TDs make new deputy feel right at home in House

Socialist Party TD Ruth Coppinger got a warm welcome from all sides

Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins sat in the Dáil lobby with his newly elected Dublin West colleague Ruth Coppinger as she waited to take her seat in the chamber.

Mr Higgins smiled and smiled and Ms Coppinger looked very pleased with herself. So did Sinn Féin and the Independents. Fianna Fáil looked happy enough. Government TDs looked glum.

Post-election realities were settling in.

Nobody looked as happy as Mr Higgins. He had announced before the byelection that he would not contest the next general election, and the first steps in the transfer of the Socialist Party seat to Ms Coppinger had been taken with considerable success.


Minister for Finance Michael Noonan was manning the barricades on the Government benches in the absence of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who was in Brussels. Loud applause

Outgoing T

ánaiste and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore was in Brussels with Mr Kenny, and there was no sight of his putative successor, Joan Burton, installed as an early favourite to take over the leadership in Leinster House yesterday.

Ms Coppinger was escorted down the steps to loud applause from all sides of the House. She was greeted by Mr Noonan, party leaders and other TDs. She then took her seat next to Mr Higgins’s usual place at the rear of the Opposition benches.

Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett led the good wishes, referring to this "very happy'' occasion. Mr Noonan said he hoped she had "a long and distinguished career'' in the House, but presumably not at the expense of Fine Gael in Dublin West. Fianna Fáil's Micheál Martin and Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams also wished her well. Air of bonhomie

Ms Coppinger’s family and supporters watched proceedings from the public gallery. There was an air of bonhomie.

Mr Higgins noted that “days following on will not be as serene and friendly as this moment’’. He thanked the voters of Dublin West for returning Ms Coppinger.

"On May 23rd, the ordinary people of Ireland did not merely speak . . . they absolutely thundered against the injustices of the austerity burden placed upon them for six years now to salvage a degenerate and socially destructive European financial market system,'' said Mr Higgins.

He said Fine Gael and Labour were politically like a pair of schoolyard bullies against whom the schoolyard had finally revolted. Labour was sprawled senseless on the floor, while Fine Gael was staggering around in a daze.

The serene moment had passed, although it will return briefly today when Longford-Westmeath Fine Gael victor Gabrielle McFadden is introduced in the chamber by Mr Kenny.

As Mr Martin and Mr Adams attacked Mr Noonan on the withdrawal of medical cards, Independent TD Clare Daly called on the Government to resign.

“We are not planning an election,’’ said Mr Noonan, to guffaws from the Opposition benches. “Don’t be pretending – most of you would run a mile from it,’’ he added.

That’s for sure.

Michael O'Regan

Michael O'Regan

Michael O’Regan is a former parliamentary correspondent of The Irish Times