This article originally appeared in the New York ‘Irish Examiner USA’ for18th June, 2013
Enda Does a Caesar but He’s Really Doing a Nero
“To end Crony Capitalism, you have to end Crony Politics. It is not enough to dismantle the Galway tent—we have to break up the cosy cartel that sheltered under it.”
—Labour Leader Eamon Gilmore in March, 2009; before he enthusiastically got in on the act.
The biggest source of entertainment last week surely had to be the latest case of ‘duelling handbags at dawn’ from those sensitive souls of the Fine Gael and Fianna Fail parties, as hissy fits were thrown over the Curious Case of John McGuinness and the Loneliness of the Long Distance Junket Attendee.
Actually, I have to take that rather convoluted sentence back immediately. The new Superman movie Man of Steel opened in cinemas last week; and I’d bet good money that it is far more entertaining than watching a bunch of top notch gougers trying to justify their ghastly existence for the umpteenth time. I haven’t seen it yet, though. So I was stuck with the latest skullduggery from our merry band of thieves in the Dail. You know, the beauties that got the Robin Hood concept as ass-backwards as they have everything else, and rob from the poor to give to the rich.
It was the Irish Independent that got the ball rolling. You know what these damned guys are like: they’re always poking their noses where they don’t belong and digging up things that tend to embarrass our betters. Soviet Russia had the right idea when it came to dealing with these fellas; and there’s a rumour going around that Justice Minister Alan Shatter has been reading up a lot lately on Soviet-era methods. In the meanwhile the Independent went ahead and ran with a story on Fianna Fail Carlow Kilkenny TD John McGuinness. It seems that John was a bit of a bad lad back when he was a junior minister in 2007/8. It seems that John gets all lonely for his wife Margaret when he’s away on a freebie. It seems that in this case it was a St. Patrick’s Day junket to Seattle. He took along his good lady wife and an official to help them with the sight-seeing (possibly even the odd spot of work) and somehow—lo and behold, for they are not as normal mortals—the three of them managed to get through over €22,000 of the taxpayers money. That must be some St. Patrick’s Day shindig they put on in Seattle.
They Must Have Been Sleepless in Seattle
Now I would be the first one to put up my hand and admit that I drink ‘way too much; but how in the name of all that’s holy do three people get through €22,000 in just a few days? I’ve never been to Seattle (and after seeing that terrific show The Killing, where it looks as if it is in the middle of a permanent downpour, I never want to) but either they charge more for the green beer or else the city tours are fierce expensive altogether. Or maybe they charge through the teeth for umbrellas.
And it turns out that he also took his beloved with him on taxpayer-paid trips to Edinburgh and London as well, although it is not reported to have rained as much as it did in Seattle.
Now to tell you the truth, I find it—yes I do, you cynics—rather sweet that at this stage of the game Mr. McGuinness would want to take his lady with him where e’er he wanders. It’s really quite refreshing that he would still want the missus hanging out of him when I would imagine that many men of a certain age are only too glad to give a jolly old wave as they depart for foreign climes for a few days’ leave of absence. I like it. I’m one of Nature’s Romantics.
What I just don’t get is his argument that taxpayers like Paddy and Bridget Q. Sucker should have to foot the bill for his romantic heart.
You know, thinking of Man of Steel and lovers everywhere reminds me that I’ve always been puzzled by Lois Lane. I mean, she’s supposed to be this go-getter of an investigative journalist. She’s won awards and everything. Yet all that Clark Kent has done all these years is slip on a pair of spectacles and she is completely fooled! She never ever suspects that this big handsome guy, who is built like a brick wall, who she works with on a daily basis, who she stares at from about two feet away; she never suspects that Clark and her boyfriend Superman are one and the same. Because he’s wearing glasses. Maybe the new movie explains it.
Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah. John and Margaret have been caught out having a bit of a laugh at our expense, as if this is anything new. The problem is that apart from doing the whole TD bit—whatever that actually entails—John is also the chairman of the Dail Public Accounts Committee.
I know, I know; I find it funny every time I type that, so I can imagine how people feel when they read it. It’s one of those things that sort of cancels itself out. Do they call it a misnomer or something fancy like that? Well, since it means that this committee is the public spending watchdog, since it means that it is the committee that is responsible for making sure that politicians spend the taxpayer’s money wisely and since it’s chaired by somebody like Loved-Up McGuinness, we’re probably safe in calling it a contradiction in terms.
Labour’s Brendan Howlin, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (another funny title!) got quite upset about it all:
“He has a very important role to play. That committee is probably the foremost committee of the House and we’re getting further power to the committee under the legislation I’m bringing in now.”
Whoa there Howlin old dog! You’d want to be careful about throwing around statements that could be construed as backing for someone who appears to have metamorphosed into Dame Edna Kenny’s worst enemy. Before he comes back from whatever travels he’s on these days and bitch-slaps yourself and Tiny Eamon Gilmore, just remember that it is the job of the Labour Party to do whatever Kenny tells you to do. Just like he finds himself getting manners put on him when he talks back to Angela Merkel.
