Old-school socialist will be vocal anti-austerity voice on banking inquiry team

Joe Higgins ‘owed it to ordinary people’ to ‘shoulder burden’ of participation

Joe Higgins: Will not contest the next general election. Photograph: Frank Miller

Joe Higgins: Will not contest the next general election. Photograph: Frank Miller

Wed, Jun 18, 2014, 01:06

Socialist TD Joe Higgins will bring passion, old-school socialist rhetoric and the occasional witty soundbite to the banking inquiry.

The former seminarian was jailed for a month more than a decade ago for his part in anti-bin charge protests.

Now he has sentenced himself to an unspecified stretch on what is expected to be a lengthy investigation. He took to the plinth outside Leinster House yesterday to outline his credentials.

Difficulties

“I have convicted the system over and over again that quadrupled the cost of a home in 10 years at enormous cost to ordinary people and has now left people in such difficulties,” he declared.

Committing to the committee would be an “enormous personal undertaking requiring a huge workload”, he said.

However, the indefatigable Mr Higgins will be able to give the banking inquiry plenty of time and energy, having announced last April that he will not contest the next general election and will retire from national parliamentary politics at the end of this Dáil term.

Anyhow, he felt he owed it to the “ordinary” people who had been forced to “shoulder the burden of this manifestation of capitalism”.

Mr Higgins has made clear that “those whom I’ve taken to task for 20 years” will be firmly in his sights once the long-awaited inquiry gets under way.

During the boom years, he was one of the few Opposition figures to get under the skin of then taoiseach Bertie Ahern during their often robust encounters in the Dáil.

Bubble

“When the bubble was being blown up I was really one of the only voices in Dáil Éireann that constantly excoriated what was happening under the then taoiseach Bertie Ahern, clashed with him and others frequently in regard to the profiteering that was going on,” he said.

Although widely respected as a person of the highest integrity, he will undoubtedly be viewed as a thorn in the side by Coalition members.

Already he has delivered a provocative call for Taoiseach Enda Kenny to appear before the committee.

Along with Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty, Mr Higgins will be a key anti-austerity voice on the banking inquiry.

A native of Lispole in the west Kerry Gaeltacht, he was first elected to the Dáil in 1997.

He lost his seat in 2007 but pulled off a major coup by winning one of three Dublin seats in the European Parliament in 2009 and regained his Dáil seat in 2011.