Dáil exchanges following Fianna Fáil's Ard Fheis. This is my colour piece from the morning's Irish Examiner and, no, it's not me trying to justify me getting it so wrong last week.
Concern was growing last night about the whereabouts and well-being of a senior Fianna Fail minister said to be in a State of total bewilderment following his party’s Ard Fheis last weekend.
Labour leader Pat Rabbitte raised the sad case of Social Affairs Minister Seamus Brennan during Leaders Questions in the Dáil yesterday, asking had anyone seen him or know of his well-being?
“The Taoiseach sent him out last Tuesday to present a press conference about the coming Ard Fheis and the man was but a pale shadow of himself, so shocked was he at the policy platform put forward by us,” testified Rabbitte.
Alarmed as he was at the billions being promised by the opposition, Rabbitte believes he may have been driven over the edge completely by the “Niagara of promises” Taoiseach Bertie Ahern unleashed on Saturday night at the Ard Fheis.
It must have been a full moon for strange things were happening to Fianna Failers on Saturday night. A member of the chorus line, Michael Mulcahy, TD for Dublin South Central, last week sternly urged the Taoiseach to stand firm; no tax cuts and no more spending to put the economy at risk.
While perusing his television on Saturday night, the Labour leader spotted the same Michael Mulcahy at the end of a speech in which the Taoiseach had promised 53 different commitments amounting to E300 million per minute, including, yes, tax cuts.
“I saw Deputy Mulcahy on the screen before my eyes on Saturday night, applauding like Mr Bean on speed.
Ooh, nasty. Later the Bert would describe Rabbitte as narky and there was certainly an edge to yesterday’s exchanges in the Dáil that spelt election coming up, hand-to-hand combat in the trenches, and all-out warfare over the extravagance of each other’s spending policies.
Rabbitte went in hard – and humorously – on Fianna Fail’s U-turn between Tuesday when Brennan did an impression of Ebeneezer Scrooge and Saturday when Ahern did an impression of Nero fiddling while Rome burned.
There were a couple of great lines. A woman told him that she thought the Taoiseach’s nose would come out through the screen. He also suggested that Ahern was being economical with the verite when he told Ursula Halligan he puts material to be recycled into the boot of his Mercedes.
“Nobody would believe what the Taoiseach says. He is only sort of playing cricket on some spare patch of ground. He jumps on the bandwagon in respect of anything that becomes popular. The only thing he recycles is other people’s ideas.”
Ouch. The Taoiseach and Tánaiste got in a couple of their own jibes, about the distant past, about Sinn Fein/The Workers Party, about Rabbitte being involved with subversives, and about printing presses and counterfeit money in Gardiner Street.
“I apologise for ruining the Deputy’s weekend. I assure him that Minister Brennan is very well,” he said.
If you want to read yesterday's Dail exchanges go to this link