You have to take your hat off to Fianna Fail because Tuesday’s budget proved for certain that they are ‘the most cunning and the most devious of all’.
Without breaking a sweat, the party top brass rallied together to pen a budget that had so many hallmarks of sliveen-ism that should earn in a place in history as the ultimate ‘screw you’ budget.
The people of Ireland are today counting the cost of what the budget means for them.
But on a political level, the budget was a sneaky and deadly handball right into the hands of the next government.
Like the last sting of a dying wasp, the dying Fianna Fail-led Government has tossed some of the most savage cuts right into the hands of the next Government.
Take the controversial Site Value (property) Tax, for example. Finance Minister Brian Lenihan announced in his four-year plan that a flat payment of €100 would be introduced in 2012.
Why didn’t he introduce that charge in Tuesday’s budget? Because he wanted the next Government - a possible Fine Gael and Labour coalition - to have to implement that savage cost and bear the wrath of a nation.
And what about the domestic water charges? In the four year plan, Lenihan said they would be in place by 2014.
Why not a nominal charge of €100 now? Because he wanted that dirty hike to be announced by Fine Gael and Labour.
The State pension will not remain untouched for long. Lenihan made the cunning decision not to change it this year knowing that next year, cuts will have to be made in it and the government that will do that will not be his.
And don’t be fooled by attempts by the political elite to show that they are prepared to lead by example by taking pay cuts.
What Lenihan has effectively done is cut the salary of the next government as he knows there are only weeks left in this current one.
It was a cleverly tactical move by Lenihan - cut the pay of their political opponents before they get into office. There is little they can do about it then!
In the vast confines of Government Buildings, Brian Lenihan and Brian Cowen dusted off an antique chalice and filled it with poison.
And in one budget, it has passed this poison chalice - and many of the most difficult cuts and hikes to come - to his political opponents.
When Fine Gael and Labour move to the Government side of the house next year - as they are expected to do - they won’t have many reasons to celebrate.
Their first budget will be bloody and unpopular - and they have Brian Lenihan to thank for that.
Voting Fianna Fail out of Government will cost the taxpayer in excess of €6m in golden handshakes and pension payments in just two years.
And if all members of the current cabinet and ministers of state manage to get re-elected into opposition, it will cost us another €2.3m in severance payments.
The platinum pension and termination schemes enjoyed by our TDs mean that they will not be stuck for a euro or two to pay for their electricity or gas bill when the post-election chill sets in.
While the nation freezes - both literally and financially - the Fianna Fail TDs heading into battle can look forward to a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow if their battle fails.
If the recent opinion polls are anything to go by, Fianna Fail could lose as many as 30 seats.
For every TD who loses their seat in the election - they are entitled to four financial windfalls.
Each TD will get a termination lump sum and over a period of 12 months, they will receive termination payments. This is a form of severance payment for them being voted out on their ears.
The termination lump sum, which is not subject to tax, is the equivalent of about two months salary.
The termination payments depend on how long the TD has served in the Dail.
It can range from €5,791 for a TD with just three years experience to over €61,000 for a TD who has 20 years or more service.
Once the termination payments have been paid, then the pension kicks in.
Pensions are calculated on the length of time served. Basically, the TD gets one fortieth of their salary per year of service. Serve is capped at 20 years.
So a TD with 10 years service would be entitled to an annual pension for the rest of their lives of €24, 606 while a TD with 20 years service gets the top pension - almost €50,000 a year.
If a TD has served on a Committee or held any other type of office during their time in politics, they can accrue extra pension payments based on the positions held.
On top of the pension, they are entitled to a tax-free pension lump sum, which is calculated at three times the annual pension. This gives long-timers a windfall of up to €150,000.
While no one knows which members of Fianna Fail will lose their seats at the next election - one thing is for sure, there will be a large group of them.
If, for example, 30 TDs go - 10 of which have more than 20 years service, 10 with 15 years service, five with ten years service and five with three years service - the final bill to the taxpayer after two years will be €6.2m.
And this does not take into account the annual pensions that will be paid to the losing TDs for the rest of their lives.
A severance system also exists for politicians who are re-elected but who go from ministers to backbenchers.
Under 1992 legislation, ministers who lose their jobs are entitled to severance pay.
The severance payment is paid over a two year period.
For a Minister, severance would be €98,844 over a two year period and for a Minister of State it would be €46,578 over two years.
The Tanaiste would get €115,782 and the Taoiseach would get €135,792 over two years on severance.
