WE’RE lucky that the Greenies are much too well-mannered to tear lumps from their critics. Indeed, their civilised attitudes and polish might have something to do with a readiness, whenever possible, to lay aside acrimonious matters and indulge in a midday snooze – as practised by Greenie-in-Chief, Éamon Ryan.
Recently, at a meeting of Dáil Éireann in Dublin’s flash Convention Centre which boasts a 2,000 seat auditorium, Éamo, lulled (probably) by the grandeur of the surroundings, the hypnotic drone of voices and the pleasure he got from a seat that provided ergonomic comfort without compromising on design aesthetics, fell into a deep sleep.
In doing so, his body and brain shifted inexorably from an erratic state of wakefulness to one of calmness and serenity, his heart rate and breathing slowed down, his muscles relaxed, and the brain cells of this great man began to replenish energy for the hugely important, geopolitical mental activity that marks the life of a Greenie.
Indeed, Éamo’s pleasurable but temporary state of deep slumber would not have been unknown to William Shakespeare, who observed centuries ago that, when it comes to catnaps, ‘we are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.’
Sadly, Eamo’s ‘little life’ of sleep did not last long.
‘Éamo, Éamo, will ya wake up,’ roared his fellow politicos while the bellowing of the Chief Whip, Jack Chambers, urging him to return to planet Earth, resounded in his ear-drums.
As shown on telly, to drag the dozing democrat back from the Land of Nod and into the reality of everyday political life was not a difficult thing to do. Nevertheless, it came across as a somewhat cruel procedure for a politician who really deserved his forty winks.
It’s possible, of course, that people might have been alarmed at Mr Ryan’s extended bout of physiological tranquillity, although Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ described such a state of rest as similar to a soothing bath after a hard day’s work, or the main course in a gigantic nosh-up: ‘Sleep … sore labour’s bath … great nature’s second course … chief nourisher in life’s feast,’ etc, etc.
But, Shakespeare aside, as far as Ryan’s critics were concerned, the matter at issue was his non-participation in an important debate that concerned the protection of employment rights for people on low wages.
As calls for Mr Ryan to ‘wake up’ echoed through the huge Dáil Convention Centre, the nation looked-on with perplexity, wondering when, if ever, Mr Ryan would emerge from his sojourn in the Seven Sleepers’ Den. Indeed, for some observers, the scene was reminiscent of the lack of animation and bounce of Monty Python’s famous parrot!
We waited and watched, glued to the telly. Was Ryan OK? Was he still with us? The seconds seemed like hours. No reaction. And then, to the relief of Ireland, he blinked.
‘He’s OK! He’s OK!’ cried the nation with immense relief and joy. ‘Hurrah! Long live Our Éamo … Long live the Greenies!’
Within moments, the good news had hearts thudding all over the land; it was as if Joe Mac and the Dixies had descended from the musical heavens for a drum session, so great was the excitement.
But, it wasn’t long before the on-line Nasty Bunch began describing the Dáil as the ‘House of Sleepers’ and cracked silly jokes about Éamo looking forward to going back to sleep from the moment he woke up. Or that he took the nap so that bedtime would come faster! Dreadful stuff altogether!
People seemed to forget that the good man was very tired, having spent weeks cycling around Dublin on his high-nelly, talking, debating, drinking cold coffee and eventually wangling his way into government after interminable chats with the Taoiseach of Turner’s Cross.
And, let’s face it, Éamo’s failure to respond when his name was called to vote (twice) was understandable, if regrettable.
The Minister for Children, Equality, Disability and Integration, Roderic O’Gorman (who he?) described the sleeping lapse as nothing more than ‘a moment of human frailty.’
We agree! Of course!
In land of nod
In fact, sleeping on the job is not unique to Irish politicos. In Britain, during the 2017-2019 Conservative government, an attempt was made to dock money from the wages of MPs caught ‘dozing’ during parliamentary sessions.
The intention was to embarrass politicos who made decisions that affected the whole country and yet couldn’t keep their eyes open at work. It was argued that, if an ordinary worker fell asleep on the job he/she would suffer a wage-cut. So why should MPs be treated differently?
The proposal got nowhere after opponents argued that Parliament was not responsible for the drowsiness of MPs, and that the MPs were not employed by Parliament. Decisions about MPs’ pay were the responsibility of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, which was independent of both Parliament and the Government.
But, lost in the ‘Saving Snoozy Ryan’ controversy was the response from Cork City councillor, Lorna Bogue, who was more concerned at the Greenie vote against an extension to maternity leave and the threat to workers’ rights than the leader’s visit to Slumberland.
Pointing to her record on maternity payments, a living wage and collective bargaining for precarious workers, she said she had spent six years defending the Green Party – telling people on the door that the party wouldn’t repeat the ‘intergenerational harm’ it had inflicted the last time. ‘This party has made a liar out of me,’ she declared and that ‘a new generation of the young will pay for the failure of the Green Party with their futures.’
And now for something different, slightly! Former Social Protection Minister, Regina Doherty, who had her ten minutes of fame following allegations that she had not been in the Dáil for an important vote and yet had her vote acknowledged, was cruelly rejected in the recent general election.
But, no problemo! Our Rotating Taoiseach, Mickey, whose political generosity knows no bounds, made her leader of Seanad Éireann even though Ms Doherty campaigned to abolish the institution. She considered it to be ‘simply beyond repair’! Yep, we’re not kidding.
Indeed, as recently as last month, Doherty, as a director of Fine Gael’s Seanad Abolition Campaign, wrote ‘We came to the conclusion that no matter what way you cut the cake … it (the Seanad) would continue to be undemocratic and elitist.’
But then, hey presto, her opinion miraculously changed!
In response to the flip-flop, GRIPT, the online newspaper that’s making a name for its news coverage, commented that it wasn’t hard to see why people were cynical about politics and politicians. Seanad Éireann shouldn’t be a dumping ground for failed election candidates, it said.