Miriam Lord: A bit of foreign travel for Michael and Terry

Choices for our European Affairs Committee mean that we’ve nothing to worry about

Last night’s news gave us comfort in these uncertain post-Brexit days.

Now is not the time to play safe on the continent. We need our best team out there, and now we have it.

Michael Healy-Rae and Terry Leyden.

Bestriding Europe like a pair of colossi.

And with them, another titan: Cork's Dara Murphy, Junior Minister for European Affairs and Using Squad Cars as Taxis when Needs Must.

We’ve nothing to worry about.

The final addition to our travelling troika was added last night in Leinster House when the Oireachtas Committee on European Affairs voted to elect a vice-chairman to work with chairman Healy-Rae. It is comforting to see that Michael wears his cap while the committee is in session, which is as it should be.

The election, which was held before Junior Minister Murphy's visit to brief members on the results of the Bratislava Summit and Brexit, wasn't exactly a nail-biting affair. Senator Leyden defeated Fine Gael's Bernard Durkan 7-3 following a rollcall vote.

The new job may involve a bit of foreign travel.

No bother to Terry, a political veteran and seasoned voyager on behalf of the people of Ireland. He was proposed for the position by Fianna Fáil TD Sean Haughey, which was very apt. In accepting the position and making an uncharacteristically brief speech about himself and his qualifications for the gig, he informed his fellow Europhiles: "I happen to have been appointed by Mr Haughey as a negotiator for the Single European Act in 1989 to 1992." Just in case some of the young people in the public gallery were confused, he meant that other Mr Haughey - Sean's Da, Charles J.

Take that, Minister of State for European Affairs, Dara Murphy!

It is well known that deputy Healy-Rae is something of a homebird. He doesn’t like leaving his native Kilgarvan, from where he derives his strength, for protracted periods of time. Should his international duties prove too much on occasion, he can rest assured that Terry – who has a pub in Roscommon which is a replica of the Dáil bar – will be well able to step in and keep the show on the road.

Terry pointed out: “As a senator, I will have more time than most deputies” to carry out the responsibilities required. The talk in Leinster House yesterday was that Leyden has vowed to visit all the European capitals on our behalf before Brexit bites.

Mattie McGrath, who is also on the committee, wasn't present yesterday. Fianna Fáil's Declan Breathnach deputised for him. Mattie, we hear, was on a short break in Medjugorje.

Back in the Dáil, there was a sense of TDs and Ministers marking time until next week’s budget is announced.

The Taoiseach was in commendable good form, given Mayo’s latest All-Ireland final loss. It must have been a difficult weekend. His county’s continuing heartbreak on the football front was tactfully ignored by most TDs, although Sinn Féin’s Louise O’Reilly from north Co Dublin, couldn’t resist a little mention.

Big ticket items were on the agenda during Leaders’ Questions, though. They will come in for future scrutiny in the weeks, and months, to come.

They included, invariably, Brexit (Mary Lou McDonald) Syria (Micheál Martin) industrial relations (Brendan Howlin) and ditto (Bríd Smith).

Howlin won on the cliché front with his solemn declaration: “We are facing into a winter of discontent.”

And finally, a clarification on behalf of Gerry Adams, who was somewhat put out over the large amount of coverage afforded to his comment last Wednesday regarding the sexual awakenings, or otherwise, of his teddy bears.

The Sinn Féin leader asked one of his staff to send the official transcript of the relevant Dáil exchange to some members of the media. This, presumably, to show that mention of the Kama Sutra does not make him automatically think of his much-tweeted about bears (principally Tom and Ted, who used to be gay and engaged but we're not sure now.)

Dubs supporter Louise O’Reilly had described Fianna Fáil as having “more positions than the Kama Sutra” on the issue of water charges. Gerry was tickled pink by her one-liner and admitted he was sorry he hadn’t thought of it first.

“But anyway, Fianna Fáil and the Kama Sutra – the mind boggles” he chuckled, before adding: “So, mmm . . . ehh . . . yeah . . . my teddy bears . . . my teddy bears are virgins, a Cathaoirleach.”

But what nobody caught via the newly installed state-of-the-art audio system in the chamber was the stand-in Chair’s (Fianna Fáil’s Declan Breathnach) comment to Gerry: “I hope your teddy bear is ruled out of it.”

An odd remark.

Followed up by an equally sotto voce Barry Cowen: “We know who our partners are.”

Whereupon Gerry announced to Dáil Eireann that his teddies are virgins.

Perfectly normal response, under the circumstances.

Hope that clarifies it.

Miriam Lord

Miriam Lord

Miriam Lord is a colour writer and columnist with The Irish Times. She writes the Dáil Sketch, and her review of political happenings, Miriam Lord’s Week, appears every Saturday

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