Eager TDs cram Dáil as Gauck has quick gawk

Distinguished visitor treated to not very much happening in our national chamber

German president Joachim Gauck paid a quick visit to the Dáil on Tuesday

German president Joachim Gauck paid a quick visit to the Dáil on Tuesday

 

The Germans were in casing the joint yesterday. President Joachim Gauck, who is on a three-day State visit here, arrived in Leinster House with a huge entourage in tow.

It’s always a good idea to put on a big show when visiting an outlying colony, even one as obedient as ours. Given the size of the party, the revolving doors at the Merrion Street entrance were removed as a precautionary measure. People have been known to get stuck in them even when they haven’t been drinking.

No point in sparking an international incident because of a few hinges and annoying the guests from Germany. Look at the poor Greeks.

President Gauck seems a most pleasant man. He was treated to lunch in the Oireachtas restaurant before repairing to the Dáil’s Distinguished Visitors’ Gallery to watch Leaders’ Questions. The Taoiseach made a point of going up to shake his hand. Indeed, such was the significance of this occasion, Deputy Bernard Durkan also deigned to extend a personal welcome to His Excellency. A well deserved honour.

As President Gauck settled in his seat looking out over the chamber, the sense of anticipation began to build. The Government side was heaving with bodies – at least 10 TDs crammed into the backbenches, an astonishing one of them from Labour.

Across the floor, the Opposition rows were similarly packed with an assortment of thrilling gaps. Micheál Martin waited for battle to commence. Like a coiled spring, ready to pounce. Mary Lou “The Notorious” McDonald eyeballed the competition. Paul Murphy flexed his neck muscles, and crouched.

Enda swaggered to his seat, looking very smart with what looked like neat, new, general election hair. Charlie Flanagan and Jimmy Deenihan took up position to his right.

Gladiatorial arena

This was a clever move on Seán Barrett’s part. To the Teutonic ear (and with the help of a complicit translator) “céad míle fáilte” means “one hundred thousand euro.” Just a little something on account from us. The president smiled.

“I express the hope that you will find your visit enjoyable, successful and to our mutual benefit” concluded the Ceann Comhairle, setting off a mass outbreak of simpering among the senior and junior ministerial ranks.

Opposition eyebrows were raised. “Mutual benefit?” sniggered someone on the Fianna Fáil backbenches. And well he might snigger – his crowd did a lot to put us in hock to the Germans in the first place.

Mary Lou couldn’t hide her amusement. She smiled, and arched her eyebrows to such a degree that we finally realised where MacDonald’s got the idea for their logo. Finally, the games began. The Fianna Fáil leader took a long time to ask his first question, which saw him return to the subject of Nama and the controversial sale of its Northern Ireland loan book. Micheál wasn’t halfway through it before there was a flurry in the Distinguished Visitor’s Gallery and suddenly, the president and his retinue were leaving. Along with the overflow entourage above in the public gallery and the crowd of advisors and security types waiting outside on the landing.

We hope Herr President enjoyed his visit. We hope he didn’t notice the big banner designed earlier by all those TDs who didn’t make it inside to witness his presence in the chamber. At least we presume they made a big flag in his honour – it’s the least they could have done. “Angela Merkel thinks we’re in the Dail!” It’s understandable that the VIP guest made a hasty exit from the Dáil. These days, what passes for Dáil business is not for the timid or faint-hearted – yesterday’s exchanges were so bruising they viciously pummelled everyone to sleep.

On the menu

He had “asked in six different ways that started over two months ago” and still no answer, save Enda telling him to toddle along and ask Uisce Éireann. The Taoiseach knocked him back with his reply. “I understand Irish Water will provide that information tomorrow.”

Just as he knocks off Dáil duty for the summer. Handy that. Pity the German president was there to see it.