Miriam Lord: Tight-lipped Taoiseach toys with media

Joan Burton expects general election to happen in 2016

Joan believes Enda is referring to the date of the general election. But then again, Joan is a martyr to the prolixity. It’s no surprise that these discussions go on for some time.  Photograph: RollingNews.ie

Joan believes Enda is referring to the date of the general election. But then again, Joan is a martyr to the prolixity. It’s no surprise that these discussions go on for some time. Photograph: RollingNews.ie

 

Joan Burton had a long conversation with Enda Kenny. “Next year,” said the Taoiseach as they parted.

It seems they’ve had quite a few of these long chats recently. And the Tánaiste’s recollection is clear: “The private conversations tend to all have the one ending: ‘Next year’.”

Joan believes Enda is referring to the date of the general election.

But then again, Joan is a martyr to the prolixity. It’s no surprise that these discussions go on for some time.

So when Enda says “next year,” he could be referring to the election. Or he might just be expressing a desire to take a short breather from all the talking.

That’s not going to happen.

Neither, it seems, will November.

November has been stood down.

For now.

A merciful release, for as long as it lasts.

But as a tight-lipped Taoiseach continued to toy with a frothing media and frustrated Opposition, the Tánaiste was in no mood to entertain his enigmatic utterances. In the course of two outings – the first at a jobs announcement and the second to introduce Maíria Cahill, Labour’s nominee for the Seanad byelection – she made it clear she expects the general election to happen in 2016.

She cited the need for the banking inquiry to deliver its report (it’s cost far too much money to be jettisoned in favour of a selfish run to the country) and listed three crucial but complex pieces of legislation that have to be passed after the budget.

Terrible cad

Joan’s intervention served to calm frazzled nerves.

Although news from the publicity-mad bookies there has been a rush to put money on a pre-Christmas poll kept the speculation simmering.

It’s all providing a marvellous distraction from the business of running the country. No wonder Enda wants to keep everyone guessing.

We almost didn’t notice the return of Comrade Adams following his fraternal visit to Cuba last week.

The session started a little late due to an outbreak of mutual congratulation in the chamber and an outpouring of joy in the public gallery.

Just before midday, the legislation paving the way for same-sex marriage passed all stages in the Dáil. “Passing the Marriage Bill 2015 is a real marker of equality in this country. As other deputies said, it is a privilege to be here today,” said Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald to applause.

In the gallery, marriage equality campaigners cheered and embraced. About 40 supporters had come along for the occasion, including Brian Sheehan and Gráinne Healy, co-directors of the Yes Equality campaign, Senator Katherine Zappone and her wife Ann Louise Gilligan.

It was one of those rare times when applause was allowed in the gallery.

Then Micheál Martin changed the mood by going on the attack over Irish Water. The company published its business plan for the next seven years and the Fianna Fáil leader was not impressed. He wondered why the Government set up the company in the first place. “It hasn’t achieved anything it was intended to achieve,” he declared.

Would the Taoiseach now accept that “the water meters represent a colossal waste of public money given that they will not be used for the next seven years of the plan or even beyond that?”

Enda was in fighting form. “Well Deputy Martin, you’re a complete fraud on this matter,” he replied, to a chorus of scandalised shrieks from across the floor. “Utterly fraudulent.”

He said Fianna Fáil always supported the concept of contributions for services, including water. The party only changed its tune when it saw Sinn Féin shifting ground on the issue.

Fraud? The only fraudulent thing about Irish Water is “the premise upon which it was established” countered Micheál. “It has been blown out of the water by Eurostat. It has been a costly and colossal waste of public money for which the Taoiseach stands indicted.”

Memory lane

“I’m reminded of John McEnroe’s comment” he said to the Fianna Fáil leader. “You cannot be serious.”

Mercifully, he didn’t do the American accent.

Meanwhile, Adams returned to the Longboat Quay apartments, where residents have been slapped with a bill for repairs because their homes were built without adequate fire safety. He also introduced Prospect Hill in Finglas as the latest list of developments where safety issues have arisen.

Could the Taoiseach say how many more developments are not up to standard?

Enda said he could not. But given that so many buildings were thrown up quickly during the Celtic Tiger era, he reckoned there had to be more substandard developments around the country.

“God knows, Deputy Adams, how many others there are” sighed Enda.

Mick Wallace’s weekly dollop of Nama followed. He’s pushing for an independent commission of inquiry into a major property sale.

And not getting very far.

Perhaps he should have a long conversation with Joan.

Next year.