YEARS ago, on a rare visit to Leinster House, your humble scribe was escorted to the Dáil bar by an affable, larger-than-life FG mini-minister (now sadly deceased). His greeting resounded through the illustrious building: ‘Welcome, dear boy, to this palace of boozers, brothel keepers and bare-knuckle brawlers!’ he roared.
And, do you know, whatever about the brothel keepers, he was spot-on in his use of the two other descriptive nouns, boozers and brawlers.
Indeed, it’s a fact that, in the surroundings of the most exclusive shebeen in Ireland, where time and the real world fly by in an alcoholic haze, the cut-and-thrust of witty, political discussion quickly is transformed into gobbledegook. It is then we realise that we have to take the wise politico as a joke and the buffoon seriously if we want to understand Irish politics.
Or, as our eminent friend in Dinty’s once accurately remarked: ‘There is nothing worse, or more obnoxious, than having a drunken TD painstakingly trying to mutter some incomprehensible hugger-mugger into your earhole.’
So, when our own local representative, Independent TD Michael Collins (‘the man of the community’) seized the bull by the horns and demanded the Dáil bar to be shut down, we think we know what he meant.
Here’s what he said (courtesy of De Paper): ‘There’s two bars in the Dáil. There’s politicians running up tabs left, right and centre. I don’t take alcohol in my place of work, that’s my belief and everybody has to have their own mind-set on this.
‘But I think it is totally and utterly wrong and it sends the wrong message out there. Shane Ross wants to shut bars in rural Ireland with his Bill, but he wants to keep the two Dáil bars open here.’
The point made by the Goleen man was akin to a criticism that Gerry Adams has been making about the Oireachtas pubs. Adams doesn’t want to close them and put people out of work. He simply wants the politicians to exert sensible control over the sale of booze in Leinster House.
For his troubles, FG politicos on the Dáil’s Committee on Procedure and Privilege contemptuously have dubbed his proposal as ‘another Republican stunt.’
The Sinn Féin man deplores the fact that politicians who are ‘langers’ from drink vote on major issues in the Dáil, and he wants the parliamentary pubs to be subject to normal licensing laws: ‘The Oireachtas is a workplace,’ he argues. ‘The idea of a bar, open until any hour of the morning, where important legislation affecting the lives of citizens is being debated, is unacceptable.’
He is also concerned that bar staff should be stuck in Leinster House until all hours just because some TD wants to guzzle a few ‘bevvies’ when city pubs are shut.
Fuelling the debate is the readiness of the Oireachtas Commission to write off bar debts on the grounds that there is little chance of our parliamentarians paying their dues.
Earlier this year a €5,500 debt was scrubbed, even though Varadkar’s Department of the Taoiseach was reported to owe €965, while several government departments, two committee, and the Government Press Office also are said to be reluctant to cough up what they owe.
What’s more, the international media tends to cast an occasional eye on Dáil proceedings in the hope of seeing another hilarious ‘Lapgate’ incident, like the one that happened some years ago when the bar pumped out drink until 5.31 in the morning.
On that momentous occasion, former East Cork TD, Tom Barry, was caught on Oireachtas television pulling his Fine Gael colleague, Áine Collins, onto his lap during a marathon debate of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill.
Mr Barry later described the event as ‘horseplay.’ Accepting Mr Barry’s apology, Ms Collins nonetheless described the incident as ‘disgusting.’
She was worried that the matter would put off women from taking up politics as a career and said she did not know of any other workplace where people were allowed to drink alcohol all night while they carried out their duties. In the 2016 general election both FG politicos lost their seats.
Yet, there’s no doubt that our public representatives have a warm spot in their hearts for the Dáil bars. For instance, former Fianna Fáil senator, Terry Leydon built an exact replica of one of the bars in his own public house, the Castlecoote Lounge, in Roscommon!
He invited Micheál Martin and most of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party to the opening but sent out the invitations in Oireachtas envelopes – an action that the Standards in Public Office Commission deemed a misuse of prepaid material for personal purposes.
An embarrassed Terry Leydon quickly reimbursed the Oireachtas and cancelled the event. Sad faces all round!
The moral of it all? It seems the Dáil bars, whether real or mockey-ya, are where madness is sold by the bottle-full!
At the end of last month, and at the height of the Frances Fitzgerald controversy, we were heading for a snap general election. But after the Tánaiste’s humiliating resignation and Mickey Martin’s eagerness to continue as Fine Gael’s mudguard, the election failed to happen.
Which didn’t deter some Cork politicos from displaying a brassy opportunism in an effort to stake their claim for selection as Dáil candidates.
First out of the traps was Colm Burke, formerly a FG MEP who happily occupied Simon Coveney’s Euro-Parliament seat when the latter was elected to Dáil Éireann.
Burke failed to hold the seat in the 2009 Euro-Parliament election but was rewarded with a sinecure in Seanad Éireann that he continues to enjoy.
On this occasion, he didn’t waste time staking his claim to a Dáil seat, griping to the meeja that, for years, he had been blocked from getting on the ticket and that he’d no longer take no for an answer. Another FG ‘Speedy Gonzales’ was Julie O’Leary. She announced that she too deserved a nomination, while FF councillor Kenneth O’Flynn did the same, as did a resurrected Kathleen Lynch and an eternally optimistic Gerry Buttimer (FG).
Mad cow joke
An organisation called PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is having a beef (geddit?) about adverts by the National Dairy Council’s use of cows’ milk being presented as ‘plant’based’: ‘Milk squeezed out of a cow is no more plant-based than is flesh cut from her body,’ they gruesomely complain.
Which reminds us of this awful Mad Cow joke: Two cows were talking in a field. One cow says, ‘Have you heard about the Mad Cow disease that’s going around?’ The other cow answers, ‘Yeah, makes you glad you’re a penguin, doesn’t it?’
Happy Christmas, dear readers, and stick to the turkey!