12 February 2008

The Taoiseach keeps digging

One of the principle rules from the University of Life is: If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.
But is seems that such basic rules of common sense do not apply to Irish Prime Ministers. We all still remember - either with fondness or with horror (depending on our political views and affiliations) - the late Charles James Haughey (right), who kept digging until he stood up to his neck in mud and had to be ousted by his own devious mistress.

The current Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern (left), seems now to be following very faithfully in the footsteps of his former mentor and leader, as he comes under ever more pressure over his personal finances. The muddle Bertie got himself into is now so confusing that it looks as if he himself has lost the plot, maybe somewhere on the way from his separation to Manchester, or on the way back from Manchester to the Galway Races.

In a statement to the Dáil he insisted today that he did not mislead parliament in relation to his personal finances. Nevertheless he did go to the High Court, to prevent the Mahon Tribunal (which investigates planning irregularities in Dublin and - connected with that - irregularities of the Taoiseach's finances) from asking him certain questions. This is particularly strange since Bertie Ahern himself was instrumental in setting up the tribunal.

To no one's suprise opposition leaders have been criticising and challenging Bertie Ahern and demanded clarity from the country's leader and former Minister for Finance.

The Taoiseach said he had "clear legal advice" that it would "not be correct for him to answer questions on statements he made to the Dáil" and that the substance of what he said had been repeated outside the house.

However, Labour leader Eamon Gilmore (left) said Mr. Ahern was "either trying to hide something or to buy time". He added that the Taoiseach's court action had nothing to do with parliamentary privilege but was only about protecting himself. He said the Taoiseach's last minute rush to the court was to play for time and to prevent the tribunal from asking questions.

Earlier Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny (right) claimed that there was "a serious gap between the information provided by the Taoiseach to the Mahon Tribunal and statements he made in the Dáil in 2006". Speaking on RTÉ Radio, Mr. Kenny said he did not accept that Bertie Ahern had no alternative but to lodge the High Court challenge. He then suggested the Taoiseach could have rejected the advice of his legal team and added that Ahern's move could well have the consequence of delaying the tribunal and increasing its costs.

Last month government TDs backed a motion in the Dáil affirming confidence in the Mahon Tribunal, and looking forward to receiving its report "expeditiously". But the opposition parties claim the tribunal's work will be delayed by the Taoiseach's High Court challenge to three aspects of its investigation into his personal finances.

Last night the Green Party, in the typical wishy-washy way it has adopted since it joined the government, said that it "noted the legal move" and said it "hoped the legal action would not delay the inquiry's work".

Well, hope is good, but also entirely passive. And this has become the hallmark of the Green Party in government, being Bertie's passive poodle and nodding obediently to every word the Taoiseach utters. Once the standard bearers for a better future, John Gormley's Greens now wave the - also green - flag of Fianna Fail. Meanwhile the Taoiseach, in the tradition of Charles J. Haughey, keeps digging in his hole.

The Emerald Islander

1 comment:

Alexander "Sunny" Bergen said...

Seems that financial irregularities are becoming some kind of an Irish "tradition". I hope the matter will be sorted out, otherwise it could seriously damage the still good reputation Ireland has in the world.

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