Is there any hope?

The first question on last weeks Questions and Answers was;

“Should the Taoiseach continue in office without a tax clearance certificate?”

Irish Times columnist John Waters answered as follows;

“I think he should. I think it’s all just a game and a fairly tedious one at that. The whole basis of all this tribunalism, all this palaver is the false idea that there is some clear line of demarcation between party political donations and personal donations to a politician.

If I’m a politician and running for public office I need money to get myself elected. So if you’re offering me ten grand it really doesn’t matter to me whether its for my party , for myself as a politician or into my own pocket because at the end of the day if you don’t give it to me I’m going to have to find it from somewhere, more than likely in my own pocket.

I think we have come from a culture in which there was no line and we should agree that that line didn’t exist until now and we should now make that line.”

John Bowman: “We have made that line.”

“Yes, but now declare a line under the past, declare an amnesty on all that, accept that there was all kinds of dodgy things going on, forget about it, wrap up the tribunals and get on with real life.”

If John Waters was editor in charge of the astrology column of the Ballymagash Herald, his stupid, uninformed and naïve opinions wouldn’t matter. Unfortunately, this man writes for the most prestigious paper in the country, regularly appears on a wide section of media outlets and is, apparently, accepted as a serious journalist by a great many people.

Is there any hope?

Asking questions

The following question was asked on last week’s Questions and Answers.

“The latest MRBI poll for the Irish Times gave politicians the lowest confidence rating. Would the panel like to comment?”

Noel Whelan, political analyst, claimed that the low confidence rating resulted from the high level of cynicism in the media, the implication being the Irish people are too stupid to see beyond what they read in the papers. He also claimed that politicians do not get enough credit for their efforts to cut through this cynicism.

Sarah Carey, Sunday Times columnist, agreed with Whelan and added that Irish people were too willing to be bought off by the promises of politicians. Again, the implication is that Irish people are too stupid to notice that they are being bribed.

Stephen Collins, political correspondent with the Irish Times, agreed with Noel Whelan and Sarah Carey. He claimed that Irish people just don’t think enough about these things, practically stating that Irish people really are stupid and act simply on their prejudices.

Pat Rabbitte, politician, obviously agreed with the journalists and made the defence that while some Irish politicians were bad, they were no worse than politicians from other countries. He also blamed snide journalism and the media in general.

Dermot Ahern, Minister for Foreign Affairs, also agreed with the journalists. Politicians, he said, were neither better nor worse than the general population; politicians are perceived to be bad because they are the most under the microscope.

When the man who asked the question described the panel as smug and suggested that perhaps Irish politicians lacked competence he was quickly rebuffed.

The clip is well worth watching because it provides a valuable insight into the mindset of Irish politicians and journalists of how far away they are from the reality that they live in a state that is itself a corrupt entity.

Blowing with the wind

The was some interesting debate on the slave trade polices of Irish Ferries on Q & A last night.

Dick Roche strongly defended the actions of Irish Ferries on the same programme last September when the story first broke.

‘The fundamental issue is that hard economics have hit this company. The most important thing is to preserve these companies’

No sympathy for Irish Ferries workers there.

On last night’s programme, he seemed to have a better understanding of the ruthlessness of Irish Ferries policy. When John Bowman challenged him on his change of mind, Roche got all flustered and did what he does best – waffled.

At the time, I expressed puzzlement at the views expressed by Roche and John Waters on the matter.

‘The only thing that can be said in their defence is that neither of them seemed to understand the full implications of what Irish Ferries are planning to do.’

Obviously, Roche does not have the ability to assess such matters at short notice but he does possess that great talent common to all Irish politicians – Blowing with the wind.

Clash of Titans

Another feature of the spat between Minister for Defence, Willie O’Dea and Fine Gael deputy leader, Richard Bruton on last Monday’s Q & A was the embarrassed smiles of the audience and other panelists as these two “Dead Sheep’ attempted to maul each other. (Question 2)

At best, Richard Bruton was inept as he struggled to score points against Willie O’Dea, the Groucho Marx of Irish politics. Groucho, finding himself in the unusual position of actually dominating a political debate, completely lost the run of himself.

It took John (Headmaster) Bowman some time to calm Willie down and move on to the next question.

Fact checking Willie O'Dea

Well the question was bound to come up on Questions and Answers, and it took a good bit of waffle before we could down to the meat of the question.

Enter random audience person with very specific question (18th minute):

…last week the Taoiseach, when he was accused of rip off and mismanagement, stated and I quote, that the accusations were erroneous, not true, unfair and incorrect. If they guy at the top doesn’t think there’s a problem, what’s the story there?

Those words were used by the Taoiseach on October 4th during Leaders questions. To quote him:

…I will just touch on some of the issues. The PPARS system started off first in the mid 1990s when the health boards decided they needed a better payroll system because they did not even know how many people were working for them at the time. They looked at setting up a payroll system for a number of the health boards at the time and the estimated cost was €9 million or €10 million. Early estimates changed over the three-year period from 1998 to 2000 to €17 million. The highly respected Hay organisation undertook a full appraisal and review of the level of investment that would be required to finish the project properly, during its transition from a payroll system to a whole human resource management system that would be unlike what was envisaged or presented at the outset. The initial payroll system became a system dealing with personal information, pension payments, recruitment, time management and rostering. It became an entirely different system. The Deputy’s suggestion that the projected cost of the system increased from €10 million to €150 million is erroneous and unfair and should not be entertained.

[Emphasis added]

Now enter Willie O’Dea, master political tactician – but only recent recipient of cabinet level post.

O’Dea: I think, I think in fairness now, I have to refute that last comment. He wasn’t talking about a waste of public money. He was, he was, he was talking about some of the arguments advanced in the Dail, some of the other examples used. I mean he wasn’t referring directly to this. The Taoiseach came into the Dail, the Taoiseach came into the Dail and admitted, quite freely, quite freely, that there was a, quite freely, that this was just quite frankly unacceptable.

[Emphasis added]

That is contrary to the facts. Go look. The answer given by the Taoiseach was in direct reply to a question specifically dealing with PPARS, and nothing else. And after looking through leaders questions from last week I have yet to find anywhere the Taoiseach ‘quite freely’ admitted it was unacceptable, if anything the tone of the Taoiseach was denial.

I guess one could say that Willie O’Dea lied. But that language might be too strong, might it not?