Ringside seats to the political circus back in town

IT felt a bit like the end of the world, but in reality it was just the re-starting of the circus.

They descended on the opening of the Dáil in their thousands, everyone from the religious right to the ultra left – and a human Chinese dragon in between.

And there amidst the deafening noise, sex toys. Well, one anyway, which was being brandished in the manner of a microphone under the noses of strangely unsuspecting deputies.

The scenes inside the tightened security cordon were equally surreal – and far more frightening – as TDs were asked to vote another blank guarantee cheque for the banker boys who took us to the brink of disaster in the first place.

But surely, it was all going to be so different to that sorrowful scene in September 2008 when the two Brians were rail-roaded into bailing out Anglo at 4.30am like bananas in pyjamas not knowing what they were signing the country up to?

Er, no. They’ve learned nothing.

Pressed on how much the Anglo fiasco would finally cost us, Brian Cowen announced: “I’m not adding to uncertainty,” adding to the uncertainty as he did so.

And, without a hint of irony or self awareness, he decided to pluck figures out of the air in relation to Anglo – but then, what’s new?

Insisting he did not know the figure the Financial Regulator would announce within hours regarding the final taxpayer tally for Anglo (of course we believe you, Taoiseach), Mr Cowen quoted the €35 billion estimate of one well renowned brokerage firm and then suddenly lowered the figure, saying “If it were in the order of €30bn, for example...” Yes, that would be better than €35bn, but still, ooooh, 30 billion times more than you promised us it would cost two years ago, Taoiseach?

The country needed some light relief and so turned its weary eyes to the Seanad, where one man political car crash Ivor Callely was rumoured to re-appear despite the 20 day suspension imposed on him by peers which he is fighting in the courts.

The media pitched-up en-masse in the upper house in the hope of witnessing his re-emergence amidst the national emergency. But Mr Mileage was a no-show – not that this stopped his peers revelling in the unusual glow of the press corps’ gaze.

Sadly, they still are unaware of their own irrelevance and did not quite get the fact we were there because of the member who was missing, not the senators sitting smugly in their seats.

But then you’ve got to grab the limelight where you can in Leinster House these days – just ask the Taoiseach.

After all that unpleasant “comedian, bartender or politician” exposure on US network television, Mr Cowen has been taking no chances back home and has even had the bright idea of being interviewed by one of his own press aides and putting it out on the web – that sort of good news thinking is all the rage in North Korea right now and should put paid to all that cynicism suggesting he lives in some sort of bunker.

Back in the Dáil a nervous energy was pulsating through the chamber as the Government finally accepted the fact this is meant to be a democracy and grudgingly granted the people of Dublin South, Donegal and Waterford their due rights to be represented in the national parliament and pencilled in the long delayed by-elections for the end of next April.

But Mr Cowen knows these are not just any old by-elections, they are indeed Bye-Bye Elections which will trigger the almost inevitable farewell for this Government.

The circus has given notice that it is finally leaving town.


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