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Mary Lou McDonald can be most aggravating. There she sits, with all the grace of a sack of turnips on an ass cart, the mobile held in front of her face. You can see how frustrating it is for Leo. Anybody who deals with teenagers is familiar with the phone going up and the head going down. It must be intensely annoying even for Leo, who has such a patrician aura you feel if you threw a teapot at him it would bounce off and brain Pascal Donohue.
Nobody else in the Dáil seems to do it. Plenty have a discreet tablet. They might type into it or read something on it, maybe they are on Facebook, and you couldn’t blame them, but they don’t wave it in the speaker’s face.
Some scribble notes earnestly, they could be doing the crossword, or their expenses, but they keep it to themselves.
The mobile sends out a clear message. It says that the speaker is not worth listening to.
You would not see Clare Daly carry on like that. She listens intently, quivering with righteous indignation, to every word. When she springs to her feet to speak you seem to hear songs of glorious rebellion in the background and a clarion call to the barricades. Mick Wallace crouches beside her, paying great attention, with the endearingly earnest aspect of a Tibetan terrier minding goats on a mountainside. They are concerned. They are worried. They partake. They earn their salary.
Richard Boyd Barrett prowls in, a quiet presence in the Great Theatre of the Dáil, ready with the barbed quip or the thundering denunciation, intense in his designer denims.
Micheál Martin is permanently hassled, perpetually concerned, like a transition year teacher with a bold class at the Young Scientist exhibition. Alan Kelly has the demeanour of a manager three points down against Thurles Sarsfields at half-time. They all treat the Dáil with the respect that is due.
All except Sinn Féin, whose sneering disregard for everybody else is obvious. They are the hurlers on the ditch. They draw their salaries and don’t partake. They are freeloaders. The only thing they agree with the other TDs on is that they themselves are not fit for government. While the North is falling to pieces they play silly buggers with the DUP (who are their mirror image). They refuse to take part in parliament when the whole nation, North and South, faces the disastrous prospect of Brexit. Why should they worry, they will be all right, criticising every move of those who are not afraid to step up to the plate.
Sinn Féin pretends that they are the last gasp of the reformation wars, as if that was something to be proud of. They also make out that they are socialist. In fact they are as socialist as Trump, Steve Bannon and the Tea Party; right wingers with their religious prejudice, populist rhetoric, promises they know they will never be able to deliver and inability to admit that they are ever wrong.
If Mary Lou becomes leader she will be elected by a secret cabal, an unelected group with an unknowable aim.
Would she have carried on like that in Mount Anville when she and Sorcha O’Carroll-Kelly were taking part in debates? I doubt it. She pretends to be a socialist, but she is not fit to tie the laces on Claire Daly’s Doc Martens.
If The Donald is still the American President next Patrick’s Day we should be proud that Ireland is represented by a gay man of mixed race. And when the Taoiseach stares at the privately educated incumbent, who like a teenager who has neither the manners nor the maturity to put down the phone, he may get a feeling that POTUS reminds him of somebody at home.