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Putin crack ignites fireworks before Simon Harris gets turkey and ham for beating a lettuce

Seán Fleming’s withdrawal was a mealy-mouthed effort

The Dáil is off next week to allow TDs go mad all over the place and properly annoy voters before the elections on June 7th.

This is just as well, because as the date looms ever nearer they are getting giddier by the minute.

After Tuesday’s serious business of statements on Palestine, deputies loosened their stays on Wednesday in advance of the final campaign pushes to come.

The Taoiseach marked 50 days in office by getting mobbed in the Members’ Restaurant by an enthusiastic swarm of electrified women and had to be smuggled through the kitchens to the self-service canteen for his celebratory plate of turkey and ham.

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Danny Healy-Rae did his best to get thrown out of the chamber in an effort to impress the women before whisking them off for lunch and whipping out his melodeon for their delectation.

His brother Michael insulted the People Before Profit TDs by mistaking them for the Social Democrats. They laughed it off but then had a blazing row with junior minister Seán Fleming who called them “Putin’s Puppets”.

Acting chair Michael Ring attempted to bellow them into submission but was forced to suspend the house amid raucous scenes.

And it was Michael McDowell’s birthday.

Simon Harris was so happy to have reached his 50-day milestone we half expected a bouncy castle to go up in the courtyard of Government Buildings. He told people he was delighted to have surpassed the 45-day tenure of recent UK PM Liz Truss – not to mention beating the most famous lettuce in world history, which also outlasted Liz.

At least now he won’t be consigned to the salad bin of history – every new leader’s nightmare these days.

There were fireworks during the debate on People Before Profit’s motion on Neutrality and the Triple Lock.

The morning’s unexpected disrupter was Minister of State Seán Fleming, who calmly goaded Richard Boyd Barrett, Bríd Smith and Paul Murphy until they were incandescent with umbrage.

He did this by calling them “Putin’s Puppets” and then insisted he hadn’t been specifically referring to them but to the overall body of TDs, about 15 of them, who spoke against the Government’s proposals to do away with the triple lock on mobilising the Defence Forces abroad.

Which was a something of a stretch given that he had turned, leant forward with both hands pointing across the floor, looked straight at the three PBP TDs and declared “I have listened to Putin’s puppets over there today ...”

The Socialists erupted in protest. They were the only three deputies “over there”. The benches around them were deserted.

“He called us Putin’s puppets,” howled Paul Murphy, on his feet and very angry.

“Sit down. Sit down!” bellowed Michael Ring, sounding a few warning taps on the bell.

“And that’s what you are – Putin’s puppets,” shouted Seán, very definitely addressing the trio away to his left.

The Ringer stood up, waving what looked like a well-gnawed bone from a chicken drumstick at Paul – although it may have been the wooden mallet for the bell.

“You’re on the wrong side of history,” niggled Seán, making matters 10 times worse.

Paul Murphy was outraged and roaring.

The Ringer stabbed the air with his chicken drumstick.

“I have the floor now,” smiled Sean.

Paul Murphy stayed standing.

“Deputy, sit down. Sit down. SIT DOWN!”

Then Bríd Smith joined the noisy protest.

“No! No! No!” wailed the acting chair as Sean goaded and Paul urgently googled the Dáil rules on his phone.

The Ringer bounced up and down like an orchestra conductor, waving his arms this way and that, pointing frantically with his chickenbone/mallet.

“Sit down. Sit! Sit down now!”

Every so often, the Mayo Maestro pivoted on his heels to thrust out a silencing hand as the others played on, demanding instant compliance from the yabbering Fleming.

Half Leonard Bernstein, half demented dog trainer.

Bríd pointed her Biro at him, demanding he demand a withdrawal from the Fianna Fáil minister.

“Well, all I can say is I did not direct my comments at any individual, but if the cap fits ...” was Seán’s mealy-mouthed effort.

Paul and Bríd kept shouting. RBB had slipped into a catatonic state, chin resting on his hand, staring blanking ahead.

“Deputy! Deputy! DEP-U-TEEES!” cried the Ringer, waving his drumstick at the Socialists and hissing at Seán Fleming to “tone it down” while Paul held up his phone and loudly read out the rules.

Then Danny Healy-Rae toddled in and got stuck in immediately, even though he had missed everything.

“How dare you” he shouts at Seán. “And you’re tellin’ the people….”

The acting chair was now conducting the battle on three fronts. Everyone was roaring, except Sinn Féin’s Reada Cronin, who was quietly enjoying the show.

Michael Ring gave up.

“That’s it. I’m adjourning for five minutes.” And he swept off the Ceann Comhairle’s dais to his dressingroom.

Later, the Minister ungraciously relented. “I withdraw the remark in the event as a result of some members feeling that the comment was directed at them, which it wasn’t specifically.”

Danny Healy-Rae went off to join his 40 guests in the Members’ Restaurant and gave a rousing speech about the great women of Kerry “who keep it all going”.

Then he produced his melodeon and started belting out the tunes.

Restaurant manager Julie Lyons and Yvonne from the catering team arrived out in the middle of the hooley with cakes for the Seanad’s birthday boy and everyone sang happy birthday. Senator Victor Boyhan led everyone in a fine rendition of My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean in Michael McDowell’s honour.

The women from Kerry and another large contingent of ladies (from Limerick with Fianna Fáil’s Jackie Cahill) joined in the singing while Danny accompanied them.

Outgoing MEP Frances Fitzgerald had a Greek MEP in for lunch. He couldn’t get over the scenes of dancing and singing and a melodeon-playing deputy and wanted to know if this happens every lunchtime?

The women, about 80 of them, were having a great time, And then the Taoiseach arrived in. They burst into applause and ran at him. He was thrilled. Jack, one of his staff, had to yank him out of the scrum and bundle him through the kitchens like Bobby Kennedy, to the relative calm of the staff canteen.

It’s just as well they all have next week off.

They should be back to normal when the elections are done.