By Aoibhinn Bryant
It’s a quiet Tuesday in Leinster House, the bustle comes from raucous school children clambering their way through the narrow blue hallways, politicians and journalists alike worming around them. The merriness brought on from Pancake Tuesday stops short at the doors to the Dáil Chambers as the handful of TDs get ready for Leaders’ Questions.
The murmuring in the Dáil chamber comes to a stupor as the Taoiseach makes his way to his seat. With the go-ahead from the Ceann Comhairle, Fianna Fail leader Míchael Martin springs up to attention and lunges the political hot potato of housing to Leo Varadkar. Varadkar defends his minister’s actions, reaffirming his governments’ desire to that everyone has the right to shelter.
When its thrown back to Martin, his tone gets more and more heated as the Ceann Comhairle has to remind him a total of four times that “time is up”. Martin lambasts the government’s fanfare as they “prance around and not look at the real world”.
Varadkar replies back that it is in fact, Martin who is “prancing around and wagging his finger” while the government has been trying its best efforts to solve the housing crisis. This is met with unanimous shaking heads from the deputies from Fianna Fail, resembling a group hypnotism.
Next up is Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou MacDonald who brings up Saint Vincent de Paul’s recent report that has found poverty levels for lone parents has doubled in the past five years. MacDonald reiterates that the majority of these are working parents who “wake up at the crack of dawn”. Varadkar’s brows furrow and his frown deepens at the jab on his “people who get up early in the morning” campaign statement which attracted controversy at the time.
After a heated back-and-forth between the Fine Gael and Sinn Fein leaders, it’s time for Irish Solidarity-People Before Profit’s leader Paul Murphy in his jeans and runners to prove that he isn’t a part of the Dáil bubble. He raises the topic of the student’s strike for climate change and if the Taoiseach will listen to young people and their worries about the environment and if there is any initiative to make public transport free.
Varadkar says he will listen and there has been efforts to improve the public transport, mentioning the plans for Dublin Bus and MetroLinks. Michael Healy Rae looks up from his phone for the first time this session.
“Only in Dublin!” he barks before returning his gaze back to his screen.
Murphy retorts that Varadkar’s support for the student strike has given the green light for every child to walk out at school next Friday. While the chamber guffaws at his statement, a young girl in a pink dress presses her face against the window of the Press Gallery.
Just outside the doors of Leinster House, there is a noted absence of protesting crowds demanding for government action on a variety of different topics. Instead there is one man in pyjamas and a grubby t shirt perched on a chair, blasting ‘The Stone Roses’ from a small speaker and a sign on his lap. His name is Michael Wee and he’s here to champion veterans’ rights.
From Monday to Wednesday, Wee spends his entire time outside Dáil Eireann including sleeping out during the night. Next week, he plans to up the anty and dress as a Leprechaun, playing the tin whistle.
“I’ll be the Pied Piper, pushing the rats out” he gestures to the Dáil entrance.