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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: October 14, 2009 @ 10:57 pm

    Bull O’Donoghue Loses Out to Matador Gilmore

    Deaglán de Bréadún

    So the Bull is gone as Ceann Comhairle following a lethal intervention by the Labour Party leader. Does anyone think he got a raw deal or was the bum’s rush the appropriate manner for him to exit? 

    egilmorecyril.jpg

     Matador Eamon finished off the Bull (Photograph by Cyril Byrne) 

    Herewith my own views from today’s paper:-

    O’Donoghue put up a fight but battle was already lost
    Wed, Oct 14, 2009
    ANALYSIS: John O’Donoghue rose to the occasion, but too late to save his political career, writes DEAGLÁN DE BRÉADÚN
    PARAPHRASING Shakespeare, one might say that nothing in John O’Donoghue’s political life became him like the leaving of it. True, he is still a Dáil deputy and intends to run in the next general election, but his career as an office-holder came to an end, for the time being at least, in Leinster House yesterday.
    There will be divided views on the content of his speech, but as a piece of oratory it was a substantial cut above the norm in a House where good speakers are few and far between. Supplied scripts and sound-bites have virtually brought an end to the well-phrased and strongly-delivered parliamentary address.
    O’Donoghue came out of his corner fighting but, unfortunately for him, it was the last round of the title-fight and he had scored very few points with public opinion at the critical early stages.
    Oratory is nowadays seen as old-fashioned and, though still relatively young, O’Donoghue is an old-style politician. When the media firestorm started to develop over the summer, he did nothing at first, then issued an apology best described as minimalist, along with a solicitor’s letter to the newspaper that had been pursuing him with the greatest zeal.
    It’s often said that ministers and other senior office-holders live in a bubble. With almost every need being attended to by a squad of deferential officials and advisers, the dangers of becoming out of touch with ordinary people and their feelings is very real.
    In his oration to the Dáil, he protested that he did not want to sully the dignity of his office by getting embroiled in political controversy. But just because you are not interested in controversy does not mean that controversy is not interested in you.
    Lying low and hoping the storm would blow over was never going to work as a strategy.  The lively tradition of muckraking journalism is based on the concept of publishing the facts about public figures perceived to be acting without due regard to the public interest and ultimately driving them from office.
    O’Donoghue made some telling points in his own defence yesterday but he had left it too late. His approach throughout the entire imbroglio was a textbook example of how not to deal with political and public relations difficulties. The first rule is to take a position of total disclosure. If you have nothing to hide, then why not make all the available facts public and stand over your conduct and performance?
    Although one would not wish to equate the two men, one could not help being reminded of former US president Richard Nixon during yesterday’s Dáil sitting. As a vice-presidential candidate in 1952, he got into serious political trouble over his expenses but turned the tables on his critics and emerged triumphant with the Checkers Speech where he successfully defended his behaviour but proclaimed that he was going to hold on to one political gift to his daughters, a dog called Checkers.
    The moral of the story was: come out fighting and, if you have a good case, the critics will be silenced. But O’Donoghue’s remarks yesterday were closer to Nixon’s farewell speech as he departed the White House in August 1974, which saw him fighting a rearguard action in a battle that was already lost.
    However, the chief target of O’Donoghue’s ire was not the media but the man who was sitting directly opposite him in the chamber as he spoke: Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore.
    His fundamental message was that Gilmore had not permitted him due process and a fair hearing before leading the charge to drive him out of office. Whereas Gilmore made clear afterwards that he stood over his actions, it cannot have been entirely comfortable for him to sit through what amounted to a lengthy denunciation of his approach to the controversy,  in the full glare of parliamentary and media scrutiny.
    There was no triumphalism on the Opposition benches over the departure of O’Donoghue. All of them would acknowledge he was a fair-minded and impartial chairman. The speed with which he was dispatched has left the political system breathless and even those who regard his expenditure as grossly extravagant cannot fail to be disturbed by the manner in which the holder of such a high constitutional office was forced out.
    Two years ago, O’Donoghue’s US counterpart Nancy Pelosi became embroiled in controversy in relation to the requested use of military aircraft for taxpayer-funded travel. Despite being the holder of high office, she had no compunction about launching a robust defence of her actions. Had she taken the O’Donoghue approach she might well be gone to the political shadows by now.
    Reading his carefully-numbered points from a double-spaced, loose-leaf script, O’Donoghue told the Dáil: “Had I entered into robust debate, I thought I would inflict damage to the independent and neutral nature of the office.”
    But then, as he put it, “the public mood changed”.
    That’s when the pace of events began to hot up: Sinn Féin stole a march on Labour and put the larger party under pressure by being the first to call for O’Donoghue to step down. Outraged radio listeners – a tautology in this context – phoned Liveline to express their views.
    At the end of the outgoing Ceann Comhairle’s speech yesterday there was general admiration for its technique and manner of delivery, whatever about the content. He had raised issues that he now apparently intends to pursue, setting the record straight from his point of view.
    But whatever the rights and wrongs of the issue, he was gone. The matter was settled and the system will move on to other considerations. It seems the historians will have to decide whether or not it was a bad day for democracy.

