Deck the Dáil with howls of acrimony

Colm Keaveney: Now firmly in residence on the Fianna Fáil benches. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Colm Keaveney: Now firmly in residence on the Fianna Fáil benches. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times


Christmas has crept up on Leinster House.

But it’s here now.

Trees are twinkling inside the building and the official tree-lighting ceremony outside on Leinster Lawn takes place later today.

The political parties’ parties have started too (although nobody wants to admit to having them because it might upset the populace and precipitate outraged calls to Joe Duffy).

Apart from the ever-present peril presented by the camera-phone, fresh danger awaits the political reveller this year. Getting snapped by some stranger’s Samsung while looking the worse for drink may be the least of a TD’s worries this Yuletide season.

Gazing upon Colm Keaveney yesterday afternoon, now firmly in residence on the Fianna Fáil benches, we realised it was time to issue a festive warning to members of all the other parties and the floating pool of Independents.

Be on your guard at all times. Remain vigilant. Do not stagger alone. There is strength in numbers. Beware of an approaching Billy Kelleher or Timmy Dooley.

Because the rumour sweeping Leinster House is that a Fianna Fáil press gang is in operation. We hear that Micheál Martin’s men (there’s hardly any women) are patrolling nightspots favoured by members of the Dáil and Seanad in search of a post-official knees-up libation. “It won’t be safe to fall asleep in Coppers anymore” a frightened Labour party official tells us. “We are urging our people not to accept, under any circumstance, a free drink from a member of Fianna Fáil. Because, one minute, you’ll be having a great time and the next, you’ll wake up in their party rooms with a thumping headache having signed up to the Soldiers of Destiny and a place on their election ticket.”

Apparently, they knocked out Peter Mathews with several pots of strong tea and now he’s committed to run for Europe with them. He has said nothing yet, but the speculation among terrified TDs is that the deputy for Dublin South has been captured.

Word is, Fianna Fáil isn’t choosy. They need bodies and don’t care where they get them. Sinn Féin’s Peadar Tóibín had to go on the record yesterday to say he hasn’t been nobbled by Martin. Attempts were made, though.

It’s rough out there.

Speaking of warnings – a delegation from the Ukraine parliament arrived in the afternoon to observe proceedings in the chamber. The Ceann Comhairle’s attempt to welcome them was temporarily drowned out by Luke Ming Flanagan.

“Don’t join the EU! Don’t join the EU!” he shouted up at the bemused Ukrainians.

Ming was in feisty form, having just tangled, yet again, with the Minister for Justice during his question time.

The issue under discussion was ongoing Garda investigations in certain murder cases, and in particular, the Fr Niall Molloy investigation.

“The word on the street where I live,” said Ming, “and in the midlands, is that you actually can get away with murdering someone. If people actually believe that, how does it help confidence in An Garda Síochána?”

Shatter wasn’t going to let him away with that statement.

“I presume the deputy is oblivious to the number of individuals An Garda Síochána has arrested in circumstances where homicides are alleged. He has not noticed the number of trials that have taken place. He has not noticed the number of convictions that have been obtained for murder or manslaughter.”

And in accordance with the way these regular jousts between the two progress, the Minister referred to Ming’s use of cannabis. “The deputy lives in some extraordinary world that is separated from the world inhabited by the rest of us. I know of the deputy’s addic . . . er . . . affection for certain substances. It is unfortunate if that affects the deputy’s judgment when it comes to addressing issues of public importance.”

Then he delivered a short lecture on the justice system in Ireland. “No deputy, whatever constituency he or she represents should give out from this House a message that people are free to murder, that justice will not be done and that the Garda will not properly investigate it.”

Ming dismissed his reply. “Do you have predictions for next Saturday’s soccer as well as fully irrelevant rubbish? Will Spurs win next week?”

The ongoing hostilities between the Minister for Justice and the Independent trio of Ming, Mick Wallace and Clare Daly rumbled on to an unsatisfactory conclusion. Their mutual loathing has become as much a feature of proceedings now as the hard -edged and cranky exchanges between the Taoiseach and the Sinn Féin leader.

They were at it again yesterday. Gerry Adams said it was time the Government established a full inquiry into top-up salary payments in the HSE. “Every day brings a new revelation about the health services and the scandal of top-ups to senior executives continues to escalate.”

Enda nipped in immediately. Never said a truer word, harrumphed the Taoiseach. New revelations every day? The Sinn Féin leader is no stranger to them. Whereupon they accused each other of talking gobbledegook and the routine ding-dong about Adams’s past began again.

There’ll be a lovely atmosphere around that tree today when the leaders gather to welcome in the season of joy.