More yellow pack than golden ticket
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.