Quizmaster Mathews up to his long-winded old tricks again
It was a bit rich of Peter Mathews to demand brevity from the witnesses who appeared before the finance committee on Thursday. But he did.
Three officials from the National Treasury Management Agency were in for questioning and Banker Mathews was ready for them. (But not before long-suffering committee chairman Ciaran Lynch impressed upon him the need to keep matters clipping along.) Peter’s bizarre opening gambit was an impromptu audition for a job as a quizmaster.
“Do you mind if I can preface my questions by saying I’d really appreciate if you could answer very quickly or say ‘Pass’. Fingers on buzzers, because I want to ask a lot of questions...” The NTMA boys looked baffled.
“First of all, this goes to all three and you can all answer it,” declared Peter to the bemused witnesses. “Have you all read Carmen Reinhart’s books on debt?” Pause. Sadly, no drum roll, except, maybe, in Peter’s head.
“Yes, no, yes, no?” One of the witnesses – it could have been NTMA chief executive John Corrigan – piped up.
“Eh, I’ve dipped into it.” “Have any of you read John Mauldin’s thing about the debt supercycle?” A sickly “No” escaped the NTMA ranks.
“That’s telling,” smiled Peter. “I’d recommend it.” And he wasn’t finished yet.
“Did you know that Herman Van Rompuy, president of the EU Commission, is someone who wasn’t aware...” Ciaran Lynch looked like he was going to burst into tears.
A long lecture followed on the provenance of Ireland’s bank debt liability and Van Rompuy’s understanding of it.
The NTMA boys didn’t answer. At all.
“No, you didn’t,” concluded Peter, embarking on a long dissertation about banking and stuff.
Eventually, chairman Lynch intervened. He knew Deputy Mathews had many positive things to say, but “you keep giving the same lecture”. Peter looked at him. Hurt. “I love my country,” he bleated.
That may be so, but Ciaran has a committee to run. “Well, I could talk to the recording room and ask them to play the same recording of you every week, or would you like to give the witnesses a chance to interact?” And on it went.
So you can’t really blame Mary Mitchell O’Connor for quietly losing her rag with her Fine Gael colleague at this week’s parliamentary party meeting. He had just been lecturing them – and talking down to her – on the great economic policies of those FG stalwarts: Independent TD Stephen Donnelly and Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty.
It seems the sobering effect of Enda’s dawn dressing-down last year has worn off and loquacious Peter is playing offside again. If more proof were needed, the charming and courtly deputy for Dublin South is once more airing his pinstripes and opinions on Vincent Browne’s television show.
Party handlers never know when he’s going to pop up somewhere to talk against his Government’s economic policy.
A second summons to a pre-breakfast carpeting in Enda’s office could be on the cards.