BRAND NEW TÁNAISTE and Labour leader Joan Burton faced her first Leaders’ Questions this afternoon and dealt with the Israel-Palestine crisis, community education schemes, and a certain up-and-coming country singer.
It would appear that Garth Brooks Fatigue Syndrome has reached even Irish politicians, after the issue was given decidedly mixed treatment during the debate.
‘Even the Mexicans are getting involved’
Fíanna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley was met with groans when he asked the Tánaiste what exactly the government had done to salvage a certain musical event which had been planned for the Drumcondra area later this month.
He denied that his question was influenced by personal taste or “genre of entertainment”, but the skeptical, laughing reaction from his Dáil colleagues may have something to do with the fact that THIS photo exists.
“Will you please refrain from making a joke out of the whole thing,” Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett ordered, before Dooley finally arrived at a question:
Why did the Taoiseach sit on his hands, why did the government sit back for a week when even the Mexicans and the Moneygall native Barack Obama is getting involved?”
In case you’re not aware, he was referring to this morning’s developments in the saga.
Burton, in response, opened her Leaders’ Questions account with a joke:
I think the only people you left out are possibly the Brazilians, who might be free to be involved at this point in time.
The new Labour leader, however, elicited hearty approval from deputies when she said the Dáil chamber was not the proper place for a detailed discussion of how the problem could be solved.
Instead, a “positive outcome” would be best served by private talks between all the interested parties, she said, adding that the coalition was “ready to help.”
Yes, but WHICH reputational damage?
Maureen O’ Sullivan – an Independent TD for Dublin Central, which covers the Croke Park area – wanted no part in any Dáil discussion about the cancelled-concerts debacle.
I wonder what it’s doing to our international reputation that the national parliament has, on several days this week, been discussing Garth Brooks…when we have a crisis in this country with homelessness, and we see international events like what has been referred to in Gaza.We still have hundreds of girls abducted by Boko Haram because they wanted an education.
Instead, O’ Sullivan wanted to ask the Minister for Social Protection about fears of a “cull” of community education providers who, in the absence of a government waiver, can’t afford the €5,000 fee required to set up schemes for “those most disconnected from education.”
Burton commended O’ Sullivan for her dedication to community organising and stated that the government was “committed to emphasising and prioritising the whole area of community development,” including the Solas and Tús schemes.
From Garth to Gaza
Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Mary Lou McDonald steered the conversation in another direction altogether, asking the Tánaiste what the government had done to bring an “immediate end” to Israel’s shelling of the Gaza strip.
“Has the Taoiseach or the Minister for Foreign Affairs picked up the phone and directly contacted Israel’s ambassador or the Israeli government?”
Burton would only say that the Minister, and Ireland’s missions in the Palestinian territories, were “closely monitoring” the situation, and she called on both sides to show restraint and bring about an immediate ceasefire.