Miriam Lord: Kelly makes big deal of not mentioning his rival

Ex-minister accuses TDs of having understandings and agreements with Government

Former  minister Alan Kelly Minister: When he said “understandings”, he held up two crooked fingers on either side of his head and wiggled them, indicating quotation marks. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Former minister Alan Kelly Minister: When he said “understandings”, he held up two crooked fingers on either side of his head and wiggled them, indicating quotation marks. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

Alan Kelly was speaking in riddles about deals, understandings and agreements. Making dark accusations about “certain deputies” and “some members” of the Dáil who are going around saying they have cut preferential deals with the new Government for the benefit of their constituencies.

“We have a situation,” Kelly told the Taoiseach, “where certain members of this House are publicly airing arrangements or understandings.” Having seen and heard things, it was “quite obvious” to the Labour TD for Tipperary that these people are most certainly “making reference to understandings”.

When Kelly said “understandings”, he held up two crooked fingers on either side of his head and wiggled them, indicating quotation marks. He spoke slowly and knowingly at the Taoiseach, and at convoluted length. But never once did he name the TDs who are supposedly benefiting from secret arrangements with the Government.

‘Understandings’

If so, would he give details to the Dáil?

Big-hearted Al was helping Enda out here. Giving him the chance to come clean about any special deals he might have reached with a person or persons unknown.

Because if it turns out that such arrangements are in existence and documentation comes to light, Kelly would have no choice but to accuse the Taoiseach of lying on the floor of the Dáil. And that would be very serious indeed.

The Taoiseach briefly outlined agreements he had reached with TDs in the course of Government formation, “details of which are in the public domain”.

The Tipperary deputy wanted to be absolutely sure.

“So can you absolutely guarantee to this House that, outside of what you’ve read into the record of the Dáil here now, there are no other agreements with any other entity, political entities, individual TDs or anyone else between your Government, which you lead as Taoiseach, and anyone else?

“Because should anyone in this House subsequently come into possession of any documentation that refers to any such deals, well, obviously then we’ll have to come back into this House and ask you some very serious questions as to, er, such things.”

Summer season

Across the floor, the leader of Fianna Fáil was having difficulty keeping a straight face.

Alan, meanwhile, was getting very red in the face.The man from Portroe in North Tipp was like a dog with a bone. But who, or what, was he on about? Off he went again.

“There seems to be a play here, some form of political manoeuvring, whereby certain deputies are trying to imply that they have done deals with you, or have in some way agreements with Ministers, individually or collectively, in relation to certain issues usually pertaining to their own constituencies, whether that is hospitals, whether it is schools, whether it is roads, whether it is railway lines, whether it is whatever.” Whatever.

Ever generous of spirit, Kelly, in a very roundabout way, said that he if he accepted the Taoiseach’s reply that all agreements have been published and are out in the open, “am I to take it from you today that all such utterances are untrue?”

But what utterances, Alan?

Micheál Martin stepped in to shed light on the mystery. Which was just as well because Alan looked like he was going to explode with the frustration of not naming somebody he really wanted to name but couldn’t because he didn’t want to give him the publicity.

Extensive work

Tipperary Star

He held up the publication in question. And there, as an off-lead on the front page, is a story about Minister Simon Harris close to signing off on a new 40-bed hospital unit for South Tipperary just “in time for winter, following extensive behind the scenes work on the part of deputy Michael Lowry” and senior consultants. Micheál read out chunks from the report, which was continued on page 4. “Here it is. Look! The whole half page, so somebody’s on the inside track . . .”

Lowry is quoted at one point saying: “I am the only TD in the county in a position to work on this because I am supporting the Government.”

Martin was in no doubt. Lowry was “very clearly saying ‘I’ve got a deal with the Minister because I’m on the inside track”.

A disgusted-looking Kelly flinched with each mention of his constituency rival.

Micheál, the picture of innocence, would only draw one conclusion after reading the article. “It seems to me that in one fell swoop, the other four deputies, as a result of this deal would appear to be redundant in Tipperary.

“Have you done a deal with deputy Lowry in return for support of the Government?”

Kelly was furiously shaking his head. “Maybe it’s not true!” he shouted. Twice.

Brendan Howlin and Joan Burton couldn’t stop themselves from smirking.

So Martin’s question was a simple one. Has the Taoiseach done a deal with Lowry?

“There is no deal, written or otherwise, with deputy Lowry,” Enda assured him.

But not before he wondered why Kelly had been so behind-the-door in calling out his fellow countyman.

“It’s the first time I’ve heard deputy Kelly not being clear. You have full privilege in here,” he reminded him. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. You should say outright what’s on your mind about whoever.”

And then, delicately twisting the knife, the Taoiseach remarked “Deputy Lowry’s getting good free publicity.”

Kelly looked very sour.

The Taoiseach looked pleased with himself. At least it took his mind of Joe O’Toole’s resignation, Arlene Foster’s rebuff and his revolting ministers.

Lowry will be annoyed he didn’t get top billing on the front page. He lost out to a much bigger story “Tipperary braced for fallout from Brexit.”