Miriam Lord: Healy-Raes fail to keep calm and Kerry on
Smiling Taoiseach savours the in-house Dáil entertainment as brothers row with MacSharry
Nobody disrespects the Healy-Rae brothers.
As Fianna Fáil blowhard Marc MacSharry discovered yesterday when he tried to take them on, starting a blazing row between the three TDs which continued after the sitting was suspended.
Before leaving in high dudgeon, Danny and Michael Healy-Rae – holding each other back in time-honoured fashion – continued the hostilities, roaring at the riled-up Sligo TD, who bellowed back.
“I never saw anything like it,” said an Opposition deputy. “The veins were standing out on Danny’s neck and Michael was so red he was like a turkey cock. I couldn’t stop laughing.”
If the Leas Cheann Comhairle thought adjourning the sitting for a while would calm things down, he was wrong.
As Pat the Cope Gallagher swept out the double doors, a highly-insulted Danny and Michael moved closer to MacSharry, throwing threatening shapes and jabbing fingers.
“Ya cheeky pup! You’re nuttin’ but a cheeky pup!” roared Michael.
MacSharry said something and looked like he was going to jump out of his seat.
“You’re only a pup, you’re only a pup,” snarled Michael again.
“And you’ll always be a pup!” shouted Danny.
Delighted TDs lapped it all up as a smiling Taoiseach and thrilled Ministers savoured the entertainment from across the floor.
How did this carry-on happen in the first place?
Marc MacSharry likes to play the hard man. He has a known penchant for amateur dramatics. Every so often, he decides to showcase his volcanic side by staging an eruption.
Although when Marc imagines Krakatoa, his amused audience gets minor arson on Ben Bulben.
At lunchtime, the overheating Sligo TD decided to explode over who gets to ask the Taoiseach questions during a twice-weekly, time-limited session called “Questions on Promised Legislation”. It gives Opposition backbenchers the chance to raise parish-pump issues with the Taoiseach by linking them with forthcoming Bills or the Programme for Government.
TDs vie with each other for the nod to speak from the Ceann Comhairle. Such is the competition that a system of numbered cards has been introduced in the hope that this might stop politicians complaining about favouritism when they don’t get to speak.
That never happens to the Healy-Raes, who are acutely aware of the publicity value to be milked in the constituency by highlighting how they raised important local issues with the Main Man Himself above in Dublin and how he had to give an answer.
The Healy-Raes may eat their dinner in the middle of the day but they are also the people who get up early in the morning.
So when this new card system was brought in at the start of the new Dáil term, they were first in the queue when the cards were distributed and have been at the top of it ever since. It doesn’t matter how long they might have to wait.
Yesterday, the cards were left in a box at the back wall of the chamber, beside the bust of Padraic Pearse, 15 minutes before it opened.
When it was time for questions, the Healy-Raes arrived in possession of their running order numbers – number one, naturally, and number two.
Danny was up first. He talked about farmers in Kerry who got no Christmas payments for burning commonage. Then the brother, who had been silently signalling at the Leas Ceann Comhairle, rose to speak on the same subject.
This is allowed, and it meant he could still use his own card to talk on another issue relating to Kerry.
MacSharry, getting more and more discombobulated as the Healy-Raes spoke, stared at his own laminated card with growing fury.
Marc only had number 11.
This was too much for him to take. So he started his performance, roaring and chewing the scenery.
“Oh, stop. This is making a joke out of it altogether,” he boomed.
Danny looked sideways at him (MacSharry was seated to his right and they were all in the front row).
“Hold on now one minute,” said Danny, as Marc started puffing up, ready to spew.
Keep him quiet
The Leas Cheann Comhairle tried, unsuccessfully, to keep him quiet.
“We have 44 Deputies here and we have Kofi Annan McGrath and Ban Ki Healy-Rae up every day, undermining this country’s national parliament...,” he began, hardly able to look at his offensive number 11 card.
Michael Healy-Rae was on his feet, seething.
“That’s outrageous,” he shouted to the Chair. “That’s outrageous!”
Danny was on his toes beside him. Incandescent.
“Go away with your skulduggery,” he told MacSharry, waving him away.
“Don’t be calling us names!” added Ban Ki Danny.
Whereupon Einstein MacSharry squawked: “There are either 168 Deputies here or there are not.”
There are not. There are 158 TDs in Leinster House.
There was no sign of Kofi Annan McGrath.
Ban Ki Danny was outraged. “We were elected here in our own name and we’ll take no rubbish from oo!”
It was all kicking off.
Marc MacSharry was a senator before he was elected to the Dáil. “When you were looking for Seanad votes, you were damn glad to come to Kilgarvan,” MHR told him.
“And you’re here supporting the Government and saying it has nothing to do with you!” added DHR.
Waving his number 11, MacSharry dismissed the Q for Questions affair as a joke, like Strictly Come Dancing with the performers, the half-time performers.
In the spirit of Strictly, we hoped somebody would call out “Sev-Venn!” so Willie O’Dea could stand and hold up his numbered card, but alas, no.
MacSharry was like a hen on a hot griddle. Eugene Murphy from Roscommon, a very even tempered chap, whispered some calming words to his colleague. Who couldn’t hear through the red mist.
“Control yourself!” pleaded the put-upon Leas Cheann Comhairle.
“For Christ’s sake, control them,” came the overwrought reply.
As they roared at each other, MacSharry shouting “disgrace” at indignant intervals, the chairman shut up shop.
“Suspend it if you like,” sulked the Fianna Fáiler. “The same people have the floor all the time . . . Sure I can’t speak to anybody.”
But nobody disrespects the Healy-Raes. They rolled over MacSharry like a rampant “rodydundruns” in Killarney National Park.
And to think, cried Michael, that his brother has “your calendar up on his front door” and “you got our votes” for the Seanad. Ungrateful wretch.
“I did not,” bridled Marc. “Paul Coghlan got them all.”
(Coghlan is a Fine Gael senator based in Killarney.)
The Healy Rae boys lost the plot. Although through it all, Michael never lost his trademark cap. (He was granted special permission a couple of years ago to wear it into the Dáil. It’s like his version of an assistance pet.)
And that’s when they starting calling MacSharry every class of pup under the sun.
Sky News ran a clip.
Not a good day for parliament, but a great day for Healy-Rae votes in Kerry.