BOYOND all doubt, Fianna Fáil is the funniest party in Dáil Éireann. Last week, party leader Micheál Martin had the nation guffawing in very audible contractions of the diaphragm and other parts of the respiratory system, thanks to an observation he made during a debate.
It was one of the best jokes Our Mickey ever crafted and when, in turn, he passed it on to his official ‘funny man,’ FF housing spokesman Mr Darragh O’Brien, the ‘meeja’ got hold of it and, hey presto, the entire nation soon was falling around the place in stitches.
And the joke? Hold on a second until we compose ourselves – we’re still laughing! But, first the background.
Fianna Fáil refused to support a Sinn Féin motion of no confidence in the Fine Gael housing minister, Eoghan Murphy. Why? Because the motion ran the risk of … God forbid! … triggering a general election. And nobody, least of all the Soldiers of Destiny and Micheál Martin, wanted that!
As far as Fianna Fáil was concerned, threatening the government just before the budget was an ‘irresponsible action.’ But to do so while Fine Gael was ‘in the middle of Brexit negotiations’ … well … that was reckless!
That’s the joke!
Politically-abnormal people found it funny because of the negotiations Taoiseach Vlad has been having with the British government, the devious Mrs May and her political gorilla, Mr Boris. Picture our Vlad: sweat pouring from him, loosening the collar of his Eton Classic shirt, saving the island of saints and scholars, while in the Dáil his ‘pretend’ political opponent, Mr Martin, is gracefully protecting him from accusations of banjaxing matters.
For his efforts, scorn was poured on Mr Martin’s noble head, which shows that even a virtuous group, such as Fianna Fáil, can fall victim to mocking belly-laughs and unrestrained hee-hee-hees.
Fianna Fáil and Mickey don’t deserve the ridicule, even though sometimes laughter can be beneficial to good health. Our Auntie Maisie thought the same and once, in a shrewd observation, she admitted that when something tickled her fancy she laughed so much that she embarrassingly ‘drank her tears.’
The public reaction to Mr Martin’s determination to maintain political serenity on behalf of Mr Vlad was a bit like what happened to our Auntie Maisie, embarrassing hilarity! In Fianna Fáil’s case it was the sight of Our Mickey abandoning the cut and thrust of traditional politics because of the Brexit negotiations and because the FG budget was around the corner!
Ireland, however, owes a debt of gratitude to Mr Martin for reminding us that although laughter is a natural form of medicine and can improve the sense of political well-being it should never supplant duty, responsibility and the obligation to do the right thing. Oh no!
What’s more, Fianna Fáil comedians – if they wanted to – could have us rolling in the aisles were they to treat in an amusing fashion the fact that Fine Gael allowed homelessness to increase by 60%, child homelessness by 77%, and the number of pensioners without a home by 80%. But by current Dáil standards, those statistics are not really funny and Mr Martin and friends are much too bound by civic duty to turn the figures into a political joke.
Instead they prefer Budget and Brexit jocularity because the related gags help conceal the party’s lack of political backbone and, curiously, attacks by Dáil dust-mites (dermatophagoides pteronyssinus). Those are the things that mysteriously burrow into the heads of useless politicians whenever they enter the chamber.
So let’s have a dekko at the mechanics of the Brexit joke and try to find an explanation as to why, in our naivety, we chortled so much. Was it because Darragh O’Brien, the FF housing spokesperson, announced that the time to pull down the government had not yet arrived? Or did the hilarious Brexit punchline have its origins in Mickey’s obligation to support the government at all costs because of the Confidence and Supply deal?
Cynics identify the funniest bit as Fianna Fáil’s much-proclaimed determination to hold the government to account, despite the limitations of being in opposition. We now know that the phrase ‘holding the government to account’ means absolutely nothing; and that not even comedian Tommy Tiernan could invent a joke like that!
But behind the laughter something weird is happening. A process of genetic mutation is taking place as Fianna Fáil undergoes a transformation into Kafka’s giant cockroach. In other words, we fear that Fianna Fáil is becoming a transmogrified version of Fine Gael! (Kafka wrote an entertaining story about a travelling salesman who wakes one morning to find himself transformed into a gigantic insect).
On the other hand, maybe Mr Martin wasn’t speaking seriously when he declared that Sinn Féin motions on the housing crisis had no impact in terms of affordable housing for young couples.
Which sort of obliges us to ask if there is an ethical dimension to Fianna Fáil’s support of a government that is failing the homeless, failing those renting and failing those who do everything humanly possible to own a home?
The fact that the Establishment parties haven’t a bull’s as to how to solve the housing crisis is no joke. Hence the charge of ‘populist politics’ that was thrown at Sinn Féin and its housing spokesperson, Eoin Ó Broin, when they introduced a motion of no confidence in the Government.
(Fianna Fáil abstained and the government won by 59 votes to 49).
Indeed, the Dublin media are on the ball when they say that Martin is not just a lost leader but a loss leader; that he’s vulnerable, pushed to the side-lines, a bit player and out of touch with an increasingly restless FF grassroots?
Could it be that he’s a sort of Jeeves-like gentleman’s gentleman whose job is to support Varadkar with a trusty supply of votes whenever Fine Gael finds itself in a corner – which is what happened last week?
Because unlike Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin’s response to the housing crisis was muscular and in tune with people’s demands. As was their warning that, if Fianna Fáil continues to support Minister Eoghan Murphy, ‘the cost will be increased homelessness, longer housing waiting lists, increased unaffordability, and a crisis that is going to get worse.’
The fact of the matter is that Sinn Féin has seized the initiative – and that, certainly, is no joke!
Here’s a good one: Fianna Fáil is intending to organise in the North, contest elections and, if successful, merge with the MLAs in Stormont. But, and here’s the interesting bit: If a miracle happens, and they win seats in Westminster, would Fianna Fáil be prepared to swear an oath of allegiance to the reigning British monarch?
The oath, or affirmation, is simple and straightforward: ‘To be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, her heirs and successors.’
No empty formula there!