Nice to see everyone so well rested after the May bank holiday break with boots flying in all directions, along with political tempers, parish pumps and kangaroos.
There were Mexicans, Dublin alickadoos and mortified TDs fleeing politics, Latvian peat and the obligatory dog.
Organised crime made an unexpected appearance. So too did King Char-Les, soon to be crowned in Westminster Abbey. Some TDs are not amused by RTÉ providing hours of live coverage from across the water.
They are Fine Gael’s Neale Richmond and Charlie Flanagan.
Even Bertie got a look-in.
Sparks flew over the Bruff Agreement and the Siege of Jobstown.
The Taoiseach reminded People Before Profit’s Paul Murphy that the Bruff area committee meeting happened 16 years ago.
Murphy reminded Leo Varadkar that a court had cleared him of imprisoning two women in their car during a lengthy protest in Jobstown.
But that happened a mere nine years ago, said Leo, referring to the ugly episode involving then tánaiste Joan Burton and not the subsequent court case, which was six years ago.
“I’m very happy. I went through the trial,” bridled Murphy, who wants Minister of State Niall Collins to answer questions on the Bruff Seven’s unanimous decision to accept a county council recommendation to release a plot of land, in which his wife had separately expressed an interest, for sale on the open market. The then Cllr Collins was member of that subcommittee and had voted with the others.
Two weeks ago, the Taoiseach compared Dáil question-and-answer sessions to a “kangaroo court” but the People Before Profit TD insisted serious questions remained about the deal despite a statement from Collins in the Dáil chamber last week.
“The children in the street are talking about the wood-chippins,” roared Mattie McGrath in the middle of it all.
Then Mary Lou McDonald decided to become scandalised on deputy Murphy’s behalf.
And then the Taoiseach, in full flight, got Murphy mixed up with Bertie Ahern.
Catherine Connolly, the Leas Ceann Comhairle, had her hands full.
Earlier, during Leaders’ Questions, Waterford’s Matt Shanahan of the Regional Independents began on a fraternal note, remarking how he was sorry to hear John Paul Phelan announce he would not be contesting the next election.
The former minister of State represents Carlow-Kilkenny but has close ties with Waterford, his native county. Matt wished him and “his domestic constituency” the very best for the future.
All very sweet until he got stuck into the Taoiseach and his Government’s neglect of the southeast in favour of looking after Dublin.
Sure, it’s no wonder poor JP is bowing out of politics, said deputy Shanahan, expressing “a good deal of sympathy for his predicament”.
Like Paudie Coffey, Michael D’Arcy and John Deasy before him in the very recent past, they are all feeling “genuine embarrassment” at the lack of Government commitment to the region. They made election promises in good faith and they “simply evaporated at the Cabinet table”.
Capital spending appears to follow Ministers’ whims – primarily in Dublin and “Cork has had a good haul too”.
Major projects are flying ahead in Dublin but in Waterford they are mired in the planning and procurement processes. Successive programmes for government “have been treated like an a-la-carte menu by the alikadoos of Dublin”.
And, presumably, the langers of Cork.
Yet, when he pointed out the capital overspend in the capital compared to other regions, Shanahan said he had been accused of being a parish-pump politician.
But judging by Government spending figures “the parish-pump artisans sit at Cabinet” looking after their own.
“They are the ones who refuse to share out the fruits of our Republic. It is not the Mexicans who are stealing Ireland’s regions’ futures,” he rather bafflingly declared, in what was probably not a reference to his Wexford neighbours.
“No wonder the likes of John Paul Phelan are heading for the door.”
After Paul Murphy made his call for another visit by Niall Collins to the Dáil chamber to explain himself, Mattie McGrath, on behalf of the Rural Independents, called for a debate on the “madness” of importing wood chippings from Brazil and peat from Latvia “other than using our own peat and allowing our own farmers and our own forestation to be cut down to be used”.
The situation had become so insane “the Green tail is wagging this dog and it will keep wagging until it falls off, the tail will fall off”.
The Taoiseach said he had no information on the “woodchip” situation but would check it out and come back to him.
The Tipperary TD was not happy with this. “He said he doesn’t know about the wood chippings. The children on the street know about the wood chippings and the peat.” What sort of an answer was that?
Michael Healy-Rae agreed entirely. Leo Varadkar should know about this situation.
“It’s not North America.”
Meanwhile, the Taoiseach told Murphy the Dáil should, rightly, hold Ministers to account. But the matter of the land sale in Limerick has nothing to do with Niall Collins, the Minister of State, and everything to do with Niall Collins, the county councillor of 16 year ago.
All to do with ethics in public office, countered Murphy. “Same with Damien English, Robert Troy.”
Not the same, replied Varadkar. If TDs have to come in and account for things they did which are not related to their ministerial functions, why not drag everyone in when they land in hot water?
“Why is it, deputy, you didn’t come in here? You detained two women against their will in Jobstown several years ago.”
The Leas Ceann Comhairle rapidly intervened.
“No! No! No!” she cried at Leo.
“That’s scandalous,” gasped Murphy, pointing out that he had been acquitted in a court of law on a charge of false imprisonment. “Another abuse of privilege.”
Catherine Connolly struggled to kept order.
“It found you not guilty of a particular offence, deputy,” said Varadkar, pointedly.
Yes, confirmed Murphy. “Of detaining two women.”
Yes, repeated Varadkar. “Of a particular offence.”
He wondered, given that this case was much more recent than the Bruff area committee meeting, why Murphy had not come into the Dáil to explain himself.
Was the Taoiseach saying there should be a kangaroo court for all TDs whose actions may be questionable and that Murphy should have been subject to one before his trial three years after the event?
Was Murphy saying he didn’t have to answer questions in the Dáil because he had answered everything in a real court of law?
Where does that leave Cllr Niall Collins?
This whole Bruff affair is getting very confusing.
The Sinn Féin leader knew what side she was on (which made a change from an unusual Sinn Féin reticence on the issue last week).
“Can I say for the record that your response to deputy Paul Murphy was pretty disgraceful,” Mary Lou McDonald informed the Taoiseach, who retorted that the wasn’t surprised by her reaction.
“It’s no surprise you would align yourself with Deputy Bertie, er, Deputy Murphy in this regard.”
She also refused to answer questions “raised about your party’s finances and about your party’s links to organised crime and you won’t come in here and make a statement and take questions”.
Ructions ensued. “You’re an absolute disgrace,” said Sinn Féin TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn.
“You’re shameful, Leo,” seethed Mary Lou.
Happily, light relief was provided by Murphy and Richard Boyd-Barrett when they castigated RTÉ for proposing to show four hours of live coverage of the “so-called coronation” of King Charles on Saturday.
We never expected that.