So assuming that all of the cabinet and junior ministers - including the Ceann Comhairle and the Leas Ceann Comhairle - are re-elected into opposition, the total amount the taxpayer would be paying them in severance over two years would amount to more than €2.3m.
This €2.3m would be paid to them ON TOP of their Dail salaries.
Somewhere in a dark bunker in the Department of Finance, a few political mandarins are rubbing their hands with glee - as they have just got one over on Fine Gael!!
In three words - The Government Jet!!
Yes, the hallmark of excess in Government, the not-so-humble Government Jet has had its fair share of knockers.
And now that Fianna Fail is intent on doing everything it can possibly to to make life for Fine Gael/Labour in power as difficult as possible, it has decided not to replace the Jet when it goes to the aircraft hangar in the sky.
Just two years ago, the Government had three Air Corps aircraft at their disposal. One has been decommissioned and now the Gulfstream Jet will not be replaced.
To be fair to our Air Corps, they have gotten fierce value out of the Gulfstream Jet. It has the most air miles on it than any other similar Gulfstream Jet in the world.
But all good things come to an end and the end of the runway is coming closer for the Jet.
That leaves the Government with the use of just one aircraft, a much smaller one, which from hereonin will be used to fly Ministers to Europe for meetings.
This means that the new Government won’t have a decent jet - capable of holding more than 10 people and one that can fly around the world - at their disposal.
And if they want one, they will have to make the highly unpopular decision to buy one.
And these babies don’t come cheap!!
So what happens now? Well commercial travel is the only way forward and for some reason, I don’t think our new breed of Ministers will be travelling cattle class!
Considering all the officials that normally accompany a Minister on an overseas trip, that is a serious wad of money that will be spent from the taxpayers purse on business class airfares.
What many people don’t seem to take into consideration is that we - the people of Ireland - own the Government Jet.
Not only was it a plush overseas taxi for our politicians but it also served as a training craft for our excellent Air Corps.
So its demise is a loss on a number of levels - a loss for the pampered politicians, a loss for the next Government and, above all, a loss for our Air Corps.
Our ‘Take A Bow’ award for this week goes to Labour Cllr Kevin Humphreys who wants on-the-spot fines for cyclists who continue to break the law.
His proposal would allow for on-the-spot fines for cyclists who cycle on the footpath, break red lights and cycle at night with no lights.
While the vast majority of cyclists are careful and law-abiding, there is a small minority who have no regard for their safety or for the safety of others.
“I received many complaints from the public about cyclists using footpaths and pedestrian areas at high speed without any regard for pedestrians,” he said.
“Cycling in the city should be encouraged and facilities improved for them but pedestrian and other road users should also be protected.”
As a result of Kevin Humphries suggestion, Dublin City Council has written to Transport Minister Noel Dempsey asking him to bring in legislation to allow for fix charged penalties for cyclists who break the law.
Bruce Frederick Joseph Springsteen - get your E-Street Shuffling ass over to Ireland as you are needed on very important political business.
Labour leader Eamon Gilmore is hoping that the The Boss - Springsteen and NOT Haughey - can lend his musical magic to Labour’s general election campaign with a high-octane anthem.
Gilmore recently became the latest in a long line of Irish politicians who outed himself as a Bruce Springsteen fan - something he and this column has in common.
So let’s see - I wonder what His Royal Springsteeness can provide for Labour’s general election campaign?
While Gilmore won’t actually be ‘Countin’ On A Miracle’ to win, he is a ‘Cautious Man’ who will be using his ‘Human Touch’ to ensure that there are ‘Better Days’ ahead of us.
In this ‘Jungleland’ of Ireland, he knows it has hard to be ‘A Saint In The City’, so instead of ‘Living On The Edge Of The World’, Gilmore will be hoping to provide ‘Living Proof’ that he is not a ‘Nothing Man’.
But first things first, he needs to get Brian Cowen to take a quick spin along ‘Thunder Road’ out to “Mary’s Place’ at the Aras.
The, following ‘The Long Goodbye’, Cowen can go on ‘Radio Nowhere’ and declare to the country that Fianna Fail and the general public are ‘Worlds Apart’.
Within minutes, Eamon and his very own E-Street Band will be ‘Out In The Street’ selling their version of ‘The Promised Land’ to the electorate!!
But before any of that, Labour has to pick its election anthem and it has called on party members to put their thinking caps on to come up with suggestions.
Some of the biggest and the best in the political business have been known for their political anthems.
