“We need some gender balance in that picture, where is the gender balance?” exclaimed senator Marie-Louise O’Donnell before she broke through the cordon.

The leaders of each of the political parties, along with the ceann comhairle — all men — had gathered around the Leinster House Christmas tree to mark the switching on of the lights.

“That’s a fine body of men we have,” said Taoiseach Enda Kenny as the photographers started snapping.

And so in the name of Mná na hÉireann, Ms O’Donnell stepped into the picture.

Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin had to miss out on the festive cheer as he was appearing on the Six One News, hitting out at another party leader, Gerry Adams. Bah humbug.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny bids season’s greetings to Aislinn Swanick and her son Julian, 2, as the Leinster House Christmas tree lights were switched on yesterday as the Dáil choir belted out some festive favourites. Picture: Gareth Chaney
Taoiseach Enda Kenny bids season’s greetings to Aislinn Swanick and her son Julian, 2, as the Leinster House Christmas tree lights were switched on yesterday as the Dáil choir belted out some festive favourites. Picture: Gareth Chaney

The turning on of the Leinster House Christmas lights is an annual tradition. And what a difference a year makes: A general election, shock results with Labour almost wiped out, marathon coalition talks, and a confidence and supply deal between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael which all eventually led to the motley minority government.

The choir seemed to perfectly sum up the past 12 months of political upheaval.

As the men (and one woman) stood around the tree, the Taoiseach, with Labour leader Brendan Howlin at his shoulder, listened as the Leinster House choir sweetly sang Wham! classic ‘Last Christmas’.

Seán Ó Fearghaíl who had the honour as ceann comhairle of turning on the lights, made his wishes clear for 2017. “My one ambition is, this being my first occasion, to be back here again next year to have the opportunity to once again turn on the lights,” he said before the massive spruce was lit to applause and cheers.

Mr Ó Fearghaíl took the opportunity to wish a happy Christmas to all members of the Oireachtas and the “wonderful staff” in Leinster House.

“And indeed as well, a warm and happy Christmas to all the members of the media who diligently and loyally, and of course accurately, report the events of Leinster House,” he said to explosive laughter.

“Are you going to join in the singing,” a Leinster House official asked Mr Ó Fearghaíl.

“I haven’t been to the bar yet,” he joked.

That didn’t put off the Taoiseach who joined in with the Leinster House choir, which included Green Party TD Catherine Martin, in a rendition of ‘White Christmas’.


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