Albert Reynolds and Norma Smurfit's new shoes

During a discussion on Albert Reynolds’ legacy columnist Brenda Power told an interesting story (RTE, last item).

In the late 1980s, when the country was in deep recession, then Finance Minister Reynolds was was preparing to introduce his first budget.

His wife, Kathleen, suggested that he introduce a means test for Children’s Allowance as a result of an encounter she had with the enormously wealthy Norma Smurfit while buying shoes in Brown Thomas.

Are you treating yourself Norma?

No, the taxpayer is treating me. I save my children’s allowance every year and buy one decent pair of shoes.

The shoes cost £300, the same price as the average industrial wage of the time.

Reynolds did consider introducing the means test but in the end decided not to.

After all, Norma was a member of the ruling elite, she had her ‘entitlements’ just like the rest of the Golden Circle.

The response to the story by RTEs Sean O’Rourke was also predictable.

In fairness to Norma Smurfit I suspect she gave a multiple of that amount to various good causes that she has been supportive of down through the years.

There are two possible reasons for O’Rourke’s comment:

One: He/RTE are so afraid of litigation or of being seen to be biased they have to balance out every story no matter how trivial.

Two: He/RTE operate so closely with the ruling elite mindset that they instinctively defend against every negative attack, no matter how trivial.

I suspect the latter is the truth.

Albert Reynolds: Not the worst – among the worst

As Taoisigh go Albert Reynolds was not the worst. Mind you, this half compliment is greatly diluted when we reflect on the long list of criminals, chancers and buffoons who have held that office.

There is truth in the claim that Reynolds made a significant contribution to peace in Northern Ireland but then again that particular building is becoming more overcrowded than the GPO in 1916 – over three million at last count I believe.

In functional democracies, when former Prime Ministers die, there is usually a respectful response with a lowered emphasis on the negative aspects of the office holder.

In Ireland history is immediately and comprehensively rewritten and the man/woman is instantly elevated to sainthood. This is an instinctive/automatic reaction that ensures the fog of denial that envelopes our failed state is maintained.

So when a criminal like Haughey or a chancer like Ahern (oh wait, he’s not dead – yet.) dies they ascend on high without a stain on their character, or, at the very least, we’re assured that history will be kind to them.

The media and in particular RTE play a major role in this rewriting of history.

For example, consider the following quote from Sean O’Rourke talking about his memories of Reynolds and his family and ask yourself the question – Would you trust the objectivity of O’Rourke if he was the producer of a documentary on the life of Albert Reynolds?

It was an extraordinary experience to go into that family home. They got on so well and they all were so affectionate towards each other.

Clearly they worshipped him and they were so well reared and so well behaved.

I remember meeting them, I think they were all teenagers at the time in the late 70s, early 80s.

Comedy: Nobody does it better than Fianna Fail

Just came across this hilarious article in The Journal in which Ógra Fianna Fáil calls for the expulsion of Albert Reynolds from the party.

Ógra president Eamon Quinlan said:

We feel it necessary to maintain the integrity of Fianna Fáil that actions which bring the party into disrepute have consequences.

In fairness, it would be difficult to surpass such high quality comedy.

The article reminds us that Reynolds was unable to give evidence to the tribunal because he suffers from memory loss.

This is also hilarious as everybody knows that memory loss is the default mental condition of all Irish politicians.

Albert Reynolds: Still hale and hearty except for answering Tribunal questions

Isn’t former Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, a great fellow altogether?

In 2008 he was diagnosed with a serious brain condition and was therefore, according to his doctors, unable to answer questions at the Planning Tribunal.

As a result of this serious brain condition, we were told, Mr. Reynolds had effectively retired from public life.

Since then Reynolds has been living a very public life with no sign of that nasty “serious cognitive impairment” whatsoever.

Today we see him, hale and hearty as ever, up in Dublin to see the Queen of England.

Perhaps that nasty brain condition only kicks in when Reynolds comes within fifty yards of a Tribunal judge?

See here, here, here and here for other examples of Reynolds ‘retired’ public life.