Dail Sketch: Trapped media veteran a captive audience for TDs

Government in complete flap over deepening crisis, Opposition sensing blood and hard left believing Revolution finally about to dawn

We were only over the shock of the Tánaiste’s ordeal in Tallaght when news landed of yet another atrocity visited upon a defenceless citizen going about their lawful business in Dublin.

If anything, what occurred yesterday afternoon was even worse than what befell the Labour Party leader when she was trapped in her car by an angry mob for over two hours – because it took place in the very heart of our democracy: the Dáil chamber.

For well over an hour, a distinguished gentleman of advanced years was isolated and trapped in the press gallery and subjected to the most unacceptable noise abuse and torture. It seemed like an age before one of the ushers – noticing his obvious distress – came to his aid and brought him to safety.

We witnessed Vincent Browne just moments after his release. Ashen-faced and traumatised following his incarceration for the duration of Questions to the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Vincent stumbled away from the scene.


“Oh, dear God,” he wheezed. “I couldn’t get out. I COULDN’T GET OUT!”

It must have been awful for him.

“What happened to Joan Burton is nothing compared to that stuff in there.”

Poor Vincent. Apparently, he nipped into the gallery for a quick look at Richard Bruton and his supporting cast of junior ministers as they fielded questions from members of the Opposition.

It was deathly dull, with just a handful of TDs droning on in the chamber and a lone journalist on the gallery. Then Vincent discovered he couldn’t leave because he left behind the swipe card needed to unlock the door. A most traumatic experience. He’ll not be the better of it for some time.

Things could have been worse though, at least Paul Murphy didn’t materialise with his megaphone and Peter Mathews or Bernard Durkan could have been on their feet during his period of confinement.

It says a lot for yesterday’s proceedings in Dáil Éireann that “Oh dear, what can the matter be, poor Vincent Browne got stuck on the gallery . . . ” was the highlight. But the leaden atmosphere was understandable. Leinster House has been in a state of nervous collapse for the past few weeks over the Irish Water issue.

The Government in a complete flap over the deepening crisis, an Opposition senses blood and the hard left believing the Revolution is finally about to dawn.

It was like everyone was taking a breather.

There was some surprise that nobody took the opportunity during Leaders’ Questions to raise the appointment of the new Garda Commissioner.

Micheál Martin traded statistics with the Taoiseach over the health service, Gerry Adams returned to Irish Water and heard a complaint from Enda Kenny about alleged bad behaviour by members of Sinn Féin outside a Fine Gael event in Limerick and Maureen O’Sullivan finally got to ask the question she didn’t get to ask two weeks ago because the session had to be abandoned when Sinn Féin staged a sit-in.

The problems facing people from “communities in extreme deprivation” haven’t gone away in the interim. O’Sullivan said community groups in areas like Dublin’s north inner city were facing major cuts in funding, which would have terrible consequences for the most vulnerable in society.

“When I was in the GPO for the launch of the 1916 commemoration programme, I was struck by how it was not a stone’s throw from some of the really disadvantaged communities. If the Rising was about anything, it was about equality,” she told the Taoiseach, who said he would get the relevant Minister to look into the matter.

But the new Garda Commissioner wasn't completely ignored. Independent TDs Mick Wallace and Clare Daly issued a press release outlining their "disappointment and concern" over the appointment of Nóirín O'Sullivan to the job.

Daly said: “The appointment shows that the Old Boys Club is alive and well and that the Government is only interested in defending the status quo.”

An unfortunate comparison, under the circumstances. Commissioner O'Sullivan joins a long list of women at the top of our justice system: Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald; Chief Justice Susan Denham; Attorney General Máire Whelan; DPP Claire Loftus; Chief State Solicitor Eileen Creedon, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Emily Logan and Josephine Feehily, head of the new Independent Policing Authority.

The Old Boys must have lost their marbles.