ALTHOUGH many people would pick the moment that Madame Burton fell out of a canoe as the golden memory of the Coalition’s term of office, the winning image has to be the Madame Burton reminding outgoing TDs to settle their bar tabs.
For insensitivity it took the biscuit. Why, we wondered, did the Paddy Power gambling organisation present our noble politicos as a bunch of stingy tosspots who wouldn’t pay their bills? Was the outfit getting in a dig at a rival Dáil facility that broadcasts horseracing and which is watched by our deputies and senators when cheesed off with running the country?
One way or another, it was a cheap jibe. After all, wagering a few bob on a nag that will finish no worse than second is a pleasanter way of spending a rainy afternoon than having to listen to a stupefying Michael Noonan or an incomprehensible Enda Kenny.
That aside, the suggestion that our politicos don’t pay for their drinks was a vile, under-the-belt comment. Paddy Power seemed to forget that drunken sessions are essential to the continuation of life in Dáil Eireann where a Joan Burton speech can be as toxic as the scent of stale sweat.
Of course, if on occasions the deadening ho-hum of Kenny answering a question drives a man to drink and he forgets to pay his round, as in the case of the TD who owes €2,500, well, it’s not a big deal and nobody’s perfect!
After all, the underlying philosophy of our politicos is akin to that of Benjamin Franklin’s who said God loves politicians and wants them to be happy. We agree. Happiness, indeed, is very important to the chaps who last week walked away from the Oireachtas boozer owing a total of €28,642!
Blank out fear
The happy days our lads and lassies had in the 31st Dáil should not be forgotten and, hopefully, they will not banish pleasant memories in the same way as they blank out the fear of death from measles, or the ignominy of losing one’s seat.
In the case of Fine Gael, nothing better exemplifies the importance they give to mental storage than the delight with which they recall the party’s finest hour, that truly memorable event: the debate on the ‘2014 Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill’. A classic indeed during which not a tincture of the demon dhrink was consumed, or so they suggested!
On that occasion, Deputy Tom Barry grabbed a female colleague and pulled her onto his lap. Oh, how the politicos chuckled at the innocent fun, particularly when the horseplay was broadcast worldwide and made the words ‘Fine Gael’ synonymous with mirth and merriment. That surely was the highlight of the 31st Dáil – even if Taoiseach Indakinny inexplicably would prefer it to be forgotten, like one would a spilt pint.
Another indelible memory was the Government’s response to the flooding of towns such as Bandon, Clonakilty and Skibbereen. And can we ever forget Environment Minister Alan Kelly’s charming observation relating to his deep concern for our watery predicament?
He informed us that in the future the EU’s Copernicus space agency would provide West Cork with really terrific weather forecasts. Wasn’t that good of him? Benefitting from EU funds, however, was kaput!
Still and all, it was sad to see the insurance industry rubbing Minister Kelly’s nose in the muck! Despite his protestations, they refused to insure homes and businesses in areas where multimillion-euro movable defences had been put in place.
Kelly grumbled that where ‘demountable’ barriers worked successful, the insurance companies should cough up. Their reply to the hapless Minister was in the form of a cynical brush-off. The Government ought to create its own ‘social compensation scheme,’ they sneered.
Kelly wallowed in righteous indignation, spluttering warnings to the insurers that he would put a levy on their profits. The cash, he said, would go to building more defences in Bandon and Skibbereen. Wow!
Was West Cork impressed? Did anyone take him seriously? ‘That fellow is great with his cock and bull stories, but he won’t be going too far,’ was the consensus in Dinty’s; which said it all!
What a laugh!
Rubbing our eyes in wonder, we re-read details of the Labour Party’s election manifesto. Yes, there it was: the town councils abolished by Labour (and Fine Gael) would be re-established.
Blueshirt Big Philly Hogan was responsible for smashing the councils in 2014 and the Cloth Cap Brigade fully supported his plan. Eighty councils got the chop and the number of councillors was reduced from 1,627 to 949,
Councillors received in excess of €20 million in ‘parachute payments’ and payouts ranged from €2,800 for those with five years’ service up to a maximum of €64,300 for a councillor who held a seat for 40 years.
Big Philly claimed the move would save the state €45 million a year and savings also would be made in annual salaries, expenses, allowances, travel, mobile phones, and fees for sitting on a range of public bodies. The Labour Party, salivating at the prospect of ‘free money’ embraced the idea lock, stock and barrel.
But now Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin has had a crisis of conscience – or perhaps it might be described as a crisis of confidence.
Whatever it is – moral uncertainty or maybe James Joyce’s ‘Agenbite of Inwit’ (remorse of conscience or the realisation that a monster has been created) – there is no doubt that Howlin is twisted with guilt! Last month, the repentant politico confessed that ‘he took his eye off the ball because he was doing other things at that stage, trying to prevent the economy from sinking.’
We can hear the plain people of Ireland cry ‘Oh yeah!’ as they ask what kind of a political ninnyhammer is he? Having already paid millions to greedy councillors, within a year and a bit, he is now prepared to pay more millions to the same politicos to put the discredited system back together.
Incredibly, Howlin lobbied Madame Burton to include the re-establishment of councils in the Cloth Cap Brigade manifesto. He told her that the idea of amalgamation was good in terms of synergy of resources (whaaa dat?), but in terms of local representation the historic towns of Ireland needed a municipal government.
He was now all in favour of having a local mayor who ‘greets the local team home from victory or defeat and attends the local events. That is part of the defining of a local community and I think the lack of it is a mistake,’ he groaned.
And now he tells us!
Any old iron?
Fair dues to Paul’s shop in Clonakilty for possibly the most honest sign ever to advertise an emporium’s goods and wares! It says quite simply: ‘Second-hand furniture and auld shite’!