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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: February 22, 2011 @ 9:45 am

    NewERA? Or just OldWINE in NewVESSEL?

    Harry McGee

    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.

    • Bellminx says:

      Way I see it Enda has been programmed to portray himself as a benign dictator while being allowed to front a party of power hungry politicians as is evident in the demeanour of Alan Shatter (in particular), Michael Noonan, Richard Bruton, Leo Varadkar and James Reilly, to mention most of the Fine Gael front bench, while, in fact, Fianna Fáil is in reality the only truly democratic party with the good of the people at heart and although allowing the Celtic Tiger or rather the Celtic Calf (since tigers are not indigenous) to become obese (with no dietary advice from any of the opposition parties remember !) was the big mistake in those heady days when our economy was being flooded with cheap Germany money, the heart of Fianna Fáil was in the right place. Let us not forget all the people one way or another fed off the fatted Celtic Calf and not least those of us in the lower economic regions of society where excellent social housing, education, medical cards and very generous social welfare payments were made readily available to people and while a certain sector of society (the banking sector) became greedy beyond anyone’s wildest imagination and left our economic situation in dire straits, much that was excellent for the country was achieved by a government dedicated to the people and to bringing Ireland up to par with EU levels of infrastructure, education, etc. FF’s four-year plan for recovery is credible and doable, while FG (obviously aiming to go one better in the national psyche) proposes a 5-point, as measuring up beside FF’s 4-year, plan for recovery. I fear that voters accustomed to feasting on the flesh of the fatted calf and now angry at the prospect of a much leaner diet will vote in anger for FF’s opposite number – not realizing that FF’s plan for recovery will seem like a picnic in the park compared to what FG are planning to NOT put in their picnic basket.

    • Ted says:

      Spot on, but overly polite and deferential to the ‘government-in-waiting’.

      Leo Varadkar’s attitude speaks volumes. When any, repeat, ANY political party is accepting money behind closed doors it is a matter of public concern. We know from bitter experience that money = access, and access = influence on public policy for sectional interests. Particularly when privatisation of state commercial enterprises and utilities is on the cards.

      The fact that the people attending the event have not broken ranks themselves and disclosed who was present indicates that they too know how the game is played, even if the teams have changed. It is terribly dispiriting.

    • Jaygee says:

      Same old, same old ! I’m afraid the pols of Ireland, particularly those who belong to FF and FG see the perks of office as their natural entitlement. As they are aided and abetted by their friends in the Media, nothing will change.
      The first requirement for these bozos is a fexible moral compass.

    • The NewEra Economic is almost a carbon copy of stimulus policies implemented by successive governments post their property collapse in 1990. All of these (3) attempts at economic stimulus failed. It is therefore certain that Fine Gaels NewEra economic policy will FAIL.

    • RayD says:

      Who will pay the FG job creation bill? This sort of nonsense – spending the same savings 3/4 times over – is what has landed us with a bill that we cannot pay. Stop adding to it and get a dose of realism now and not after the election.

    • kevd says:

      I’m not surprised to see the fianna failers jump on this opinion piece. The suggestion fianna fail are the most democratic party is a joke. I think the Greens are… not that that is a good thing.

      Fianna Fail were always very “democratic” when it came to their base. In the words of the great democrat George Walker Bush, “some people call you the haves and the have mores… I call you my base.”

      It’s no surprise the money has come flooding into Fine Gael’s coffers. The wealthy want them on-side. To owe favours. These donors used to be fianna fail donors, probably still are. They hedge their bets.

      I guess the dangerous part of all this is the same developers, investors, bankers and other assorted wealthy elites will contine to influence the decisions of the Irish government. No surprise given both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael’s neoliberal and business-friendly-the-real-citizen-be-damned-slant.

      I never believed people when they said of politicians “their all the same”.

      BUT I won’t be voting for any party with an F in their initials.

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