiste, Mary Coughlan, to answer a question on the Defamation Bill.

The proceedings lapsed into incoherence as everybody spoke at once.

Kenny wanted to concentrate on the RTÉ apology, while Coughlan spoke about the Defamation Bill.

O’Donoghue’s words and body language showed he was in no mood to allow the Fine Gael leader any parliamentary artistic licence.

“Deputy Kenny will have to resume his seat because I am not going into that nonsense at all,” he said.

“The deputy should stop it. That is for the Dandy or such like.”

Kenny suggested a scenario whereby the Government had leaned on RTÉ.

“Was the Government press secretary in contact with RTÉ?” he asked.

Labour’s Joan Burton said that while she sympathised with the Taoiseach and his family, the public had noticed that it took the gardaí six months to go into Anglo Irish Bank.

“That is all I will say on that,” she added.

Her party colleague, Liz McManus, was less restrained.

In a quest for levity in these dark times, she expressed the hope that there would be some practical jokes on April 1st.

“Since they normally add to the gaiety of the nation, which we need, I hope the media might take the opportunity to tell us about them,” she added.

Presumably, by April 7th, the smile will be well and truly wiped off our faces.

McManus then referred to the Taoiseach’s portrait, but O’Donoghue had enough of parliamentary art criticism.

“The deputy is back to the same old game . . . She should not mind that old stuff,” he said in exasperated tones.

The Taoiseach, meanwhile, can rest assured that, in the fullness of time, the artistic world will make restitution.

When he retires from politics his portrait will hang in Leinster House with those of other former taoisigh.

The word is that he plans to pose fully clothed.