JFK had Frank Sinatra’s ‘High Hopes’, Bill Clinton had Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Don’t Stop’, George W Bush had Tom Petty’s ‘I Won’t Back Down’ (until Petty threatened to sue him!), and also-ran John McCain had ABBA’s ‘Take A Chance On Me’.
And leave it to Barack Obama to produce his very own ‘Greatest Hits’ of his election campaign, featuring songs such as ‘City of Blinding Lights’ by U2, ‘The Rising’ by Bruce Springsteen, ‘Signed Sealed Delivered I’m Yours’ by Stevie Wonder, ‘Think’ by Aretha Franklin and ‘Higher and Higher’ by Jackie Wilson.
Just what was Labour’s Frank McBrearty thinking when he entered the lion’s den that is Tonight with Vincent Browne this week to make his pitch for the Donegal South West by-election?
In the space of just 50 minutes, all of the good work done by Labour in increasing its popularity over the last 18 months disappeared down the tubes thanks to Big Frank.
Not only did he puzzle the nation with his ‘€8 bonds’ but then offered us an insight into his interpretation of a photo of a wave on the front page of one of the following days papers.
It was, according to Big Frank, the wave washing Fianna Fail out of power and the wave of support for the Gilmore Gale into government.
For many of the people watching the debate between four of the five candidates for the by-election, it was the wave washing McBrearty out of the race for good.
Twitter was alive with reaction to the so-called Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Big Frank and his wave, Fianna Fail jersey-wearing Brian O Domhnaill, boring Barry O’Neill and preppy Pearse Doherty.
O Domhnaill was pilloried – and for good reason – for his stupid statement that this by-election ‘is not about politics’!
Well Brian, if it is not about politics, what is it about? My Little Pony? Call of Duty Black Ops perhaps? X Factor? Please tell us Brian as we were convinced that it is ALL about politics.
The there was the Fine Gael candidate Barry O’Neill who suffers from the same charisma deficit as his party leader Enda Kenny. An instant cure for insomnia is Barry so he may serve some purpose in Oireachtas Report if elected.
Pearse Doherty was the only one of the four who showed any understanding of what was going on. Donegal South West wouldn’t be having this by-election if it were not from him.
And then there was Big Frank, his €8 bonds and his wave.
“McBrearty makes Jackie Healy-Rae look like John F. Kennedy,” one person tweeted.
“I had a terrible vision of him (McBrearty), Jackie Healy-Rae and Martin Mansergh deciding the fate of the country over a few pints somewhere – in Mansergh’s case, perhaps a few small sherries,” tweeted another.
“Gilmore is going to drive to Donegal tomorrow, lock McBrearty in a room and throw away the key until after the general election,” another wrote.
And a personal favourite – ‘God be with the days when you could buy a bond and a bag of chips for €10!’
Hard to believe it but Tuesday marked the 20th anniversary of the election of Ireland’s first female President Mary Robinson.
And as Labour Women marked the anniversary, they said it was time for Irish women to once again ‘rock the system’.
“In Ireland, the prevailing macho political culture has contributed to a system in which squandered gains have given way to savage cuts,” said Labour Women Chair Katherine Dunne.
“Women are no worse or better than men when it comes to making difficult but fair decisions about how to run the country. But what is better is a balanced team that represents all the people equally.”
“As 50% of the population, women are sorely underrepresented as only 13% of TDs are women. Urgent measures are required to rectify this imbalance.”
Labour Women has called on the political parties who will make up the next government to implement recommended measures such as legislation for gender balance amongst Dáil candidates.
“Mary Robinson was, and still is, an inspiration to women in Ireland. She gave us hope to believe that true equality is within our grasp. Only when women take their full place at the decision-making table will we be able to achieve the true equality that Mary Robinson made us believe was possible,” said Katherine Dunne.
Campaigning politicians come in all shapes and sizes and political hues – so step forward Fine Gael’s David Stanton who is at it again.
It is an annual call that comes from his office deep inside the Fine Gael bowels of Leinster House but an annual call that is all but ignored – year in and year out.
And his call? We shouldn’t have to put our clocks back – summertime should last all year round!
To be fair to David, he has backed up this annual call with reasons why we should have left our clocks the way they were last Sunday morning.
“Longer summer time could save energy costs by reducing consumption and carbon emissions, boost road safety and help tourism,” he claims.
He said the USA extended summer time by four weeks in 2005 in order to cut down on energy use. American summer time runs for eight months from the second Sunday in March to the first Sunday in November.
