Dáil Sketch: Questions about everything except the long break

Seán Fleming compares Alex White to ventriloquist’s dummy after prepared reply

 Alex White: deputised for Tánaiste Joan  Burton at Opposition Leaders’ Questions. Photograph: Alan Betson

Alex White: deputised for Tánaiste Joan Burton at Opposition Leaders’ Questions. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Government and Opposition took exception to the line of questioning at a heated Opposition Leaders’ Questions.

The chamber came to life, despite the close-to-comatose atmosphere generated by the debate since Tuesday on the Government’s spring statement. Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Alex White was deputising for Tánaiste Joan Burton. He was asked by Fianna Fáil’s Seán Fleming if the Government found the banks’ refusal to reduce mortgage interest rates acceptable. White read from a prepared brief, emphasising, among other things, that Minister for Finance Michael Noonan had no statutory role in the matter. Fleming claimed that White sounded like “a ventriloquist’s dummy”.

White repeated the Minister had no statutory power to reduce rates. “If I am wrong in that, maybe the deputy might correct me,” he said.

The Minister putting a question to the TD questioning him was too much for Fleming. He jumped to his feet and declared: “The Minister has directed a question to me.”

Leas Cheann Comhairle Michael Kitt said the Minister should be allowed to answer Fleming’s initial question.

“If the Minister will withdraw his question, I will sit down,” said Fleming.

As the noisy exchanges continued, Kitt adjourned the House for five minutes.

White was later upset by a question from Sinn Féin’s Peadar Tóibín on Siteserv. Tóibín wanted to know if any Cabinet members were aware of any Siteserv shareholder with access to IBRC information at the time of the sale.The potentially explosive nature of the question angered White. He said he was not aware of any such person, adding that the manner in which the question was posed was the same as making unfounded allegations.

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Clare DalyFine Gael

This prompted Fine Gael’s Dinny McGinley to look behind him and stare into party colleague Bernard Durkan’s eyes. That did not last long.

Daly then targeted Labour, noting bus workers would be striking “on May Day, international workers’ day, against a decision made by a Government made up of the party founded by James Connolly to defend workers’ rights”. Daly told the Minister that Connolly would turn in his grave the next time Labour showed up at a memorial service.

Soon it was back to the spring statement debate, which came to a merciful end before the Dáil began its bank holiday break, stretching to next Wednesday. There were no questions asked about that.