'Plump' rat invades Dáil bar before Bríd gets cheesed off with Taoiseach

There was a rat in the Private Members’ Bar – neither the first time, nor the last, said the wags, of course.

Flushed out of his usual haunts by the comprehensive building works ongoing in Leinster House, he was “plump and stately”, according to witnesses – a veritable Buck Mulligan of the rattus norvegicus species.

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Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin and his party colleague Eugene Murphy TD were the first to spot him, and aided by Joan Burton, the bar was put on lockdown.

The rodent’s sleek and sudden appearance caused considerable distress – particularly to staff who feared they could be shut down for a lengthy period by the health authorities. It was the first rat they could remember appearing in the exulted surrounds of this 274-year-old building, they fretted.

As metaphors go, infestations in the woodwork while everything on the surface looked comfortably hunky dory seemed to be a general problem in the last week before the Dáil recess.

There was the animosity within the chamber, for a start.

Behind the ‘united’ front we are portraying to the world on the Brexit issue, lies an unravelling discontent.

There were fiery scenes as Bríd Smith, from People Before Profit, accused the Taoiseach of telling “deliberate lies” – which she was then forced to downgrade to “deliberate mistruths” – before escalating it back again to “two lies at least”, over the Government’s decision to block her Climate Emergency Measures Bill, which aims to stop any further oil and gas exploration in the waters off Ireland.

The Leas-Cheann Comhairle took grave exception to her language as she accused the Taoiseach of “lying” to 15,000 students about climate change commitments while simultaneously allowing the Government to be lobbied by former government press secretary Fergal Purcell on behalf of the fossil fuel industry.

It was just a coffee, insisted the Taoiseach.

“Did you get a sweetener?” came the hecklers.

Furious, Bríd continued to tackle Leo, with the Leas-Cheann Comhairle accusing her of being “totally disorderly”. “I’m totally angry,” she snapped back.

It was probably fortunate enough that a visiting delegation from the Bavarian parliament had left by this stage, after taking a couple of jovial selfies in the visitors’ gallery.

But have no doubt, Brexit is the real infestation in the infrastructure.

And as the Tánaiste, Finance Minister and European Affairs Minister gathered in the balmy outdoors to warn of the perils that lie beneath our currently glossy all-island economy, we could hear the impending scurry of tiny feet wreaking havoc and doom in the foundations.

“Make no mistake, a no-deal Brexit is an ugly prospect,” Simon Coveney said. Anything other than the backstop would be “sub-par”, they all darkly agreed. “This is damage limitation,” warned Helen McEntee.

The fact that we have more than two million people at work, and the ports are almost ready, was offered by way of a silver lining.

Nobody mentioned the debt.

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