Miriam Lord: Gerry taken aback as Enda points finger at SF

Kenny and Martin finally make up over issue of the mystery of the disappearing files

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams felt obliged to remind Taoiseach Enda Kenny that he is “a player” and not merely a “junior partner” in the Northern Ireland negotiations. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams felt obliged to remind Taoiseach Enda Kenny that he is “a player” and not merely a “junior partner” in the Northern Ireland negotiations. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

The difficult question of the Disappeared raised its ugly head in the Dáil yesterday.

This had nothing to do with the disposition (sour) of Gerry Adams, who endured an onslaught from the Taoiseach regarding Sinn Féin’s approach to budget reform in Northern Ireland.

Like, who does Enda Kenny think he is?

When it comes to the North, nobody puts Gerry in the corner.

Yet the Taoiseach had the temerity to tell him he had been more of a hindrance than a help at the failed talks in Northern Ireland last week.

Enda didn’t use those words, but it was what he meant.

The Sinn Féin leader was highly indignant.

And he didn’t think much of the agreement endorsed by the Taoiseach and the British prime minister which was put “forward on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis”. He left it.

A low mumble of conversation started in the chamber as deputies began to wonder if they were in Leinster House or Stormont. Unfortunately, discussions on Northern Ireland tend to bring out partitionist tendencies in many TDs.

The exchanges between Kenny and Adams became rather touchy and strained.

“You are afraid to face the music and make a choice on welfare reform . . . you asked for the power of devolved responsibility, but you won’t accept it,” said Enda.

Gerry felt obliged to remind Enda in the course of a lecture that the Taoiseach is “a player” and not merely a “junior partner” in the negotiations.

“Cameron’s poodle!” came a shout from the Sinn Féin ranks.

Discussions

“He wants to do a deal but you won’t let him,” Enda told Gerry.

Sinn Féin had a press statement out pronto from the McGuinness camp, dismissing the Taoiseach’s allegation as “laughable” and “untrue”.

Nonetheless, Gerry seemed a bit peeved by Enda’s spirited approach.

And then the Fianna Fáil leader brought up the vexed question of the Disappeared. We hadn’t heard about them for a long time, but Micheál Martin didn’t forget.

When the Coalition assumed office in 2011, Leaders’ Questions wasn’t complete without a wisecrack from Kenny on the mystery of the missing files.

He took over from Brian Cowen and looked for material on the banking collapse and the events surrounding it, but he couldn’t find any.

This led to gleeful mutterings about files being “disappeared” by the departing Fianna Fáil administration. “Behind radiators” apparently.

Martin was stung by these claims. He’s been nursing his hurt ever since, and now, with the banking inquiry about to start, he wants justice for his former boss Cowen and the much maligned radiator.

“It has been proven repeatedly that a large number of files are available in both the Department of An Taoiseach and the Department of Finance,” Martin told the Dáil.

Furthermore, he sniffed, imbued with the righteous zeal of an innocent man, Enda Kenny himself isn’t very good at keeping proper minutes and records.

Heave-ho

At the very least Micheál wanted a retraction on the radiator front.

Enda duly obliged. “I readily admit,” he said, “that documentation does exist within the Department of the Taoiseach.”

The Fianna Fáil leader looked relieved.

“I accept that, and if I have caused any offence about that, then I certainly withdraw it.”

Although he still feels there should have been more documentation lying about.

“It was the phrase you used. You stated that files ‘disappeared behind radiators’,” said Micheál.

“Yeah, I don’t, no, well if I said that . . . ”

“You DID say that.”

“I might have made a comparison with what happened or references in other cases where . . . ”

“No, it’s what you said. You said ‘disappeared’,” insisted Micheál, working through all the hurt of those 3½ years.

“Papers slipped down behind boxes and radiators, I withdraw that, I withdraw that, I withdraw that.”

And with that, after years of accusation, the Taoiseach took it all back. Vindication for Micheál Martin. It was emotional.

Astonished

And – to the amusement, for some reason, of quite a few Government backbenchers – Adams stressed: “Good record-keeping is important.”