Miriam Lord: Banking inquiry opens to yawns of excitement

Mario Draghi was asked to appear, but he’s not inclined to - and there’s nothing Enda can do

And still they talked about water. It’s been tough going.

In a lazy Leinster House afternoon, a lovely little exchange took place between Labour’s Eric Byrne and Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen.

Barry was holding forth on the thorny issue of supplying PPS numbers to Irish Water - something which won’t happen now.

Eric, who wouldn’t be described as a ray of sunshine at the best of times, was fed up listening to him.


“This is the greatest deviation from a theoretical debate that I’ve ever heard. Everyone has a PPS number. There is no big fear about giving a PPS number,” he huffed.

“You don’t speak for everyone” retorted Cowen.

“I would love to ask my constituency colleagues whether they ever ask their constituents for their PPS numbers when making representations on their behalf. If they told me they didn’t, they’d be telling me lies,” harrumphed Byrne.

And just to show he has no problem with giving out his own PPS number, he asked the acting Ceann Comhairle if he could read it into the Dáil record.

Bernard Durkan was in the chair and he did something one wouldn't ordinarily expect from the verbose TD from Kildare North: he gave a one word, monosyllabic reply. "No" sez Bernard.

“Very well” replied reckless Eric, the old firebrand. “I won’t do it so.”

Barry Cowen stepped in.

“It’s 666.”

Which was helpful of him.

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach repeated to the House during the order of business that two referendums are to be held next May.

One question concerns reducing the age limit for candidates standing for president from 35 to 21 years.

The other is to do with marriage equality.

Now, the Taoiseach may not be aware of this, but May isn’t a great month for a lot of gay people who might want to vote in these referendums.

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who is Minister of State for New Communities, Culture and Equality, has drawn our attention to an email the Labour Party received on Tuesday from the secretary of Longford LGBT, noting speculation that the marriage equality referendum may be held in the first week of May.

“In excess of 5,000 Irish LGBT people and friends go to Gran Canaria each year in the first half of May to coincide with Gay Pride there. The actual dates for Pride 2015 are the 8th to the 17th of May. However, people usually go out prior to the 8th due to flight timetables and availability. I personally know 10 people from the Longford region that already have their flights booked,” he writes.

As the referendum may be a close run thing, the Longford group suggests April would be a much better option.

Food for thought

Further food for thought there for the Government in advance of naming the actual date. Speaking of dates,

Mario Draghi

definitely doesn’t want to make one with the banking inquiry, which opened for business to loud yawns of excitement. The president of the

European Central Bank

has been asked to appear before it, but he’s not inclined to do so.And there isn’t a thing inquiry chairman Ciarán Lynch or Taoiseach Enda Kenny can do about it. This simply isn’t good enough for Mary Lou McDonald, who was standing in for Gerry Adams during Leaders’ Questions.

In refusing to attend, the ECB is snubbing the Irish people and is “giving the two fingers” to the Irish parliament, she said. What’s Enda going to do to ensure that Draghi attends?

“I’m sure Mr Draghi would be more than competent to answer at the banking inquiry and I wish he would attend” said the Taoiseach.

But he can’t force the ECB to come here, much as he might want to see their representatives attend.

Mary Lou just fell short of ordering Enda to “man up” but that was the gist of her contribution.

The people know the ECB “has shown an utter disregard for the people and economy of this State. We also know, if we did not before, that the Taoiseach is a crawler”, she boomed, to gasps of disapproval from across the floor and some raised eyebrows from non-Sinn Féin Opposition members.

In the ensuing din, the Ceann Comhairle squawked about “unparliamentary language” and Mary Lou took no notice of him. So, is Enda going to make his annoyance known to the ECB and demand that Draghi attend, or is he going to “once again, doff his forelock and do the ECB’s bidding?”

The Taoiseach smiled. “

“ Methinks the Deputy is stung because of her party’s refusal to accept responsibility in respect of dealing with Northern Ireland issues.”

Now it was Sinn Féin's turn to take noisy offence. Aengus Ó Snodaigh roared at Kenny: "You're a crawler to the Brits as well!" Dessie Ellis chimed in: "He doesn't even know where Northern Ireland is!"

Mary Lou wasn’t finished with Enda yet. “I want the ECB to attend the banking inquiry and I want to know what the Taoiseach is going to do make it happen” she demanded.

What's got into deputy McDonald? Mary Lou is turning into the Violet Elizabeth Bott of Irish politics. Any day now she'll stamp her foot on the floor of the Dáil and threaten "to thcream and thcream until I'm tick!"

As Government backbechers traded insults with Sinn Féin TDs, Ó Snodaigh, irritated by one remark, glared at the offender and asked “Sorry? Do you have a problem?” His colleague Pádraig Mac Lochlainn laughed over at the Taoiseach. “Draghi and Cameron’s poodle, that’s what you are.”

Sinn Féin deputies began urging Enda to speak directly to Mario Draghi and struck up a chorus of “ask him . . . a sk him.”

Aengus waved his mobile in the air. “You can use my phone!” (And why not, we’re paying the bill for all those Dáil phones.)

Enda said he would certainly speak to Draghi. But unlike the party Mary Lou “represents in some of its sectors, we are not in the business of forcing people who have no legal responsibility to turn up here”. He repeated that he cannot force anyone from the ECB to attend.

Perhaps, in the interest of the country, Sinn Féin might consider using its superior powers of persuasion on Draghi and co.

That would be interesting.