You’d miss Joe Higgins. It would be unfair to the performance of the Opposition yesterday to say that it was like watching Tyrone without Peter Canavan [a Gaelic football star who plays for County Tyrone].  

Free the bin tax two

The following humorous article was published in the Irish Times newspaper today.

Irish Times columnist misses Joe Higgins and ridicules main parties

Dail without Joe Higgins like Tyrone without Peter Canavan

Frank McNally, Irish Times 01/10/2003

But the Socialist Party man gives them a certain something at the top of the extreme left, and without him they struggled to penetrate Bertie Ahern’s 13-man defence.

Not that they lacked thrust. It’s too early to say yet, but there are signs that Enda Kenny [leader of the opposition Fine Gael party] has come out of Africa a new man. He has been to the mountain top, and he has seen the promised land, or at least a slight increase in the Fine Gael poll ratings. At any rate he pointed his finger at the Taoiseach yesterday like a man who meant it, even rapping his knuckles fiercely on the bench at one point.

His questions centred on Michael Collins (the Fianna Fáil one). And despite his earlier uncertainty, the Taoiseach had too much notice for this to turn into the Leader’s Questions version of Béal na mBláth [the name of the area in County Cork where Michael Collins, the pro-Treaty forces’ leader, was shot dead by anti-Treaty republican forces in the early 1920s]. The Fine Gael leader tried to pin him down with extracts from the Ray Burke debates, but Mr Ahern returned fire by reminding him of Fine Gael’s past embarrassment with the tax man; at which point Mr Kenny abandoned his assault on the moral high ground until the weather improved.

On the subject of moral altitude, the Progressive Democrats are - like Kilimanjaro - permanently snow-bound. But Pat Rabbitte [Labour Party leader] hit them below the tree-line yesterday by recalling that last year’s deal on State indemnity for the religious institutions was struck when the then attorney general was distracted by his successful expedition to the summit of a Dublin 4 lamppost.

Of course the Labour leader’s main targets were the Taoiseach and "Woodsie" as he called the former minister of education, lending Michael Woods a populist quality that has not hitherto been obvious. "Woodsie" was himself moved to rebuff Rabbitte’s claim that the potential €1 billion indemnity had never been debated in the Dáil, a rebuff repeated by the Taoiseach.

But when Labour accused Mr Ahern of misleading the house, the response was profound silence.

That silence was not as profound, however, as the one from the seat where Joe Higgins, "guest of the nation", normally sits. [’Guest of the nation’ is a reference to a short story by Irish writer Frank O’Connor, which deals with British soldiers held hostage by republican forces during the Irish War of Independence, 1918-1921]. 

© The Irish Times

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