Rocky road ahead for Ivor the Driver while Cowen has his eye on Israel


DÁIL SKETCH:A TOUCH of west Cork came to Leinster House yesterday. First there was Ivor “Up da Rebels!” Callely and his semi-permanent home on Bantry Bay.

(He’s gone from Ivor the Engine to Ivor the Driver.) Then there was the Taoiseach and his Skibbereen Eaglemoment in the Dáil.

Senator Callely failed to make an appearance in the Upper House following the weekend revelation that he collected over €80,000 in travel expenses to and from his home in, er, west Cork, since Bertie Ahern appointed him to the Seanad three years ago.

The former Fianna Fáil junior minister is the living embodiment of that famous Munster rugby war-cry: “Dublin by birth, Kilcrohane by the grace of God.” (We’ve adjusted it slightly to take account of geography.) As one might imagine, the north Dublin suburb of Clontarf is in mourning following the shock news that Ivor is no longer living amongst them. Although if you do a quick check of the Dublin electoral register, he hasn’t left.

We imagine this is what one distraught resident might have said: “I am surprised and very sad. I think he should be treated with the utmost leniency and allowed to run in Dublin North Central in the next election” – Finian McGrath (57). “Now Fianna Fáil might put up some glamorous young wan to run against me and I don’t want that at all.”

Senators brought up the embarrassing matter of Callely and his galloping kilometres as soon as they resumed yesterday. They got a shock when Bertie Ahern arrived in the chamber at the start of business. In to support the man he appointed? No. He was showing a friend around Leinster House. They sat in the gallery, Bertie talked throughout and they left after 10 minutes.

A statement from Ivor the Driver was demanded by speakers on all sides in order to clear up any misunderstanding. His situation was causing “a distraction”, said Fine Gael’s Frances Fitzgerald.

“Our ever dwindling reputation would benefit from a clearing of the air,” said Senator Joe O’Toole, who was at pains to stress that he wasn’t rushing to judgment.

Out on the plinth, even Enda Kenny got in on the act during the “unveiling” of the party’s latest recruit, former independent councillor for Dún Laoghaire/ Rathdown Gearoid O’Keefe.

He’s a barrister. You’d never have known, as he posed beside his new leader wearing a dark suit with screaming silver pinstripes, an expensive double-cuffed shirt and a black and silver striped tie. He looked like the love child of Gerald Kean and Pee Flynn.

Enda, asked about Dub Ivor’s exotic travel arrangements, said he wouldn’t tolerate it in Fine Gael. Before you could say “740km round trip” Brian Cowen was writing to the FF general secretary instructing him to tell Ivor the Driver to produce his log book.

As if he didn’t have enough on his plate during Leaders Questions. Out of the blue, Biffo produced a sabre and rattled it with no small amount of menace.

There was an edge to his voice, like he was auditioning for the lead role in an amateur production of Dirty Harry. “I will make this point,” he slowly drawled. “If any harm comes to any of our citizens it will have the most serious consequences.” This was one of those rare occasions when the subject matter is of such gravity that the principals are in broad agreement.

Yesterday, the party leaders discussed what Kenny described as “an outrageous act of aggression on the high seas”. The attack by Israeli commandos on a humanitarian aid convoy to Gaza was roundly condemned, but minds were focused on the fact that an Irish vessel, the Rachel Corrie, is still on course for Gaza.

Hence Cowen’s Skibbereen Eaglemoment – although at least he wasn’t beating around the bush. And serious and all as the situation is, we couldn’t help think what we could do.

Bar them from the Eurovision? Give them an icy stare? Send over Willie O’Dea? (He knows how to handle a weapon.)