NewERA? Or just OldWINE in NewVESSEL?
There have been a number of incidents in the past few days which suggest that the new Fine Gael or Fine Gael/Labour or Fine Gael/and modest Paul Somerville/and modest Shane Ross (delete as applicable) will be so different to the current regime that it will remind you of just about every Fianna Fail administration that didn’t have Charlie Haughey or Charlie McCreevy/Mary Harney in positions of influence.
Was there a little arrogance to be detected over the past day or two with Enda Kenny’s declaration that as far as his pension went, the issue was closed? There is an issue there. Phil Hogan went on a big low standards in high places rant over Micheal Martin accepting his severance payment. Now, a minister not accepting a severance payment isn’t altogether different from a TD accepting a €30,000 pension and a €100,000 tax-free lump sum for teaching for a grand total four years over three decades ago. Many other TDs (including a rake of Fianna Failers including the Kitt brothers and Frank Fahey) all benefitted from this cosy deal for teachers (negotiated by Joe O’Toole incidentally). The deal was a disgraceful one and should have been scrapped years ago.
But the law of politics determines if Fine Gael were doing a bit of dirty hurling over Martin’s severance payment, Kenny shouldn’t complain too much about getting called out for this one.
The other worrying thing was Leo Varadkar’s fundraiser. The Greens are right about the ban on corporate donations. The fundraising system is a joke. There are limits to donation so nobody is giving tens of thousands any more. But what the big parties do is accumulate hundreds of small donations keeping them all under the radar. So nobody knows how much they raise. Nobody knows who donates to them. The system remains opaque and closed. They raise millions but the public doesn’t have a clue who their benefactors are, bar the very odd person or company which decides to go over the declarable limit.
Paul Cullen and I did a story on Saturday about Leo Varadkar’s fundraiser last week. He said it was a private event so kindly don’t prise any more. But we heard that some of the great and the good from the communications and PR industries were in attendance to back a winning horse. The chances are that Leo will be the next Minister for Communications.
During the 1990s and early 2000s Fianna Fail was swilling in money. The whole tent thing was crass and distasteful. It now looks like the largesse has been transferred to Fine Gael. The only difference is that the tent at the Galway Races has been replaced by the President’s Suite at the Aviva Stadium. And it’s a bit more polite, a bit less flagrant. But it’s not altogether different.
There’s still a lot of cleaning up to be done in politics. With a new Government let’s hope there’s a new brush and genuine commitment to wean the big political parties off their addiction to private funds, and politicians off all the nice little extras that went with the job.