Interview in the Mail with Clare Daly TD April 20, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.
…conducted by Jason O’Toole. It’s both sympathetic and forensic, addressing all the issues that have been raised in recent times. There’s some interesting stuff in there about recent political history too as well as plans for the future.
Not far into our conversation, Clare Daly tells me straight out that she was wrong. In January, the Socialist TD was arrested in Dublin on suspicion of drink driving. Nursing a headcold, the next day she admitted to having had a large hot whiskey before driving. Today, however, she concedes that it was a mistake to have even one drink before getting behind the wheel of her car. ‘It was an error of judgement to have even one,’ she says.
However, she may yet face charges relating to the incident. As our sister paper, the Irish Mail on Sunday, revealed, a file has been sent to the DPP in which gardaí claim that Daly was asked to provide a breath specimen but refused. If tried and convicted she faces a fine of up to €1,000 or up to six months in prison.
‘I read that an alleged source said I was uncooperative — that is untrue. I had never been breathalysed before. Maybe because I had the cold I couldn’t blow into it sufficiently strongly to register a reading. ‘Then they said: “If you don’t, we’re going to have to arrest you and bring you down to the station.” I said: “Fine.” When he produced handcuffs I said: “Now, come on, handcuffs! Is that really necessary?” He said: “It’s procedure.” ‘I’ve been told by gardaí that it is very unusual. They were very loosely put on me — I was able to take one off in the car myself.’
She discusses her experience of being imprisoned following the bin tax campaign and the toll that took on her personally, and the interview notes that:
At the moment, she is helping to campaign for the release of former IRA bomber Marian Price, who was arrested two years ago after attending a dissident Republican event. Price had been jailed for life for her role in the 1973 bombing of London’s Old Bailey, but she was later freed on medical grounds — until her licence was revoked for alleged continued support for dissident activity. ‘It’s been a very important initiative for me to participate in visits to see Marian Price who is imprisoned in Belfast, but currently in hospital. This is a human rights issue. That there are people on this island who are imprisoned for years without knowing the charges against them, without standing trial and nominating their own defence is internment all over again.’
…what Daly’s deceased father — who was a colonel in the Irish Army — would make of his daughter campaigning for the release of one of the infamous Price sisters. Certainly, getting involved in left-wing socialist politics was probably the last thing Daly’s apolitical middle-class parents expected of her when she was growing up in Newbridge, Co. Kildare. ‘They wouldn’t have been politically supportive of the type of politics I got involved in,’ she says. It’s not just with her parents that Daly differs on ideology, though One of three children, Daly is an atheist while her brother is studying to be a Jesuit, and their uncle is a priest. ‘We get on like a house on fire. My uncle spends all the festivities with us. We are a diverse family — tolerance of different views is important.’
Her own political history is interesting:
Daly — who calls herself ‘an animal loving vegetarian’ — joined the Labour Party in her teens and was the president of the Students’ Union when she studied accountancy and finance at Dublin City University. In the mid-Eighties, she was one of a number of people expelled from Labour for embracing hardline policies. Aged 21, she joined the radical Socialist Party. After college, Daly took a job in Aer Lingus’ catering rather than using her education to pursue a career in business. ‘For me, a job is a means to an end. It’s a way of surviving and to have enough to get by. I wanted time to develop myself in other ways, not through a career in that sense,’ she says. She certainly did that — using Aer Lingus to get involved in trade union politics. In 1999, she was elected to Fingal County Council. Despite managing to top the polls in that election, and two subsequent local elections, it took Daly almost two decades to get elected to the Dáil.
