nul and void

A petition to get 'My Lovely Horse' into the Eurovision was thrown out by TDs. Here's why...

Take this lump of sugar baby you know you want it.

SO, A PETITION to have ‘My Lovely Horse’, Father Ted’s famed (fictional) Eurosong entry, was considered by TDs this week.

[Father Ted screengrab]

Not for very long, mind.

Briefly discussing it in public session with TDs and senators at the Oireachtas public petitions committee on Wednesday, chairman Pádraig Mac Lochlainn observed — tongue-in-cheek, do we need to add? — that perhaps the panel didn’t have the requisite “musical expertise” to deal with the issue.

Labour senator Susan O’Keeffe chipped in to thank the petitioner for the ”entertainment value” of his entreaty, and McLochlainn (of Sinn Féin) replied that it was a “great song” before dismissing the issue.

Laura Hutton / Photocall Ireland Laura Hutton / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

The whole exchange didn’t take longer than a few seconds, and it was one of a range of petitions considered by the committee this week — a point McLochlainn was keen to stress when we called him to talk about it.

“Basically that’s a vexatious petition,” he says, before correcting himself…

Frivilous, rather than vexatious. Vexatious would mean it contains an unfair allegation against somebody.

So how much of the committee’s time is spent on ‘frivilous’ issues?

There’s very little consideration that would go into a decision like that. Standing orders are pretty clear…

All petitions submitted are examined by Oireachtas staff to ensure they comply with the standing orders, he says.

The secretariat* would look at it and say ‘we believe this is not serious’.

Gif: Portals of Discovery

If staff believe a petition is borderline, it’s brought to a working group of four committee members before being put to the whole panel “to speed up the process”.

So what are those standing orders? The full list is available here — but it’s all pretty reasonable stuff: the petition can’t request the Dáil to act outside its power, it can’t relate to a matter before the courts, it can’t contain offensive language etc. etc.

“You have to demonstrate that you have gone through a particular appeals process” before taking a petition, McLochlainn says.

Once it’s considered by the committee, members have a range of options on how to proceed.

“We would often correspond with the relevant Minister, bring in the Minister of the day to answer questions, the Secretary General of the relevant department…”

“There’s always going to be people — a tiny minority — who submit frivilous petitions or who are acting the maggot,” he says, adding that the broad majority are on serious topics.

Once you don’t happen to be a TD or senator, any citizen can submit one for consideration, and there’s no set number of signatories required.


Channel 4 / YouTube

So… that’s the petitions issue dealt with… If ‘My Lovely Horse’ had, by some freak of luck, managed to jump the ‘frivilous’ fence, no doubt it would also have failed to clear many of the other standing orders.

But it’s a moot point anyway…

Not willing to let the issue drop, put in a call to a Eurovision expert to get confirmation of some half-remembered facts.

“Sure you haven’t a hope. Sure the song’s more than 18 years old or so to start with,” says Paul G Sheridan — Song Contest afficionado, former Eurosong selector and provider of fun facts for those Marty Whelan commentaries.

The song has to be an original, and it cannot have been aired publicly before a given date set down each year by the European Broadcasting Union, Sheridan says.

Even if that weren’t the case, novelty songs tend not to do well in the contest anyway, Sheridan says.

“Remember the year we sent the Turkey?”

*No pun intended (we imagine).

Full metal racket: The Government’s in no mood for a scrap, and the McGraths are livid…

Read: Two ministers, some sheep, and a city centre photo-op. What could go wrong?

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