In Praise of . . . political bluntness

Chauffeur Hilary Quinlan: ‘We were all nearly eating out bins three years ago’


Most politicians have three fallback positions when asked questions: evade, obfuscate, and, when all else fails, just lie. A profession which promises straight talking very rarely follows through.

So, despite losing his position on the board of Irish Water this week, Hilary Quinlan deserves credit for “telling it like it is”.

While a Fine Gael councillor, Quinlan was appointed to the board of Irish Water, which paid €15,000 a year. He lost his council seat in the local elections earlier this year but soon picked up a bit of work as a ministerial driver for Paudie Coffey, the junior minister in the Department of the Environment, which oversees Irish Water.

Quinlan told ‘The Irish Times’ that he saw no conflict of interest between the two roles. “I was appointed [to Irish Water] because I was president of the county and city councillors association. But that’s not to say there aren’t Fine Gael positions and Labour positions.”

And then came the clincher.

“You tell me one party out there who doesn’t look after their own. I don’t see anything wrong with it. It’s politics.”

Almost as a postscript, he asked why there isn’t more of a focus on the economy. “We were all nearly eating out of bins three years ago.”

There was shock around Leinster House, both because Quinlan, and indeed Coffey, saw no problem holding the two roles at the same time, but also because the former councillor so readily admitted what they all know to be true.

Quinlan, though blunt, was perhaps the model of openness and transparency. He also resigned from Irish Water, albeit after he had been caught.

He deserves muted applause for falling on his sword, but a heartier cheer for plain speaking.