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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: November 27, 2008 @ 1:08 pm

    Splitting hairs over minister’s expenses?

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    Check out last night’s Vincent Browne news and current affairs programme on TV3 by clicking here and you will see a lively discussion on Mary Harney’s free hairdo (“standard wash and blow-dries”) from training and employment agency Fás.
    maryharney.jpg       

    Two things struck me: 1) Public sympathy is on Harney’s side on this particular issue, whatever about others. It might seem a trivial observation but if she had an ostentatious hairstyle (think of John Prescott’s wife, Pauline) and clearly lavished large sums of  money on her appearance it would be different; 2) The antagonism between Kathleen Lynch and Leo  Varadkar does not augur well for the Fine Gael-Labour relationship.
            As you all probably know, Labour will apparently not be committing itself to a pact with FG for the next general election: not at this stage anyhow. This allows FG to veer further to the right than might otherwise  be the case and Varadkar has no compunction about delivering a strong  right-of-centre message on the pay agreement or whatever (to his credit he seems to actually believe what he’s saying).
            Of course these differences can, at least in theory, be ironed out when it comes to doing a deal. But if FG go to far for too long it will tick off the Labour grassroots who will therefore be more receptive to bunking-in with a chastened FF after the next run to the country.
            The next general election is not officially due until 2012 but with the unstable political situation and the unpopularity of the Government, it could be sooner than that. Maybe a lot sooner. I’m trying not to quote Harold Macmillan’s alleged remark about “Events, dear boy, events.” Oh, there I’ve done it again.
            Brian Cowen is having another bad week. He expressed confidence in Fás chief Rody Molloy only for the fellow to resign almost immediately afterwards. This issue then inevitably overshadowed the launch of the public sector report yesterday. But wasn’t the “lovely girl”, Tánaiste Mary Coughlan lucky to be away on a trade mission to the Middle East when the unlovely substance hit the fan back home?

    Deaglán de Bréadún, Political Correspondent

    • Keith says:

      >Leo Varadkar does not augur well for the Fine Gael-Labour relationship

      Is probably a complete statement in itself.

    • Ray D says:

      Leo’s colleagues better watch out for this particular glimmerman. It’s on the cards that some other damaging revelations about one or other of his colleagues could suddenly emerge to shut him up. I’m sure FG persons have spent public monies in many instances as minor as mickey mousey hairdos.

    • robespierre says:

      I don’t think people are paying too much attention to the haircut per se, but it tells you something about profligacy when this is seen as an outlandish sum in an expensive country such as our own.

      As somebody who has provided professional services to the public sector for some time there are some (a select few) people of the highest calibre. The remainder I have come into contact with would simply be unable to last the pace in the public sector.

      Nobody shouted stop because it is a culture where nobody is accountable. It is outrageous. Simply outrageous. Incidentally, should this be pushed it is only the start. They should look at the expense accounts in Enterprise Ireland or Coillte. I would look very deeply into those and other canards.

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      It’s not the haircut on its own, it’s the haircut as the ‘let them eat cake’ moment for the whole mentality of using the largesse of the state to further their own interests. And why did the spouses need to travel with them? They’re grown adults, can they not be trusted to cross the road on their own?

      It is worth noting the relatively small coverage given at the time to this somewhat related material that Leo uncovered about the extent to which the taxpayer pays for civil servants to do the constituency work and just the constituency of junior ministers. In effect our are subsidising their re-election efforts.
      http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2007/1108/1194222851901.html

      Given the numbers involved per minister they would have us believe that these junior ministers were previously doing the work of 3/4 people when dealing with constituency matters. And of course all the political benefit accrues directly to the junior minister at election time as all correspondence is signed in their name but if anything goes wrong, a la Tony Killeen and representations for child molestors or murderers in prison then they’ve got the ready cop out that it was really the staff that signed the letter and not them. This all feeds into the belief that the system is for their benefit not ours.

    • Deaglán says:

      Not sure you have the details about Tony K. right. It was a convicted rapist if I’m not mistaken and he expressed regret afterwards for the representations. But I take your general point.

    • Sean O'Loinsigh says:

      FG are, as usual, going over the top on a relatively unimportant issue. On a more general level, if they have any sense, they’d see that Labour is scarcely their ticket back to power. If they should sincerely declare that they would under no circumstances enter a coalition government with Labour (which after all is now to a significant degree a reincarnation of Democratic Left – Stickies) or other left-wing groups, they would open up the possibility of taking large numbers of votes from disillusioned, thinking FF voters, who draw the line at socialism, real or imagined.

    • Ray D says:

      I am afraid that Harney has gone over the top in her justification of the expenditure on the Fás trip. Her arguments are simply wrong and try to justify abuses on the part of politicians allegedly representing their country on Ministerial trips etc. That one is on such a trip does not allow one to suspend judgement and common sense. She has, probably inadvertently, justified the rampant corruption that exists in our society, including our administrative and political systems.

    • Dan Sullivan says:

      Deaglán, it was a rapist.

      http://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/?jp=CWSNEYOJSNOJ

      As for his expressions of regret or apology that was a very Pope Benedict non-apology-apology for the hurt caused and he pointed out repeatedly that it wasn’t him that had sent the representations or signed them but was in fact his staff that did it. So why don’t we get to vote for them if they are doing the work instead of him?

    • Deaglán says:

      Is a non-apology apology the same type of creature as a non-denial denial? I assume writing letters on behalf of prisoners is the same as going to funerals – something you have to do if you want to be re-elected. That doesn’t make it right of course but it seems to be pretty well essential. I wonder if the other TDs in Clare do it?

    • Jeffrey says:

      With reference to the Irish Mail on Sunday article, 25th October 2009, pages 12 & 13:

      “Dear Minister for Booze, Tobacco & Chocolate,
      Cheers to you and the very last droplet!
      Your portfolio’s in a terrible state, we have to say,
      Do you have anything to tell us, we pray?

      Your tastes are lavish & excessive,
      Your attitude cripplingly obsessive;
      You’re taking from those you’re paid to protect,
      Did some gambling, too, we’re willling to bet!

      Your lame excuses leave our ears a-ringing,
      Get off the stage, Madam, it’s time you stopped singing!”


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