Dooley is quick on the draw to save dignity of the House


DÁIL SKETCH:Within reason TDs can do what they like, but always with the dignity of the House foremost in their thoughts, writes MIRIAM LORD

THE DIGNITY of the House.

It’s very important, although this might not always seem apparent to observers of proceedings in the Dáil.

Therefore, there are rules. Lots of them. Deputies love the rules – that’s why they’ve created so many down through the years. Rules reinforce their sense of self-importance while they don’t have to abide by them.

Within reason – when it’s in season – TDs can do what they like, but always with the dignity of the House foremost in their thoughts.

It was a quiet afternoon yesterday. The Taoiseach slipped effortlessly back into default mode: dull and confusing. Probably exhausted after last week’s much-lauded feats of animation.

In fairness to Cowen, he wasn’t ever going to go into noisy battle over the distressing plight of those elderly people at the mercy of untrained/unsupervised care workers sent to mind them in their homes.

But when it came to the subject of the bonuses for AIB workers and whether or not the Government can prevent their payment, the Taoiseach retreated into his comfortable cocoon of Biffospeak. “Supervene” was the word of the day.

Again, in fairness to Cowen, it was the Labour leader who started it, although Eamon Gilmore said he only introduced the word because the Minister for Finance keeps using it.

Then the Taoiseach spoke of “the supervening event”.

Not that we cared, as the dignity of the House, at that very moment, was being compromised.

And the culprit wasn’t Fine Gael’s Joe McHugh, who could have been forgiven for causing a little scene. Joe’s wife, Deputy Olwyn Enright, is expecting their second baby and by the way he was running in and out, looking completely distracted, one sensed the time was near.

We hear later that he was “given the evening off”.

While the Chamber was quiet – four FF backbenchers managed to make it in for Leaders’ Questions – a mere handful of spectators watched from the public gallery.

Among them a man in a seat with a good view of most of the Chamber and a face-on view of the Government benches.

He appeared to be taking notes, which is not unusual up there. However, as he glanced up and gazed down, hand racing across the paper, we realised that he was sketching.

Which was nice.

Fianna Fáil backbencher Timmy Dooley obviously saw him too, because he called over an usher and began telling him something, all the while looking up towards the man with the pencil. (Timmy may have been feeling protective towards his boss who has had his troubles with artists depicting him in unusual circumstances).

After their little confab the usher rushed off.

And a couple of minutes later one of his colleagues padded silently around the gallery until she reached the sketcher. She whispered something to him and he laid down his pad.

Then he put it in his bag and left.

Apparently it’s against the rules for anyone in the public gallery to take out a pencil and start drawing.

Can’t be done. Not allowed.

Mike O’Donnell, originally from Kerry, came to Leinster House as a guest of fellow county man Jimmy Deenihan (FG).

Mike asked if he might visit because he would love to do a few sketches. He was somewhat bemused at being asked to leave. “I would have thought what I was doing was fairly benign.”

O’Donnell works as a sketch artist. “I sketch in the criminal courts all the time.”

Why wouldn’t he want to go to the Dáil?

Back inside the Chamber, proceedings snoozed along. Dooley looked mightily pleased with himself and appeared to be regaling John Cregan and Niall Collins with his story of how he saved the dignity of the House or spared his leader’s blushes or whatever.

In the meantime, a large contingent of teenage schoolgirls had arrived on the gallery. After a short while you could see their interest waning.

Timmy got up to leave. He fell up the steps.

The schoolgirls tittered loudly, followed by deliciously quiet fits of the giggles for a while afterwards.

Timmy picked himself up immediately, and swaggered out slowly like John Wayne.

As befits a man of his high position, and the dignity of the House.

Artistic justice.