As Labour Party leader Burton tries to blow life into a dispute that everybody thought had been resolved
ABORTION is back – with a bang! Even though President Higgins signed off on the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act a year ago, Vrad the Impaler last week declared the legislation was too restrictive and that it was having a ‘chilling effect’ on doctors.
Intriguing questions have been asked as to why he made the statement. Was it a coded warning to Kenny that dissident, front bench bum nibbling could become an attack on his leadership – led by Varadkar, perhaps?
Or, was Varadkar’s intervention nothing more than a cynical exploitation of confidential information about a pregnant woman in Mullingar General Hospital who was clinically dead, but kept on a life support machine to keep her baby alive? Something to get the punters all hot and bothered, but essentially designed to divert attention from the water charges debacle and Vrad’s own stewardship of a dysfunctional health service?
Possibly a bit of both, but what an opening it offered to the pro-abortion lobby! As if on cue, the outfit renewed demands for abortion on demand. This in turn gave Leaderette Joan Burton the opportunity to blow life into a dispute that we all thought had been resolved. She described Ireland’s abortion laws as too restrictive and provocatively claimed that Irish women wanted doctors at their hospital beds, not lawyers.
To their credit, opposition deputies appealed to Burton and chums to stop seeking ‘political advantage’ on an issue about which her government had already legislated, and to bear in mind the upset it was causing to the dead woman’s family.
The government got the message and shut its collective gob. In an odd way, that suited rank and file FG and Labour supporters who were only too well aware of the thought-process in the public mind whenever abortion reared its ugly head. It’s this: Abortion equals politicians, equals hypocrisy, equals public revulsion of politicos and hypocrisy, equals the infamous drunken Dáil debate on the night of the ‘Protection of Life in Pregnancy Bill 2013’, equals Deputy Tom Barry (the ‘lapgate TD’) and, most importantly of all, equals exposing Fine Gael and Labour to ridicule.
Sadly, the Impaler’s (and Burton’s) intervention could not have come at a worst time for Deputy Tom Barry. Aware that a general election might come hurtling down the track at any time, he had just launched a campaign to rehabilitate his political reputation in East Cork.
Indeed, after a typically anodyne Sindo interview, the politico had reason to think he had won much public sympathy in relation to dragging a female Blueshirt on to his lap during the Abortion Bill debate. He explained that the bawdiness was intended only as a bit of a joke.
The deputy also revealed that he now was on the best of terms with the female colleague, and that he strongly rejected the accusation of sexism that had been levelled at him. Ladies, he said, made up half his staff and that he ‘came from a family where the farm went to the women for the last four generations’.
And that should have been it. Until Varadkar reopened the abortion can of worms and unwittingly reminded people of the abortion debate when a record total of €1,440 was spent on booze in the Members’ Bar, €3,572 in the Visitors’ Bar, followed by the mucky incident involving the jokester deputy. Bad, bad timing!
In the wake of the Dáil antics, Gerry Adams called for the bars to be permanently shut, complaining that at least two government TDs in his vicinity had been seriously polluted. He got nowhere – which said a lot about the Coalition’s concern for its deputies to have kept a clear head when the most important piece of social legislation ever introduced was under discussion.
No glad tidings
Cripes, what planet do our politicos live on? Labour’s Emmet Stagg went public last week on the pittance he earns as a public rep. He complained he would earn more as a plumber than the €97,000 he trousers for sitting in the Dáil, while Blueshirt Brian Hayes grumbled that his €121,000 a year as a Mini-Minister was not ‘super pay’.
In fact Irish Junior Ministers earn €4,000 more a year than their British counterparts. TDs on a basic €87,258 (minus their mouth watering exes) earn 10% more than Westminster MPs, while Kenny (on €185,300) pockets €16,392 more than the British Prime Minister, David Cameron. And still the vultures complain! Is it any wonder our politicos are seen as a greedy, mollycoddled elite, detached from the common folk?
And, as for our eleven MEPs, well, they take the biscuit. They earn a basic monthly salary of €8,000, plus incredible allowance and expenses. Yet they have the worst voting record in the European Union.
So bad is it that an unfestive Irish Times Scrooge asked if their low attendance while drawing full salaries – particularly in the case of two Irish MEPs, Brian Crowley and Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan – raised the question as to whether Ireland’s MEP system was fit for purpose.
Fear of flying
A humorous anecdote doing the rounds in Dinty’s just now has Michael O’Leary of ‘Ryanair’ going into a West Cork pub and asking for a pint of stout. The barman nods and says, ‘That will be one euro please,’ Mr O’Leary.
A surprised O’Leary replies, ‘That’s very cheap’ and hands over the cash.
‘Well, we try to stay ahead of the competition, says the barman. Then he adds: ‘Oh, I see you don’t have a glass, so you’ll probably need one of ours. That will be three euros, please’.
O’Leary winces but pays up, takes his drink and walks towards a seat. ‘Ah, you want to sit down,’ says the barman. ‘That will be an extra two euros. If you had pre-booked the seat it would have cost you only a euro’.
O’Leary gives him the money, only to hear the barman say: ‘I think you may be too big for the seat sir, can I ask you to sit in this frame?’
O’Leary attempts to sit down but the frame is too small. He complains that nobody could fit into it. The barman points out that, if he can’t fit in the frame, he’ll have to pay an extra surcharge of four euros for the seat.
A furious O’Leary yells that he wants to speak to the manager. ‘Here is his email address,’ says the barman. ‘Or if you wish you can contact him between nine and ten past nine, every Monday to Tuesday. Calls are free until they are answered then there is a talking charge of only 10 cents per second’.
‘I’ll never use this bar again,’ cries O’Leary.
‘Certainly sir, but remember we are the only pub in Ireland selling pints for one euro!’