THE affray at the bay began with a Merc, a smirk and a jerk of the hand – all three of which belonged to the extended Lenihan clan.
Mary O’Rourke had appeared jittery as she gave TV3 an interview outside the Hodson Bay Fianna Fáil conference hotel as farmers massed and jeered in the background.
In a moment of supreme misjudgement, the formidable matron of Middle Ireland turned and waved at the demonstrators – just as her nephew Brian Lenihan’s lavish Mercedes cruised through with him sporting his customary lop-sided smile from within. The combination of gestures co-ordinated perfectly with the first break through the barrier as farm rage lunged forward to storm the hotel.
The Finance Minister ran for the safety of the venue as security staff inside shouted “Lock down! Lock down!” to keep the masses at the bay at bay. Fianna Fáilers inside looked surprised – wags observed they may have misheard “lock down” and thought the “lock-in” had begun unexpectedly early at this parliamentary party “think-in,” which is often more rightly referred to as the “drink-in”.
Outside, the riot cops were struggling to keep the inner bunker free from furious farmers as what looked like every officer in the mid-west was on hand to protect the rulers from the ruled.
With The Hodson Bay Hotel being on the banks of Loch Ree, even the Water Unit was deployed – ironic that Fianna Fáil should be so fond of the Frog Squad when they shied away from demanding the fraud squad went into sleaze-splattered Anglo-Irish Bank for so long, and then let the Fás farce dissemble to such an appalling waste of taxpayers’ wealth.
Maybe a slightly distressed-looking Mr Lenihan could have taken tips from the Garda Public Order Unit, but then putting order into public finances has not proved so smooth for him after the decade of State decadence now unravelling faster than John O’Donoghue’s non-apology for his taxpayer-funded, world limo tour.
The media had to pass three check-points before being allowed into the bunker – but that bunker was not just physical as it runs deep in the FF psyche as the press was excluded from even daring to stay in the same hotel as the increasingly beleaguered soldiers of destiny.
After being pushed back from the sacred sanctum, the farmers were allowed a few speeches outside the doors of the Hodson Bay to vent their anger. As the farmers dispersed peacefully a number of garda officers could be heard bemoaning the state of the nation amongst themselves – a worrying sign for those they were protecting.
But with the farmers departing, what excitement was left for the huddled ministers? The Hotel foyer had an array of leaflets they could peruse. A visit to the near-by Donkey Sanctuary? No, that would be a bad photo-op for any self-respecting backbencher. A barracuda boat trip on the loch? Not likely with all the sharks circling a bloodied Taoiseach in the water. Then, what about a quick one down at Locke’s Distillery Museum? Probably not a great idea given that senior Government members now seem to announce weekly in the media that while they may like the auld pint, it’s not a problem, you know?
One deputy asked what the mood of the party was replied: “Moody”. Nothing changes.
Mr Lenihan was still reeling from the farmers’ riot when he was told he sparked it. “I’m honoured...,” he began, before realising what he was saying and doing a hand brake turn out of reality, insisting the nasty fracas never took place at all. Later he left himself open to misinterpretation again when referring to NAMA, stating: “I will be responsible for it at the bar of Leinster House and Dáil Eireann.” He must have meant in the chamber, as few TDs are responsible in the real Dáil bar.
The bunker clearly does funny things to the brain.
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