Enda and Joan invited a few people around yesterday afternoon to see in the new political year.
There was a good turnout for their press conference in advance of the first Dáil session of 2015. “Jobs Cabinet” said the screen behind them in Government Buildings.
A drinks cabinet would have been more welcome.
Fair play to the Met Office for issuing a dangerous wind warning just as Leinster House cranked back into action.
At the very least there should a large brandy in that cabinet for Gerry Adams given the entire island was placed under a Status Orange alert.
No wonder he was a bit agitated during Leaders’ Questions, although the Taoiseach didn’t help by going out of his way to niggle the Sinn Féin leader with sideswipes and barbed remarks.
The Jobs Cabinet was a reference to the Government meeting before the press conference. Employment was the main item under discussion and it gave the Taoiseach and Tánaiste yet another excuse to bang on about job creation in front of the cameras. This time, though, it was different.
They said the Government is aiming to bring about full employment by 2018 – that’s a full two years ahead of the target bandied about at all the other job creation productions during the Coalition’s lifetime.
A nice bit of serendipity there, at the start of a long run-up to the general election.
They couldn’t have planned it better. Jobs are very important. Enda explained why.
“A job”, sez he, “can buy the car, the boyfriend, the girlfriend, the boots . . .whatever.”
Or the reboots, for supporters of Lucinda Creighton’s Any Minute Now party.
Can money buy you love?
Maybe not, but as the Taoiseach sees it, the flash gits get the gals, and vice versa. We must be grateful he didn’t talk about the cost benefits of marrying a laying hen.
Anxious to start the year on a positive note, the Coalition spread the good news before hostilities resumed next door, buoyed by the latest opinion poll results which reflect a rise in popularity and a dip in support for Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin.
It’s strange, but when governments go up in the polls it’s nearly always after a lengthy parliamentary recess when opportunities for foot-in-mouth outbreaks are severely curtailed.
As business got under way, a number of the television monitors showed no action at all. These were the ones which carry a live feed from the Upper House. Instead of Senators fulminating about whatever they like, the screens showed this message: “Seanad Éireann resumes on Tuesday 20 January at 2.30pm.”
It was nearly tea time before somebody mentioned water. Enda referred to “surges” a during Leaders’ Questions, but this was to do with patient numbers on trolleys in emergency departments.
Irish Water. It hasn’t gone away, you know.
It appears a number of “outstanding issues” remain on the legislative agenda for this year. “Will this tale never end, Taoiseach?” asked Micheál Martin, trying to sound concerned and failing.
On the Fianna Fáil leader’s side of the House – from his party to Sinn Féin to the Independent TDs with their powerbroker dreams – they want this particular river to run through to the election.
For the opening Leaders' Questions of 2015, there was no sign of Lucinda Creighton in the chamber. Probably still busy setting up her party with Eddie Hobbs and that councillor man from Offaly whose name we can't remember.
The Lord Ross, aka Winston Churchtown, wasn’t present either. Probably still busy setting up his Independent Alliance with like-minded individuals who wouldn’t mind being returned to the Dáil after the election, like.
His fellow Independent, Stephen Donnelly, was perched up in the back row. The Wicklow deputy announced yesterday he would not be soldiering with the Lord Ross and his Sancho Panza, Finian McGrath.
Some would-be members of that alliance were somewhat nonplussed yesterday by Donnelly’s decision. Only last week, he was out and about with Winston, schmoozing independent county councillors with a view to recruiting them to the cause.
Stephen D though has indicated he is still in the market to join a new grouping, should they prove an ideological fit. But not Fianna Fáil, he stressed on the lunchtime news.
Back in the Dáil, the state of the Health Service was to the forefront during Leaders’ Questions, with the annual Christmas season trolley crisis top of the list.
Micheál Martin reminded the Taoiseach of his promise before the last election: “I will end the scandal of patients on trolleys.” He had a photocopied page of the relevant billboard poster among his notes.
And yet, for all the promises and all that was said by former minister James Reilly and all that is being said by Leo Varadkar, this year's tally broke the record. And as the HSE came up for discussion yet again, they all sounded like broken records in the Dáil.
Micheál decided to keep the photocopy to himself. Unlike Gerry Adams, who recorded the first, albeit minor, SF Dáil stunt of the new season.
He wanted the Taoiseach to explain why Hiqa recommendations on patient safety had not been implemented by the HSE or the
Department of Health
. He produced a letter he received on Monday from the organisation. “It’s all there, Taoiseach, if you haven’t sighted this . . . ”
Enda talked away, noting people are also on hospital trolleys for long periods in Northern Ireland.