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Miriam Lord: Leinster House springs a leak as Taoiseach sings in the rain

Events in whacko Westminster cause a run on the markets, while best leaky Leinster House can manage is a run on buckets

The Dáil was leaking. The Seanad was leaking. The ceiling on the landing outside the chamber doors was leaking into a bucket on the floor.

Then the Members’ Bar sprung a leak. A proper leak too where the politicians sit and not from behind the bar.

It seemed the entire place was awash and with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael’s hopelessly incontinent parliamentary party meetings predicted to make landfall within hours, it seemed only a matter of time before the Taoiseach and Tánaiste would appear on the steps of Government Buildings with a quote from Seamus Heaney and an order to evacuate.

One TD feared he might be electrocuted by the Dáil’s PA system. Two seats were removed from the Seanad chamber, which was recently rigged up for electronic voting.


The ushers were on high alert.

The door to the ladies’ toilets under the stairs was roped off, indicating that some terrible leaks must have happened.

Thankfully, it transpired that the president of Portugal was due in on an official visit and, as he was travelling with a large entourage, the loo was cordoned off for their use. He pitched up in the Dáil chamber at teatime, when the leaking had stopped. Ditto, the Seanad. Imagine the mortification had he seen the real state of Leinster House, and after millions of euro were spent doing it up.

Earlier, as lightning streaked the heavens outside and thunder rumbled through the ancient rafters, strange talk of second comings and fatted calves was heard in the corridors. All eyes were on the sky and the bits of damp plaster overhead.

People spoke in hushed tones of “The Return of the Mac”. Could it be true? We had to wait until after dark for the answer.

Yes, it was positively biblical in Kildare Street on Wednesday afternoon.

Though obviously not as thrilling as the bonkers political happenings across the water.

Events in whacko Westminster cause a run on the markets while the best leaky Leinster House can manage is a run on buckets.

This was a mildly comforting fact in the face of another glum Dáil session where the depressingly ever-present problems of housing shortages and homelessness, evictions and cost-of-living concerns were discussed again along with the equally disheartening reality that the main street of our capital city is an unmitigated kip.

Róisín Shortall, co-leader of the Social Democrats, taking her cue from an RTÉ Prime Time programme the previous night, described the “widespread antisocial behaviour, open drug taking and drug dealing, persistent serious violent incidents, chronic dereliction and vacancy, and deeply ingrained dirt and grime almost everywhere that you look. It has the look of an area where those in authority have simply given up.”

The Taoiseach said he couldn’t disagree with what she said. “People have been commenting for quite some time.

“I’ve heard people talk about the rejuvenation of O’Connell for 25 years now,” he sighed, passing the buck to the city council because there are only so many taskforces a government can set up.

It was a relief to get on to saving the planet to avoid the destruction of mankind in the very near future. As Richard Boyd-Barrett gave a fire and brimstone speech about biodiversity and the destruction of nature, a bolt of lightning illuminated the chamber.

Fianna Fáil’s Cathal Crowe had his eyes on the glass in the centre of the chamber’s domed ceiling as he talked about the need to plant more broadleaf trees, highlighting a project to regenerate Cratloe Woods in his native Clare.

“There’s a few drops of rain falling from the skylight here. There’s a bit of lightning as well. Maybe we need to get the roof fixed,” he told the Taoiseach. They could use Cratloe oak to do it. “There’s even more drops falling as I speak. We’ll have to abandon the chamber soon….”

Micheál Martin looked at the water trickling down in front of his backbench colleague.

“I can’t sing, but I’m tempted to…” threatened the Taoiseach, voice trailing off before murmuring “Raindrops keep falling on my head.”

Cathal Crowe remained in his seat, even though the drip-drip in front of him was now a steady stream. He was due to talk about the second phase of the Limerick Northern Distributor road.

Ushers were in and out, in and out, peering up at the leak. There was no sign of a bucket.

“If the Government brought in a bucket, it would probably have a hole in it,” said one Opposition TD, surveying the situation from the canteen, where talk of killing a fatted calf was spooking the catering staff. More on that later.

The Leas Ceann Comhairle called on Cathal to speak again “if you’re still afloat”.

“If my hair stands up, you know the microphone has shocked me here with the rain dropping in this corner,” he replied.

Cathal confessed later that this would also have constituted a minor miracle as he’s thinning a little on top. But he had been concerned “as I could see the rain coming down and hitting the microphone in front of me. It was bouncing off the bench and there was already a puddle on the carpet.”

Speaking of puddles on the carpet, news came through that the Dáil Members’ Bar was leaking again. As it does.

Meanwhile, word came through from the Upper House. Its magnificent vaulted ceiling began weeping during the committee stage of the Consumer Rights Bill. “It was dropping down from the roof on to the Fianna Fáil seats, around where Timmy Dooley would sit. It was coming down the back of the seat and rolling on to the carpet,” said one eyewitness.

Did nobody think of bringing in a bucket, we asked one Senator.

“God no. There weren’t many people there in the first place. Bring in a bucket and they’d think it was a collection and run out of the place.”

Timmy wasn’t there, which was fortunate as he might have inadvertently pressed one of the voting buttons – it has been known to happen – and electrocuted himself.

Fianna Fáil’s Eugene Murphy, who was in the chair, persevered until the stage was concluded. He said nothing and neither did Minister of State, Dara Calleary, as the steady drip-drip continued.

Later in the evening, staff removed two Fianna Fáil seats from the chamber. The first time that ever happened without commotion.

And so to Leak Central – the twin gusher of the weekly FF and FG parliamentary party meetings. There was nothing of import from Fine Gael, still digesting the contents of a tweet from their party leader showing the grimly Tupperwared contents of his fridge, because he is going to be taoiseach soon and he needs to up his gravitas level.

But all day, the word from Fianna Fáil was that TD Marc MacSharry was going to be readmitted to the fold following his dramatic flounce-out last September. As the free world awaited news of his reinstatement, leaks flooded from the party rooms. The Taoiseach said it wasn’t going to happen.

“An issue has arisen.”

The Return of the Mac isn’t happening just yet.

The homecoming of the Prodigal Hothead is on hold.

And the fatted calf lives to fight another day.

And you know the way Micheál told the chamber that afternoon that he can’t sing? Well, it seems he can, when he feels happy enough. He met a journalist on his way to the meeting who told him she was disappointed he hadn’t given them a tune earlier.

The Taoiseach smiled. And as he moved on, some melodious words drifted back down the corridor:

“I’m singing in the rain.

Just singing in the rain.

What a glorious feeling….”

Fancy that.