Poor Micheál. What is it about him and trips to the US? Last March, he got his one and only chance to meet the president of the United States in the Oval Office. That was cancelled at the last minute after the Taoiseach tested positive for Covid-19 (remember all that?) and Poor Micheál had to spend a week self-isolating in Blair House, where he could only look out the window at the West Wing.
Last night, he was on a flight to New York to address the UN General Assembly today. Of course the plane hit a bird, and he had to turn back. Fortunately Aer Lingus were able to get him on another flight last night. No word from the bird. Wonder what will go wrong today? Jack Power has the story.
One thing the episode demonstrates is the need for the Government to get its own jet that actually works — the current Government aircraft could have flown in the Dambusters raid it’s so old, is held together by sticky tape and constantly breaks down. But successive governments have baulked at the prospect of buying a jet for fear of the newspaper headlines and opposition taunts — despite the fact that to a man and woman every member of those governments believes that a modern country, especially one as globalised and tied into international alliances as Ireland, should have at least one or two aircraft at its disposal. Maybe it’s only something that a Sinn Féin government could do.
Anyway, we digress. The Taoiseach will deliver his UN address later this evening. Back at home, interminable meetings continue in Government Buildings to hammer out next week’s budget, which senior Government figures now expect will comfortably top €10 billion, between next year’s spending plans and the once-off measures to combat the rising cost of living that will also be announced next week. Latest on all that is here.
Simon Harris was also getting his spake in on budgetary matters.
In the Dáil, Pearse Doherty clashed with Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, with Doherty demanding a cap on energy bills at 2021 levels, and Ryan dismissing this as a reckless “Tory” approach.
The fallout from the Government’s pension reforms announced earlier in the week continues. Jack Horgan-Jones reports this morning that the Government has been warned that the Social Insurance Fund — into which all PRSI is paid and which funds welfare payments such as pensions — will tip into deficit as pension costs rise. Currently it’s in surplus, like everything else. But that won’t last forever, like everything else. Story here.
Northern Ireland census
There will be intense focus on the results of the Northern Ireland census, which will be published this morning. It will show the gradual whittling away of the Protestant/unionist majority, on which Northern Ireland was founded, is headed for — or maybe has passed — a psychologically important tipping point where Catholics outnumber Protestants for the first time, though neither will have a majority. Northern Editor Freya McClements explains here.
And while there has been emerging evidence lately that political affiliation is gradually diverging from cultural and religious background for many people, and the fastest growing group is the “neithers” that often occupy the political middle ground, it is still a big moment for Northern Ireland.
Finally, the papers are full of reports from the National Ploughing Championships in Co Laois — or the “ploughing match” as it’s called by everyone for whom Electric Picnic wasn’t the last time they put on their wellies.
Russia’s mobilisation of 300,000 men and threats to use nuclear weapons make this morning’s lead story in papers across the world, including our own.
Meanwhile, Politico reports that the European Commission is to consult member states on a new round of sanctions.
First actual baby in the Dáil, as the Ceann Comhairle put it.
Monarchy has its uses, writes Finn McRedmond.
Transport and finance questions in the Dáil this morning before Leaders’ Questions at noon, and a swathe of Government legislation in the afternoon. Labour has Private Members’ time after topical issues this evening and the Dáil adjourns at 9pm. Shorter day in the Seanad, which concludes at 2.45pm after statements on “new innovations for people with disabilities”. There are morning meetings at the Committees on Gender Equality, Housing and Justice, where Clare Daly will be among the MEPs speaking about GDPR enforcement. Someone will surely mention Ukraine. Full Oireachtas schedule here.
As mentioned, the Taoiseach is at the UN, while the results of the Northern Ireland census are being published at 9.30am.