asking the hard questions

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if its Bertie Ahern or Kofi Annan, you’re sure to find the hardline questions comming in from Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins. From time to time we will give space in this blog to “joe blogs” the comments questions and writing of dublin west TD Joe Higgins.

from a recent Irish Independent article on an exchange of questions that Higgins landed on the Taoiseach.

‘A ‘land’ for Bertie . . . from hanging with Hector to hectoring on hangars’ He might have had an easy time “hanging with Hector” during the summer break but now he was back in the real world of bare knuckle political fighting.

Gene McKenna, Political Editor [Irish Independent]

If the Taoiseach did not already know it after a hectic week of controversy following his Cabinet and Junior Ministerial reshuffling, Joe Higgins was quick to remind him in the Dail yesterday.

And who better than the Socialist TD to get the Taoiseach on the back
foot on the Aer Lingus management buyout.

The gloves are usually off when the Dublin West TD gets his chance to engage in verbal jousting with the Taoiseach. While others often pussy-foot, Higgins invariably puts the boot straight in and often goes over the top. So it was yesterday, as the two protagonists hopped off each other during animated exchanges which had the rest of the Dail spectating with relish.

They clashed during Leaders’ Questions as Higgins tried to pin the Taoiseach down – a difficult thing at the best of times – and finally winkled it out of him that he did not believe a management buy out was “appropriate”.

But before that moment came, there were jibes flying from each of them and a definite impression created that there is not much love lost between them.

The exchanges never brought the kind of poisonous atmosphere which often characterised past Dail exchanges involving Charlie Haughey and Proinsias de Rossa or Haughey and Michael McDowell.

But there was a clearly-discernable “edge” there, nonetheless. As de Rossa and McDowell had the knack of doing with Haughey, Higgins seems to have a way of getting up Ahern’s nose.

At one stage, the Taoiseach remarked that Joe did not seem to know his Aer Lingus from his Aer Rianta as the Socialist TD had mentioned the Aer Rianta “Noel Hanlon watches” in the same sentence as the Aer Lingus buy-out proposal.

Higgins said he knew the difference all right and threw it back in the Taoiseach’s face that some of his own Ministers did not seem to know where they were half of the time, instancing how Brian Cowen “thought he was in Angola” during his stint at the Department of Health.

The Taoiseach was in danger of allowing himself to be drawn into an undignified street brawl as he said that if the Socialist TD believed Aer Lingus could stand up against the international airline market trend, then this confirmed his view that Higgins “lives in cloud cuckoo land”.

After his stint in the Dail yesterday, the Taoiseach departed these shores for a nine-day working visit to Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and Bahrain.

His punishing schedule will ensure he will certainly see plenty of airports.

But he can comfort himself in the knowledge that there is only one Joe Higgins!
[First published in the Irish Independent, Thursday 7 October 2004]