In relation to more recent events…
In 2011, Daly was elected to the Dáil as Socialist TD for Dublin North. She says that her mother was delighted’ — even though ‘she wouldn’t like all the media stuff ’. Daly certainly made headlines last year when she continued to support Wexford TD Mick Wallace when everyone else — including her own party — was calling for his political scalp after he was revealed as a tax cheat who had under-declared his building company’s VAT by €1.4million. Soon afterwards, Daly resigned from the Socialist Party, which claimed ‘she now places more value on her political connection with independent TD Mick Wallace’ than the party. ‘The ironic thing is my problems with the Socialist Party started before I ever heard of Mick Wallace I can assure you — and they know that, too,’ she scoffs. ‘I lost confidence in the leadership of the party and it was something that was coming over a period of years. Unfortunately, I don’t believe it’s going to be a vehicle for major change in this country.’
After Daly’s split from the Socialists, false rumours were circulated that she was having an affair with Wallace. She describes such stories as ‘real infantile stuff’ and ‘disgusting’.
…also dismisses reports that there was fallout amongst the Technical Group over Wallace’s tax controversy. ‘In terms of the VAT, we said — as he said himself — that he shouldn’t have under-declared it and that was a mistake. There were no rows.’ She clearly believes Wallace is entitled to a second chance. ‘Yes, originally the VAT shouldn’t have been under-declared but that’s life.
Did it take away from all his years of work as a good employer, as a good builder? I don’t think so.’
As to the Technical Group…
Wallace is still a member of the Technical Group, though he ‘stood back from it for a while,’ she says. ‘Some of the others felt the Technical Group was being dragged into it, which was a deliberate ploy by sections of the media to discredit the idea of an alternative and to try to make the Technical Group into something that it wasn’t. But that’s long over. You can’t be expelled from the group. You can opt to come in and nobody can stop you.’
Interesting to read the above about the TG in light of the following:
When asked what she believes the Technical Group has achieved in the Dáil, she says: ‘The Technical Group is a non-entity, in the sense that it doesn’t exist other than to provide speaking time for its members. And because we collectively come together to give speaking time there is an illusion created — maybe which some people thought could develop — that we are some sort of a political grouping, but we never were. We are a mixed bag of anybody who gets elected in a party of under seven members or anybody who is an Independent can band together to allow people to speak.’
In relation to the situation now:
Daly has, however, joined forces with Mick Wallace, Joan Collins and Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan’ to highlight allegations of gardaí improperly wiping thousands of motorists’ penalty points and fines. Their call for an independent inquiry into the matter looked to have backfired, however, when Flanagan admitted that gardaí wiped out penalty points for him on two occasions.
‘We weren’t happy, but what can you do? He made a very serious mistake that he has to take account of. If I had known he was in that situation I would have advised him to stay away from the issue. Yeah, he made a bit of a mess of it all right,’ she admits. ‘It doesn’t damage the cause. It showed that there is a subculture writing off penalty points for people, which was the point we were making, which the Minister and the Garda Commissioner keep denying. It’ll be interesting to see what the enquiry comes back with, but we are taking this further.’
Talking about Flanagan…
In February, he admitted to me [Jason O’Toole] that he had tried cocaine, ecstasy and acid — making him the first sitting TD to confess to taking Class- A drugs. Does she agree with his call for marijuana to be legalised? ‘Yeah, I think that is a sensible approach, which has been adopted in other areas. But for all sorts of reasons — for Revenue, for control of it — it would be far better to legalise it. It’s not my belief that everybody should be going out smoking dope morning, noon or night, but it’s a better way of regulating it. ‘When you talk about legalising drugs people think: “Oh, that means you’re encouraging people to use it.” It’s about recognising the harm, or control the access to that. There’s an argument that it should certainly be looked at.’
And as to the future?
Of more immediate concern to Daly is the frustration that the United Left Alliance project ‘is not taking off at all because the groups operate as rivals within it’. She reveals that she and Joan Collins are planning to register the United Left name as a political party ‘so that people can contest the local elections under that banner’. ‘We will work with other socialists and Lefts inside and outside the Alliance to develop a vibrant radical campaigning alternative to the status quo,’ she concludes. ‘I absolutely believe that a new party has to be built and I would like to play a role in that.’