Dáil Sketch: Selling silver not enough to tarnish prospect of a week off

Labour’s Michael McNamara votes against Government motion on Aer Lingus sale

Michael McNamara said he was not prepared “to gamble with what I believe is the key to the economic development of all of this State.” Photograph: Eric Luke/ THE IRISH TIMES

Michael McNamara said he was not prepared “to gamble with what I believe is the key to the economic development of all of this State.” Photograph: Eric Luke/ THE IRISH TIMES

 

The decision was finally made to sell off some of the family silver in the Dáil yesterday.

It was removed from the State’s sideboard amid bitter exchanges and recrimination among the Leinster House political family.

One family member expected to support the sale could not bring himself to do so.

Clare Labour TD Michael McNamara voted against the Government motion to sell its Aer Lingus share.

Government and Opposition traded insults over the two-day debate and, then, yesterday evening, it was time for the vote.

McNamara took his place next to former leader Eamon Gilmore and quickly pressed the No button. He later walked with the Opposition into the Níl lobby when Sinn Féin’s Dessie Ellis called a walk-through vote.

Comfortable majority

Earlier, McNamara had confirmed rumours sweeping Leinster House that he would oppose the motion.

Addressing Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe across the chamber, he conceded that much had been done to meet Labour Party concerns about the sale.

The Minister listened carefully, cradling a near-empty glass of water in his hands.

McNamara said there were outstanding issues.

“There are questions I have . . . questions unanswered, and, in that context, I am not prepared to gamble with what I believe is the key to the economic development of all of this State,’’ he added.

He talked of previous sales. “Where is Irish Sugar now ?’’ he asked. “When I was canvassing for the Labour Party recently, I saw its rusting remains on the outskirts of Carlow town.’’

McNamara said he appreciated that the Minister had taken time with his officials, very late on Wednesday night, in an attempt to allay his fears. But it was not enough.

The Minister had his glass of water replenished and he took a sip.

By then, it was very clear his Coalition colleague would be voting against the motion and there was no way back.

Earlier, McNamara listened as the Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin strongly criticised the Government for the sale.

Martin accused the Coalition of engaging in “a snow job’’ and pretending all was rosy in the aviation garden.

“What is a snow job ?,’’ asked McNamara.

Martin replied that it was a Cork expression. “It is a colloquial phrase,’’ he added.

McNamara had the expression of somebody who believed one could learn something new every day.

Meanwhile, with the family silver sold, the Dáil took a week’s holidays.

These might be lean times, with an empty aviation sideboard, but the long June break in the constituency retreat remains firmly in place.