Former taoisigh talk of past glories to help keep the wolves from their doors

Nice to see Bertie Ahern and John Bruton are still making some money from the Celtic Tiger and the peace dividend

Sat, Mar 30, 2013, 08:14

Everyone is feeling the pain. It’s tough out there for former taoisigh, struggling to exist on their pensions.

Bertie Ahern is trying as best to augment his meagre pension which is soon to be slashed under a new government plan to cut high public pensions by 5 per cent. His annual subsistence money will plummet from €150,163 to €142,655.

Bertie is chairman of the International Forestry Fund and also does a bit of public speaking abroad in an effort to pull in the few extra bob.

But Bertie is a man of humble origins. He isn’t from a big ranch in Meath and didn’t go to a private school. He’s better equipped to deal with hardship.

But what about poor John Bruton, former taoiseach and Fine Gael leader, former EU ambassador to Washington and now the chairman of the Irish Financial Services Centre?

His taoiseach’s pension will nosedive to €134,728.

You’d be worried for him. But we see John is also hoping to augment his meagre pensions by also going down the public speaking route: he’s on the books of international speakers bureau,

“John Bruton, the former Irish prime minister who helped transform the Irish economy, now delivers keynotes with a focus on economic development, politics and policy.

“His professional experience and his many international talks make him an ideal keynote speaker,” says their website.

He is a former Irish prime minister “who helped transform the Irish economy into the ‘Celtic Tiger’ – one of the fastest growing economies in the world.”

He was also “deeply involved in the Northern Irish Peace Process leading to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, under whose terms a conflict of allegiances dating back to the 17th century was resolved.”

Nice to see Bertie and John are still making some money from the Celtic Tiger, even if it’s long dead, while the peace dividend also continues to pay.

Every little helps to keep the wolf from the door for these needy pensioners.

Lacey’s back on site after
rubbish row in Dublin 4
On a day when one Labour councillor suffered a very bad experience at the polls in Meath East, another Labour councillor was taking 93.61 per cent of the votes in a different local ballot.

Following his suspension from the “Friends of Donnybrook” Facebook group for posting a message about a litter bin, Cllr Dermot Lacey heard that a “Bring Back Dermot” campaign had been launched by a group of students incensed by what they saw as a new form of Dublin 4 censorship.

The site, run by local man Seán Brennan, determined that Lacey broke the “non-political” posting rules by suggesting that a bin had been “located at a stupid spot” by the council and should be moved. Given that Lacey is a public representative, his comment was seen to be promoting his work as a Labour councillor.

Dermot points out to us that the site’s owner is friendly with former Fianna Fáil TD for the area and social media star Chris Andrews, who has now left the party. “I’ve always had a tetchy relationship with Chris Andrews,” Dermot tells us, clearly wondering if this might have had a bearing on his suspension. Of course it didn’t. Politicians love conspiracy theories. “After I was notified of my suspension, a bunch of local lads started a campaign to get me back,” says Lacey.

“Friends of Donnybrook had to run a poll and I won by a huge margin. I’ve been allowed back in now.”

As for the offending Dublin 4 bin, it was swiftly moved by Dublin City Council following Lacey’s representations.

A former lord mayor of Dublin and one-time bookies’ favourite to win the first directly elected mayoral post, Dermot has very strong views on rubbish – he was once expelled from Labour for voting in favour of bin charges.

In any event, on a bad day for Labour in Meath East, at least there was one small victory for the party in Dublin 4, where the Friends of Donnybrook are all friends again.

The house celebrates 90 years with
a cert for senators – or were they P45s
The Seanad turned 90 at the end of last year. Naturally, the members of the upper house held a debate to mark this milestone, taking the opportunity to congratulate themselves and the Seanad for being of such vast importance to the wellbeing of the nation.

They even gave themselves a present.

Here’s a delighted David Norris during Thursday’s Order of Business: “I want to thank you, a Cathaoirleach, for the handsome certificate that all of us have received from you. It was a most generous and imaginative act to celebrate the fact that we are all members of Seanad Éireann on the 90th anniversary of the house.”

