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Miriam Lord: TD hits boiling point amid claims of ‘talking down’ to ‘a female Deputy’

Two grown men, senior politicians and no strangers to flinging insults in the cut and thrust of the parliamentary fray, lose the plot on the floor of the Dáil

Did a bold socialist man point his finger at little Jennifer? He did.

Did the bold socialist man shout at nice Jennifer? Yes, he did.

And what did the bold socialist man say? He said: “I wasn’t talking to you!”

And what was poor Jennifer doing at the time? She was heckling the bold socialist man when he was trying to make a point to the Taoiseach during Leaders’ Questions. I mean how dare he?


How dare Richard Boyd Barrett break off mid-sentence and tell a constituency rival to butt out of his raging argument with Leo Varadkar, even if she nearly knocked him off his stride.

I mean, shouting at Jennifer.

“A female deputy” as the Taoiseach later pointed out when ridiculously taking umbrage on her behalf because of a routine, blink and you’d miss it, verbal skirmish in the Dáil.

It happened when the People Before Profit TD went quickly from his default setting – simmering with anger, to the next level – a rolling boil, after calling for the establishment of a State construction company to address the housing crisis and deliver more social and affordable housing.

The reply he received from across the floor did not soothe his concerns. Richard Boiled Barrett had steam coming out of his ears by the time Leo answered the first of his two questions.

To be fair, the deputy for Dún Laoghaire was already slightly discombobulated. In order to make his point about the pressing need for more homes he found himself relying on a report produced by the stockbroking firm Goodbody.

“An unlikely source,” he admitted, but there you are.

Boiled Barrett must have reckoned that the Taoiseach, being a good Fine Gaeler, could not ignore the findings of a blue-chip investment firm.

But Leo told him a State construction company already existed. It is called the Land Development Agency (LDA) and it is building hundreds of social and affordable houses in Richard’s constituency which will soon be occupied.

Having voted against the establishment of the LDA, the Taoiseach hoped RBB won’t have the “brass neck” to rock up to them in the future looking for votes.

Shanganagh is one of the many examples of local authorities building excellent developments, he continued, “which you always refuse to acknowledge”.

Brass neck?

Richard was fuming. Fuming.

Takes one to know one.

“You’ve some brass neck. I have been campaigning for Shanganagh to develop public and affordable housing for 17 years,” he bellowed. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil councillors delayed everything because they were holding out for some private development.

People Before Profit “argued relentlessly” and held the line.

The two leading lights of the Fine Gael SoCoDu Massive (Dún Laoghaire’s Jennifer Carroll MacNeill and Dublin Rathdown’s Josepha Madigan) were scandalised. Wails of indignant denials went up.

“I wasn’t talking to you,” snapped RBB, recognising the dulcet tones of his constituency rival, Jennifer.

He continued at considerable speed and considerable volume to make his point about the need for the State to set up a construction company.

“We are saying, as Goodbody is saying…” declared the socialist firebrand in a once-in-a-lifetime admission.

“Will you stop shouting!” hollered Josepha.

The Taoiseach was troubled.

“Ceann Comhairle,” he began. “There is something I admire about the deputy – and I do mean this, I’m not trying to be smart here – Deputy Boyd Barrett is very articulate, very passionate and performs really well in this House.”

He forgot to say he wasn’t trying to be condescending either.

Then he addressed Richard directly.

“But it’s really obvious when you get angry – not just pretending to be angry….”

“Shouting!” shouted Josepha.

“…[but] when you’re genuinely angry – and the way you spoke to Deputy Carroll MacNeill there was…” Leo paused, perhaps hoping that the humbling force of his gallantry might help the nasty socialist man who shouted at Jennifer see the error of his ways.

“Because she was heckling!” spluttered RBB.

“No,” sighed Leo, looking very disappointed in him.

“Because she was heckling,” repeated Richard.

Fianna Fáil Minister for State Mary Butler stuck her oar in. “You’re heckling now.”

The PBP man was nearly blue in the face by now, repeating he was simply responding to Deputy Carroll MacNeill’s interruption.

He glowered at Leo. “You don’t like being heckled, do ya?”

“Eh, no, but…”

“No. So why should she heckle me?” sulked Richard.

Whereupon Leo began to lecture him about all the times he has to put up with people having a go at him in the Dáil chamber. It’s not like he’s the Taoiseach, or anything. “I get constantly heckled.”

RBB bristled. “Not by me.”

“Sometimes by you.”

“Not by me.” (Voice rising).

“Sometimes by you.”

“Not by me.” (Louder).

This exchange was actually happening on the floor of the Dáil between two grown men who are senior politicians and no strangers to flinging insults in the cut and thrust of the parliamentary fray.

And the Taoiseach seemed to think he was defending the honour of his Minister for State at the Department of Finance, Jennifer.

It was the tone of the intervention that he didn’t like.

“I’ve never talked down to somebody like that, particularly a female Deputy across the way,” he said, before scrunching up his face, throwing up his arms and doing his impression of the way Richard spoke to poor Jennifer: “I’m not listening. I am not listening to you.”

Again, Boyd Barrett protested. It was in context. She was heckling.

“I said I wasn’t TALKING to her.”

Not, not listening to her.

The Ceann Comhairle looked bewildered and he couldn’t be blamed for that.

The Taoiseach was still brooding over RBB saying he had a brass neck.

“Again your brass neck. Do you not see the irony of it? I’m criticising you for talking down to Deputy Carroll MacNeill, for heckling her, and then you’re heckling me, like.”

I mean, Jennifer is from Killiney, like.

“No. She was heckling me, which is out of order,” roared Richard.

I mean, Jennifer married an international rugby hero called Hugo, like.

Leo ran to the Ceann Comhairle for moral support, like a schoolboy running to teacher because a big boy stole his Milky Way.

“Is the Deputy not out of order?”

Seán Ó’Fearghaíl sighed. “He is out of order, yes.”

Leo thanked him.

“Ooh, but Deputy Carroll MacNeill wasn’t out of order?” pouted Richard.

“There’s a lot of people out of order,” replied the Ceann, thoroughly fed up.

“Anyway,” said the Taoiseach brightly, “let’s deal with the substantive issue now that we’ve dealt with the nonsense.”

But they couldn’t, because he had talked down the clock and they were out of time.