Business as usual for TDs on return from summer recess

Business as usual for TDs on return from summer recess
Lesley Anne O’Brien from Help Our Children protesting the waitinglist crisis outside Leinster House. Picture: Gareth Chaney/Collins.

Like the first day of school, TDs returned to the new and improved Leinster House after their eight-week summer break.

Sparkling after its €17m facelift, the House glistened in the warm sunshine which teased those returning deputies.

Unlike in normal years, many returning deputies complained they were unable to get away, given a proliferation of ongoing scandals and crises which erupted during the summer.

As business got underway, it turned out to be a day dominated by the three Bs.

By-elections, Brexit and Beef.

Early on, it emerged that Leo Varadkar held a meeting with three opposition leaders of the on Monday night to update them on all matters Brexit and by-elections.

Present were Micheál Martin; Eamon Ryan, the Green Party leader; and Róisín Shortall of the Social Democrats, and it was generally agreed that by-elections for the four vacant Dáil seats should be held in late November. The feeling around the place is that Friday 29th would be the date of choice.

The elections will be held to fill the seats in Cork North-Central (Billy Kelleher), Wexford (Mick Wallace), Dublin Mid-West (Frances Fitzgerald), and Dublin Fingal (Clare Daly).

There is a growing sense that Fine Gael could lose all four. Should that occur, the Government would lose its working majority in the Dáil, even with Fianna Fáil abstentions on foot of the Confidence and Supply deal.

In the Dáil, Martin and Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald led the charge on the beef protest, calling on the Government to reconvene talks in order to address the lingering concerns of farmers on the picket lines.

In response, amid barbs from the Opposition benches, Varadkar paid tribute to agriculture minister Michael Creed for his work in bringing the parties together and getting a deal agreed on Sunday.

“Too little, too late... tell people to eat more beef,” barked Independent TD Mattie McGrath.

You are the Taoiseach of Dublin,” chipped in Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae who regularly blasts Varadkar, accusing him of ignoring rural Ireland.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl sought to restore calm by appealing: “Ah, deputies please!”.

Over in Government Buildings, Tánaiste Simon Coveney was not to be upstaged, what with him being a former agriculture minister and all.

“I mean it when I say it, I’m saying this as Tánaiste of the country, the continuation of this blockade is going to do things to the beef industry that we as a Government are not going to be able to reverse, and people need to think about that. I would rarely intervene on this unless I felt as strongly as I do about it,” he said earnestly.

Coveney was also asked about Brexit and conceded that checks will have to occur somewhere adding some “unpalatable” choices will have to be faced in the days and weeks ahead.

The Taoiseach was equally downbeat in the chamber.

“If we end up in a no-deal scenario, it will a case of damage limitation. There may be some jobs and, regrettably, some businesses that cannot be saved,” he warned.

Meanwhile, omnipresent TD Noel Rock was cock-a-hoop with himself after he was confirmed as Maria Bailey’s replacement as chairman of the Oireachtas Housing Committee.

At €9,500 a year extra, who could blame him?

It is as if we never left.

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