I was floored on Friday driving while listening to Today with Pat Kenny (Friday July 31, last 15 mins). Well, when I say floored, I was shouting at the radio. In the usual PK roundup of the week, where a panel of guests is invited to comment on events of the past seven days, some startling remarks were made.
The panel consisted of Noirin Hegarty, editor of the Sunday Tribune, Michael O’Regan, Dail correspondent of the Irish Times and Brendan Walsh of UCD.
They spent some time discussing various things, until the issue of former Tourism Minister John O’Donoghue’s travel expenses came around. Pat Kenny asked if the panel were surprised by the revelation that O’Donoghue had spent upwards of €250,000 of taxpayers’ money on hotels, water taxis, hats, limousines and use of the government jet.
I will let Michael O’Regan take it from here, but emphasis is mine.
Michael: I was surprised Pat yes. I know John O’Donoghue for many years and I would have thought that he’s more at home in the land of [inaudible] rather than the fleshpots of Paris. (laughing). He certainly did a lot of work in that area at that time. There was money around, which there isn’t now by the way, for arts and sport and tourism. And he did dwell on the arts. He had Fiach Mac Conghail was his personal adviser. He did his best in fairness…
PK: He did a great job at the Abbey. Actually I saw the Rivals at the Abbey last week, terrific. Cast led by Nick.. Absolutely fantastic
Michael: Yea. I know that Fiach Mac Conghail played a huge role and John O’Donoghue has always admitted in his arts policy, y’know, like filling vacancies in the arts council he went off and he tried to get the best people.
But I presume the Department would have booked this for him, he certainly should have been more vigilant. John O’Donoghue y’know owes much of his career to his mother – certainly the initial parts of his career – Cllr Mary O’Donoghue, who was a formidable Kerry politican – I knew her Pat! She saw off a challenge from Mick O’Dwyer of some Gaelic Football fame many years ago, when Charlie Haughey wanted him to be the second candidate in South Kerry. I do think John O’Donoghue should have been more vigilant, clearly this was the standard ministerial spending at the time.
I do think that if Mary O’Donoghue was alive she wouldn’t be pleased – she would give him a metaphorical clip on the ear, and tell him not to do it again. (Laughs all round)
I actually had to read that back to myself a few times. One question: What planet are Kenny and O’Regan on? And has O’Regan just admitted he himself has been captured by the political establishment? I mean capture in the Bernstein sense of regulatory capture, except in this case it’s the media.
Instead of dealing with the issue, O’Regan makes excuse after excuse for O’Donoghue. None of them relevant, but all of them indicative of someone who appears to be pals with the minister. Let’s look at these comments together:
“I know John O’Donoghue for many years… He certainly did a lot of work in that area at that time…There was money around, which there isn’t now by the way…He did his best in fairness…he tried to get the best people…But I presume the Department would have booked this for him, he certainly should have been more vigilant..I knew [his mother] Pat…clearly this was the standard ministerial spending at the time.”
I had to read that back to myself again too. O’Regan has clearly lost all sense of perspective, and even plain old objectivity. He to me is an example of journalists who have spent too long supping pints with the great and the good of Irish politics, or you might say has spent too long drinking the Fianna Fail Kool-aid.
All of the points made by O’Regan are flippant and irrelevant.
The point is obvious to the rest of us: John O’Donoghue squandered huge amounts of taxpayers money. That is the only point.
It is irrelevant that it happened when the coffers were full, irrelevant whether O’Regan knows him or not, irrelevant that O’Donoghue did his best (you might expect a minister to do this, given the wages he’s on?), irrelevant that O’Donoghue tried get the best people (again, is that not his job?), irrelevant what the department knew or didn’t know, irrelevant that he knew O’Donoghue’s mother (is O’Regan showing off or something?), irrelevant whether it was the standard at the time (in fact it likely was, and that makes the whole thing 100 times worse).
Of course another fundamental question arises. Pat Kenny. Instead of challenging O’Regan, not to mention simply calling out the clear irrelevancy of his points, Kenny compounds the issue by agreeing with O’Regan that O’Donoghue did a great job as minister – as if by implication it means that the expenses incurred are somehow justifiable. They are not justifiable. Full stop.
This does not bode well for Kenny’s upcoming shift in job from the Late Late to current affairs. One has to wonder to what extent media capture extends into Montrose too.
I will not be forgetting about the Ceann Comhairle’s misdeeds, and his obvious love for the high life at the expense of the taxpayer. Come the return of the Dail anyway, we shall see.