“Good thinking, a Cathaoirleach!” cried Fine Gael’s Paul Coghlan, in a tone which suggested he may not have been entirely serious.

“I wish to place on the record of the House my thanks to you for that,” gushed Norris.

But Fianna Fáil’s Ned O’Sullivan rather ruined the lovely moment. “I hope it’s not the Leaving Certificate.”

Labour’s Ivana Bacik restored the happy feeling. “We would all join with Senator Norris in thanking the Cathaoirleach for the issuing of certificates marking our time as Senators. It’s very nice to have it on the wall.”

Lovely or not, Fianna Fail’s Terry Leyden wasn’t impressed. “It is a form of P45?” he snorted.

All past and serving Senators have been given a certificate, signed by the Cathaoirleach, Paddy Burke.

Day trip to RTÉ allows Oireachtas
members to see how other half lives
The Oireachtas Communications Committee visited RTÉ on Wednesday – the invitation was issued by Montrose big-wigs after they were roasted by the committee in the wake of the Fr Kevin Reynolds defamation controversy.

With the organisation in substantial debt, the TDs and Senators were treated to a modest lunch when they arrived out from Leinster House. “It was a nice stand-up lunch, just a small bit in your hand,” said one of the visitors. “They obviously didn’t want to appear extravagant.”

Some members of the committee had been expecting a business presentation from RTÉ executives after the lunch, when the station rolled out a number of big guns for the delectation of the visitors.

“I was asked ‘and do you know Brent Pope?’ as if I should be impressed, before he was introduced to me. He seems a nice man, but to be honest, I wasn’t exactly starstuck. They did the same thing with Marty Morrissey and Eileen Dunne,” recalls one committee member.

The politicians were then taken to see how RTÉ’s digital operation is progressing. The consensus afterwards was that this was the most interesting part of the trip.

“It was like a school tour,” says a colleague. “I was expecting a serious corporate presentation. When I heard ‘Let’s bring you down to McCoys now’, I couldn’t believe it. It was like we were a busload of aul wans going on a tour of Coronation Street.”

The little group dutifully trotted off to see the Fair City set in all its glory.

Mattie McGrath was agog when he got to see the real McCoys, the public house which forms the social hub of Carrigstown.

“He was mad to see the snug. Nothing would do him but to sit in the snug.”

The trip took about an hour and a half.

In fairness to RTÉ, the organisation is preparing a full report on its operations, including a cost analysis, for presentation to the committee when next they appear before it.

The politicians departed before the announcement of the ten biggest earners in RTÉ. “They told us they would be announcing them later on, although we weren’t given the detail. But they said that substantial reductions had been implemented after what had been difficult negotiations.”

Meltdown meetings a recurring theme
Fine Gael passed on the keys to Fianna Fáil and now Fianna Fáil is hoping to pass them on to Labour. On Thursday, Eamon Gilmore became the latest leader to check into Meltdown Manor. Whether Labour’s stay is temporary or more permanent is anyone’s guess at the moment.

We hear yet another off-campus meeting has been arranged to discuss the direction of the party. These clear-the-air-and move-on meetings, where parliamentary party members can raise their concerns away from prying eyes and ears in Leinster House, are becoming something of a habit.

At least one deputy has openly complained that he’s fed up with these meetings.

Another Oireachtas member likened the current, fraught, state of affairs to an episode of Fr Ted with a stumped Eamon Gilmore asking “Is there anything to be said for saying another mass?”

Origin of man makes for a midlands slur
A reader has been in contact to express his horror at the “foul slur” we cast on the people of Offaly in Wednesday’s Dáil sketch by referring to Sinn Féin’s Brian Stanley as “a fellow Offalyman” of Fine Gael party chairman Charlie Flanagan. “Deputy Flanagan is from ‘Leix’ as those of us who are from Offaly like to call it. (It annoys them),” writes our correspondent, originally from Birr but now living in Cork. Far be it from us to insult an entire county.