Miriam Lord: Feelgood engine revs up on Merrion Square

As the Coalition moves into the final phase of its term, positive announcements are beginning to roll

It was a sparsely attended session of Leaders’ Questions.

But above in the offices of Government TDs, the photocopiers were working overtime. As the Coalition moves into the final phase of its term, positive announcements are beginning to roll.

There wasn't much of a feelgood factor in the Dáil because Merrion Street can't control questions from Opposition leaders. Micheál Martin and Gerry Adams continued their efforts to puncture the positivity balloon which the Government is slowly beginning to inflate.

But over in the Seanad, where the daily set piece is not confined to a tiny handful of people who must adhere to two brief questions on one topic, Senators can talk about whatever comes into their head.


So Coalition Senators took the opportunity to welcome various initiatives and announcements made in the last while by the Government. They’ll be doing a lot of this in the run-up to the election.

Meanwhile, many members used their time to send heartiest congratulations to Ronnie Delany, who celebrates his 80th birthday on Friday. Some of them were transported back to 1952 when he raced to victory in the mile in Melbourne.

"I can remember well when Ronnie Delany won that Olympic medal. I remember listening to the race relayed by the BBC from Australia on an old crackling wireless set and being so thrilled," exclaimed David Norris, who was in wonderful form for another reason.

The same reason the photocopiers were overheating in the TDs’ quarters. More of which anon.

The Seanad’s own former Olympic athlete, Fine Gael’s Eamonn Coghlan, sent his best wishes to the soon-to-be octogenarian.

‘Come forth

’ “When I was a chil

d, Ronnie inspired me to pursue his records and go to the Olympic Games and try to win gold as he did in 1956. Unfortunately, I finished fourth. I read the Bible the night before and the Lord said, 'Come forth.' So I came fourth instead of first."

There was no stopping them on the sporting front. By the time the order of business came to an end, golfer Padraig Harrington's return to winning ways on the world stage had been mentioned, while there was mighty praise for the Irish cricket team's derring-do in the World Cup.

Then the rugby boys had to be congratulated for seeing off England in the Aviva Stadium on Sunday.

Senator Michael Mullins rose to mark the passing of hurler Tony Reddin.

He then moved on to Russia and Ukraine.

"I am sure every Member of the House will join me in condemning in the strongest way possible the murder of the opposition leader Boris Nemtsov. "

The Ballinasloe Senator urged “the Minister for Foreign Affairs and other European leaders to consider calling in the Russian ambassador for discussions on this appalling situation and to impress upon him the concerns of the Irish people and our desire to see a full, frank and transparent investigation into this appalling murder”.

Senator John Crown was thinking ahead to the St Patrick's Day festivities. He asked the Seanad to consider inviting Samantha Power, "the Irish-born accomplished Pulitzer Prize winner who has become a world expert on genocide and who is the United States ambassador to the United Nations" to address this House on one of her visits to Ireland.

He will surely get the Government's backing for this. Just hours earlier, Minister of State for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan launched "Global Irish – Ireland's Diaspora Policy".

There will be reviews and an interdepartmental committee. According to the handy summary, the diaspora will be supported, connected with, facilitated, recognised and included in an evolving policy.

Big deal

There is no mistaking that the Government thinks the policy programme is a big deal. Deenihan told the launch that he worked long hours on it with his team in Foreign Affairs. They even worked on Christmas week.

Then the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister for Foreign Affairs came along to underline how important it is.

Disappointingly, Enda and Joan left the event before the question and answer session with journalists, because you wouldn’t know what they might ask. They’re a bit like Opposition leaders in that regard.

Back in the Seanad, Labour's Ivana Bacik was full of the joys after her party's national conference last weekend.

She couldn’t wait to welcome Brendan Howlin’s announcement about setting up a forum to look at tax, pay and spending priorities. “It will involve stakeholders and representatives of unions, employers and so on.”

She welcomed Joan Burton’s announcement about introducing paid paternity leave.And on top of everything, the announcement that put Norris in double good humour and the TDs photocopiers on overtime.

"I welcome the announcement today by the Minister of State, Michael Ring, of an additional €500,000-plus for 187 local festivals and events throughout Ireland as part of a tourism initiative."

Fianna Fáil's Paschal Mooney tried to burst Ivana's balloon. "The Government side seems to be a bit like the cat that got the cream," he said, before reaching for some perspective.

“The funding has been cut drastically and €500,000 for 187 festivals works out at €2,500 per festival, according to our Whip who is a mathematical expert.”

That being said, he wished Norris all the best with Bloomsday.

But with 187 festivals in every nook and cranny getting a few bob, it’s good news for TDs. Ringo’s largesse gives them a chance to sprinkle a little pixie dust on their constituency newsletters.

And puts a few more puffs into that pre-election positivity balloon.