Miriam Lord: Warm-up routine ensures no pulled muscles

A dull day in the Dáil – but it’s tough to get into the swing of things after so much time off

“Focused on what?” snorted Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen at the Taoiseach. “You’re like a rabbit in the headlights.” Photograph: Eric Luke

“Focused on what?” snorted Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen at the Taoiseach. “You’re like a rabbit in the headlights.” Photograph: Eric Luke


It was a quiet return for our Hardly Here At All Dáil, easing itself back into the onerous task of occasionally sitting.

It’s a bit like embarking on an exercise regime: no point in overdoing things at the beginning. Some stretching, a little bit of jogging – that sort of thing. Easy does it.

But never fear.

There was no chance of anyone pulling a muscle in Leinster House yesterday.

Leaders’ Questions was particularly dull. During the Order of Business, Charlie McConalogue of Fianna Fáil forgot he was due to speak. The Ceann Comhairle had to roar out his name to rouse him from his reverie.

Then they ran out of questions to ask with more than 10 minutes left on the clock.

To be fair, it’s difficult to get back in the swing after so much time off. First, there was the break for the annual St Patrick’s Day ministerial airlift.

Then, after a brief return for just a couple of weeks, everyone skedaddled off for the best part of a fortnight.

In the normal course of events, after a weekend, the Lower House reconvenes for business on Tuesday afternoons. But when the Dáil is in recess for a longer period of time – such as Easter – they don’t come back until Wednesday afternoons.

Some people might find it difficult this difficult to understand.

That’s because it is.

The Taoiseach didn’t exactly look like a man expecting serious action. He didn’t have a senior Minister beside him to offer support and a hastily scribbled note in the event of incoming fire.

Bare look

Paudie CoffeyAlan Kelly

The Fianna Fáil leader raised the mortgage situation, asking the Taoiseach what he proposed to do about householders who are forced by their banks to pay well above the European rate.

It’s particularly galling for them, pointed out Micheál Martin, because they see major corporate entities such as their banks getting massive writedowns.

But who, he asked, “is looking after the punter on the ground?”

Micheál has a problem when talking about the collapse of the banking system, the subsequent behaviour of the bailed-out banks and the consequences this has had for ordinary people.

Because Enda will always come back with a reply which can be summed us thus: “and whose fault would that be?”

What is going on now is “a legacy of the economic situation from a number of years ago.” When Fianna Fáil was in charge.

But the Taoiseach agreed Irish consumers should not be charged higher interest on variable rate mortgages than their counterparts elsewhere in the euro zone.

“It’s not fair, it’s not just, it’s not equitable.”

Independent Peter Mathews sighed heavily. “If that’s the case, do something about it.”

Enda said they are doing something. The Government is “focused directly . . .”

“Focused on what?” snorted Fianna Fáil’s Barry Cowen. “You’re like a rabbit in the headlights.”

Focused “on carrying out further work in this area”.

Which must be a comfort to all those hard-pressed householders.

Meanwhile, the Sinn Féin leader arrived in wearing a large tin badge on his lapel, right below his fáinne.

It said “Tá” and indicated that Gerry Adams and his party will be voting Yes in the marriage equality referendum.

This was a major breach of Dáil protocol. Perhaps he was unaware of this. A tanned Mary Lou McDonald, seated to Gerry’s right, might have explained the rules to him. She’s very au fait with them, apparently.

Meanwhile, outside on the plinth, Billy Kelleher and Timmy Dooley were out batting for Fianna Fáil. They talked to the media about health and the bus system and all sorts of stuff.

But the hacks were more interested in the leadership of their party. Particularly if there isn’t a good result in the Carlow/Kilkenny byelection.

Bimmy and Tilly were asked if either of them would be interested in running for the leadership of Fianna Fáil?

“We don’t deal in hypotheses,” said Bimmy.

“That’s a yes. Is that a yes?” asked the breathless journalists.

“Are you ruling yourself out, Billy?”

No interest

“So do you support Billy?”

No, said Tilly (these two FF stalwarts are interchangeable), “I support the leader.”

What is Bimmy going to do? What will happen if things don’t go well on May 22nd?

“Look, I mean, let’s be very clear,” began Billy. “We’re out here talking about FF policy. We’re talking about holding the government to account. My role in that is to provide a health policy for the FF party – that’s my role, that my priority and that’s my focus.”

And that’s a maybe.