An absolutely outrageous event occurred in this country last Tuesday. The incident shocked hardened journalists and appalled a member of academia. The event was so abhorrent that a warning was issued before it was re-broadcast.
Fine Gael TD, Leo Varadkar was the culprit and he was expressing the view that Bertie Ahern’s evidence to the tribunal played a part in the referendum defeat. Here’s what he had to say.
“And of course we should not forget the issue of the tribunals, which is a serious matter…And I don’t think it’s just about the cost of the tribunals. I think people would be prepared to bear the cost of the tribunals if they actually saw consequences but there are no consequences.
We have a former Taoiseach who has gone into the tribunal essentially giving the John Gilligan defence, that he won the money at the horses. Now this is a defence for drug dealers, this is a defence for pimps, this is not the kind of thing that should be tolerated from a former Taoiseach and a former (sic) member of this house but we do nothing, we wash our hands, we say it’s a matter for the tribunal and there is no accountability, there is no ethics and we ask ourselves why people have such a low opinion of politicians.” (Morning Ireland, 3rd report 1st item).
The RTE presenter who introduced the report spoke in a solemn and concerned voice normally reserved for reports of mass murder or the assassination of a head of state.
To avert any possibility of legal action he emphasised that Varadkar was speaking under privilege in Dail Eireann. At he end of the report the presenter felt compelled to comment – “Fairly strong stuff.”
Varadkar’s views were discussed on Today with Pat Kenny (Friday) by journalists Michael O’Regan, Michael Clifford and DCU lecturer Marie-Louise O’Donnell.
O’Regan – “I thought that was utterly unfair, I thought the language he used was unfortunate to be quite honest with you and I thought he’s want to get his act together. He’s in the door, he’s wet behind the ears, and he’d want to think before he speaks.”
O’Donnell – “And he’s out of control.”
O’Regan – “And his party leader might want to speak to him. The fact of the matter is we’ve all commented, media and indeed some ministers, TDs and senators have commented on Mr. Ahern’s evidence and it is as Michael Clifford said, you know, unbelievable etc. but we have to await ultimately the judgement of the tribunal…”
“…I have some sympathy for Fianna Fail ministers who had a Taoiseach who was giving evidence to a tribunal and the tribunal had yet to give its definitive judgement on it. If it was any other party it would have been the same.”
O’Donnel – “And you have to talk about loyalty there too, you’re right Michael, I mean you have to talk about loyalty.”
So, why were these people angry, why was the RTE presenter so worried about re-broadcasting Varadkar’s comments? They would claim, and most would agree, that it was because they were outraged to hear Bertie Ahern being described in such terms.
But they’re wrong – These people were angry because Varadkar spoke the complete and unvarnished truth. This kind of brutal truth is unacceptable in corrupt Ireland; it is unacceptable to journalists who have evolved a seamless and unhealthy bond of friendship with politicians, journalists who have lost all objectivity, journalists who can instantly recognise, condemn and objectively report on corruption so long as it is happening outside Ireland. (See here for a good example of this double think).
O’Donnell, like the Taoiseach, obviously sees loyalty to the leader as the greatest virtue. She obviously believes such loyalty takes precedence over loyalty to the State, to its people and to the law of the land.
She obviously believes that the massive damage done to the State and its people by low pedigree politicians is of little consequence when compared to the need to show blind and unquestioning loyalty – even when they resort to the tactics of pimps and drugs dealers as Varadkar rightly claims.