Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Yesterday was (possibly) Bertie Ahern’s last Leaders’ Questions before the General Election.
And, added Pat Rabbitte in a clear case of wishful thinking, possibly Bertie Ahern’s last Leaders' Questions ever.
And for these (possible) valedictory exchanges between Ahern and Rabbitte in the dying days of the Dáil, why change the habit of a lifetime?

Yes, predictably, they tore into each other like two neighbouring parishes involved in a grudge hurling match where they play away and never mind the ball.

And there was a classic example too just for old time’s sake of Bertie the Bystander (the man who tell the Dáil, this is terrible, somebody should do something about this). And you’ll never guess it, there were loads and loads of statistics falling like drizzle around the Dáil chamber.

Ah yes, nothing like the auld reliables. The first swipe came earlier from Rabbitte but he will point to provocation.

He was asking the Taoiseach about the ‘Paddy the Plasterer’ legislation, the Ethics Bill that was promised as a sop to Michael McDowell for BertieGate.

The Taoiseach replied that the legislation had “started in the Seanad and there is no reason it should not get through”.

But then a couple of minutes later, Rabbitte learned it had not yet reached the Seanad.
"The Government Chief Whip tells me," Ahern replied cryptically, "that if the Bill is not in the Seanad it is going to the Seanad."

We knew where this was going. Within a minute Rabbitte was claiming: "There is not a day the Taoiseach comes in here that he does not tell blatant fibs. It is either in the Seanad or it is not."

It led to our favourite crowd-pleaser, the almost daily stand-off between Rabbitte and Ceann Comhairle Rory O’Hanlon. Finally the offending word “fib” was withdrawn but not before the Labour leader got in a couple of extra digs and the Taoiseach showed a flash of temper too.

"I will find out exactly where it is for the Deputy. I will check whether it is in the Whip’s office, stopped on a corridor or sitting on a shelf. If the Deputy wants to get into that kind of precision, two of us can play at that game."

We were all thrilled on the Taoiseach’s (possible) last day ever taking Leaders Questions that Rabbitte then went in for a moment of pure nostalgia when bringing up the subject of private hospitals on public hospital land.

The Taoiseach resorted to his party piece with that catchy chorus: “It will free up 1,000 additional beds”.

And as an encore he gave a rendition of Bertie the Bystander. Private sector buildings would be built years faster than the public sector.

"he length of time it takes for public procurement contracts to get from A to B is just too slow," he said.

It was a searing indictment of the guy with ultimate responsibility for public procurement contracts, whoever he is.

The Greek Chorus on the opposition benches pitched in: “But that’s your job! That’s your job to do!”

And then Trevor Sargent started talking about climate change. It was one of those days. You had to be there.

This is from this mornings Irish Examiner

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