Actually, that’s not true. Enda never talks back to Angela Merkel. On the rare occasion that he does he wakes up and finds that he’s been dreaming.
If It’s Monday Enda Must Be in Italy
But our beloved Taoiseach is taking a dim view of this. In Rome last Monday he said:
“I haven’t seen all the details of this, but it leads me to believe that it smacks of traces of the abuse and arrogance that we inherited after 14 years of mismanagement. [The situation] is one the Fianna Fail leader has to reflect on.
“I know I’m in Rome, and the old saying is that Caesar’s wife is to be above reproach”. And then he added, trying to keep a straight face:
“This is the Public Accounts Committee. It is a matter of credibility.”
Oh, he’s getting good, isn’t he? Did you spot that bit of Enda wittiness? Him being out foreign in Rome and all, and slipping in—cool as a cucumber—that bit about Caesar’s wife. Statesmanlike, that was. I’ll bet that took him back to his schoolteacher days. We peasants are blessed to be having an intellectual looking out for us, so we are.
And that bit about Micheal Martin having to start with the reflecting on things. That’s because McGiunness’s tenure as Chairman is down to him, the custom being that someone from the main Opposition party gets the job. Of course, it all seems a bit cosmetic to me. Bloody hell, he’s still a politician, isn’t he? You know that old chestnut about getting a fox to guard the henhouse? It’s a bit like that.
You can see what Enda’s up to, mind you. And as much as I respect the Independent for blowing this, it’s just going to become another bloody diversion, now that we have the Shatter fiasco out of the way. This one could run for weeks and I feel my mind wandering already.
Look: if Lois is human and Superman is an alien from the planet Krypton then isn’t that a form of interspecies sex? And if the Kryptonians are so far above us on the scale of evolution wouldn’t it be like a man mating with a baboon? Isn’t there some kind of law against that?
Sorry, wandered off there. Oh yes. Our latest interesting scandal. Politician gouges money from taxpayer. We never heard that one before. And Micheal Martin reckons it’s all a conspiracy in any case:
“Nobody is saying that he has not been performing as a chair should [I’m not going to say a word]… I regret that the Taoiseach in a rather cheap way, on an international setting, decided to get involved politically and create, I think, aspersions and innuendo around John McGuinness that was unwarranted in that regard.”
I swear, he’s enjoying it too. He went on:
“I don’t know who is pulling all the strings behind the scenes… I do recognise the Fine Gael hand in it, I regret to say. I think some of their members are coming under pressure to keep raising particular issues as they are dealt with one-by-one”.
Feel the Hand of Fine Gael! Tremble as it reaches out for you!
As it happens I’ve heard privately more than once that this is true, but you wouldn’t need the brains of Lex Luthor to work it out for yourselves.
As to McGuinness, he wails:
“I feel this is a concerted effort to undermine my position as chairman.
“That the Government should now try to undermine the only committee of the House that is holding them to account and is scrutinising public accounts on a weekly basis is a disgrace.”
Blimey. Run that past me again? “Holding them to account?” “Scrutinising public accounts?” I have to tell you, John, and don’t take any offence to this but…well, you’re not doing a very good job, are you? If it weren’t for newspapers digging and poking around we wouldn’t know a damned thing in this country.
It also knocks a bit of the sparkle off your high-horse ‘poor wounded me’ spiel when you spent €290,000 in refurbishing your own office. No, that isn’t a misprint: 290,000 Euros. Of course all that work seems to have taken place WITHOUT YOU KNOWING ANYTHING ABOUT IT! Please! I cracked a rib during the week and it hurts when I laugh. John said, with as much dignity as he could muster:
“At no stage did I have any involvement in designing or asking for particular furniture or whatever. If I had known it was going to cost that money, I would have stopped it.”
Nepotism? Cronyism? Never Heard of Them!
Well, come on lads, fair’s fair. The man is only after all a government watchdog on misspending public funds; he’s not a bloody interior designer. How was he supposed to know what was going on in his own office?
And to think that his son Andrew didn’t even have a desk! Oh, did I forget to mention Andrew, son of John? Yeah, there he was, slaving his little heart out as a personal secretary and he didn’t even have his own desk. Out on constituency work most of the time, so it seems. Well, that makes sense, really. After all, he racked up €13,334 on mileage.
And that’s not to mention the €48,000 on OVERTIME in under two years!
Of course I have no doubt that Andrew was the best qualified for the job. I have no doubt at all that his father decided that he would be much more of an asset than some unemployed peasant off the streets. I know that nepotism didn’t come into it, because our politicians frown on nepotism and cronyism. Yes, said Labour leader Eamon ‘Tiny’ Gilmore, I frown on nepotism and cronyism. That was just before he gave a €62,500 a year job to his wife. Boy, they sure do love their wives, these politicians.
The hell with it. I’m done with thinking of them for today. I’m off to see Man of Steel. And remember the wise words of the great Gene Hackman in the original:
“Lord, you gave them eyes but they cannot see. Nor can Superman through lead. He can’t see through lead; and Kryptonite will destroy him”. I wonder how that green stuff would work on our super-chancers.