“Summer time in Ireland and across Europe runs for just seven months.”
Stanton has written to the Government seeking an extension of summer time.
A word to Ministers and their drivers – be afraid, be very afraid as Twitter is on your tail!
Economist Brian Lucey has set up his very own Twitter campaign to identify Ministerial cars that are idle or doing jobs that they really shouldn’t be doing (like bringing Ministerial wives shopping or picking up Ministerial kids from school etc).
Twitter users are being asked to tweet any sightings they have of Ministerial cars around the country and say what they are actually doing.
“If you see a State car used for shopping, family outings etc, tweet the Minister, time and location. Let’s out them,” Lucey tweeted.
There once was a time when anyone connected with Fianna Fail took whatever they were ‘legally’ entitled to - and more - from the State coffers without so much as a blush.
But the times they are a-changing and we are seeing a new breed of Fianna Failer - ones who take nothing and are proud of that fact.
Take a bow Dublin City Cllr Jim O’Callaghan - full time lawyer and younger brother of RTE’s Mother Superior Miriam.
In his latest newsletter, Cllr Jim makes a point of telling his people that they will never be seeing his name in the headlines for claiming outlandish expenses.
“At a time when public funds are so tight, it is important that your public representatives keep you informed of how your money is being spent,” he wrote.
“Politicians cannot expect members of the public to take cuts in their standards of living when politicians claim unnecessary or excessive expenses. The public has a right to know what expenses its representatives receive.”
So, for the record, Cllr Jim said he claimed no expenses for attending conferences and he directed that his conference allowance of €2,500 be transferred to the city council’s budget for housing in his area.
He even refused the free laptop and blackberry phone paid for by the City Council and offered to all councillors.
And to top all of that, he didn’t claim any telephone allowance or travel expenses.
“During the past year I attended every meeting of the City Council, the South East Area Committee, the Arts and Culture Committee and the South East Area Joint Policing Committee.”
“For this I received an annual salary of €16,895.44 and the fixed allowance of €8,525.38 for full attendance at meetings.”
“All payments I receive from the Council are used to run my office, pay for newsletters and to provide a service to those in this area,” he said.
In a hell that has frozen over, it is nice to come across a breath of fresh air!.
Congratulations to all the politicians who went on the run on Monday in the Dublin City Marathon.
Proving that you have to be quick on your feet to have a seat at the Cabinet table, Fianna Fail’s Barry Andrews finished top of the political pile with a very impressive time of three hours 43 minutes.
Fifteen minutes later, Senator Brian O Domhnaill crossed the line and was followed within five minutes by Senator Cecelia Keaveney.
Hats off to Fine Gael’s Damien English and the legendary Jimmy Deenihan who completed the 26.2 mile circuit in four hours 22 minutes.
Others who did their political colours proud were Fine Gael’s Lucinda Creighton (4 hours 44 minutes), Fine Gael Senator Fidelma Healy-Eames (5 hours 35 minutes), Senator Nicky McFadden (7 hours 29 minutes) and Labour Deputy Mary Upton (7 hours 29 minutes).
Two other TDs took part - Fine Gael’s James Reilly and Frank Feighan - however no times were available for them.
And while we are at the congratulations, well done to Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer who had his head shaved at the weekend as part of a successful Guinness World Record breaking effort in Cork all in aid of Cystic Fibrosis.
Some naughty Leinster House staff and members have been downloading soccer matches and using official computers to store music and personal family photographs!
And now the powers that be have ordered them all to wipe all personal photos, videos and music files off their computers for fear they would infringe copyright laws.
A recent audit of IT security of the Houses of the Oireachtas computers revealed that there were over 900,000 image files (photos) and tens of thousands of audio and video files stored on them.
Among the video files found on the computers were extracts from and in some cases whole football matches in South Africa earlier this year or in past sporting events.
Among the thousands of photographs found on the system, many were in folders entitled ‘Holidays Barcelona 2009’, ‘John’s Wedding’, ‘First Communion’ or ‘Mary’s School Sports Day’.
All staff in the Houses of the Oireachtas – including TDs and Senators – were sent an email from the head of the ICT division telling them to remove these files immediately.
The email pointed out that the large number of personal photos, videos and sound files create two risks for the computer systems – they increase the length of time it will take to restore data in the event of a major systems failure and ‘many of them are likely to involve copyright infringements’.
The Audit Committee has directed that all unnecessary material, especially large files such as photos, music and videos, must be deleted from the system.
