… get up them stairs, Johnny

[Thanks to IrishElection for the clip of Junket Johnny O’Donoghue speaking today before his resignation. I’m going to assume he didn’t need a limo to get from the chair to the backbenches.]

His speech reeked of a sense of entitlement that appears to have polluted parliament to a massive degree. The anecdotal evidence that Fine Gaelers are amongst the deputies giving Labour TDs the cold shoulder following Eamon Gilmore’s intervention last week speaks volumes. I suspect this abuse of the expenses system is not solely a Fianna Fáil problem, they just happen to have been in Government the last eleven years.

In his address Junket Johnny reminded us of the various ways he’d been hard-done-by by the the meeja and d’Opposition.

“When the public mood changed… I attempted to put my case to the appropriate body, established by the House for oversight of expenditure, the Oireachtas Commission. I was denied that opportunity by some members of this house who decided to act without giving me a hearing.”

Firstly, the Oireachtas Commission is not responsible for oversight of his expenses, the Dáil clerk does that job. Oddly, the Ceann Chomhairle is the man in charge of the Dáil clerk, so he’d hardly be the best man judge to Junket Johnny.

Secondly, the Oireachtas Commission sits in private and it is made up of TDs and senators, who hardly have the moral authority to rule in this situation. Asking for a closed court, which publishes no transcripts, on a matter of such interest to the public, was ridiculous and demeaning.

And thirdly, John O’Donoghue had months to speak on this issue publicly and refused to. Clearly, he was in avoidance mode – his excuse that his position was above politics held no water. Even when he was doorstepped in Listowel by RTÉ he barely recognised how ridiculous his expenses were seen to be by the general public.

The man formerly known as ‘Zero’ (for his zero tolerance stance on crime against the common man while justice minister, oh the irony) then spoke about the distortion of the truth around his expenses.

I loved two parts in particular. “While I was Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism I was on 14 international flights on the Government jet over a five-year period” he said. He failed to mention that in the two years he was Ceann Chomhairle he charged the taxpayers for 186 internal flights. 44 of which were taken by his wife.

Similarly, while he claimed the cost of his hotel rooms in Cannes and Venice were wrongly reported, he didn’t mention the €250 spent on water taxis in Venice or that he spent €492 on room service and dining in one night on another trip. His defense was selective because he was trying to defend the indefensible.

Over all, it’s clear John O’Donoghue’s head is still buried in the sand, like that of many of his Dáil colleagues. Nobody believes he was, or is, value for money. Nobody believes he “volunteered” his expenses  – on the day before the Lisbon result, three hours after they were released to Ken Foxe of The Sunday Tribune,  at the cost of €600. The revelations about John O’Donoghue will not end here. He remains in public office. His expenses remain unvouched.

“Everything was within the guidelines. I gained no enrichment from this”, he said. ‘Enrichment’ is word that does not relate solely to monetary gain, I suspect he did not suffer, or become overworked, when attending some of the most extravagant race meetings the world over. And he may have acted within the guidelines, but that does not make his expense level justifiable, he was supposed to be ‘value for money’.

Opacity breeds distrust, distrust breeds cynicism. Public cynicism burns through the social contract. If trust in the political process is not restored through more transparent governance, we’re in serious trouble.

6 thoughts on “… get up them stairs, Johnny”

  1. Holding no torch for FG but I did find JOD’s bleatings about the actions of Eamon Gilmore a bit rich considering how he made his name in Politics shadowing Nora Owen as Minister for Justice. I am not sure I can see a huge difference between the two episodes of Hounding. But maybe I am missing something!

  2. This is an excellent description of the laughable events in the Dail yesterday
    The crux of the matter is that no lessons were learned by Junket Johnny
    As he desperately tried to justify his position
    This is endemic within the walls of the Dail and we should expect to see more of this grandstanding soon
    However I would like to pose the question what promises did Junket Johnny receive from his mates to go quietly (Maybe the European Commissioners Job?)

  3. In his speech John O’Donoghue exposed all that’s wrong with Irish politics. He confuses the fact that he (and his wife and staff) could claim extravagant un-vouched expenses with the notion that he (and they) should do so, at every available opportunity. In the absence of any decency or moral compunction their greed exposes them as parasites on the public purse.

    His justification that as Minister he, personally, could take responsibility for numerous arts and sports facilities funded during his time in office demonstrates how the Cabinet is merely a gathering of overweening egos dispensing Departmental largesse as if it were from their own wallets.

    It goes without saying that their decisions are very often politically motivated (Dept of Arts decentralised to Killarney, etc.) rather than based on principles of good governance.

    I am heartily sick of O’Donoghue and his ilk and there is little sign that any of them will stand up and say that what they have been doing was wrong, in principle, and that they are going to make restitution to the Irish people.

  4. “a sense of entitlement that appears to have polluted parliament ” and almost every other aspect of our society as well. That’s what happens when you substitute cheap money for solidarity.

  5. A fair comment on the Dail proceedings. No apology from the Ceann Comhairle for all his wasteful expenditure and no indication that the taxpayer would be reimbursed. The arrogance on the one hand and the whinging bleatings about fairness on the other hand leave me lost for words.The actions of the Labour leader are to be commended and Ihope that we have reached a watershed in Irish public life and that from here on in the parsimonious attitude by politicians to the spending of tax payers money that was the hallmark of the early years of the State will once again prevail.

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