Dáil has offered a smoky vat of political cliche to mark the imminent arrival of its two-month summer vacation. It’s hard going. The TDs spent Tuesday in a three -hour mixing of old chestnuts with a rancid swill of hackneyed phrases.
Any idea of doing some proper work is missing in the escalating soundbite war between the Government and its main opposition party, Sinn Féin.
Others took part in this ridiculous feast, but they were pointless because the two main players were stuck. Sinn Féin started it by throwing a motion of no confidence in the Government on the table.
The Coalition responded by recording a motion of confidence in its own pomp.
Why does Sinn Féin take lumps out of them when they think they have enough to eat themselves? As a result of some recent departures from the Government ranks, there were early fears that the Coalition might not be able to garner enough votes to win, which would precede a general election. It will never happen. But the early hype for the confidence debate was stirred to an extent that set the scene for a Dáil showdown that would never respond to its overcharge.
Just after seven in the evening, after a futile hour of unpredictable allegations and counter-allegations, Dáil voted. Ceann Comhairle announced the result: the Coalition won by 85 to 66. A very comfortable win. Successful Government representatives applauded and applauded the woodwork, happily mocking the departing Sinn Féiners. They enjoyed the moment, almost excessively.
Clearly, they felt that they had turned their oppressors upside down. Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said as he concluded the debate. “Sinn Féin has made a tactical mistake here” in their “deeply cynical and politically naked” movement of distrust, he says. Their move has allowed the Government to show that it has a clear, working majority.
Three hours earlier, in his opening speech, Taoiseach Micheál Martin rejoiced that he had been given the opportunity to outline the progress his Government had made in the last two years under very difficult global conditions. “It’s a good time to stock up,” he smiled at his “I’m glad you asked me that” speech. He then directly launched an attack on Sinn Féin, setting the bar for what would come from his side of the House before taking the opportunity to deliver his last-term State of the Nation address.
Mary Lou McDonald responded with her standard Would You Look at the State of the Nation address. The Sinn Féin leader reveled in political cliche porridge for 15 minutes as Ministers opened their eyes and interrupted their phones. “Change is needed now more than ever … out of touch, out of time, out of time … the writing is on the wall for you … failed Government must go now .. utter and painful failure. .. tearing at the seams … no urgency, no vision … ”
All the old favorites, he keeps them, with the frequent mention of “ordinary people”. Something must be done for them, “but your idle Government is sitting on its hands and turning a blind eye”. Mary Lou McDonald and her party were shamelessly treated after the last general election when “you came together to stop change”, she roared at Taoiseach, still continuing to care for the Trumpian line that somehow he ended up in the leading job of an electoral conspiracy in disguise. as simple mathematics. “The very definition of cynical,” sniffed Mary Lou, with a straight face.
Taking a leaf out of Sinn Féin’s Dáil performances, the Government responded by throwing all of its key players on the pitch to mount a blanket in response to Mary Lou’s attack. Six speakers – all from Fianna Fáil’s side – marched to protest. Agriculture minister Charlie McConalogue led the charging of the TDs, each with a two -minute speech space. He swipes the SF “Magic Money Tree”. Next up was Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien, who probably thought he had the line of the sun in his jibe about Mary Lou’s pride from stratospheric to intergalactic. “You need NASA’s Webb space telescope to track this.” Perhaps Darragh was looking at the wrong end, which only made this astronomical pride invisible to the eye.
Next was junior Minister Mary Butler, who was cheerful and spoke a mile per minute. He handed the baton to chief whip Jack Chambers, who left like a hare before passing to Robert Troy who hand-over to Paul McAuliffe for the final leg. This is the most bizarre relay race ever.
Sinn Féin’s Eoin Ó Broin answered back to the housing crisis. Fine Gael then dispatched its relay team, led by Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe with Simon Harris, Hildegarde Naughton and Brendan Griffin waiting on their blocks to get their word out within qualifying time.
It’s exhausting. Sinn Féin is like the Muppets Statler and Waldorf, Hildegarde says. “Sneering from the balcony and not offering solutions.” Brendan Griffin shouted: “Gerry Adams ‘party can never beat Michael Collins’ party.” Ah, here.
“We will end the two -level health service and deliver general health care as soon as possible,” promised David Cullinane of Sinn Féin, who won applause from his side.
After a quick interlude from Richard Boyd Barrett and Paul Murphy, Simon Coveney, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, led the next wave of Government. “There may be a chance that your populist disruption will overthrow this Government, but it won’t happen now,” he told Mary Lou, who was busy scrolling through her phone. Helen McEntee followed with a “charade of a motion” followed by Richard Bruton.
Next up for the other side was Pearse Doherty, who produced a repetitive Mary Lou performance with added mica.
Another interlude from some Independent and then the Green wave mobilized. First Eamon Ryan and then Catherine Martin and Roderic O’Gorman along with Fianna Fáil Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and backbencher Jennifer Murnane O’Connor were thrown in to add ballast.
Rural Independents rode behind the distrustful banner, citing a Government more interested in giving billions to them at the top in Dublin while ignoring the people in the country.
Mattie McGrath was able to find the last unwashed kitchen sink at Leinster House and slammed it to the floor. “Fyne Gale and Fianna Fáil are responsible for a culture of insiders. Jobs for men, appointing record numbers of mentors, keeping global elites inside, strokes, cronyism, corruption, cute hoorism, brown envelopes, scratched backs, dig-outs and whatever else you experience in yourself. I say Taoiseach Martin and Tánaiste, and your whole gang: that’s what you’re getting at, shame on you. ”
Time passed and no cliche or hoary old chestnut remained untouched on Kildare Street. “Now we’re moving to the Independent,” Ceann Comhairle said, tired. Thomas Pringle, in a very brief contribution, said it was a failed Government. He was able to say “failed” over 20 times, which is impressive. “I didn’t have confidence in this Government from day one,” Joan Collins said.
And back to the Coalition banks for the final attack. Heather Humphries broke away and applauded for her attack on Sinn Féin’s move, calling it “an absolute waste of time and pure nonsense … the greatest codological load I’ve heard in a long time” and calling for Sinn Féin the “flip-flop party”.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar ends with a full round of how the sky will fall under a Sinn Féin government. And then the pumped-up Coalition waited for the vote. They got what they wanted – a strong victory. Sinn Féin would not be too angry. It is SF in HD (high dudgeon) mode. They make a splash before the holiday and this will keep them going through the summer.
Everyone is happy.