Kenny not quite Clint at High Noon in Seanad

It was billed as High Noon in the upper house.

Kenny not quite Clint at High Noon in Seanad

The first time Taoiseach Enda Kenny had set foot in the Seanad since irate FF-er Marc MacSharry accused him of being a “clown” who had “urinated” on the chamber.

But in the end there were few fireworks — and thankfully no mention of water works.

Murmurs of rebellion had rippled through the chamber prior to the Taoiseach’s noon appearance, as talk of an orchestrated Fianna Fáil walk-out gathered pace.

As usual, Kenny was late, so the upper house was in a state of some flux as he entered the former Earl of Kildare’s ballroom — and who was that coincidentally bounding towards him? None other than MacSharry.

Some fine, improvised footwork by Enda loyalist Marie Louise O’Donnell managed to avert a difficult encounter as she swooped in to engage the Taoiseach in chit-chat. This allowed him to turn his back on the advancing MacSharry and both were free to blank each other without too much embarrassment.

FFers were up in arms over Kenny’s attack on the “axis of collusion” between the party and dodgy bankers during its time in power, hence the rumours of protest at his presence.

But the only walkout occurred three minutes into the Taoiseach’s speech when a large group of bored school children in the public gallery decided Seanad reform had excited them enough and they headed for the door en masse.

They were the lucky ones, able to escape the next 90 minutes of mind numbingly dull self-justification as senators opposed to abolition proved themselves to be the axis of delusion.

Just about the only memorable point came from independent John Crown who took the Taoiseach to task for his assertion that the Seanad needed abolition because it had not put a muzzle on the Celtic Tiger.

Given that Kenny was leader of the opposition during the bubble boom and only seemed to want to inflate the property market madness even more, it had been a weird charge for him to level at the upper house, as Crown pointed out, stating the analogy was like: “Neville Chamberlain blaming the Mexicans for failing to stop the Germans invading Poland.”

Though perhaps emphasising the Seanad’s role in national life being as distant as 1930s Mexico from European affairs may not be the best argument for retention.

But while the dance of the living dead continued in the Ballroom of Irrelevance, the real drama of the day was unfolding below its ornate windows as outgoing Labour chairman Colm Keaveney was holding court on the plinth.

Despite being a bit of a lefty by Labour’s irredeemably bourgeoisie Champagne-socialist standards, when Keaveney became party chairman it was always clear he would be less Chairman Mao, more Chairman Row, and thus it proved.

The Galway East TD could even hear the socialist champagne flowing in the Tánaiste’s foreign affairs HQ celebrating his resignation.

“I’m sure that there is probably a cork being popped somewhere over in Iveagh House,” Keaveney mused, before taking a parting shot at the gerontocracy that runs Labour: “Many of our colleagues at Cabinet level are enjoying their last hour in the sun.”

And so the final curtain descended on the quixotically theatrical relationship between Keaveney and the Labour Party which he had insisted on remaining chairman of despite being expelled from its parliamentary wing for voting against child benefit cuts at Christmas.

Keaveney is no longer party ringmaster and Kenny is not a clown — but Leinster House can certainly be a bit of a circus sometimes.

More in this section

War of Independence Podcast

A special four-part series hosted by Mick Clifford

Available on

Commemorating 100 years since the War of Independence

Home Delivery


Have the Irish Examiner delivered to your door. No delivery charge. Just pay the cover price.