TO SAY MATTIE McGrath was disappointed to have his pet project rejected by the Government for a second time would be, to say the least, slightly understating the Tipperary politician’s reaction this morning.
He’d already been sent back to the drawing board on his proposals to tackle scrap metal theft by Alan Shatter, who told McGrath two years ago his Bill would do nothing to deter those involved in the “nefarious” business.
‘Livid’ would probably be a good term to describe the independent Deputy’s mood this morning.
‘Enraged’ might do it justice too. Or ‘outraged’… All the ‘rages’ basically. Just look up a thesaurus under ‘angry’.
“I thought you would take it,” the TD railed from the opposition benches.
I waited for over two years to get it back again. You’ve nothing now.
The fact that the current Justice Minister, Frances Fitzgerald, wasn’t in the chamber to hear his Friday morning pitch only added to the irascible politician’s ire.
Instead McGrath unloaded on junior minister for Europe Paschal Donohoe, who presumably drew a short straw at some stage earlier this week…
I’m not saying this Bill is perfect… I’d never say that… But it’s a humble effort by me and my staff.
“If we don’t give protection to families living in their own homes we’ve a lawless state,” McGrath implored.
It could have been accepted. It could have been amended. It could have been turned inside out for that matter but it would have been a work in progress.
Some unfortunate Labour figures even got caught up in the collateral damage as McGrath and his fellow independent Finian McGrath (no relation) went to town on the Government.
McGrath (F) rounded on poor Kevin Humphreys, who appeared to have done nothing in particular to deserve being accused of being “another person who’s sleepwalking on this particular issue”.
Kevin Humphreys: Sleepwalker
Later, Education Minister Ruairí Quinn, arriving to take care of some other business concerning his Department, looked a little stunned to be yanked into the affair. McGrath (M) was just finishing his tirade, accusing Donohoe and his colleagues of ”operating for the big people … and to hell with the little people”.
“That’s the rock you’ll perish on minister….
And Minister Quinn who just joined you.
Ruairí Quinn: What?
What was in the Bill, you ask?
McGrath made reference to a spate of recent robberies of precious and scrap metals as he opened proceedings this morning, listing incidents in businesses, homes and churches around the country.
His proposals, he said, included tighter controls on cash-for-gold outlets and other businesses trading in precious metals. They would also require scrap metal dealers to be registered, and ensure all payments made by traders be traceable.
Of the scrap metal thieves responsible for the recent high-profile crimes — like the theft of DART wires last month, for instance — McGrath told Donohoe ”they know no bounds”.
‘They know no bounds’
As soon as Donohoe got to his feet, however, it was clear he didn’t have any good news for Mattie.
The Government has the issue covered thank you very much, McGrath was effectively told by the junior minister.
“I am informed by gardaí that they have no direct evidence to suggest a firm link between burglaries and the cash-for-gold sector,” Donohoe said.
“Work has been ongoing on heads of a bill to regulate businesses trading in precious metals,” he added, pointing out that that measures would need to be “proportionate and targeted” to ensure they didn’t simply create more red tape for business owners.
‘Mattie has done a lot of work…’
As we’ve established — not the response McGrath had been looking for.
Along with his Dublin namesake Finian, a handful of other opposition TDs leapt to the defence of the Tipperary man in his hour of need.
“Mattie has done a lot of work” since Minister Shatter spurned his proposals two years ago, Sinn Féin’s Jonathan O’Brien insisted.
While McGrath (F) told Donohoe “you may be smiling minister, but I’m going to hit you between the eyes …. in relation to facts and statistics”.
The ball was passed back the McGrath (M) to end the session on a high, as he told Donohoe (and Quinn, of course) that crime figures were being massaged, and that the Government needed to face up to its responsibility.
Surely a state where DART lines can be ”unceremoniously stolen” indicates we’re rapidly descending into “bandit country”…
“We’re only passing through here,” he said.
Shame on you Minister.