The 30th Dáil and the new recruits to our great democracy… Part 1 of a continuing series… September 29, 2007Posted by WorldbyStorm in Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Irish Politics.
A difficult evening on Wednesday for Bertie Ahern during the debates on his leadership. Still, notable, as the Irish Times put it, for the following example of discomfiture on the part of our hero.
Mr. Ahern singled out an attack made on him by new Fine Gael TD Leo Varadkar.
“I am big enough to take it, but when you hear a new deputy who isn’t a wet day in the place not alone castigatin me – well, I will take that – but also castigating Tony Blair and Bill Clinton.
And the cause of his ire?
From the Dáil Record…
Deputy Mary Hanafin: I am proud to be Minister for Education and Science.
Deputy Leo Varadkar: Deputy Hanafin is the worst Minister by a mile.
Deputy Leo Varadkar: I wish to share time with Deputies Sheehan and Creed.
This debate is not about the Government’s record on Northern Ireland, the economy, the health service, transport and the environment. It is not about the personal affairs of the Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, despite his attempts to bring family problems into the debate at every possible opportunity afforded by RTE but not by the tribunal.
Deputy Dermot Ahern: Following in the footsteps of gutter Fine Gael.
Deputy Leo Varadkar: This is about low standards and credibility. Politicians should not take money for personal benefit from wealthy people. I do not know why the Taoiseach took the money. I do not know if the reason he took money in Manchester was that some of them were the Manchester investors in the casino project in my constituency. I do not know why the Taoiseach took money from Mr. Michael Wall, a private bus operator looking for bus services to be deregulated in this country. I would like to know because I do not accept the reasons provided.
What the Taoiseach has done is no different from what Mr. Liam Lawlor, Mr. Charles Haughey, Deputy Lowry and former Deputy Ray Burke did. In none of those cases do we have documentary evidence of corruption. The reason they are discredited, disgraced and removed from office is they behaved in an inappropriate manner by receiving large sums from private individuals for personal gain. The same standards should be applied to the Taoiseach. Just because he is Head of the Government does not mean lower standards should be applied. By any international standard, he would no longer be Head of the Government. In Germany Ministers resign when they keep frequent flyer points accrued on Government flights. In Britain Ministers resign for accepting undeclared loans. In the United Kingdom the Taoiseach would not be fit to be a member of a county council. He is certainly not fit to be a candidate for the Fine Gael Party.
Deputy Lucinda Creighton: Hear, hear.
Deputy Leo Varadkar: Regarding credibility, most people in the State do not believe the Taoiseach’s assertions about his finances. A journalist in the Sunday Independent wrote that if there was a simple explanation, we would have heard it some time ago.
Deputy Simon Coveney: Was that Deputy O’Dea?
Deputy Leo Varadkar: Nobody believes the Taoiseach’s story. Privately, most of those on the Government benches do not believe it. Nobody believes the Taoiseach did not have a bank account. The only reason he did not have a bank account in that period is worrying and sinister. Nobody believes his claim that the dig-out came from friends. Even Mr. Padraic O’Connor of NCB Stockbrokers, for example, denies that he is the Taoiseach’s friend and stated the money was given to Fianna Fáil. Nobody believes the money the Taoiseach received was for the refurbishment of a new house. Nobody believes the Taoiseach did not deal in dollars. Nobody believes the 24 people in Manchester were his friends. The Taoiseach claims that they were but cannot name them. Nobody believes the Taoiseach, his partner at the time and the bankers forgot to count the money.
History will judge the Taoiseach with more sophistication than the Sunday newspapers or Senator Harris.
Deputy Dermot Ahern: The people judged him on 24 May, which Fine Gael keep forgetting.
Deputy Leo Varadkar: History will judge him and, in some ways, as a successful Taoiseach. It will also judge his years as Taoiseach as a lost opportunity to achieve great things done in other booms such as the Adenauer years in Germany or the post-war years in America.
Deputy Willie O’Dea: We will see what Deputy Varadkar achieves.
Deputy Leo Varadkar: Sadly, this dark affair will darken the Taoiseach’s record in the same way as Tony Blair’s involvement in Iraq or Bill Clinton’s corruption and personal scandals darkened theirs. History will judge the Taoiseach as being both devious and cunning, in the words of his mentor, master and, clearly, role model.
Deputy Brian Lenihan: The Deputy was well trained by US Republicans.
Entertaining on so many different levels. Firstly, in fairness Minister Hanafin is actually not bad at all, so lets put that one down to partisan political sniping. Still got to love the sideswipes at ‘Senator Harris’, the apparent superiority of Fine Gael and indeed the mention of Bill Clinton’s corruption (?) scandals.
Also got to love Brian Lenihan’s gibe. When in doubt push back hard with the opposite message. Still, does make one wonder whether it is the most effective argument LV could deploy in this context. Dissing those who might well be your allies – or partners – in future is not necessarily the wisest course of action and while I’m fairly certain the State Department doesn’t worry overly much about the comments of one opposition Deputy we have a hungry media all too willing to keep such things on file for the – ahem – appropriate time… We’re not in Dublin West any longer.
Rumour has it that Leo Varadkar is 28.
I’ll leave the last word with Ahern.
I wish him well, I would say he will get an early exit,” he concluded.