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As Sinn Féin wallows in the ballot box blues, Harris does not need any Mary Lou-splaining

A return of the Dáil brought back the Punch and Judy show, with politicians across the floor delighted as Shinners winced and wailed

Taoiseach Simon Harris arriving at the Royal Dublin Society during the count for the European elections. Photograph: Damien Storan/PA Wire

Here we go.

There will be no let up now until a general election is called.

What did he mean when he said that?

Is she trying to imply something?


Did he get his teeth fixed for the posters?

What were the Taoiseach and Tánaiste muttering about just there?

What is that group of Fianna Fáilers whispering outside the chamber up to?

Why has the Government decided to rush through the Planning and Development Bill to the absolute fury of the Opposition?

Clearing the decks, that’s why.

The backbenchers have gone missing.

Boxes of stationery are being trolleyed into car boots.

If a Coalition insider looks sideways at somebody it’s a sign.

A Green junior minister says his party is election-ready.

Everything is shovel-ready.

Government TDs are fizzing around the place.

Junior ministers are giddy.

Their main opposition is wounded.

And Simon Harris is positively spewing projectile decisiveness.

How long can this go on for?

The Sinn Féin leader has stopped insisting a general election be called now.

But Paul Murphy of People before Profit is calling for one.

The three Government leaders still insist a general election will not happen until early next year. They may be right, but that doesn’t really matter any more because the speculation has started and it will not end until the 33rd Dáil is dissolved and the Taoiseach puts us all out of our misery to be plunged instantly into a fresh round of campaigning and counting.

Sinn Fein's Eoin Ó Brion and party colleague Louise O'Reilly at the European count centre in the RDS over the weekend. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Business resumed in the Dáil on Tuesday afternoon. How would this session of Leaders’ Questions play out between Taoiseach Simon Harris and Sinn Féin leader, Mary Lou? A gracious show of magnanimity from him and a magnanimous show of graciousness from her, perhaps?

Nothing. The local and European elections didn’t get a direct mention. The dramatic results – a fillip for the Coalition and a fist in the face for Sinn Féin – a conspicuous but unspoken presence.

For once, there was no inclination on the part of the Sinn Féin president to mention the war.

Mary Lou McDonald, loyal lieutenant Louise O’Reilly by her side, was subdued. Both women wearing blue, perfectly matching the mood.

Simon Harris didn’t raise his voice, but his confidence veered at times into cockiness, like when he told McDonald he didn’t need her “to ‘Mary Lou-splain’” to him how important the summer school programme is for children with special needs and their families.

Amid the success of Fianna Fáil’s Billy Barrys, Micheál Martin is in the grip of post-victory deliriumOpens in new window ]

Granted, the Sinn Féin leader may have considerable form for gratuitously accusing male politicians of “mansplaining” whenever she doesn’t like what they are saying, but this killer riposte was even clunkier than the invisible election elephant in the chamber.

There was a minor skirmish near the end when the Taoiseach said he has set up and is chairing a Cabinet subcommittee “to break silos and end bureaucracy” blighting progress in special needs education.

People don’t just need a definition of the problems but “they actually want us to come up with solutions”, he told her.

Then he gently slid the knife. “I would have thought you learnt that this weekend,” he said.

The hurting Shinners winced and wailed.

“Such arrogance,” heaved Pádraig MacLochlainn.

Simon twisted the knife as his colleagues protested.

“I thought deputy McDonald would have been trying humility today.”

“Hubris and arrogance!” spluttered Mac Lochlainn, appalled on behalf of his leader who spent most of the session engrossed in one of her two phones when she wasn’t in whispered conversation with Louise.

Social Democrats leader Holly Cairns began with a sideways nod to her own party’s election achievements.

One thing she learned on the doors in recent weeks is that people have no time for “the Punch and Judy show” that often happens in the Dáil.

“Hear Hear!” said the Taoiseach as he hit Mary Lou over the head with a mallet and tried to stuff Pádraig into the sausage machine.

“They are not interested in petty, political one-upmanship or politics that values soundbites over substance,” Cairns continued.

“Hear, hear!” cried Simon, before later congratulating her on her party’s gains.

“Lots of people voted for my party as well.”

At this point he cracked and wallowed in the percentages. More than 53 per cent of seats were bagged by his Coalition, so the people obviously think they’re getting something right.

Ministers were only short of hugging themselves.

Paul Murphy of People Before Profit also highlighted his party’s good performance in the local elections and noted how all the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael TDs were “looking pretty pleased with themselves”.

He was there to burst their bubble.

“Pride comes before a fall,” he warned the Taoiseach.

“Be careful so,” smirked Simon.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil had worst local election results ever, Paul told him. Terrible election for them.

“Your parties are deeply unpopular still.”

They giggled and laughed across the way, with their beautiful 53 per cent in the bag and Sinn Féin suffering the ballot box blues.

“How many seats did you get? How many?”

(Thirteen or 1.46 per cent, but never mind the width, feel the quality is how Paul sees it.)

He also called for a general election. And he called for the parties of the left to form a viable opposition to get the current shower out of office.

That got the Government side laughing again.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said that she suspects that an Irish general election will take place this autumn. Video: Getty

If people can be inspired with the vision of an alternative left choice, they will take that choice, said Paul.

“One choice has been ruled out anyway,” chucked Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan, eyeing the Sinn Féin benches and Mary Lou, head down, scrolling away.

“There will be an election in due course,” said the Taoiseach, causing immediate panic among hacks and politicians. “Due course” does not mean next year. Due course could mean anytime.

Then the Dáil got stuck into the huge Planning and Development Bill which has been years in gestation but is now being rushed through in two days by the Government against fierce pushback by angry opposition TDs.

The Taoiseach insisted it must go through to decisively tackle the housing problem, once and for all. That’s a popular move, even if the legislation has not been adequately scrutinised by the Oireachtas.

Clearing the decks for an election, say jumpy observers.

There will be no let up until it happens.

None. God help us.

Election Daily: Sinn Féin’s leadership under scrutiny

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