    Deaglán de Bréadún is a Political Correspondent
    (c) 2009 The Irish Times

    • robespierre says:

      I can understand how politicians, particularly the Father of the House, Mr Kenny, so imbued in the traditions of the Oireachtas may have wanted to give O’Donoghue a chance to speak. I can understand that so I do not blame them for indulging a time honoured tradition. People who have been found to be corrupt in the past were given a chance to speak whether they were blueshirts or members of the Soldiers of Fortune / Destiny. O’Donoghue was not found to be corrupt but he did seem to show a proclivity for maxing out the credit card and milking the system.

      I was working from home yesterday so I got to hear some of George Hook’s “A Nation Worth Saving Tour” from Mayo. Never mind the government, FG have 3 seats in Mayo – they are all completely out of touch with voters. There was nothing ordinary about their ordeals on a day-to-day basis. Their struggles with oncology units, depression, suicide, grief, taxation, childcare, access to special education, unemployment were profoundly moving. The anger and collective sense of being powerless and let down was palpable.

      Were an Apostle here today, their epistles would be filled with the stories of these people and how it is incumbent on the powerful and wealthy to show humility, decency and kindness when governing for the greater good.

      This is the problem, hypocritical Pharisees, corrupt, cruel Romans and gilded, shielded Judeans roam the land like the aristocrats they think they are. I really do not think that they understand the scale of the difficulties the country is facing, the impact that the recession is having on people and above all else their complicity in creating the situation.

      O’Donoghue’s statement was a testament to self-service. He answered only the parts of the questions that he wanted to answer and ignored the rest. Arrogant to the last. He will top the poll in South Kerry like Lowry and Flynn still romp home.

      Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

    • JD says:

      I have no sympathy for the former CC. It was not a court of law and being branded sleazy in politics is as much about the perception as the act

      He might have had a harder time from the Opposition as a Minister, but found it easier to defend himself in that capacity. As a CC, the only dignified step was to step down before Gilmore spoke. Then there would have been praise for his statesmanship rather than cling-on jokes ever since Kirk took the helm.

      They all like to tell us how politics is a dirty game, then wail like spoiled children when the bell tolls for them.

      However, that bell now needs to toll for a few more if these chancers are to ever get collectively serious about cleaning up their act.

    • Rory says:

      What happened to John O’Donoghue will be seen to be unfair unless there is a queue lining up to join him. Might I suggest the names of Harney and Dempsey to head said queue?
      To attempt to condone his profligacy with our money, as he did, by saying that many, many others had their noses buried as deeply in the trough only reinforces my view that he be just the first of many to go.
      .

    • Conan says:

      O’Donoghue did all he could to divert attention from his profligacy, a profligacy that he knowingly shared time and again with his wife.

      Instead of confessing his greed he took 35 minutes to attempt to create the impression that he was personally responsible for funding arts and sports facilities that were, in fact, paid for by the tax payer.

    • dealga says:

      Robespierre these blogs are full of your idealism so tell me, do you know of any country, anywhere in the world where politicians are in-touch with all the needs of all of their consituents all of the time?

      I don’t think we have *good* politicians but I’ll be in for a lifetime of disappointment if I think some politico should have all the answers I want to hear everytime life conspires to kick my arse.

    • Paul says:

      Out of office for the time being at least…if polished brass(neck) oratory can penetrate the sentiments of a member of the broadsheet Press, what will it do to thousands of voters in south Kerry?

      Leaving the political establishment breathless wouldn’t be difficult, considering it consists mostly of overweights who wouldn’t know a gym-bike from a four-course hotel lunch.

    • Guy says:

      Robespierre hits the nail on the head. I think many, many politicians are disconnected from the realities of present day Ireland. People are losing hope in the system, the Bull´´s demise will satisfy them for a while, but it won’t be enough.

    • robespierre says:

      I distinguish between the person and the process. My critiques are of the process. In any process you have actors, in the political process this means politicians, civic authorities and citizens.

      The process is driven by requests and transfers of authority/power to make a decision. Rules determine how far requests get through the process and the weight or power required to enable the decision or deny it.

      Who makes these rules – politicians. Who enables them – civic authorities.

      There is no perfect system but I work in continuous improvement. I believe in analysis and exploration of alternatives on a systematic basis.

      Deaglán can spike my contributions if my “idealism” enters the realm of fantasy. I make no apologies for believing that we could do better as a nation.

      This is not a side issue, it is very important in setting the tone for the choices on pay, social welfare and services that we face.

      The nation is bankrupt. If the officeholders elected by the people do not take the expenses situation seriously and reform it quickly and radically then they simply will not have the moral authority to intervene on the bigger challenges we face.

    • Deaglán says:

      In the interests of fairness and balance, herewith a link to Mr O´Donoghue´s statement¨:

      http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2009/1013/breaking66.html

    • Dan O'Connor says:

      Now that John ‘The Sponger’ O’Donoghue has been demoted to the backbenches,maybe he should now ask himself ‘Ask not what I have done Ireland but what Ireland has done for me’, and be grateful to the taxpayer.


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