Miriam Lord: Cribbing aplenty in the Dáil but no pleasing a discombobulated Mary Lou

FG were crowing about saving the live crib after Green grinch Caroline Conroy cancelled it, but Mary Lou McDonald still had plenty to crib about

The live crib is saved. Hardly a mention of it in the Dáil…

Away in the chamber,

No crib left unsaid,

The piqued Sinn Féin leader


Almost lost her sweet head…

She certainly did not. Of that, Mary Lou McDonald was very sure.

She had asked the Taoiseach a question about an apartment block where the residents are facing eviction, and Micheál Martin had the temerity to look in the direction of another TD when beginning his brief reply.

“To be fair to Deputy Boyd Barrett, he has been raising this in the House for about three months, to be fair to him, and Minister O’Brien has engaged with the deputy on the matter and Dublin City Council is now engaging, as you said, with the residents and, certainly, every effort will be made to get a satisfactory outcome.”

When Micheál mentioned Darragh O’Brien, he tilted his head for a second toward his ministerial colleague before finally completing the arc to face the Sinn Féin leader. He hadn’t noticed her pointing towards Richard Boyd Barrett and then animatedly pointing to herself and continued talking.

“It was actually my question,” she sniffed.

The Taoiseach stopped. Wrinkled up his brow. Puzzled.

“Yes, I know. What’s your problem?”

“Ordinarily, you don’t answer any of my questions and now you’re answering a question to, with all due respects, Deputy Boyd Barrett, who didn’t even ask you a question.”

Again, Micheál was nonplussed.

“I did look at Deputy Boyd Barrett,” he protested, but only because he noted Richard has been asking about the same issue for the last three months.

“Which is objectionable,” retorted Mary Lou, who didn’t seem in the best of form.

“I don’t think it’s objectionable, because it’s true,” said the Taoiseach, still looking bewildered.

“Yes, but you might respond to me,” she huffed. Perhaps some rare slippage in the opinion polls, or other event, has unsettled the Sinn Féin leader, but she was being extremely precious.

The Taoiseach continued to explain why he had not been blanking her. It was daft.

“And then I looked at Minister O’Brien for confirmation and affirmation that he is indeed continuing to engage with Deputy Boyd Barrett, and your good self, now that you’ve raised it, and with the council, more critically, in order that we can get a resolution of it.”

But at this stage, there was no pleasing a discombobulated Mary Lou.

“You are such an ignorant man,” she seethed.

Micheál sat down. “Ah look, calm it. You should calm it down.”

“I am very calm.”

“You’re getting too sensitive,” he smiled.

Mary Lou, naturally, had the last word.

“In fact, above all else, I am very calm.”

Fair enough.

One would have expected her to be in better spirits given that a favourite subject landed in her lap on Tuesday morning with the publication of the banking review, a green light for increased pay for bankers one of its 54 recommendations.

More money for bankers? Happy days.

She duly got stuck in at Leaders’ Questions. This, and the good news earlier about Dublin’s live animal crib should have cheered her up. We feel another carol coming on.

The Fat Cats are lowing.

The Bankers awake.

And the piqued Sinn Féin leader

Lots of crying she makes...

Although there was just one fly in the festive ointment from an Opposition point of view: the crib was saved by a member of Government. But on the plus side, this was done by flying in the face of a Green Party Lord Mayor, who had banned it in the first place.

Not that the two larger parties were taking any pleasure in this. It took Fine Gael at least a couple of hours to rush out a short video crowing about it.

Anyway, cometh that hour, cometh the man from The Country.

That would be Patrick O’Donovan, Minister of State for the Office of Photo Ops and Saving Cribs.

Did Patrick say he’s from The Country? Because he is.

And he was not impressed when the Lord Mayor of Above in Dublin decided to discontinue the annual live animal crib in the courtyard of the Mansion House. It must be said that many people above in Dublin were also unhappy about it.

Lord Mayor Caroline Conroy made the announcement late last month and Patrick was instantly outraged on behalf of the pandemically traumatised children of Ireland, country people, the Irish Farmers Association and himself.

But, more to the point, he was heartbroken for Jesus, Mary and Joseph and the wee donkey.

The OPW would never want to see them turned away from the inn, he told us a few weeks ago. “I was shocked when I heard the news. Shocked. What next will they try to ban, Christmas trees?”

“They”, presumably, being the Greens.

So the junior Minister and TD for Limerick County worked behind the scenes with the IFA and his own Government department to make sure the crib would grace the capital again this year so all the little children from the Northside and down the country would be able to visit the Grafton Street quarter for their annual Yuletide treat.

To say O’Donovan is delighted with himself is a humongous understatement. He was going around all afternoon like the proverbial dog with two – sorry, the proverbial reindeer with two red noses.

The relocated crib will be in St Stephen’s Green and will feature a donkey, two sheep and a goat. They will not be in situ until December 8th because auditions are still under way in Leinster House.

But that didn’t bother Patrick O’Donovan, who announced the good news at a photocall in the Green with a dozen bales of hay, a couple of winsome tots and a sheepdog named Bob. His next official engagement was at Dunsink Observatory where there were more photos taken and heavy-handed remarks about him checking out the equipment in advance of Santa’s visit.

But before that he managed to make a short video with Cllr James Geoghegan, who ran unsuccessfully for Fine Gael in the Dublin Bay South Byelection and now appears to be rebuilding his national political career on the back of a nativity display.

“Hi guys, I’m outside the Mansion House,” says an unnervingly chirpy Cllr Geoghegan at the beginning of FG’s Christmas (cribbing not crowing) promo before the camera appears to fly through the clouds, landing on the Minister of State in St Stephen’s Green with added sheep.

Patrick O’Donovan also fit in time for interviews on Newstalk and RTÉ Radio.

The Coalition’s crib crusader described in detail how he fought the good fight to keep the crib in Dublin and as near as possible to its original Dawson Street location.

“What I am doing is standing up for tradition,” declared brave Patrick, describing how the IFA “reached out” to him and how he “as somebody from the country” had to stand up for “the values of the crib” and for agriculture and farmers and the Irish way of life.

“I know that in some quarters at the moment it’s easy to throw traditions under the bus, but the crib is a very important part of the traditional Christmas,” he said. Unlike traffic-congested Dawson Street, there are no buses in St Stephens Green.

Thanks to the Green grinch in the Mansion House, the IFA “had no venue, they were venueless”, but let nobody suggest that Patrick, “as somebody from the heart of rural Ireland”, is in some way cocking a snook at the townie Greens.

“We didn’t start this,” he told RTÉ’s Claire Byrne.

“But we’ve definitely put an end to it. Because people want it.”

At the time of writing, we had not heard from the Lord Mayor but the city council is preparing its own extravaganza.

It might be nosebags at dawn on Dawson Street yet.