'I'll tell you one thing: without the family there'd be massive unemployment'


A POSTER announcing last Saturday’s “knitting in public” day was still on display in Mick Wallace’s home town of Wellington Bridge yesterday, but things had begun unravelling for the TD long before that.

Nonetheless, he must have been heartened by the strength of support when he came home at the weekend. His sister Chrissie Harpur said a woman came in from Duncannon specifically to ask her to tell her brother not to quit. “A woman in her 80s sent him a text yesterday saying ‘don’t give up’,” she said.

“He’s gutted, gutted. It just means everything to him. His heart and soul is in the Dáil. He loves it.”

She said he was “very quiet, very subdued” at the weekend. “He’s a swimmer like me and he went out for a swim yesterday morning. It’s heaven out there.”

Harpur said her brother, known as Mike at home, never gave up easily. There were 12 in the family and she recalled how Santa brought the children a tricycle once. There was huge competition to ride the bike around the dining table.

“My mother woke up in the middle of the night and heard a sound downstairs. And who was it only Mike? He had got up in the middle of the night to get his turn on the tricycle. That was him. I don’t think he’ll give up.”

Michael Wallace was behind the bar in Tír na nÓg in Wellington Bridge yesterday but he doesn’t have the trademark flowing locks of his namesake.

The bar owner, who is not related to the TD, didn’t vote for him but said he supported him because he believed the TD was honest about his financial dealings.

“He was trying to save jobs. I would love a survey to be done in the Dáil to see how many of the other 165 deputies have employed anyone. I’d say not many of them have.” He said the builder still employed nearly 50 people.

“And his family have employed 200 or 300 people in this village for longer than I remember. I’ll tell you one thing: without that family there would be massive unemployment in this area, not just in the parish.”

Wallace’s family runs several businesses in Wellington Bridge, including the Super Valu and Costcutter shops, the drapery shop and the agri-centre.

Outside Super Valu, retired Jim Irwin said the pink-shirted TD was “in a bit of trouble, but who isn’t? People seem to like him – but he should get a new shirt now and again.”

Mary Dake from Duncormick said the TD should stay on. “He was always good to his workers, very good. Doesn’t everyone have their faults?”

Yesterday morning South East Radio’s text poll of listeners found that 53 per cent believed the TD should not resign. The views on the streets of Wexford town reflected this result.

Frank Hynes of Hynes Jewellers said he knew Wallace and respected the work he had done for youth soccer. “But you just can’t mess with the VAT. You can’t mess with Revenue because you will end up in trouble. As a business person I know that you have to pay your tax.”

If he survived this, it would always come back to haunt him in the Dáil whenever he spoke about fiscal matters. “If it was me I’d resign because I’d feel guilty. I’d feel like I’d let the people who voted for me down.”

Wallace’s constituency colleague Liam Twomey said the under-declaration of VAT was “seriously damaging” and he would find it hard to stay in the Dáil if it had happened to him.

“As a doctor, say for instance, I look after my patients well and people respect that, but if I didn’t pay my taxes, people won’t say: ‘Well, Liam Twomey looks after his patients well, therefore I don’t really mind if he doesn’t pay his taxes’.”

The Fine Gael TD told South East Radio everyone knew Wallace was “a decent sort of a fellow. Down here in Co Wexford people are very fair and will always give someone the benefit of the doubt . . . but it is a very serious issue that Mick has got himself involved with.”

Wexford mayor Labour’s David Hynes said he had no desire to “hop on the bandwagon” in criticising Wallace “but Mick is not behind the door when it comes to admonishing the Government, my party included”.

Síle Mhic Réamoinn however said she had campaigned for Wallace and fervently hoped he would not resign. “I pray to God he will stay because who else do we have if he goes?”