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.