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Richard Boyd-Barrett only morto as intriguing nugget revealed in the Dáil

‘Shame on you’ - Taoiseach gives Mattie McGrath an earful over his criticism of An Garda Síochána

Richard Boyd Barret in the Dáil Feb 22nd 2024

Richard Boyd-Barrett is big in Malaysia. Who knew?

This intriguing nugget was imparted to the Dáil by the Ceann Comhairle late on Tuesday afternoon when there were few TDs in the chamber. Richard was present, though.

He was only morto.

The Ceann found out himself only a few hours earlier. It seems all was revealed over lunch.


One of the more onerous aspects of a Ceann Comhairle’s role is the requirement to entertain visiting dignitaries. This might be a lunch or dinner or maybe a quick round of canapés if the VIP delegation is on a flying visit. It’s almost a full-time job.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl must be exhausted. He doesn’t complain.

The speaker of the Malaysian House of Representatives was in on Tuesday afternoon with his entourage. Speakers have a thing for visiting each other’s Houses. All part of the global roundabout of parliamentary courtesy calls.

It is always interesting to see where the latest guests are from. Only last week the Ceann Comhairle welcomed his counterpart from the far-flung reaches of east Belfast – Edwin Poots, Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

After Seán introduced the Hon Tan Sri Dato’ Dr Johari bin Abdul, who was accompanied by three parliamentary colleagues and the Malaysian ambassador to Ireland, TDs joined him in a round of applause for the distinguished guests.

“And maybe I can tell you a little secret,” said the Ceann Comhairle to the handful of TDs present, dying to tell his bit of news. “Because in the course of a lunch with the honourable speaker, he told me that you, Deputy Boyd Barrett, have become quite a hit with the public in Malaysia and some of your speeches here have been relayed widely throughout the country.

“So, if the people of Dún Laoghaire are no longer interested in your services, it’s quite likely there could be a seat for you somewhere in Malaysia.”

RBB, who was waiting his turn to speak on the Supports for Survivors of Residential Institution Abuse Bill, didn’t know where to look. He smiled bashfully.

The Malaysian speaker smiled and nodded enthusiastically, pointing in recognition at the People Before Profit TD and then giving him a big thumbs-up.

The Minister for Education, taking the debate, was delighted for Richard.

“There ya go now!” carolled Norma Foley.

Before he spoke, RBB acknowledged the members of his Southeast Asian fan club. “Thanks to our Malaysian colleagues for those kind words,” he said, with an embarrassed laugh.

He didn’t deny that he is a bit of a star all over Malaysia. But he didn’t elaborate either. It’s most intriguing.

But at least this little interlude briefly took minds off more serious matters in the Dáil, where the latest twist in the simmering political controversy over the Government’s migration policy was described by the Sinn Féin leader as “a gift” to a Tory party in election mode and desperate for a row with the EU or anyone on the issue of migration.

Seizing on the diplomatic row between Ireland and the UK over returning asylum seekers who have come here through the North, she said Government incompetence in handling the issue was “off the charts” with the Tánaiste and the Minister for Justice contradicting each other and spreading confusion on both sides of the Irish Sea.

Mary Lou McDonald sailed the seven Cs as she slammed Government’s efforts to control the immigration situation.

There was no limit to her criticism. “Chaos… confusion… contradiction spread between two countries” summed up their efforts in the past few days, she thundered. At a time when we need calm, there is panic. She demanded clarity.

Taoiseach Simon Harris was adamant. There is clarity.

“You claim now there is clarity with the British government,” she responded. “Enlighten us.”

“I am very clear…” said the Taoiseach.

It’s going to be a long week.

Mattie McGrath wasn’t so concerned with Anglo-Irish relations. He wanted to talk about matters closer to home – the ugly scenes in Co Wicklow last week when gardaí clashed with protesters opposed to the planned housing of asylum seekers in the grounds of Trudder House.

“The abject failure of your policy on migration is causing division and it’s causing huge division. What happened in Newtownmountkennedy last week is causing huge questioning about An Garda Síochána, who I support – all of my life,” declared the leader of the Rural Independents.

“Then condemn it,” interjected the Taoiseach.

Perhaps Mattie didn’t hear him. Simon Harris can be difficult to hear in the Chamber – he often speaks very fast, his voice can be quite low and he tends to swivel away from the microphone.

It wasn’t surprising when an Opposition cry of “Speak Up!” punctuated one of his answers during the Order of Business.

Mattie McGrath was worried about the gardaí. “We need to support them. They can’t police without the support of the public,” he said, before adding, “But the heavy actions up there that were reminiscent of Northern Ireland with the RIC (sic) and the B-specials was shocking.”

People “up there” had contacted him.

Mattie thinks he has the lowdown on what really happened in Newtownmountkennedy and, in his mind, it clearly doesn’t reflect well on the gardaí.

“Shame on you,” said Simon Harris, in concert with a chorus of disapproval from colleagues.

“Outrageous,” cried his Fine Gael Minister of State Neale Richmond.

“Can I speak? Can I speak without the communist left interrupting me?” bawled the Independent TD for Tipperary.

The Government needed to seriously evaluate how it was dealing with the accommodation proposal, he said. “Putting out that number of migrants out there in tents in a wet, soggy field with no environmental evaluation in the community. Five miles up the road from you Taoiseach, less.”

“I know where it is,” growled Harris, TD for Wicklow.

Mattie begged him “in the name of the Lord” to think about the “division you’re causing between the Irish people and An Garda Síochána who have protected us for decades and want to keep protecting us”.

He kept on in the face of angry condemnation from TDs on all sides.

“But this is heavy-handed tactics from Drew Harris and his gang. It’s just a shocking situation,” concluded Mattie, who has been wearing a fetching Tricolour ribbon with a harp in the middle of it for the last while, like he is in a perpetual state of readiness for the surprise eruption of an out-of-season St Patrick’s Day parade.

Simon Harris gave him short shrift.

“I do not think in this House we should refer to members of An Garda Síochána as a gang.”

“Hear Hear!” cried deputies.

“These are sworn members of An Garda Síochána. Shame on you,” said the Taoiseach. “And condemn the attacks on the gardaí.”

“Shame on you,” countered an angry McGrath, muttering “divide and conquer” before he sat down.

The Ceann Comhairle moved matters on, lunch with the Malaysian Speaker but a distant memory.