“But as I always say to TDs from all parts of Ireland, there is more to Dublin than Dublin 2, 4 and 6,″ declared the Taoiseach, speaking as somebody who spent “almost all of my entire life” existing beyond the privileged urban idyll ringed by the M50 motorway.
As a Dublin outsider from the wrong side of the tracks, Leo has much in common with his brothers in the Rural Independents who feel perpetually overlooked by Them Above in Dublin.
Oh, the things he witnessed growing up as a GP’s son in the badlands of bucolic Blanch, making his way along the mean boreens of West Dublin to attend private school in rustic Palmerstown (also outside the coveted M50 catchment).
But look at him now, though. Leo, this little Westie child of Dublin 15, schooled in Dublin 20, can hold his own with world leaders and put his foot in his mouth with the best of them.
He felt he needed to point this out to proud son of the soil Peadar Tóibín of Meath West, out standing in his own field as Aontú's sole standard bearer in the Dáil.
Peadar felt it his duty to speak out on Tuesday about the disgraceful bias at ministerial level against politicians who are not from Dublin.
He feels this is one reason people from outside the capital, particularly those involved in farming, are not getting a fair shake from Leo’s Government. It would be a mistake to underestimate them.
Look at what happened in the Netherlands, he warned the Taoiseach. The recent election result “sent shock waves through the political establishment” when the populist Dutch farmers protest party pulled off a big win and “broke with all expectations”.
And what’s happening here?
“The majority of political parties in this country are heavily Dublin-based,” he pointed out during a sparsely attended Taoiseach’s Questions when just two of the TDs present were from outside the city – Tóibín and Cork South West’s Christopher O’Sullivan.
If ever the chamber needed an injection of Healy-Raes into the discussion, this was the time
Peadar of the poor mouth was feeling very hard done by. Not only is the Dáil top heavy with Dublin deputies but 40 per cent of ministers are drawn from the capital.
No wonder there is a disconnect between rural Ireland and the crowd in Dublin, he declared in wonderment, marvelling at the fact that 10 counties have no ministers at all while every TD in “Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown” is a minister.
This came as news to Richard Boyd-Barret.
“I’m not a minister!” he yelped.
“Has Cormac Devlin been promoted?” asked Fianna Fáil’s O’Sullivan, thinking of his backbench colleague in Dún Laoghaire.
Peadar’s mistaken declaration generated giggles from the gilded Jackeens who took pretend umbrage on behalf of Boyd-Barret who represents the borough of Kingstown but has never graced the Cabinet table.
Richard dreams of high office as part of a magnificent Coalition of the Left after the next General Election but, sadly, he believes this new dawn will be short-lived as army and garda forces will oust the new administration in a coup engineered by the right-wing elite and its cheerleading media puppets.
His party published details in a pamphlet the other week.
But back to Peadar, who slammed the city-centric Government for disproportionately loading the cost of combating climate change on to farmers while at the same time opening data centres in the countryside and importing Brazilian beef.
“When will this Government treat regional and rural Ireland as more than a box-ticking exercise?” he wailed, before concluding with an apology to Boyd-Barrett for naming the wrong constituency.
“I think you are referring to the constituency of Dublin-Rathdown rather than the council area of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown,” said the Taoiseach, generously Leo-splaining for the innocent up from the country.
He didn’t address the Meath deputy’s charge about the treatment of farmers. Instead, he decided to gently chide deputies from rural Ireland for their lack of knowledge about Dublin.
The rush of colleagues to bolster Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien never rose above half a dozen. It required a degree of courage to sit through the unmitigated stream of condemnation from all the opposition. So most of them stayed away
If ever the chamber needed an injection of Healy-Raes into the discussion, this was the time. But they weren’t there to put Portobello resident Leo right on the political significance of that magical but much neglected land that lies beyond the Red Cow Roundabout. None of the Roaring Independents were on hand to tear strips off the Taoiseach, so he was able to blather on without interruption.
“I often hear this comment from rural deputies about Ireland beyond the M50,″ he began, even though Tóibín never mentioned the divisive motorway.
“I’m somebody from Dublin who’s lived beyond the M50 for almost all my entire life,” revealed the Dáil’s Blanchardstown Hillbilly, with no small amount of pride.
But for all that, he feels people from Dublin need to get out more and “get to know rural Ireland and every county that’s in it”.
It’s not that difficult. They should be more like Leo. “I make the point of getting to every county at least once a year,” he boast-threatened. And what about TDs from outside Dublin? Maybe they should get to know his county a bit better.
“As I always say to TDs from all parts of Ireland, there is more to Dublin than Dublin 2, 4 and 6.”.
How many know rural deputies know where Dublin 14 is? Or Dublin 13?
The Taoiseach repeated his line about there being more to his county than three posh south city postcodes. Then he saw the Sinn Féin leader, who represents Dublin Central, sitting across the floor and hastily tagged Dublin 1 on to the end of his list.
Tóibín looked bemused by the reply.
But Leo wasn’t finished educating him.
“I can guarantee you that Dublin-Rathdown is not the same place as Dún Laoghaire Rathdown.” But anyway, that’s another day’s work.
Labour leader Ivana Bacik (Dublin Bay South) did not want to be left out on the urban-rural question. She went out on a limb.
“Dublin 2, 4 and 6 are great.”
The Taoiseach, a relatively new resident of Gentrification Road within walking distance of Grafton Street and any amount of happening eating houses, could not disagree.
“They ARE great but there is more to Dublin than Dublin 2, 4, 6 and 1.”
Like Dublin 8, where he lives. And that place called the Northside where Paschal Donohoe inexplicably lives.
Paschal also grew up outside the M50 in Blanchardstown and look at him now. And sure Phibsboro, in parts, is practically the Southside.
It’s all about location, location, location. Or lack of it. It was the main topic of the day in the Dáil – the housing crisis.
Sinn Féin introduced its motion to extend the eviction ban early in the evening, TDs queuing up to excoriate the Government for its policy decision and “exceptionally long-winded, appalling superficial alternative motion”, as Eoin Ó Broin put it.
His colleague Imelda Munster noted the lack of Government TDs at the debate. The rush of colleagues to bolster Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien never rose above half a dozen.
It required a degree of courage to sit through the unmitigated stream of condemnation coming from all the opposition. So most of them stayed away.
Cian O’Callaghan of the Social Democrats noted that not one Green Party representative made it into the chamber. Hardly a surprise.
The crunch vote on the motion takes place on Wednesday night.
They’ll have to show up then.