Enda prepares for mud-slinging as Róisín gives it welly


SKETCH:RÓISÍN HAS walked on a matter of principle. That’s the long and the Shortall of it.

Her resignation stunned Leinster House last night.

This new Dáil session is turning into a proper nightmare for the Coalition.

There’ll be no peace for Enda Kenny at the ploughing today. He’ll need more than a pair of re-enforced wellies to cope with the incoming mud.

As if he hadn’t enough on his plate with the embarrassing exploits of Calamity James and Hapless Hogan, the Taoiseach was left reeling from the bank debt sucker punch delivered by Europe’s financial kingpins on Tuesday.

And where is Eamon Gilmore? In America, that’s where, crisis-managing his fractured party over the phone.

Joan Burton will be in his place for Leaders’ Questions this morning. The way things are going, it’ll be no surprise if she turns up in full widow’s weeds as a gesture of solidarity with Róisín.

What is certain is that Minister Burton will need the wellies, too. There’s been more manure flying around the Labour party in the last few days than in the livestock pens down at New Ross.

But Fine Gael is in no position to gloat. They’re also in a mess.

It all points to one thing: this government is sick. And with the preparations for the December budget simmering in the background, recovery doesn’t look likely anytime soon.

Is there a leader in the house?

That’s the big question.

If yesterday’s political events finished with Róisín Shortall’s bombshell announcement – some people are already muttering that the wrong Health Minister walked the plank, it began with a very unsettling communication from Europe.

On Tuesday night, a breakaway group of the EU’s three most powerful ministers for finance came together to discuss the financial crisis. At the end of their deliberations, they climbed on to the higher ground with their moneybags in tow and pulled up the ladder behind them.

The EU summit in June may have agreed in principle to help ease the burden of Ireland’s crippling banking debt. But the big three aren’t so sure.

These are no ordinary finance ministers. These are Marks and Guilder ministers. Or at least they were before the Euro arrived. We’re all equal now. Oh, yes.

To quote Enda in the Dáil: “every finance minister is equal when they sit around the table”.

The big worry yesterday was that some are more equal than others.

Unsporting behaviour it may be, but the special ones from Germany, Finland and the Netherlands have ganged up on poor Ireland and say they won’t be giving us a dig-out with our bank debt.

“This is a disaster,” wailed Sir Winston Churchtown, aka Lord Ross of Dublin South, who gives the impression he knows what he’s talking about.

And to make matters worse, the Department of Finance’s response to this alarming turn of events was to issue a statement welcoming it. “That is complete and uddah nonsense,” boomed Ross. “Someone should be fired from the department immediately!”

They won’t be happy below stairs. There’s no allowing for that sort of talk in the Croke Park agreement.

The alarming news from Europe sparked a vicious run on the metaphors market during Leaders’ Questions.

Micheál Martin borrowed a phrase from an economics commentator and declared that our potential saviours had sent a chilling message to Ireland: “Drop dead.”

Mary Lou McDonald agreed. “If they didn’t tell us to drop dead, they told us to get lost.”

The government was all “smoke and mirrors . . . bluff and bluster” and had taken 18 months to bring us “back to square one”.

It was their fault for building expectation after the June summit. “You oversold your position” she told Enda. “The government was sold a pup,” barked Winston Churchtown.

As for the “game changing” outcome of that European council meeting, as then described by the Taoiseach, it was nothing of the sort. “The seismic shift is now in reverse gear,” he concluded.

But Enda stands by the agreement reached at the summit by the European leaders “to break the vicious circle between the bank and the sovereigns.” (Some of us couldn’t help thinking that if the banks had a lot more sovereigns in their coffers we wouldn’t be in the pickle we’re in now.)

There would be no resiling from their momentous decision, he insisted. Tuesday’s communiqué came from just three foreign ministers out of 27. That’s the important thing.

Enda knows a good seismic shift when he gets one, and the earth certainly moved for him in June. But the three Opposition deputies weren’t convinced.

Enda escaped in the afternoon to a spirit-lifting photocall with the Leinster Rugby team. A nice warm-up for his marathon photocall at the ploughing festival today. Then Róisín dropped her bombshell last night.

If it isn’t one thing, it’s another.

It’ll be heavy going for the Taoiseach in New Ross today. And won’t be much better for Joan in the Dáil. This saga is set to run – with or without wellies.

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