“Members, their staff and party staff are requested to review all files and software they may have saved in their email accounts, on their computers or on Oireachtas servers and to delete any material which is subject to copyright and for which no copyright licence is held.”
“Oireachtas computer systems, including PCs and laptops issued to members, are corporate systems, and storage of material on those systems is not considered to be personal use.”
Baa humbug – that is what we have to say to the spoilsports at Dublin City Council who have decided to break its association with Guinness’ Arthur’s Day.
And the reason? Because of the Day’s association with alcohol.
If this isn’t a case of political correctness gone haywire, I don’t know what is.
Dublin City Council should be proud of the global success that is Guinness and if the Irish ever needed a reason to celebrate its global success, it is in the form of the national drink Guinness.
But the po-faced powers-that-be in Dublin City Council don’t agree and from here on in, the City Council logo will not appear on any banners promoting Arthur’s Day.
Fine Gael Councillor Eoghan Murphy believes such an attitude will have a detrimental effect on the cultural life of the capital.
“If there is a concern about over indulgent behaviour at such events the answer is not to walk away and wash your hands, but to engage and use your involvement and your influence to ensure that the event is run properly.”
He said the Arthur’s Day celebrations were a huge success for the capital, with bands playing in large and small venues around the city.
“No one is advocating alcohol abuse. But at the same time it’s perfectly acceptable that taking a drink be part of our social and cultural occasions,” he said.
I’ll raise a pint of the plain stuff to Cllr Murphy for his common sense approach on this issue!
Down in South Kerry, the claws are out between two powerful political factions as to who is taking the credit for the latest big announcement.
The building of a new 40 bed hospital in Kenmare has long been the goal of the Healy-Rae dynasty and even formed part of Jackie Healy-Rae’s infamous ‘shopping list’ of items he wanted in return for his support.
Well the contract for the hospital is just inches away from being signed but it seems that the Healy-Rae’s were beaten at the post by young buck Fianna Fail Senator Mark Daly, who publicly announced it this week.
According to his press release, the announcement ‘by the Kerry Fianna Fail Senator comes after months of tireless work’.
Oh how the Healy-Raes must have been seething!!
Some would consider it pay back for all the times the Healy-Raes tried – and at times successfully – to claim credit for various projects in South Kerry from the sitting Minister of the day, John O’Donoghue.
O’Donoghue was always a thorn in the Healy-Raes side and they in his.
But now it seems that the Healy-Rae’s have another thorn in their side – this time in the shape of Senator Mark Daly.
This column was delighted and honoured to meet up with the great Dr Garret FitzGerald earlier this week and is happy to report that the man is sharper than a blade.
At 84 years of age, he looks as good as he did 30-odd years ago.
He has spent the last few months in the US on a mixture of business and pleasure – travelling on the lecture circuit and spending some time with his grandchildren.
And to prove that the great Dr FitzGerald can teach the young ones a bit about stamina, he appeared on Tonight with Vincent Browne just hours after getting off a plane from the US with just two hours sleep on board.
If I can achieve half of that at the age of 60, it will be a miracle!!
€500 per household – that’s how much water charges will bite if they are introduced on a flat rate in the budget.
But Sinn Fein has come out of the traps early to launch a major nationwide campaign to stop these charges saying they are unfair and would hit the low incomes the hardest.
Up to 200,000 leaflets are being delivered to homes across the country by the party to coincide with the launch of a new website – www.nowatercharges.ie.
The Sinn Fein deputy leading the charge is Dublin South Central’s Aengus O Snodaigh.
He knows that clean water is a precious resource that costs money to produce. But his argument is that water charges are not about conservation or about the cost of production.
“The Government’s own figures clearly indicate that the public distribution network is the principle source of waste rather than the householder,” he said.
“Investment in active leak management at that infrastructural level would more than pay for itself.”
He is also quick to point out that Sinn Fein is the only party that is wholeheartedly against the introduction of water charges.
“Labour couldn’t make their mind up on the issue but eventually said they would support it only if metering was involved.”
The new website is seeking to mobilise the public on the issue of water charges.
It offers the public the opportunity to take five simple steps to fight water charges – learn about the campaign in five minutes, join in five seconds, ask five households to sign a petition, urge five people to follow the campaign on Facebook and Twitter and get five people to contact Government TDs.
Another person out of the traps early is Keith Stephens from Ahascragh in Co Galway who claims that he is the youngest person in the race for a Fine Gael seat at the next general election.
