It’s like Bridgerton as chaste Mary Lou scandalised by cad Micheál

Exquisite little display of the melodramatics from Mary Lou McDonald on Tuesday when the Taoiseach dared to quote St Augustine at her during Leaders’ Questions.

The Sinn Féin president’s pained response borrowed so beautifully from the Jane Austen school of bosom-heaving, we feared the Ceann Comhairle would come clattering down from his throne waving the smelling salts.

Mary Lou was quite undone by Micheál Martin’s shocking, mocking indelicacy.

Their exchange came at the end of the usual nip and tuck on ways to counter the rising cost of living. One way not to do it is to proceed with a proposed carbon tax increase next month, insisted deputy McDonald.

But it’s a case “now or never” if the world is to avoid climate catastrophe, responded the Taoiseach, attacking Opposition politicians for making grand statements about tackling climate change while backing away from supporting unpopular decisions for electoral reasons.

The UN secretary general calls this “doublespeak” and it has been adopted by “a number of people in this House, including the Sinn Féin party. They doublespeak on climate,” he told its leader.

Domestically if not globally warming to his theme, he continued: “It seems to me very much that it’s the St Augustine approach you are taking to climate change: Oh Lord, make me chaste, but not yet!”

Had we just heard the latest daily spat between the two end up in a perceived slight about chastity?

Mary Lou was scandalised. Her hand fluttered to her throat, where it lay, flat against her neck as she cried: “I’ve told you before. Attacking me is not an answer!”

The Taoiseach managed to get out a few words before she exclaimed again: “Attacking me is not an answer!”

Fit of the vapours

He battled on but Mary Lou, hand still poised at her necklace, was not finished with her faux fit of the vapours.

“My chastity or otherwise is not an answer!”

Ah, here.

“I didn’t attack you at all and don’t be playing the victim here,” replied Micheál. “I attacked your party. And your party’s policy. That’s what I said and you heard me quite clearly.”

Mary Lou certainly wasn’t hearing now because she was too busy talking over him, demanding an answer to her question.

The Government has already lowered the cost of petrol and diesel, he told her.

“On our initiative,” she sniffed.

The Government will make sure any increase in carbon tax will be offset, but more substantial measures have be taken to help people.

“Well then, do it.”

“Any response to the crisis needs to be of substance,” said the Taoiseach, and, speaking of which, “I heard you on Sunday morning about the mini-budget . . .”

“Good for you.”

“. . . but it was so threadbare in substance as to be beyond credibility,” harrumphed Micheál.

Mary Lou shot him a withering look. Like she should care about anything he says.



Had we just heard the latest daily spat between the two end up in a perceived slight about chastity?

All because the Sinn Féin leader wanted him to postpone the “crazy” carbon tax increase next month because it will pile more pressure on households already struggling to make ends meet.

“It’s the wrong decision at the wrong time,” she said. “Your position is wrong and you have to listen.”

But Micheál thought the opposite: her position is wrong and she has to listen.

Pure as the driven slush

Of course, he was keen to point out later that he wasn’t referring to Mary Lou personally, but to her political party, which he thinks adopts the Mae West approach to chastity: as pure as the driven slush.

In his view, concentrating on “one tax alone, in isolation” will not solve problems across the board caused by spiralling inflation brought on by an unprecedented series of global events causing havoc with world markets.

“On top of the pandemic cycle of inflation came a war, a war unprecedented since World War II,” he explained for the benefit of anyone who has been living under a rock for the last few weeks, or is the Russian ambassador to Ireland, Yuriy Fibalot.

If things weren’t bad enough, the rapidly escalating climate emergency can’t be ignored either

“And the one thing we’re certain about is the uncertainty.”

During the second World War, this island lived through The Emergency. Now we are living through The Uncertainty.

In constantly changing times like this, the Government can’t react on a week-by-week basis, argued the Taoiseach. What is needed is an inclusive process involving the social partners and various stakeholders, and an intelligent and sensible response to the crisis.

If things weren’t bad enough, the rapidly escalating climate emergency can’t be ignored either.

This carbon tax increase, which works out at about €1.40 a month, is not “the main issue” in the overall scheme of things, said Micheál. Didn’t the Sinn Féin leader “admit that herself” in her radio interview on Sunday?

Bring in a mini-budget so, countered Mary Lou, but just don’t increase the carbon tax because every euro counts for people in difficulty.

Then Micheál revealed that “any increase in the carbon tax will be offset so there will be no additional cost to people”.

So if the people don’t have to shoulder the cost of this increase, where will the money needed to drive on a critical climate change programme be found? The Taoiseach didn’t say.

Big carbon polluters

Perhaps from taxing the supermarkets still making vast profits or the energy companies or big carbon polluters doing likewise?

Mick Barry of Solidarity-People Before Profit sincerely hopes this will happen. If not, maybe the Taoiseach will delight and surprise him by easing the citizenry’s growing inflation and climate woes by “introducing an emergency 2 per cent tax on the wealth of every millionaire household in the country”.

The Government could allow them €1 million for their primary residences and the tax would apply to the richest 5 per cent. “That would more than cover it,” reckoned Mick. He offered to show the Taoiseach the maths.

“Please do,” dripped Micheál sarcastically.

Oh, and a bit more advice for the Government from Mick. “Stop with the Marie Antoinette stuff. Stop talking to people about spending less time in the shower – it’s patronising. People don’t want to be patronised; they want to see action from their Government.”

He was referring to reports earlier this week that the Minister for the Environment is planning to launch a public awareness campaign on how to save energy.

Eamon Ryan’s handy hints and top tips. Throw on an extra jumper, turn down the thermostat a notch, drive a little slower, spend less time in the shower, shower together in a chaste manner – that sort of thing, one presumes.

The Taoiseach had an important clarification for deputy Barry and for Mary Lou, who also brought up Ryan’s alleged shorter shower remarks.

“Eamon Ryan didn’t mention showers, by the way. He didn’t mention them at all,” said Micheál.

Which is true.

Wonder did Eamon have a word?

After all, he took enough stick for suggesting people start growing lettuce in window boxes without getting similar treatment for something he hasn’t said.


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