The expense scandal surrounding out-going Twenty-Six County ceann comhairle and Fianna Fáil TD John O’Donoghue should come as no surprise to those familiar with the extravagance of establishment politicians.
Through a series of investigations by the Sunday Tribune, it was revealed that O’Donoghue had amassed expenses of over €600,000 during his tenure as Twenty-Six County minister for arts and tourism and as Leinster House ceann comhairle.
O’Donoghue and his wife Kate Ann, made numerous trips abroad, including to the USA, Australia and South Africa as well as attending race meetings in England and various other European countries.
O’Donoghue also made use of first class flights to attend events in his constituency of Kerry South, despite having the use of a full-time Garda driver. During one sojourn, O’Donoghue spent €492 for the hire a limousine to ferry him between terminals in Heathrow Airport, as well as charging to expenses €120 with which he purchased his secretary a hat so she could attend a Royal Ascot race meeting.
Initially, O’Donoghue was fervently defended by his ministerial colleagues and, after the scale of this abuse of taxpayers’ money emerged, it was suggested that the problem lay in the legislation surrounding expenses.
In truth, the problem lies with a culture of graft within the higher-echelons of Fianna Fáil and establishment politicians in general. The fact that a government minister could spend a working person’s weekly wages on airport limo hire demonstrates just how out of touch the political establishment is with workers in this country.
Even within the so-called opposition, there was a reluctance to confront O’Donoghue over his spending spree with public money, perhaps because many similar examples of graft could be found within the ranks of those parties themselves.
However, it is clear that Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore initially underestimated the distaste within his own constituency for such corruption and eventually threatened a motion of no-confidence in O’Donoghue. Still, it could also be asked how Gilmore, himself earning around €100,000-a-year plus expenses, could ever hope to relate to the hundreds of thousands of workers struggling daily to make ends meet in this current economic climate.
The fact is that the Irish workers deserve a lot better than the likes of John O’Donoghue, or, indeed, elected representatives who earn up to three times the average industrial wage while the rest of the country faces three-day weeks, job losses, lower wages and cutbacks on essential public services.
Ireland is currently in a political climate where the establishment is seeking to institute a race to the bottom, both in terms of working conditions and public services, it is up to all working people to stand together and refuse to accept blatant corruption in elected representatives and the unequal society which they are trying to perpetuate.
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