Keith is an adviser to MEP Jim Higgins and he is to seek the Fine Gael nomination to contest the general election in the Galway West constituency.
At the tender age of just 24, Keith has been involved with the Fine Gael party in Galway since 2005.
“I am confident that if nominated I can be the vital cog in the wheel in delivering the illusive second seat for Fine Gael which has not happened since the "hey day" of Fine Gael with John Donnellan and Fintan Coogan. My number one objective is to secure a second seat for Fine Gael in Galway West,” the ambitious young man said.
“The only solution to the escalating problem of emigration and youth unemployment is a change of Government.”
“I am sick of saying goodbye to friends and family who come out of University with no future in Ireland but only a boarding pass to Sydney, Montreal, Boston or London.”
“For too long the young people of Galway have not had a voice, rather than complain about the problems facing my generation, I have decided to try and do something about it by putting my name forward for election.”
That’s the spirit of political inclusion and something that other young people should adopt.
The Green Senator may be omnipresent on Twitter and a familiar face to all in Ireland but over in India, there is a slight bit of confusion about who he actually is.
On the Times of India website, there is a small profile of the Green Senator.
All of the information given is 100% correct but the accompanying pictures are those of a professional ice hockey player of the same name!
As one political wag of a different party colour commented: “I suppose Senator Boyle has become accustomed to being frozen out, and is a great man for skating around the issue. He is certainly on very thin ice!!”
Dan may be under serious pressure in Cork South Central, but on the positive side, he is one of the top rated defence players in the Fantasy Hockey rankings!!
With nothing likely to escape Brian Lenihan’s axe in the upcoming budget, punters are speculating on the bad news to come.
Paddy Power is offering odds of 1/3 that the high rate of income tax could be increased by as much as 2% or 3%, and 10/11 that the lower rate of income tax will be increased by 1% to help the Government shave €3billion off the national debt.
The usual suspects cigarettes and alcohol are also expected to take a hit with Paddy Power quoting 2/5 that there’ll be an increase in the duty on cigarettes and odds-on at 1/2 that the duty on spirits, beers and wines also go up.
The good news for businesses is corporation tax looks set to remain the same at 1/6.
As well as betting on the impending 2011 Budget, Paddy Power have also revisited the odds on a National Government being formed in response to numerous requests from political punters.
In February 2009 a National Government was available at odds of just 4/1, these odds have now increased to 16/1 for a National Government of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour formed before the next general election and 8/1 it’s formed straight after.
Imagine opening your cupboard first thing in the morning and seeing Bertie Ahern’s mug staring back at you? It is enough to put you off food for the day.
But switch on the TV now and that is exactly what you will see thanks to The Bert’s totally ill-advised appearance in an ad for an English tabloid newspaper.
Bertie Ahern is a man lauded by many and hated by many in equal measure. But at the end of the day, he is a former Taoiseach of the land and a man who helped bring final peace to Northern Ireland.
Therefore the sight of him in a downmarket ad to plug his soccer ramblings makes a complete mockery of all the good work he actually did during his tenure at the helm of Ireland Inc.
Can you imagine Bill Clinton taking part in an ad for the National Enquirer? Or Tony Blair taking part in an ad for ‘Private Eye’? Even Nicolas Sarkozy taking part in an ad for ‘Canard Enchaine’? Or Brian Cowen in an ad for Carlsberg?
Give us a break!
Bertie should be concentrating on other issues of a more important nature than flogging his views on soccer.
Sinn Fein’s Aengus O Snodaigh hit the nail on the head this week when he said that Ahern’s venture into TV advertising ‘adds to his already tarnished political reputation’.
Ahern’s decision to take part in this ridiculous ad certainly puts paid to any ambitions be had for the presidency or even the mayoralty of Dublin.
There is a price to be paid for every action and in Bertie’s case, it was a handsome fee on top of his retainer for writing a weekly column.
Add this to his TD’s salary and the massive pension he is entitled to and put in a sprinkling of the tens of thousands he is getting on the public speaking circuit – it is a tidy price alright.
Oh, and we should also mention the free Merc and driver for life, the free mobile phone bills, the free secretarial services…………
It seems our Government and our senior mandarins certainly like to talk - so much so that they have racked up almost €10m in mobile phone calls over the past three and a half years.
Between all the Government Departments and the Department of the Taoiseach, there are almost 5,000 official mobile phones - meaning the bills for all the hot air are paid out of the taxpayer’s purse.
