Fans of reality television may be tempted to break out the popcorn and tune in today to the Oireachtas channel to watch live parliamentary shenanigans, as the 33rd Dáil convenes. Hopefully, young people, in particular, will watch, especially those who vote in reality TV shows, but not in elections.
After all, in common with active audience participation in shows like Big Brother and the X-Factor, we have just voted for our very own reality TD stars and there is nothing like getting your money’s worth.
Indeed, the election campaign was an example of reality TV at its most entertaining. Despite performing well in the TV debates, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar skidded on more banana skins than a stand-up comedian, fielding flak on everything from homelessness to having smoked cannabis as a student.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin avoided a similar fate but set himself up for a fall by declaring, loftily, time and again, his party’s aversion to going into coalition with Sinn Féin.
That left a clear field for Mary Lou McDonald to enter stage left, play the victim and emerge with the spoils. She neatly stepped over her own banana skin, countering Waterford deputy David Cullinane’s “Up the RA!” rant by declaring of her party’s TDs: “I’m not their mammy. I don’t censor them, either. We’re all adults and I do expect them to behave in an adult way.”
Whatever about her politics or policies, McDonald has the X factor. Whether that will be enough to see her reach the 33rd Dáil final for the role of Taoiseach is another matter, as she faces off with Varadkar and Martin.
Mary Lou is the living embodiment of another slogan, one that is known to, but unlikely to be adopted by, Sinn Féin: “Who Dares Wins”, the clarion call of the SAS.
The first little bit of drama to unfold in the Dáil chamber today will involve the election of a ceann comhairle. The pity of it is that it was already a done deal before the vote, so there won’t be any sharp intakes of breath to savour.
The second order of business — the vote for Taoiseach — is bound to make up for all that. Expect a bit of posturing on all sides, as the cameras sweep for a close-up of the contenders. Even those who didn’t bother to vote in the general election may be minded to get a sneak preview of who our next government leader is likely to be.
Leinster House is no Love Island, but there is bound to be a lot of virtual adoration as the nominations are made and the virtues of each candidate extolled.
Who will win and go on to the next level? Who will be safe for another round? The likelihood is none of the above.Unless some kind of political miracle takes place over the next few hours, the prospect is that neither Leo Varadkar,Micheál Martin, nor Mary-Lou McDonald will be able to muster enough votes to become our next Taoiseach. Our new government leader may not emerge for weeks.
That is most likely to mean that the 33rd Dáil will adjourn this afternoon almost as soon as it is convened. There will hardly be enough time to finish that popcorn.