When I came into the Dáil this morning, there was a letter in my pigeonhole from Gay Mitchell. It was the script of probably the last second stage contribution that the Fine Gael TD for Dublin South Central will make before he retires from the chamber after 26 years.
The speech was ostensibly about the Electoral Act. But conscious that it was a bit of a valedictory for him, Mitchell ranged far and wide, returning to a couple of his favourite themes - neutrality; compulsory national service and the need for Fine Gael to become a Christian Democrat party that appeals to 30% of the electorate. The corollary of that is that he is against it trying to be a catch-all party, spreading itself too thinly in order to attract 60-70% of the vote.
It also included a couple of very unusual suggestions, some of which would prove to be very controversial.
In the context of Northern powersharing and the reform of the House of Lords he had this to say:
"Would we be prepared to allow our Parliament to sit in Belfast while Dublin remained the capital? Alternatively, could the Senate meet in Belfast and the House of Representatives (the English name for Dáil Éireann) meet in Dublin?"
Or a little later:
"We must have more democracy and more democratic debate. What passes for debate in modern Ireland is little short of a sham. Far too many political parties vie for the middle ground, and where there are ideologies they are more likely to be bigoted than open to persuasion by the arguments of others."
Strong stuff. But what else would you expect from one of the Dáil's strongest personalities. He will be a loss to Brussels. A colleague once told me that if he was a dog he would always be chasing cars. It was meant as a compliment.