Bring it on.
Just before he faced into a motion of no confidence on his calamitous bungling of the National Children’s Hospital and his political career, Simon Harris took to Twitter to tweet “Bring it on.”
Ever since this crisis broke, the latest in a long line for our ailing health service, we’ve been fed on a diet of contrition and remorse from Fine Gael. We’ve been assured Simon was very sorry for withholding information about the massive overspend and he wouldn’t do it again and he was taking all this very seriously.
And even though Leo told him to shut up and look at the ground until this was over, and Fianna Fail practically begged him to say nothing ’til they had weathered this storm, he still couldn’t resist jumping onto Twitter to tell everyone to “Bring it on,” like he was Wicklow’s version of The Rock.
These are not the actions of someone who has learned from their mistakes. These are the actions of a taunting brat, who knew he was going to get away with it ’cause his big brothers in Fianna Fail were going to look after him.
And then the debate started.
Simon, we’re told, is really a very good Health Minister and if you just ignore the €450m overspend there haven’t been any other issues.
I mean, apart from his disastrous handling of the cervical smear check scandal.
But if you just ignore the National Children’s Hospital scandal and the Smear Check Scandal he’s been super.
Well, yes we have record patients on trolleys and record breaking waiting lists. Zero mental health services worth speaking of, a complete lack of home support services for the elderly, a failed scoliosis action plan and of course in the last month alone we’ve seen nurses, midwives, GPs, paramedics and psychiatric nurses all taking industrial action.
But if you ignore all that he really has been totally adequate.
Which, to be fair to them, is true. If you ignore all the water, Venice is pretty dry.
Then, in lieu of actually being able to defend Harris’ record, the Government came out of the traps with the usual litany of empty rhetoric against Sinn Féin.
Even Harris wasn’t able to stand over his own record, opting instead to shout about “the ballot box and armalite” in a non-sequitor the DUP would have been proud of.
Although, who he was shouting it at exactly wasn’t clear. It was either Sinn Féin’s Health Spokesperson, Lousie O’Reilly, who would have been eight when that phrase was first uttered, or Sinn Féin’s Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty, who would have been four.
And then it was Fianna Fail’s turn and believe me, if you ever want to see a textbook display of farcical political theatre, log on to the Oireactas website and watch Fianna Fail’s hammed up performance in this debate.
They must have been on their hands and knees beforehand thanking Theresa May and the Tories for Brexit.
With all the conviction of someone trying to avoid a fight by shouting “hold me back lads…please, please hold me back” Fianna Fail went after the Government in the most anaemic display ever.
They made a big show of shaking their fists at Fine Gael. “Ooh, why I oughta, if only it wasn’t for this gosh darned Brexit, I’d really let you have it.”
But it all amounted to nothing. “We’ve no confidence in you,” they cried, before scuppering a motion of no confidence.
Without even the courage of their own convictions to actually support the Government, they abstained, hoping that would somehow help them avoid the blame for keeping this reckless train on the tracks.
It would be funny if it wasn’t so serious. Indeed, I’m sure it will provide political cartoonists and satirists with material for years to come, and we’ll all laugh, and roll our eyes, “what are they like” we’ll mutter and then get on with our day.
Because we don’t want to think about what this whole episode really represents.
Fianna Fail, in attempting to be in Government and opposition, are denying the people both.
What we’re left with is a Government with no accountability, because they know Fianna Fail will back them, and an opposition with no influence, because the biggest “opposition” party is in the Government’s pocket.
A confidence and supply arrangement with no confidence that supplies nothing.
And that’s how you get away with not only bungling a projected €450million overspend but also trying to hide it from the country.
Not to worry, Simon. I’m sure when the hospital is built you’ll be able to save some money on staffing, because there’ll be no nurses left in the country to work in it.