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Miriam Lord: Millinery milestone for Michael Healy-Rae

The ‘Endit’ talks are being triggered but Kenny keen to take scenic route from power

Never mind the leadership battle in Fine Gael. The real news from Dáil Éireann happened at teatime in the chamber when a major break with Leinster House protocol passed without comment or repercussion. It was a groundbreaking moment.

Michael Healy-Rae was holding forth during “topical issues” on the need for more resources for an area of natural beauty in Co Kerry.

"The rodydundrun situation in Killarney National Park is gone so bad now, Minister, nothing short of calling in the Army is going to put it right," he informed Minister of State Michael Ring. Not only are the "rodydundruns" taking over, but the deer population has "completely exploded".

This isn't acceptable, declared Healy-Rae, who didn't look the way he usually looks in the chamber. "We all know that Killarney is not the tourism capital of Kerry, or of Ireland, or of Europe but it is the tourism capital of the world and I want to put that on the record of this House."


Which is why we can’t be having land-gobbling Triffids and exploding Bambis and a situation where fallen timber isn’t removed and left as a playground “for snails and creepy crawlies”.

But there was something different about Healy-Rae. What was it?

Sweeping statement

Michael Ring was sympathetic “with regard to the issue of rowdydandram” but insisted the department was making significant inroads into curtailing the wayward “rowdydandrams”.

But he wasn’t letting Healy-Rae away with his sweeping statement about the Kingdom.

"I totally disagree with you about Killarney, because as far as I'm concerned the number one place in Ireland, in Europe and the world is a place called Westport in Co Mayo, and any time you want to come down on holidays you're very welcome," he said.

And, no doubt, the Kerry-based Michael will be wearing his cap when he calls. For Healy-Rae is never without his cap unless he is in the Dáil chamber, where the wearing of headgear is strictly forbidden.

Those of us who are old enough can still remember Michael’s father, the late Jackie, having to remove his trademark tartan cap when taking his place for the first time in the Dáil.

Yesterday marked a millinery milestone for the Oireachtas.

“Yes, I can confirm that an agreement has been reached with the authorities,” he told us. “I’m most comfortable when my cap is on me and, for the first time ever in the history of the Dáil, wearing a cap is going to be allowed. If it gets too hot, I’ll take it off, but that’s it.

“We don’t know who the next Taoiseach is going to be, but I can now officially say that I will be wearing my hat for the inauguration.”

It’s shock after shock in Leinster House these days.

The near-hysteria surrounding the change of leadership in Fine Gael died down a little yesterday, which was no bad thing. Who will eventually take over from Enda Kenny is big interest, but the saturation coverage of the succession race, whenever that may happen, is enough to melt anyone's head – with or without a Healy-Rae cap.

Giddy Dáil

The Taoiseach was bearing up very well under the pressure, with a giddy Dáil taking it easy on him. The Fianna Fáil leader, happy as a sandboy, confined himself to a few little barbs about Enda's future.

Perish the thought that Micheál Martin or any of his colleagues would be taking pleasure in the discomfiture of a Fine Gael Taoiseach and his colleagues.

There’s time enough for Micheál to nip around to the Taoiseach’s office and start measuring for curtains, although an Opposition leader with prospects needs to start thinking about acquiring a city pad when government calls.

As he gently goaded Enda during No Change of Leader Yet Questions, the leader of the Opposition had a page from a property website on top of his pile of folders. Written above a colour photograph of a furnished living space was the headline: “TO LET: One Large Studio Apartment.”

Sure it would do for the time being, should there be a sudden election and a favourable outcome. Then Micheál, at his leisure, could think about spending some time at the Steward's Lodge at Farmleigh in the Phoenix Park, which is the official Taoiseach's residence.

Enda Kenny and his wife have used it as a luxury bolthole on quite a number of occasions during his time in office.

Of course, he’s not gone yet, even if everyone seems to think he’s on the way out. Everyone except Enda, that is.

But sure, aren’t we all only passing through this vale of tears? Aren’t we all, in a sense, on the way out? That’s probably the way the Taoiseach is looking at it.

He now begins that journey. It has taken a lot of time and talking to get to where we are now, but the Endit negotiations will finally be triggered when the Fine Gael parliamentary party meets.

Some want a new party leader in place as quickly as possible. But their sitting tenant wants to take the scenic route from power.

Study in contrition

The Taoiseach looked very relaxed about it all during the first Leaders’ Questions of the week. He didn’t sound like a man who will be handing over the reins any time soon.

In fact, of the few TDs sitting with him, he seemed the happiest. Poor Charlie Flanagan, fresh from his WhatsApp indiscretion, was a study in contrition, while Simon Harris, one of the frontrunners for his boss's job, spent some of the time texting on his phone and the rest trying to look inscrutable. Richard Bruton, who is also getting mentioned in dispatches, hardly took his nose out of his briefing notes.

When Harris had arrived he was roundly cheered by the Opposition benches. “Young Harris”, as Enda called him, looked surprised. “What about ’Young Coveney’?” they sniggered from across the way.

Gerry Adams told the Taoiseach that "chaos" was his middle name. "Get off the chaos carousel," he said. (Earlier in the day, Fianna Fáil's Michael McGrath said he wouldn't tolerate the Government turning "into a circus" with confusion over the Fine Gael leadership.)

At least a carousel is not a trampoline, retorted Enda, in a gratuitous reference to the time Adams revealed that he liked to bounce on a trampoline. Naked. With his dog.

For a man who needs all the friends he can get at the moment, reminding everyone of that little cameo won’t have endeared him to the whey-faced unfortunates forced to contemplate that image again.

Full hysteria resumes today.