Prompted by Michael Lewis’ recent lengthy, and somewhat controversial, article on Ireland in Vanity Fair, Frank McNally takes the opportunity in his Irishman’s Diary to provide a, possibly apocryphal, account of the parliamentary vote which led to the glass partition in the public gallery in the Dáil. From the Irish Times article
Thus I suspect reports that O’Flaherty had been “locked out” on the afternoon in question may have referred only to his physical condition, rather than Dáil vote protocol.
Either way, the plot to exclude him would have worked had he not run into an old friend from the country, who was curious to see the inside of Leinster House. So O’Flaherty brought him in and up to the public gallery. Where, like farmers at a mart, they watched proceedings below while leaning over the (then still unprotected) gallery wall.
Alas, the severely inebriated TD leaned too far and went crashing down into the press gallery below, on top of a startled political correspondent from the Cork Examiner . Somehow the TD landed on his feet, hence the later suggestions that he had jumped deliberately. But to say he then “rappelled” the remaining distance into the chamber is not quite correct.
It so happened that the Examiner’s pol corr was a veteran of the War of Independence and still suffered flash-backs. Reacting to what he thought was an enemy ambush, he grabbed the nearest weapon – his trusty shillelagh – and with a shout of “Ye dirty Black and Tan!”, whacked the hapless TD so hard that he fell over another wall and down onto the Dáil floor.
He was later transported semi-conscious through the voting lobby by jubilant anti-government TDs, who thought that, in carrying him, they were carrying the day. But as luck would have it, in falling from the press gallery, O’Flaherty had accidentally flattened the Opposition finance spokesman, who had since been rushed to hospital.
An opportunistic government refused a pair and survived by the Ceann Comhairle’s casting vote. The glass partition was installed a few days later.
Update I neglected to link to Mick’s post on the Michael Lewis article.