In a brave move on Wednesday, the Taoiseach publicly admitted to an ongoing sausage habit.
And he confessed he would cheat on his regular supplier in Cork if he could get his hands on some world-class sausage from Carlow, lashing out at local TD Jennifer Murnane O’Connor, who showed him around the county last week. “You didn’t introduce me to the sausages.”
As concerned deputies looked on, Micheál Martin menacingly told her she had better “send out a pack” to him.
“I’m very annoyed,” he said.
The Taoiseach remained defiant, despite disapproving looks from colleagues. “I do engage occasionally in a sausage, notwithstanding what you might think.”
He’s also been back on the egg yolks for some time, which adds to the worry.
After his Dáil confession, Fianna Fáil TDs talked privately about the possibility of staging an intervention, fearing their leader might spiral into the oblivion of breakfast rolls once he hands over the reins of power to Leo Varadkar next month.
“Micheál is on the slippery slope now. He isn’t fooling any of us with the green tea and bananas act,” confided one backbencher.
The Taoiseach’s courageous admission was unexpectedly triggered by deputy Murnane O’Connor’s query about Government grants for solar panels. She told him about Murphy’s Butchers on Main Street in Tullow where the owner relies on a lot of refrigeration for his business and wants to do the right thing by switching to solar power. However, butcher Laz Murphy can only get a grant for around half the number of panels he needs to install.
And this no ordinary butchers. In September, Murphy’s 1934 recipe won the Best Pork Sausage in the World competition at Devro World Butchers Challenge in Sacramento, California.
Jennifer had to wait for her answer because the Taoiseach was knocked off his stride by sensible Sean Fleming, his Minister of State at the Department of Finance, who had been listening to the exchange.
“What about Clonakilty?” he hissed, clearly anxious over Micheál going public about his big interest in the Tullow sausage operation.
“Yeah, yeah. I heard that Sean, yeah, yeah,” replied the Taoiseach, trying to appear nonchalant. “Clonakilty is listening in, yeah.”
But he moved on quickly, talking about microgeneration and energy use on farms and anaerobic digestion and “many other schemes” and…
The Leas Ceann Comhairle gently dinged her bell.
“I’m out of time, am I? Sorry about that.”
“Yes,” sighed Catherine Connolly, sadly. “It was the sausages.”
Her final words left unspoken, but we knew what they were: “Let that be a lesson to you.”
We hear Micheál contacted Jennifer as soon as he was finished in the chamber to say he understands that people like award-winning butcher Laz Murphy need a lot of solar panels to generate the energy to keep their businesses going, and there are moves afoot to revisit the grant system to see how it can be changed to suit their needs.
Proud Carlovian that she is, Jennifer is keen to big up the world-beating Tullow banger.
Are they really that nice, we wondered?
“They’re beautiful,” she cooed. “Aw, they’re beautiful, Miriam. Beautiful.”
Don’t tell Micheál that. He’s bad enough as it is.
Word of his secret weakness for processed pork products will amuse certain veterans of the Dáil canteen who still recall the times they were about to tuck into their Full Irish of a morning only for Micheál to stop their table with his sideplate of foliage, peer down and point at their breakfast with the words “you’re not going to eat THAT?”
To paraphrase Marc MacSharry in his recent, celebrated, WhatsApp exchange with a Fianna Fáil councillor, that would “sicken your hole” entirely.
I’m lucky to get 30 seconds – while others enjoy the benefit of celebrating the local sausage manufacturers and the prizes they win for a minute and 10 seconds
And, in fact, this is exactly the effect Jennifer Murnane O’Connor’s sausage had on the same Marc MacSharry. It brought on his latest eruption and forced the Chair to suspend the Dáil.
It happened just before lunch, when the newly-independent, former Fianna Fáil TD for Sligo threw a hissy fit because he feels he isn’t getting the same amount of speaking time enjoyed by deputies who have not departed their parties in high dudgeon so they can sit on the margins and theatrically boil over before storming out.
This time, he had a question for the Taoiseach concerning “the nation’s welcome efforts to accommodate Ukrainian refugees running for their lives”.
He had to get that line down on the record first, for reasons which quickly began apparent.
Welcome efforts but leading to “an unprecedented development” of 24 “very fine” modular homes “exclusively for Ukrainian refugees”, while thousands of local families are on housing lists in the three counties in his constituency.
Four thousand and six hundred families, according to his figures.
Marc looked angry. Sounded furious. Fit to explode as he leaned forward, red-faced, hands gripping the ledge, glowering across at the Taoiseach. If looks could kill, Micheál would be a string of drisheen by now.
People in his constituency, “none of whom have a home, have told me they are beginning to wonder where they come in the pecking order as Irish citizens when it comes to Government action”.
He was asking on their behalf why emergency laws have not been invoked to give them modular homes too. Very fine ones, presumably.
The Taoiseach said the Sligo project “was a pilot scheme” to do with housing Ukrainian refugees. His government, meanwhile, is keen to press ahead with rapid-build projects for social housing.
“Once we look after everybody else, we will look after the people in Sligo,” huffed Marc, most disgruntled.
And he seethed for the few minutes it took to answer the remaining queries before treating the very mild-mannered and softly spoken Catherine Connolly to a wallop of his familiar Mad Marc, Beyond the ThunderDáil schtick.
As she tried to bring the session to a close, he complained bitterly about her handling of policy questions, accusing her of discriminating against speakers who are “actually independent, rather than those like yourself who join and form de facto parties and get to speak three or four times a day.”
Whereas Diddums is “lucky to get 30 seconds – while others enjoy the benefit of celebrating the local sausage manufacturers and the prizes they win for a minute and 10 seconds”.
On he raged, refusing point-blank to retake his seat, speaking at the Leas Ceann Comhairle in slow, deliberate tones, as if addressing a halfwit. His behaviour came across as extremely rude.
One wonders if he would have addressed the Ceann Comhairle, Sean O’Fearghail, in such fashion, although to be fair, when it comes to outbursts MacSharry is very much an equal opportunity blowhard.
“You are completely and utterly out of order,” chided Catherine Connolly. The microphone was muted, but he shouted into the void for a bit until she withdrew. Then he gathered up his belongings, stomped down the steps and strode from the empty chamber.
He has form for this – leaving the Dáil or a committee hearing in a strop, having first created a scene.
To paraphrase a century-old line from Stephen Leacock’s spoof romantic novel: “Marc MacSharry flung himself from the room, flung himself upon his horse and rode madly off in all directions.”
It would be funny, if it wasn’t slightly worrying.