Glum Sinn Féin faces, a referendum banana skin and a big job for Prudent Paschal

Your essential end-of-week politics catch up from the biggest Dáil bust-up to the winners and losers

The Politics Fix

Story of the week: Helen Ahoy

“We will take no lectures from Sinn Féin on the rule of law and law and order!” thundered Charlie Flanagan, Fine Gael blueblood and party grandee, as Tuesday evening’s Dáil debate on a motion of no-confidence in Minister for Justice Helen McEntee headed towards its culmination.

Well, the Fine Gael benches nearly hear-heared themselves hoarse at that one. All evening they rallied to the defence of the beleaguered justice minister and competed intensely with one another to see who could kick Sinn Féin the hardest. They looked like a crowd that was having their best outing in the Dáil for ages. Better than the Christmas party, it was.

Sinn Féin TDs, including Mary Lou McDonald, who had put down the motion of no-confidence in McEntee looked pretty glum throughout the whole thing, especially when the FGers taunted Mary Lou over some of her post-riot claims and her inexplicable tweet that seemed to target a street drinker near the Parnell Square school. The look on their faces said: whose idea was this?


From the Dáil record on Tuesday:

  • Matt Carthy (SF): When I was growing up, everyone knew the local gardaí and the local gardaí knew everyone.
  • Patrick O’Donovan (FG): You did anyway.
  • Simon Harris (FG): You knew him very well.
  • Matt Carthy (SF): People felt safer.
  • Martin Heydon (FG): You knew where he lived.

Ah, the cut and thrust of parliamentary debate as ideas clash.

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

When the Dáil voted on Tuesday evening on the McEntee motion, it was defeated by 20 votes – demonstrating again that the Government has a much bigger working majority that it has on paper. Actually, McEntee was probably strengthened by the whole exercise. Then again, the threat to her comes not from what happens on the floor of the Dail, but rather than what happens on the streets of Dublin. What does that mean for you? Expect to see plenty of gardai on the ground in Dublin city centre for the foreseeable future.

Banana skin

The Government announced it would hold two referendums to change the constitution on March 8th - getting rid of the old references to women in the home, expanding the definition of a family beyond the family founded on marriage and recognising the role of carers within the family. But many campaigners were disappointed that the changes did not go far enough and their reaction was decidedly lukewarm. Surely the Government couldn’t lose this . . . right? Right?

Winners and Losers

Job of the week 1: Paschal Donohoe failed to dampen speculation that he will be a candidate for the job of heading up the International Monetary Fund – a move that would leave Fine Gael with a Prudent Paschal-shaped hole on its front bench just before the next election.

Job of the week 2: Warmly endorsing his colleagues suitability for the role, Minister for Finance Michael McGrath also failed to knock on the head the suggestion that he could be Ireland’s next European Commissioner. To lose one of your budget ministers might be unfortunate, but to lose two, etc. Analysis here

The Big Read

On Saturday, see the continuation of our North and South series. It’s a research project which examines attitudes in Northern Ireland and the Republic to a possible united Ireland in the future, and to related issues. A key question: how much would the South be prepared to change to accept the North? All the articles already published in the series are here.

Hear here

Listen to the Inside Politics podcast live as Jack Horgan-Jones pauses when he recalls the RTÉ scandal as the story of the year

Actually, this kind of has a bit of a feeling of an RTÉ event to it here, doesn’t it? I can imagine a bundle of flip-flops over there, balloons dropping from the ceiling....