Miriam Lord: Enda Kenny confidence motion a pantomime
Early in the debate the Opposition had clearly written it off as a waste of time
“I love my country!” boomed Michael Ring. “To Inda Kinny and to Joan Burton, I want to say: CARRY ON!” At which stage he was carried out. Or at least, he should have been. Photograph: Frank Miller.
That Enda Kenny is a marvellous chap altogether. Oh, no he isn’t. Somebody should make him Taoiseach. Oh, yes he is. (Already the Taoiseach). Well his number is up, so. Oh, no it isn’t. Well, your number is up. So it is. Oh, no it isn’t. We’re bored. Is it tomorrow yet?
Early into the confidence debate in Enda Kenny and his Government, it became very clear that the Opposition had already written it off as a waste of time.
“The real confidence vote will take place on the streets tomorrow” quivered Richard Boyd Barrett, itching to take to the barricades.
“Tomorrow will be a day of reckoning” declared Mary Lou McDonald, duly writing off this Dáil non-event, the one her party brought about by putting down a motion of no confidence in the Government last week.
The Coalition was always going to stymie Sinn Féin by tabling a counter motion of confidence in themselves, thus granting themselves the best part of a day to pat themselves on the back. They haven’t done that for a while.
The big march planned for Leinster House at lunchtime today was originally planned as a protest against water charges. But now, with a new, much diluted payment regime in place, the focus of the demonstration appears to have switched to a general protest against Government economic policy.
In preparation, members of Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the multi-hued ranks of the socialists and technical group used the afternoon’s confidence debate to vent their anger at all aspects of Government policy.
The Coalition members, meanwhile, were more than happy to sing their achievements for three hours, and glad of the opportunity.
Sombre noteFine GaelLabour
Happily for the Taoiseach, his Government’s hard work has paid off. Misty eyed, he spoke of “the people in every corner of Ireland who get up every morning with a new sense of hope.”
In partnership with the people, they brought the country back from the brink. Or as Brendan Howlin put it: “We’ve steered the ship of State into the harbour from the rocks it was left foundering on by our predecessors.”
Mary Lou McDonald didn’t share the sense of smug sweeping over the government benches. “If backslapping were an Olympic sport, then you and Joan Burton would undoubtedly be gold medallists,” she told Enda.
The Tánaiste was very keen to register her confidence in the Taoiseach. When she was elected Labour leader in July, there were “plenty of naysayers” who doubted she would be able to work alongside the Fine Gael leader. They said they “would clash pretty much incessantly and be incapable of building a professional working relationship for the betterment of our country.” Enda looked up at her, a concerned look on his face. “I’m happy to say that we’ve demonstrated the opposite” she declared. It was very moving. Then Joan quoted John F Kennedy. Enda looked a bit self-conscious. He models himself on JFK. “The Taoiseach is a man of integrity” trilled the Tánaiste. It was beautiful.
Micheál Martin crashed the love-in. The Government was “arrogant, out of touch and increasingly out of control” he harrumphed. “Obsessed with spin.” All this talk of achievements was a “fairytale story”. He hadn’t a good word to say about Enda and his “tired and complacent Government”. What’s worse is that he is afraid to give any detailed one-on-one interviews on radio or television – unlike the leader of Fianna Fáil.
Sing songVincent BrowneGerry AdamsNothing Compares to You
Gerry joined the Little Orphan Annie chorus by trilling about Tomorrow (only a day away). “Tomorrow’s demo outside the gates here will leave you in no doubt,” he told Enda, before calling on him to resign and call an election.
In training for the protest, Opposition speakers began upping the decibel levels. Finian McGrath loudly explained why he was voting no confidence – Enda looked crushed, while Richard Boyd Barrett showed Paul Murphy that a megaphone is not an essential piece of kit if you can shout loud enough. Shane Ross lost the run of himself and nearly burst a blood vessel as he fulminated at the top of his voice. Clare Daly was positively soft-spoken, by comparison, and she nearly shattered the glass dome in the ceiling. Speaking of the Taoiseach’s achievements, she thundered: “You have succeeded in galvanising opposition the length and breadth of the country.” As for Government confidence, he obviously didn’t see “the sour pusses” on the faces of his backbenchers sitting behind. But the criticism was too generalised. Government TDs were unfazed by it, blowing their own trumpets with gusto.
Ministers lined up to defend and praise their boss. Frances Fitzgerald: “A man who was unintimidated by The Terror of the Collapse.” Brendan Howlin: “The Taoiseach will go down in history as one of our finest taoisigh.”
Richard Bruton: “I would say very honestly that this Taoiseach has exceeded all expectations.” At which point, a woman in the public gallery fell asleep, her chin dropping down into her chest. Leo Varadkar sauntered in, sucking a sweet. Full of praise for Enda and the Government. “We’re only getting started now,” he said. “We can’t fall backwards.”
And then, the two undoubted stars of a pretty useless afternoon. Michael Ring and Mattie McGrath. The Ringer, highly indignant on the Taoiseach’s behalf, started off with the volume on high and cracked it up until Health and Safety began hammering on the chamber doors. “I love my country!” he boomed. “To Inda Kinny and to Joan Burton, I want to say: CARRY ON!” At which stage he was carried out. Or at least, he should have been.
Mattie was in full flight. “What in God’s name is going on?” he cried. Search us, he was talking so fast we thought he was speaking Esperanto. The last crowd may have been bad, but the country “wasn’t as headless as we are now”. This Government “would tax a shroud.” Enda’s days were numbered, his epitaph written and he should “stand up and smell the coffee.” The Taoiseach smiled. He’d had a reasonably easy day. Mattie wound up for the big finish: “The Black and Tans didn’t do as bad!” At 8pm last night, the Dáil got around to discussing the order of business, where the House decides on the running order for the day. Eight hours after business started. “An awful, ramshackle, ham-fisted, ridiculous farce of a way to order the business of the House,” huffed Micheál Martin, not unreasonably. “Have we lost our marbles completely?”