Director's car fuels further round of Fás questions from Kenny

 

DÁIL SKETCH:EXPENSES, EXPENSIVE cars and the third secret of Fatima (well, the date of the budget actually) – it was a heady Dáil agenda.

The ongoing saga of former Fás director general Rody Molloy’s car was first up.

Enda Kenny wanted a “straight answer” as to whether the Tánaiste knew in advance if the Audi A6 car was part of his severance package.

Wearily Mary Coughlan replied that she knew he wanted to keep the car.

It wasn’t within her remit to sanction that. It was a matter for the board, and not part of the Department of Enterprise package.

“So you knew,” said Enda.

“I was aware of the situation,” replied Mary.

“So you knew in advance,” insisted Enda.

“It was a matter for the board,” said Mary. This looked like it could go on endlessly until Fine Gael whip Paul Kehoe intervened:

“Did you give him a full tank of petrol?”

And the Opposition, and it has to be said, members of the press gallery, fell about laughing.

Mary wasn’t amused, and in fairness many on the Government benches managed to keep a straight face.

Minister of State Dick Roche shouted over that it was a “diesel car”.

“Green diesel” retorted Fine Gael’s Padraic McCormack and all eyes went to the Green benches.

But Joan Burton quickly brought them back, when she raised the by now daily Labour question – what’s the date of the budget?

The Taoiseach did a great job on Wednesday of winding the Opposition up – “it’ll be December” he said, hoping that clarified things a bit for them.

So by yesterday, and after weeks of questioning, Joan had come up with a rather intriguing theory.

“It’s coming close to the third mystery of Fatima”, she said.

It’s a conspiracy – a Government conspiracy – to have the budget at the height of the Christmas party season “so that the public will pay little or no attention to it”.

“There’ll be no Christmas party season,” muttered a member of the press.

Joan pointed out that “the custom for many people in this country is to start celebrating Christmas between the 18th and the 20th of December.

“If the budget is moved back, there’ll be no time to debate it.”

Minister of State Billy Kelleher quipped that “we could move Christmas Day instead” and that had everyone laughing, except perhaps Joan.

The Taoiseach said it would be before Christmas, she pointed out.

“Which Christmas?” quipped Dick Roche.

Mary Coughlan said it would be decided at a Cabinet meeting in the afternoon.

And it was. But it was still a secret after that.

The word was later in the day that either Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan would announce it today or the Taoiseach would tell the world in the Dáil on Tuesday.

If of course, the Greens are still on board after the weekend.