HERE’S a good one: Was the Dear Leader entirely ‘compos mentis’ as he prepared to celebrate St Patrick’s Day in the company of US President Barrack Obama? Of course he was. Yet, while lecturing the world on how dreadfully wrong people were if they thought the demon dhrink was part and parcel of Irish culture, he sounded like a born-again Fr Theobald Matthew on steroids.
He remarked (and did so with a perfectly straight face) that the Irish were ‘perfectly in order’ to let the hair down as long as they did so ‘responsibly’. His comment was in response to an observation made by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot that we Paddies can celebrate nothing without getting loaded – not that the cheery Antipodean saw much wrong with that! In fact he was all for it.
Our Dear Leader, you see, was offended at what he perceived as the ‘stage Irish,’ alcohol-stewed implication in the Aussie salutation. Instead Kenny wanted to get the point across that we’re not topers but rather a nation of serious, self-restrained, alco-responsible Hibernians who enjoy a knees-up in a morally prudent fashion.
Which might have been all very good and proper, as well as evocative of Fr Matthew’s advice to ‘discountenance the cause and practice of intemperance,’ if the Taoiseach had not been representing the biggest shebeen in the western world, Dáil Éireann!
Now, that’s the real place for stage-Irishery, drunken antics and cringe-inducing tomfoolery. So bad is it that a disgusted Gerry Adams called for TDs to be breathalysed before they entered the Dáil Chamber! Flopping the firewater before legislating, according to the Sinn Féin Leader, is par for the course.
Adams, a non-drinker, claims it is an ‘unacceptable anachronism to have a pub open until all hours of the morning in a workplace where important laws affecting the lives of citizens are debated.’ On several occasions, he demanded a change in Dáil regulations so that the licensing laws that apply to any other pub in the country included the politicos’ private boozer.
He got nowhere. Labour’s Emmet Stagg, a key member of the Committee on Procedures and Privileges, sneered that Adams was ‘publicity grabbing,” while Seanad cathaoirleach Paddy Burke warned him to ‘take his prohibitionist agenda elsewhere’.
It’s not hard to understand their die-hardism. Former Taoiseach, Brian ‘Biffo’ Cowen, immensely enjoyed the Dáil and Seanad members’ drinking den. He described the most exclusive club in Ireland as his very own ‘sanctuary’ – no doubt because it is off-limit to proles such as you and me. The plain people of Ireland have to make do with an alternative watering hole in Leinster House, the ‘Visitors’ Bar’, which operates under different regulations.
Those two honky tonks, Visitors’ Bar and Dáil Bar, attracted international attention on Lapgate Night 2013, that infamous 18-hour debate on the legalisation of abortion during which politicos and ‘political visitors’ swallowed almost €7,000 worth of alcoholic gargle.
‘A little horseplay’
Greatly contributing to the monster beerfest was the truly amazing sight of government TD Tom Barry grasping Fine Gael colleague Áine Collins and pulling her down onto his lap – much to the alarm of the unfortunate lady and the worldwide audience that witnessed the occurrence live on TV.
Although Fine Gael described the episode as ‘just a little horseplay,’ it sparked global headlines. Kenny’s international reputation took a bibulous nosedive, as did his unique way of conducting Dáil business.
Also bizarre, if we take into account the partiality of our politicos for alcohol swilling, is the fact that the committee in charge of administrating the Oireachtas has had to call in private debt collectors to pursue unpaid Dáil bar tabs.
In other words, the blighters don’t even pay their round – the lousiest abuse of public house etiquette known to man and a practice that would be condemned absolutely in Dinty’s or anywhere else on the planet. Although the current rate of outstanding bills is unknown, it is believed to be well in excess of what in 2012 was then the outstanding amount – around €68,000.
And if all that wasn’t freakish enough, the politicos voted to introduce their very own brand of ‘Oireachtas Wine’ (French Merlot and a Sauvignon Blanc)!
Oh, and let’s not forget Fianna Fáil Senator Terry Leyden. So enthused was the said gent by the Dáil boozer that he actually constructed a replica in the lounge of his Castlecoote hostelry!
So, here’s a boozy message for Australia’s Prime Minister: For Gawd’s sake, Tony, dismiss the Dear Leader’s lesson in temperance as utter codswallop. If you feel like a ‘piss-up’, give us a shout and we’ll head for the Dáil Bar, the cheapest dive in town! The lads will be only too pleased to make you feel at home!
‘Just filling a gap’
Sanctimonious horse dung accompanied the disclosure that Fine Gael backbencher, John Perry, hired his wife Marie (‘just filling a gap’) for a €49,000 job as parliamentary assistant.
‘Family members should not be appointed to roles within the Oireachtas or within government,’ pontificated Transport Minister Paschal O Donohoe. ‘Giving family members such jobs was not good practice,’ proclaimed the Dear Leader, before turning away to laugh up his sleeve at the foolishness of anyone who’d believe him.
The unfair practice of giving jobs to relatives – a practice that a FG commentator described as ‘dynastic politics’ – is as deeply rooted in the Blueshirt psyche as in the politics of a two-bit Central African government. So we shouldn’t be surprised.
After all, favouritism to kith and kin, whose knowledge of the local scene gets the bossman elected, is crucial in establishing imperishable loyalty to the family brand. ‘To my son I leave my seat’ ... that sort of thing!
In the wake of their 2011 electoral victory, Fine Gael and Labour solemnly vowed to ‘sweep away the culture of cronyism,’ but the facts immediately spoke for themselves, as this newspaper pointed out at the time.
And what did we get? A raft of jobs for the daughters, sons, wives, cousins, brothers-in-law, and Uncle Tom Cobley and all!
Sean Sherlock appointed sister Una (‘she worked for dad’). Kathleen Lynch appointed hubby Bernard (‘He has a huge amount of knowledge.’ Indeed he has!). Arthur Spring (Labour) did the needful for brother Graham. Willie Penrose gave a ‘start’ to brother Johnny. Peter Fitzpatrick (FG) looked after daughter Grace.
Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett (FG) gave the nod to daughter Jacqui. Paudie Coffey (FG) favoured the missus, while Brendan Griffin (FG) looked after wife Róisín as well as cousin Tommy.
Andrew Doyle (FG) employed sister Eithne. Bernard Durkan (FG) hired son Tim. Jack Wall (Lab) hired son Mark and Ciarán Cannon took the biscuit for slotting in the missus and the brother-in-law.
Result? About 27 government deputies now have close relatives working for them. Ah yes, nothing beats family solidarity!