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Nomadic beasts, hackneyed clichés and mild-mannered TDs: A not very productive day's work in the Dáil

Nobody particularly covered themselves in glory during Leaders’ Questions today….

COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER PAT Rabbitte was in typically combative form as he helmed Leader’s Questions in the Dáil this afternoon, deputising for the Tánaiste and fielding questions on beef prices and the housing crisis.

Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett waded in several times to calm proceedings as the Minister’s responses were heckled from across the chamber, amid a not-particularly-productive 30 minute session of back-and-forth accusations, insults, cheap jibes and truncated answers.

Fianna Fáil’s Eamon Ó Cuiv opened proceedings, and almost immediately ran into trouble with the chair, after commenting that he had been worried there wouldn’t be a senior minister to take the session.

Insisting it was relevant to the question, he went on to raise the issue of beef prices, suggesting several times that Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney had taken his eye off the ball in relation to the situation.

It follows a protest by livestock farmers over the problem this week, where the IFA claimed its members were struggling as a result of falling prices caused by unfair beef regulations.

Replying, Rabbitte (a Dublin South West TD, it’s perhaps worth pointing out) said the last few years had been an “especially good time for farming, generally”.

Conceding that there was problem in the market at the moment, he said that Ó Cuiv was well aware of the steps the Minister was taking to deal with it.

On the issue of ‘nomadic cattle’, whereby farmers whose cattle are born in the Republic and slaughtered in Northern Ireland are being offered lower prices by buyers, Rabbitte remarked:

The difficulty of whether a beast is Irish or Northern Irish has its roots in Irish history.

He went on to reiterate that “it has been a very positive period in agriculture and farming”.

“There is a labelling issue,” he said, insisting that “the Minister is actively pursuing the issue” and attempting to bring it to conclusion.

Housing

The real fireworks began when Sinn Féin brought up the issue of the Housing Bill, and the contentious Housing Assistance Payment in particular.

Its critics contend the new payment could force tens of thousands of families off waiting lists for social housing. However, Housing Minister Jan O’Sullivan insisted earlier this week that such claims were misleading “and grossly inaccurate”.

SF’s Jonathan O’Brien (or “the normally mild-mannered Deputy O’Brien,” as Rabbitte referred to him) railed at the Minister, insisting Labour was “condemning families to a future of uncertainty” with the Bill.

Jonathan O’Brien… happy enough be described as ‘mild mannered’ apparently.

But Rabbitte accusing him of trotting out a “hackneyed cliché” and said “what you allege is wrong”.

“It is a real measure to assist people who are in receipt of this housing supplement to go back to work if they can do that, and retain the housing supplement.

They will not lose their access to social housing in the normal way.

The Minister also had a line ready for Labour rebel Roisín Shortall, a critic of the HAP, who joined in with opposition hecklers.

I don’t think Deputy Shortall should enter this. Her decision on the centralisation of medical cards has caused enough difficulties in this country.

Deputy Shortall… not impressed.

As the interruptions continued, O’Brien told Rabbitte “I think it’s quite clear that a bevy of Fine Gael got hold of you, and they’ve stripped you of every principle and moral that you’ve had”.

And there was a particular warning from the Ceann Comhairle for newly-elected Socialist TD Ruth Coppinger…

You’re not in the county council now.

As Rabbitte’s second response was interrupted again, Barrett said the house was moving on with other business, but not before the Minister got in a final quick line.

“It’s very good reform and we should agree to welcome it.”

The video playback can be viewed online here.

Don’t all rush to download at once.

Read: Smacking, shellacking and John The Baptist – Election 2014 in quotes

Read: Rabbitte: I’m sorry we weren’t able to deliver on our promises

 

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