A bit of careful digging led Fine Gael’s Brian Hayes to figures that show that since 2007, a whopping €9.63m has been paid out on those bills.
The award for the highest phone bills goes to the Department of Agriculture, who with 1,644 official mobile phones has forked out €2.89m in calls since 2007.
Another top talking Department is the Department of Social Protection, which racked up total bills of €1.52m on its 1,056 official mobile phones.
There are departments, however, who have proven to be frugal with their phones and their bills.
The Department of Tourism, Culture and Sport and the Department of Defence seem to keep their hot air to themselves.
The Department of the Taoiseach has 79 staff mobiles and they came in at a cost of €515,288 since 2007; Education has 524 phones at a cost of €577,047; Finance has 148 phones at a cost of €264,036; Health has 180 phones at a cost of €553,634 and Transport has 164 phones at a cost of €294,889.
The Department of Justice has 141 phones at a cost of €595,430; Foreign Affairs has 187 mobiles at €492,308 and Environment has 331 phones at a cost of €518,598.
Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has 108 mobiles at a cost of €314,193; Enterprise, Trade and Innovation has 152 phones at a cost of €485,652 and the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs has 109 phones at a total cost of €276,797.
Former Taoiseach John A. Costello may have been the Reluctant Taoiseach, but there will be nothing reluctant about the crowd of politicians who are set to gather at the Mansion House for the launch of a book about him next Wednesday.
The biography of Costello was penned by RTE’s well-known Political Correspondent David McCullagh who is a bit of a resident expert on John A. Costello, among other things.
This new biography, entitled ‘A Reluctant Taoiseach’, will be Dr Dave’s second book on the great man, his first being in 1998 entitled ‘A Makeshift Majority’.
The book will be launched by another great political stalwart, former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave, who at the grand age of 90 is as fit and hearty as ever.
Now that Dr Dave has written the authoritative biography on John A. Costello, he might have time to pen a book on his other passion – Bruce Springsteen!
He has already interviewed the great man and holds a Leinster House record for the number of times he has seen him in concert.
‘Working On A Dream’ would be a suitable title for that tome, methinks!
Take a bow, Trinity Boys Boxing Club in Donaghmede, for coming up with a novel way to raise much needed funds - getting politicians to punch the living daylights out of each other in the boxing ring!
In a mission that is bound to result in people paying good money to see politicians getting into physical fisti-cuffs as opposed to verbal fisti-cuffs, it will means that up to 600 kids from the city will be able to continue to train in the sport that is now being led in Ireland by world champion Katie Taylor.
So roll up the politicians who are brave enough to take part for a bruising of a different type in the ring.
Fianna Fail will be leading two contestants into the marathon white collar boxing championship on November 26 - Dublin North East representative Averil ‘Left Hook’ Power and TD Darragh ‘Dynamite’ O’Brien.
Labour is feeling lucky with its three boxers - Dublin North Central candidate Aodhan ‘Bonecrusher’ O’Riordain, Fingal Cllr Cian ‘Babyface Assassin’ O’Callaghan and Donaghmede Cllr Killian ‘Hurricane’ Forde.
Fine Gael has two sacrificial lambs - Cllr Neale ‘Merciless’ Richmond and Cllr Alan ‘Count of Monte Fisto’ O’Kelly.
The Greens have just one contestant but she packs a lot of punch - Clontarf activist Donna ‘Lights Out’ Cooney.
None of the politicians have any experience in the boxing ring but have knuckled down to serious training ahead of the event.
The punches that they throw in the political world will be nothing to what they can expect in the boxing ring and they will have their party loyalty and support on the line.
Will Labour thrash Fine Gael? Will Fianna Fail be still standing after the event? Will the Greens even survive? Only time will tell.
Promoted as ‘The Battle of Dublin’, the fundraiser is a very important one for the Dublin Boxing League because its long-term sponsor has had to withdraw for the foreseeable future because of the economic downturn.
For over 50 years, the Dublin Boxing Leagues have given young people the opportunity to have their first competitive contests in the sport. Last year almost 600 kids took part.
Tickets for the box-office event are just €25 each and are available to buy via www.thebattleofdublin.com.
First they were the pride of Operation Transformation and now our slimmed-down politicians have jumped ship to a new Safefood initiative - Weigh2Live.
Senators David Norris, Phil Prendergast, Jerry Buttimer and Denis O’Donovan and TDs Fergus O’Dowd, Eamon Scanlon, Jimmy Devins, John O’Mahoney, Sean Connick and Aengus O Snodaigh have all signed up to shed some weight and improve their lifestyle.
