on passing by- again
So the Ceann Comhairle has finally decided its time to go. To be honest I half thought he would try to brazen it out. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time one of our finest resisted both the will of the Dail, and of the people, and continued on their merry way. What other countries see as resigning matters are usually treated here as minor inconveniences but perhaps the new reality is beginning to take hold, if albeit belatedly. Having said that it was only the intervention of the Labour leader, Mr Gilmore, which actually moved things along. The Government has sat on its hands for the last few months as more and more information became available. Going by the shocked expression on Brian Cowens face when Eamon Gilmore told the Ceann Comhairle that Labour would be proposing a vote of no confidence in him it would appear that the Government was still sitting on their hands, possibly hoping against hope that the whole thing would simply blow over. And yet how could it.
The almost daily revelations of Mr O’Donoghue’s lust for the lavish life have debased not only his office but the standing of politicians in general. The reticence of the opposition parties has been portrayed as an unwillingness to unseat a Ceann Comhairle who they believe has been scrupulously fair in his dealings with them and yet it is hard not to wonder if they were afraid their own trips to the trough would somehow see the light of day.
From past information we know that T.D.s of all parties were not slow in claiming any allowance that was available and when asked about some claims that appeared excessive simply ignored the question. One that springs to mind was the married couple, both T.D.s, driving to Dublin together, staying overnight together, and yet both of them were claiming for the mileage allowance and the overnight hotel allowance, even though they were staying in their apartment. When questioned by one of the papers they said that on the face of it, it did look odd, but that they were entitled to claim the allowances so why shouldn’t they. Only after some weeks of publicity did they decide that what they were doing wasn’t morally the best and in future if travelling together they would only claim one set of allowances. That would seem like a good result but why did it take them so long to decide. How many other politicians are similarly claiming for money that they are entitled to.
Mr O’Donoghue spent weeks making feeble and half hearted apologies for what he agreed seemed to be excessive expenses and yet the word sorry never left his lips until he was cornered at a race meeting and Paschal Sheehy eventually got it out of him. Why not say sorry at the start and try to sort out something before the whole thing blew up in his face? As far as I can see the man felt that he was some sort of royal figure who’s travel arrangements should be fitting to the position he held regardless of the state of the economy. His apparent arrogance when questioned was astonishing. He continually let it be known that because of the independence of his office he was precluded from making any comment to the public or the Dail and yet when it looked like it was all heading for the fan he was suddenly able to write to all his fellow T.D.s in a letter which he knew would be in the public domain. And yet even this letter showed how far out of touch he was.
No real apology, just a reminder of how high his position was and how certain standards had to be maintained at that level. When we have a Public Official spending over four hundred euro on a limousine to take him from one airport terminal to another because he is too important to spend three minutes on a shuttle bus with the great unwashed then we know we have someone on a power trip. When the same official subsequently tells us he can see nothing wrong with that kind of spending then we can only marvel at the conceit and narcissism.
And yet there is another way to look at the situation. It is no more uplifting but may show some direction for the future. Over a long number of years members of the Dail, from the main parties, as the Oireachtas Commission, have overseen the way expenses are claimed and the amounts that are claimable. The Ceann Comhairle is the chairman of this commission. Perhaps we will now see a readiness from T.D.s and the commission to reflect our current financial circumstances and the current public anger and disappointment with what they see as the political gravy train. Perhaps we will see an expenses system which covers T.D.s for genuine out of pocket expenses and not a system which seems designed to enrich people who are already on exceedingly good salaries.
In a grudging way I can find some understanding of the situation Mr O’Donoghue finds himself in. All the cake was on the table and he was entitled to have as much of it as he wanted so can we really blame him for helping himself? Is it not a case that the people who provided the cake are just as guilty?
And then we had Lisbon 2, the sequel. The amount of doom and gloom being propagated by both sides was unbelievable. Vote Yes and the minimum wage will be one euro eighty four cents. Vote No and you will be lucky to have a job, never mind at one eighty four. We had Sinn Fein telling us they were a pro European party at the same time as they were telling us to vote no and yet the same party in Northern Ireland has consistently campaigned against European input and legislation.
We had a united campaign by Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour and yet the person who should have been our spearhead, our Junior Minister for Europe, Mr Dick Roche, seemed to be mysteriously absent. Not once did I hear his dulcet tones winging their way across the airwaves to tell us yet again that he had read the whole treaty, yes all of it, and there was absolutely nothing for us to worry our silly little heads about.
It had eventually dawned on the main parties that a large percentage of the No vote the last time was a deliberate two fingers to the Government. They also copped on that they had wasted the first campaign by continually reacting to silly claims by some of the No side instead of giving clear concise information to the electorate. Unlike the Government we all knew we would get a second chance to vote.
Sure don’t we always.
All for now. Mike Edmonds. Oct 09.