Martin comes on for Ó Cuív as SF ink-in continues


DÁIL SKETCH:RATHER THAN appoint a sub yesterday, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin led his team for Opposition Leaders’ Questions in Eamon Ó Cuív’s absence.

Normally it would have been Ó Cuív’s job as deputy leader to mark Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore on a Thursday morning.

But he had been sidelined from the post for internal Fianna Fáil foul play on Wednesday.

Perhaps Martin did not want to add to the speculation about the identity of a new deputy leader by nominating one of his parliamentary colleagues to fill the slot.

There are several eager pretenders to the Ó Cuív throne. Time will tell.

Earlier, Martin had breakfast in the Dáil restaurant with party colleague Senator Terry Leyden.

Anxious, no doubt, to cultivate the lean and hungry look of the dedicated party leader for this weekend’s ardfheis, he had a modest bowl of fruit.

Ó Cuív spent his morning doing a round of media interviews, beginning with TV3’s Ireland AM.

He was back in Leinster House around lunchtime, briefing journalists on his position and joining fellow Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness for lunch.

Ó Cuív, clearly building up his strength for a period in the political wilderness, had something more substantial than fruit.

In the chamber, Sinn Féin’s Aengus Ó Snodaigh sat inconspicuously on the extreme end of the party’s backbenches. He appeared relieved that Fianna Fáil’s woes had taken the focus off his use of €50,000 worth of State-provided ink cartridges, which had conjured up images of a tsunami of leaflets arriving in the letter boxes of the unsuspecting citizens of his Dublin South Central constituency.

The Tánaiste reminded Sinn Féin of “inkgate” when Ó Snodaigh’s colleague Mary Lou McDonald started to give him grief on the report in The Irish Timesof the release of sensitive documents about the Irish economy to the Bundestag.

It was ludicrous that German parliamentarians discussed the economic situation in Ireland while people here were kept in the dark, said McDonald.

“Will the Tánaiste confirm that it is in fact Frankfurt’s way rather than Labour’s way?” The reprise of general election rhetoric prompted the Tánaiste to remark that “some of that sounds like the draft text of a leaflet”.

He noted that McDonald had been doing a lot of reading yesterday morning. “Paper never refuses ink and neither, apparently, does Sinn Féin.”

This led to noisy exchanges between Government and Opposition TDs. Irritated Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett implied that comedy scripts, rather than leaflets, were being produced by some TDs. “We have an increasing number of comedians every day.”

As Gilmore expressed his unhappiness at the manner in which the documents had surfaced, Ó Snodaigh could be observed writing furiously. It was a personal note rather than a leaflet and he used a standard pen rather than an ink cartridge.

He passed the note on to colleagues, until it reached its intended recipient, McDonald, on the party’s front bench. She read it and nodded. Inevitably, there was speculation about the note’s contents. It was unlikely to have been a comedy script.