The Politics Fix: Scumbags or gurriers? And an exercise in brazen ‘arse-covering’

Your essential end-of-week politics catch up

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. Photograph: Alan Betson

Welcome to our new weekly round-up from the world of politics. Each week, our politics team based in Leinster House bring you the stories that made a difference, the political rows, the winners and losers, a key moment from our Inside Politics Podcast and a look-forward to a big read we have planned this weekend.

Story of the Week

Reading the Riot Act: This week in politics was dominated by the week before – the fallout from the attack on schoolchildren at Parnell Square and the subsequent riots that wrecked parts of the city centre. Those events have convulsed politics since then, dominating Dáil exchanges and monopolising media coverage. And it’s not over yet; this morning, Sinn Féin announced it would put down a motion of no-confidence in Minister for Justice Helen McEntee.


Arse-covering: McEntee has already spent the week fighting for her political life. Thus far she has been successful, despite Mary Lou McDonald’s pungent accusation that she was engaged in “an exercise of the most brazen arse-covering”. But she’s not out of the woods yet.

Language matters

Scumbags or gurriers: There were eyebrows raised when McEntee called the rioters “scumbags” in the Dáil. At the Justice Committee, where Garda Commissioner Drew Harris survived a three-hour grilling, Michael McDowell preferred the term “gurriers”.


That’s all very well, but does any of this affect me?

The outlook for McEntee, and for Harris, will darken dramatically if there are further scenes of disorder in the capital – which is why you’re seeing so many gardaí loitering around the city centre, and why Kildare Street is barricaded off for the past week, with public order unit vans parked down side streets. Your Christmas shopping will be closely supervised by An Garda Síochána.

Winners and Losers

The oil companies and the climate. COP on: Climate ministers, heads of state and government, UN officials and, er, fossil fuel lobbyists flocked to Dubai this week for this year’s UN climate summit. It comes after another warning from climate scientists that the world is on course for a catastrophic three degrees of warming. But reports that the hosts were planning to use the opportunity to do oil and gas deals with visitors have been dealt another blow to the credibility of international efforts to avoid the worst of climate change in the years ahead. Environment Editor Kevin O’Sullivan in Dubai has an all you need to know guide on Cop28.

And the downside is?

RTÉ announced a range of budget cuts in response to the ongoing financial crisis at the station. Among the casualties – Fair City, which will move from four episodes a week to three. It’s the first of many changes at RTÉ, as the station shrinks its operations in response to the new financial realities.

Banana-skin of the week

Lost and found: The conflict in Gaza was paused, as Hamas released hostages and the Israelis released Palestinians held in Israeli jails. Among those released was nine-year-old Irish-Israeli girl Emily Hand, prompting Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to tweet in celebration that a child who was lost had been found. The Israelis took exception to this: she wasn’t lost, the foreign minister pointed out, she was kidnapped by terrorists. The Irish ambassador was summoned for a dressing-down. Takeaway? There’s a large gulf in understanding between Ireland and Israel.

The Big Read

North and South: This weekend, we publish the results of our latest research into attitudes to a united Ireland and related issues in the Republic and Northern Ireland – our annual North and South series. It’s a collaboration with academics in ARINS (Analysing and Researching Ireland North and South), a joint project between the Royal Irish Academy and the University of Notre Dame. What are the prospects for a united Ireland? And what are the issues that will sway any future vote? It’s the most comprehensive investigation of the attitudes of the people in both parts of the island to our shared and separate political future. The series starts tomorrow and continues next week.

Hear hear

Listen to this week’s Inside Politics podcast on immigration in Ireland

There is so much Irish exceptionalism, that we are uniquely sound, that we’re somehow magic, that we’ll never gravitate towards this [racism]

—  Una Mullally
Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times