Mobile phones with quirky ringtones are fun, especially in the hands of middle aged men and women. Even more so when the people concerned are the democratically elected representatives of the people of the Republic of Ireland.
During her first ministerial question time since the recent election, Mary Harney got a bit mixed up and started answering the wrong question. When opposition TDs rather helpfully pointed out she should have been addressing a question on waiting times in accident and emergency departments, the Minister fumbled around with her files for a while.
It was at this point that somebody decided to ring one of the TDs present in the chamber and set off their ring tone, which was apparently the Mission Impossible theme tune.
The boys and gals on the opposition benches, concentrating on the Minister’s fumblings, missed the significance of the ring tone and, with it, the chance of firing off a few quips about her attempts to reform A&E services being mission impossible.
Nonetheless, there was an element of joviality about the Minister’s fumblings, with Deputy Harney laughing and looking up at the press gallery.
Anyway, there were only about 15 TDs present to witness the Minister’s slight embarrassment. Indeed, there was much comaraderie with everybody and their mother congratulating the new Leas Cheann Comhairle, Deputy Brendan Howlin, for being appointed to that position.
Meanwhile, Minister Harney welcomed back opposition TDs to the Dail, who regained their seats, having lost them in previous elections. Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin congratulated the new Ministers of State at the Department of Health, but then the Sinn Féin TD dumped all over the political hug fest by telling Mary: “I’m sorry Minister Harney but I won’t be offering the same welcome back to you in the health portfolio”.
As the question time drew to a close, Jackie Healy Rae was leaning over the the last row of back bench seats at the top of the stairs on the government side of the chamber. The Kerry South TD looked like an aul fella watching a local GAA match, or like a farmer at a cattle mart havin a good look around.
Forget the rhetoric and the debates. If you’re ever in the Dáil as a journalist, guest or member of the public; ‘people watch’. It’s much more fun.