Miriam Lord: La vie en rose with school out for summer
François Hollande sympathises with Irish press corps as TDs and Senators begin recess
Taoiseach Enda Kenny with French President François Hollande at a press conference in Government Buildings yesterday. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
In the glowing dawn of the new enlightenment, there was never going to be a row over the length of the summer break.
A political golden age is upon us. They do things differently now in the Dáil.
When the House rose last evening until September 27th, nobody batted an eyelid.
A merciful release for all concerned.
Earlier in the day, when Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald took Leaders’ Questions, there wasn’t a peep from anyone either.
This shows a welcome maturity.
But then again, the imminent recess wasn’t mentioned once, thus sparing the Opposition from having to respond with fits of the vapours. Under the new arrangements, the business of approving this year’s lengthy recess was conducted two days earlier, when the operating timetable for the week was agreed by the Dáil.
After the arrangements for Tuesday and Wednesday were outlined, the rapporteur for the business committee ran through nine proposals relating to yesterday’s running order. The proposal to adjourn the House was the last one.
Everything went through on the nod.
And when the Ceann Comhairle brought the curtain down at 7pm, there were five TDs in the chamber to hear him express the hope that members get the chance to enjoy a well-deserved break.
“People who understand politics know how exhausted members are at the present time – it’s been an extremely difficult year” Seán Ó Fearghaíl told the Fine Gael (Richard Bruton and Jim Daly), Fianna Fáil (Thomas Byrne and John Lahart) and Sinn Féin (Carmel Nolan) TDs who had to stay on until the bitter end.
Fizzled out the door
Meanwhile, across the landing, darkness had long fallen on a poorly attended Seanad Éireann. The Upper House was put out of its misery just after lunch and will return on September 28th.
Next door in Government Buildings, the French president was very understanding.
“You are exhausted, I take it,” sympathised François Hollande during his joint press conference with Enda Kenny. But he wasn’t talking about his Irish political counterparts. He made the remark after observing the near catatonic state of the Irish press corps.
Hollande will have been unaware that the hacks were sitting in silence because they were waiting for the Taoiseach to reply to a question.
But Enda had drifted.
Nonetheless, François was quite correct in his observation. Members of the media were tired because they had to go to Dublin Castle at six in the morning to get security clearance before they were bussed back to Merrion Street for the 11.30 press conference.
It was a beautiful day for the most part in Dublin. But when Hollande stepped from his car at Government Buildings, it began to rain. This caused great concern among onlookers, but they worried needlessly. The raven-haired president (61) employs an official hairdresser at a cost of €10,000 a month.
After his tete-a-tete with Monsieur le President – he talked about Ireland’s post-Brexit claim to “special case” status, Enda nipped back briefly to the pre-holiday basket cases in the Dáil to take part in a number of votes.
Earlier in the day, Frances Fitzgerald made her way steadily through Leaders’ Questions until Eamon Ryan of the Greens got her totally bamboozled with complicated questions about reducing our carbon emissions.
She nominated energy minister Denis Naughten to respond to Eamon “in line with the new procedures”.
And Denis immediately picked up the ball and ran with it. The Ceann Comhairle looked like he was going to say something, but he didn’t. Opposition deputies started to howl. Frances was breaking the rules.
“We have a new way of doing business,” declared the Tánaiste.
“Oh, yes” insisted Frances. The sun must have gone to her head. Leaders can only delegate to ministers during the Order of Business.
Making up rules
“There has been a slight deviation from the normal practice,” soothed the Ceann Comhairle.
“It’s the last day of the session,” said Minister of State, Patrick O’Donovan, in mitigation.
Having witnessed Frances handing over the reins to her fomer Fine Gael colleague, Fianna Fáil’s Robert Troy saw the bigger picture. Denis left the party during the last government in a disagreement over Roscommon Hospital and is now an Independent TD.
“It’s great to see the partnership Government working. I never thought I would see the day when Deputy Naughten would be standing in for the Taoiseach.”
“I think it would be very timely to tackle this in the Seanad . . . We sympathise with the British public in the dilemma that they have landed themselves in and obviously it’s a huge thing for the whole of Europe and for Ireland. We are in a especially delicate position as regards the British. Bob Dylan famously said in one of his quirky love songs to his girlfriend:
‘If you’re gonna go, go now
Or else you gotta stay all night.’”
At which point Senator Rónán Mullen interjected.
“Was that Lay Lady Lay?”
What are we going to do for the next two months without them?