herald

Saturday 1 October 2016

Turf, ministers, the Child of Prague and finally, a government

Mattie McGrath (Picture: Tom Burke)
Mattie McGrath (Picture: Tom Burke)

It was a day that began with turf holding up the formation of a government and ended with another poor sod, Leo Varadkar, getting shovelled aside.

Finally, 10 weeks after the February 26 General Election, we have a government. But events yesterday reflected much of the previous 69 days; chaotic, tense, confusing and at the end everyone is still left asking the same question, what next?

Fine Gael and independent TDs wore furrowed brows yesterday morning. Talks had broken down overnight over turf-cutters' rights.

Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath, and champion of the rural dweller, was one of the first to pull out of any deal.

Deadlock

He revealed that he had a "stand-up row" with outgoing minister Paschal Donohoe during the deadlock.

As other rural deputies withdrew support one-by-one, a minority government seemed to be slipping out of Enda Kenny's hands.

So dire were affairs, other TDs were driven to superstition. Fine Gael's Regina Doherty said she put a statue of the Child of Prague out the night before in the hope of a seat at Cabinet. The old piseog usually grants good weather for a wedding.

Perhaps, the infant of Prague was paying heed to our terse climate. The weather was good and shortly after 2pm - two hours late, but who cares after 10 weeks - the magic number of 59 TDs in favour of Enda Kenny fell over the line.

The mood relaxed in the chamber as soon-to-be Minister for Health Simon Harris was able to poke fun at newbie Noel Rock, who proposed Enda Kenny for a record fourth occasion.

"I joked to him when I proposed Enda Kenny as Taoiseach in 2011 it only took one attempt," Harris quipped.

Dublin TDs Shane Ross and Finian McGrath were among the parliamentarians who backed Mr Kenny.

Ross, who was beside himself with joy, later announced he was Transport Minister before the Taoiseach could do so in the Dail as is customary. McGrath got a super junior award as Minister for Disabilities.

After a quick trip to the Aras to tell the President he had been re-elected, Mr Kenny returned to Leinster House for the official announcement of the jobs for the boys (and the girls).

Appointment

And here lay the kicker: Leo Varadkar was moved from Health to Social Protection. A source close to Minister Varadkar said that he was "over the moon" with the appointment.

So far over the moon that Leo would have probably flown over the turf in the West that just hours earlier had threatened the future of the 32nd Dail.

Plenty of spadework ahead.

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