MOST people who are lucky enough to still have a job begin their working week between the hours of 8am and 10am on a Monday morning.
Seanad Éireann is different. Last week the upper house began its week at 2.30pm – not on Monday, or even Tuesday, but on Wednesday afternoon.
Most people who still have a job complete their working week between the hours of 5pm and 6pm on a Friday evening. The Seanad closed up for the long weekend on Thursday at 3.32pm.
'A week in the life of Seanad Eireann' actually lasted for one day, one hour and two minutes last week. And the Seanad's long weekend is actually six days, as it will not sit again until Wednesday next at 2.30pm.
So what happened in the day, the hour and the two minutes?
Three days after Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny proposed abolishing the house, its members finally met to discuss, among other things, their survival.
There were 17 senators present when Pat Moylan, cathaoirleach of the Seanad, rose to his feet to say the prayer that kicked off the week's proceedings.
For about 15 minutes after that, a trail of senators from across the political spectrum came into the chamber hurriedly. Exactly 30 years since The Boomtown Rats released 'I Don't Like Mondays', some of the part-timers in the Seanad appeared not to like Wednesdays either as they arrived late in dribs and drabs.
Beneath the three large crystal chandeliers of the ornately decorated room sits a motley bunch. The room is not so much a place for the great unwashed as a place for the washed-up… and some others.
It is a political purgatory of sorts – a place for those who are waiting to get into the Dáil, a place for those who have been dumped out of the Dáil and a place for that strange species in Irish politics, the career senator.
Where else might you find a republican idealist (Pearse Doherty), a former republican idealist who would later become one of republicanism's fiercest critics and public defender of former taoiseach Bertie Ahern (Eoghan Harris), the poster boy of Joycean enthusiasm and gay rights (David Norris), and a former Catholic church communications officer (Ronan Mullen) sitting side by side at the back of the class?
Eight days ago, Kenny sensationally proposed the abolition of this peculiar classroom. The move has been viewed by critics as rash and populist. The thinking is that Kenny came out with the proposal as he was 'gazumped' by Labour leader Eamon Gilmore in calling for Ceann Comhairle John O'Donoghue's resignation a fortnight ago.
Whatever Kenny's motives were – and despite reports of much internal wrangling in Fine Gael over the manner in which he did not discuss the bold move with the parliamentary party before making his announcement – he has certainly struck a chord with the public.
He also lobbed a grenade into the often mundane happenings of the upper house last week, and the debate that ensued was evidence of this.
While some of its members would like the unwashed to believe the Seanad is the home of high-brow debate, Wednesday's fare was more akin to a crèche than even a university literary and debating society get-together.
A case in point is that Green party senator Dan Boyle was interrupted more than 30 times as he spoke. At another stage in the 'debate', after Fine Gael's Fidelma Healy-Eames stormed out in what you might call a huff, David Norris asked, "Can the Cathaoirleach throw me out? I would like to be expelled. I have been terribly well-behaved and I would like the headlines, like Fidelma."
Minutes after the debate on the day's order of business started, Fine Gael's Seanad leader Frances Fitzgerald said, "Over the weekend, we saw a show of leadership and conviction from my party and its leader in respect of the need to change the way we do our business in the Oireachtas. We have had 13 reports on Seanad reform that have not been implemented; we have had two years of the current government and 12 years of Fianna Fáil in government without Seanad reform."
Fitzgerald's comments ignited an explosion of vitriol as a succession of senators scrambled to justify their existence.
Among those extolling the virtues of the Seanad were independent senators Joe O'Toole and Ronan Mullen. Both were elected by graduates of the National University of Ireland, one of just two groups of graduates to have this privilege.
Boyle, who lost his Dáil seat in 2007, was another critic of Kenny's plan. He is one of the 11 unelected senators who got into the club via a provision in the constitution that allows the Taoiseach to nominate senators.
There is an argument that this rule ensures the government will have a majority in the upper house to pass legislation, but a more cynical observer might suggest the rule has descended into a 'jobs for the boys' clause in the constitution.
Lambasting the Fine Gael plan, O'Toole labelled it "a regurgitation of the legacy we thought we had left behind with O'Duffy in the 1930s" and accused Kenny of a "rather pathetic attempt to grab headlines".
Boyle claimed the recently agreed renewed programme for government includes an electoral commission reporting within 12 months on elections to Seanad Éireann. He also added that, as there are at least 20 references to the Seanad in the constitution, the ballot paper would be "miles long" in any referendum to abolish it.
Constitutional law expert Dr Gerard Hogan agreed. "To use a dental analogy, to abolish the Seanad would not be a constitutional filling and more a full root canal treatment with a few extractions," he told the Sunday Tribune.
Trying to keep control of the hyperactive senators last Wednesday was as painful as root canal treatment for Cathaoirleach Pat Moylan.
In the heat of the debate, Norris proclaimed: "I am 65 years old and do not anticipate seeing pigs in flight, but I am grateful that I have lasted long enough to witness turkeys voting for Christmas. They have certainly done so."
One of the Fine Gael senators to give his leader's plan a ringing endorsement was Paschal Donohoe, who questioned if the house where he is gainfully employed is "an institution of vested interests". This is hardly a case of turkeys voting for Christmas, as Donohoe is obviously cocksure that he will be a TD for Dublin Central after the next general election.
Donohoe's party colleague, Paudie Coffey, provided a good insight into the workings of the Seanad when he claimed he was "frustrated" when he looked at the order of business for the day. Coffey was incensed the Seanad was "discussing postal codes and the seabed when we should be talking about the suffering that people experience in their lives".
He was correct.
The Seanad had only two items on its order of business on Wednesday.
First, members made statements on communications minister Eamon Ryan's plan to introduce a new postcode system in Ireland.
Second, at 5.30pm the house heard details of the National Marine Mapping programme. Some brief matters such as inland fisheries and public transport facilities at Athlone Institute of Technology were discussed before the house adjourned at 7.25pm.
After a day of amateur dramatics on Wednesday, the Seanad resumed at 10.30am on Thursday with a more serene discussion on the day's order of business.
But some senators, who did not get in on the act the day before, returned to the subject of the threat of the Seanad's closure.
One senator missed the debate on Wednesday and heard it on the radio in his car. Amid jibes about his absences the previous day, Labour's Alex White, remarked: "Over and over again, members were exploding with indignation… People who have been members of parliament for 20 years or more do not appear to be able to act with a basic level of decorum."
Also critical, Fine Gael's Nicky McFadden said: "The people want members to legislate for them and not to be bickering, shouting and roaring like buffoons in the chamber."
Tributes were paid to former Fianna Fáil senator Tony Kett, in the presence of members of his family and friends, after the day's order of business was decided.
Afterwards, European affairs minister Dick Roche came into the chamber for the second-stage debate on the European Union Bill 2009 (Lisbon treaty). After that debate, the Seanad wrapped up for the long weekend at exactly 3.32pm.
One of the most bizarre takes on Kenny's proposal was on senator Cecelia Keaveney's blog on the Fianna Fáil website towards the end of the week.
"What is Enda Kenny's proposal to abolish the Seanad if not 'populist propaganda'? The dangers of populism can be seen clearly with a rudimentary look back on Europe's political history. The great economic depression starting in 1929 made way for fascism and Nazism.
"The basic principal behind the populist approach is playing on the fears of the people; using an issue which is dominating public opinion, preying on those fears and offering a 'simple solution' to a complex problem."
Kenny's motives are being questioned, rightly or wrongly, but what is so wrong with a political leader offering a simple solution to a complex problem?