More yel­low pack than golden ticket

Bray People - - ABOUT GREYSTONES - David Med­calf donned his only tie and set out to cover the con­ven­ing of a new Dáil.

WE thought were made. Out of the en­ve­lope wait­ing at the counter in the vis­i­tors’ en­trance at Le­in­ster House came a yel­low lam­i­nated pass. The of­fi­cial with the harp on his lapel handed it over with ev­ery show of re­luc­tance.

For all the world, they seemed like golden tick­ets from ‘Wil­lie Wonka and the Chocolate Fac­tory’. Here, surely, was the mir­a­cle key to un­lock the work­ings of Gov­ern­ment and gain ac­cess to the in­ner­most machi­na­tions of the State at the open­ing of Dáil Eire­ann. Think again.

The yel­low pass was more yel­low pack than a mirac­u­lous ac­cess all area. Yel­low passes were bot­tom of the heap, a step down from the red pass that al­lowed bear­ers to queue for the off chance of se­cur­ing a seat in the pub­lic gallery. The yel­low pass is­sued to fam­ily and friends of mem­bers, along with stray rep­re­sen­ta­tives of pro­vin­cial news­pa­pers was a world away from a spot high up in the elite press gallery where Miriam Lord of the ‘Ir­ish Times’ presided like the cat who got the cream.

We of the yel­low passes stood be­hind bar­ri­ers in the open air wait­ing for the new Taoiseach to emerge, or peered over the heads of oth­ers to gain a glimpsed of the Dáil pro­ceed­ings on a tele­vi­sion screen in the can­teen. At least we had the con­so­la­tion of be­ing within the grounds while pass-less per­sons looked on from afar through the rail­ings of the neigh­bour­ing Na­tional Mu­seum on one side and Na­tional Li­brary on the other.

We had en­tered a strange world where the press – whether yel­low pass hacks out for the day or in­ner cir­cle cho­sen ones of the per­ma­nent me­dia corps – are dealt with at arm’s length. There are rules and the rules are in­sis­tent that a journo does no busi­ness within the walls of Le­in­ster House. No note shall be taken and no record­ing made.

So even Ryan Tubridy was obliged to don his warm­est coat and knot his wooli­est scarf around his scrawny neck for his wel­come to the 31st Dáil show last Wed­nes­day. He did his busi­ness out in the open just a few me­tres away from the Kil­dare Street rail­ings. Re­porters were warned that all of­fi­cial in­ter­views must be con­ducted on the fa­mous plinth. It is a mar­ble dais about the size of bas­ket­ball court. Thank good­ness it was not rain­ing on Wed­nes­day and busi­ness be­tween politi­cos and the fourth es­tate could be con­ducted with­out risk of con­tract­ing pneu­mo­nia.

In­side, the at­mos­phere was akin to that of a good coun­try wed­ding on a mas­sive scale. Granted, the speeches were a lit­tle on the for­mal side but the craic away from the Cham­ber was mighty and the heav­ing crowd at the vis­i­tors’ bar grew steadily warmer and beerier as the af­ter­noon wore on.

High up in the elite press gallery Miriam Lord presided like the cat who got the cream

Fine Gael sec­re­tary gen­eral Tom Cur­ran looked at the cheery scene and is­sued a warn­ing to new mem­bers of this assem­bly: ‘ This is the best day.’ In other words, it is all down­hill from here, lads and lassies.

The first day back was, to a great ex­tent a Fine Gael vic­tory lap of hon­our, sim­ply be­cause the party had so many new­com­ers, with so many sup­port­ers ogling their way around Le­in­ster House. They lapped up Enda’s de­par­ture to the Áras in the State Merc. They loved it when he gave Micheál Martin a dig in de­bate. Even though there was not room for more than a frac­tion of them in the gallery, they ap­plauded the screens that car­ried im­ages from the House out around the com­plex.

It was nice to have the day out. Now that we who came up for a quick meal in the Dáil restau­rant and a look at the por­traits of Dev and Collins in the foyer have cleared off, the busi­ness of res­cu­ing our ban­jaxed coun­try may be­gin.

New TDs get a taste of Justin Beiber-like fame as they ar­rive at Le­in­ster House.

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