It shouldn’t be too difficult for the assembled politicians - they are all veterans of Operation Transformation last year which provided some excellent results.
Following the popular RTE show, Fine Gael’s Fergus O’Dowd has morphed into a man half his age while the others are a picture-perfect advertisement for healthy living.
Garglegate, the tiddly Taoiseach controversy, the Morning Ireland debacle - call it what you like but it seems the story is refusing to go away, despite the efforts of Brian Cowen.
There is a fine line between ‘unfortunate’ and ‘stupidity’ when it comes to politicians’ behaviour. Cowen started on one side of the line and then tumbled onto the other side.
Labour Senator Dominic Hannigan is a man who likes a drink himself - he says so on his blog.
But he believes there is a time and place for everything.
“I don’t know whether the Taoiseach was hungover or not - I find his jargoned speech hard to understand at the best of times,” he wrote.
“I am more concerned that the whole gang of them were up until 3am on a work night.”
“There is a time and a place for everything. I like a drink myself, but at an event like this, in the full glare of the media, they should have been giving off the air of a Government in charge of its affairs, of a Government that is treating the country’s economic situation with the seriousness that it deserves.”
“Instead they partied. They showed themselves up and in the process have probably damaged the country,” he said.
Indeed Fianna Fail’s shin-dig was a far cry from the Labour think-in at which there was no shortage of tea and coffee.
After a very pleasant meal, there were no sing-songs in the bar (the party members were half afraid the media would do a Simon Cowell on them) and it was early to bed for everyone.
In fact, the two-day Labour beano was good for the soul and good for the liver!!
The Fianna Fail drink-in in Galway hasn’t gone away and one person who has benefitted indirectly from it is King of the Tweets Dan Boyle.
Boyle tweeted to his followers on Monday night that he has received 1,000 additional twitter followers in 16 days.
“Suppose I should thank Simon Coveney for that. Thanks Simon.”
Meanwhile, down at the more sober yet pleasant Labour Party think-in in Roscommon, one leading party member was overheard as he was heading for the bar.
“I have a fierce lip on me for a bit of congestion,” he said - a coy reference to Taoiseach Brian Cowen’s insistence that it was congestion and not drink that was the cause of his underpar performance on Morning Ireland.
It has been described as a storm in a pint glass but for Taoiseach Brian Cowen, the hangover from the controversy will linger on as part of his legacy.
Cowen, like any other adult in Ireland, is fully entitled to the odd drink (1, 3, 5, 7, 9 etc). And like any other adult, he is entitled to burn the candle at both ends when he gets the chance.
However, the biggest mistake that Cowen made this week was not being vocally prepared for his important interview with Morning Ireland.
Instead of hearing from a man at the top of his game, a man in whose hands our country lies, a man who is normally sharper than a razor - we were left with the Nob Nation version of the Taoiseach.
One backbencher, who spoke to this column on the condition of anonymity, was less than fulsome in his support for the Taoiseach.
"It was embarrassing. I mean, Brian Cowen can hold his drink and he is used to drinking but he should have packed it in earlier."
And that is the nub of the issue - that he went through with an important radio interview with very little sleep and worn out from the night before.
But it didn't take the lads in Dublin's 98FM long to come up with their own version of Brian Cowen's party piece in a little ditty (to the tune of The Galway Girl) entitled 'Galway Drunk Song'!
Here's a little taste of what the lads have come up with:
"So we went down west for an auld think-tank, all day all day all day, But to be honest with ye lads, we just drank, all day all day all day. And I ask you friends, what's a Taoiseach to do, If he can't have a pint or 22"
The full song and video can be viewed on the station's website.
Just who has been Ireland's greatest Taoiseach? That is the question that has attracted some attention on the popular politics.ie website.
And with over 500 votes in, it seems there is a clear leader at this stage - Sean Lemass with 37.91% of the vote.
Those propping up the rear include WT Cosgrave (14.89%), Garret FitzGerald (9.86%), Eamon de Valera (6.77%), John Bruton (6%), Albert Reynolds (5.22%), Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen (both on 3.87%), Jack Lynch and Charlie Haughey (both on 3.29%) and Liam Cosgrave (2.71%)
Despite his poor showing, I'm sure Brian Cowen will find some solace in the fact that he isn't the most unpopular!!
You can have your say by logging on to www.politics.ie