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Political World

Nolan stokes up the fire to keep John McGuinness controversy rumbling on

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Political World with Harry McGee

Just when we thought the John McGuinness story had finally run out of fuel Derek Nolan threw another tenner’s worth of petrol into the tank to give it a bit more mileage.

McGuinness is the chairman of the all-party Public Accounts Committee, otherwise known as the public spending watchdog.

It’s an unusual committee in a number of respects. It’s the only public committee where membership is confined to TDs – no Senators need apply.

Its main task is to ensure the taxpayer is getting value for money from State departments and institutions. Its hearing are based on annual (and other reports) prepared by the Comptroller and Auditor General, Seamus McCarthy. He is an independent State officer whose office conducts audits of all Government departments as well as other central government bodies and agencies (local authorities don’t come under the C&AG’s remit just yet). Most PAC hearings are based on a C&AG report, although the committee itself can also request that an investigation be carried out.

And there are many State institutions that have been spendthrift with other people’s (ie the taxpayers’) money. And many government policies that seemed a good idea at the time but  ended up costing the taxpayer millions. Examples? The wanton waste of public monies by FAS executive who jetted all over the world on expensive trips that had no obvious benefit to the State. And then there was one of those wink-and-nod side-deals during the benchmarking process (and it shows how deeply flawed that whole exercise was). The SIPTU skills fund had a waffly function, upskilling of some kind. But what it seemed to be was a slush fund – operated by a single SIPTU officer apparently without the knowledge of anybody else – which funded pointless junkets and jollies all over the world.

That’s what the PAC does well. It takes the accounting officer of whatever Government Department or State agency is involved and gets them to account for – and justify – overspending or a budget that spiralled out of control or inadequate checks on costs. Often that involves a grilling and a public dressing down.

The PAC has build up a big reputation over the years as the stand-out committee in Leinster House. For a backbench TD, to be chosen as a member means you have got the imprimatur of the leader. It has also built up a reputation (but there’s a bit of myth-making there) for its independence and robustness. The idea is that because it’s public money and because none of them want to see it being wasted unnecessarily and because it’s civil servants rather than politicians, sure don’t we all row in together.

Not partisan nor political? You must be joking. It is both but with maybe a small p. Sure, you do get the unusual phenomenon of government TDs criticising their own administration in reports, but not to the extent that you are saying: that guy is a rebel. It’s always been political.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Donohoe discovers it’s the little things that trip you every time

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Minister Paschal Donohoe...embarrassing revelation.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

When the law finally caught up with Al Capone, it was not for organised crime, or for boot-legging – it was for failing to pay his taxes.

There’s a bit of a leap of imagination required for us to segue to the next paragraph. But stay with me …

We are writing about Paschal Donohoe, and the similarity is in the way that is the fact that it is a minor – and unexpected – fault or omission or act, that has also made his position vulnerable.

Donohoe is the third Minister in the past six months to find himself in hot water – not because of policies or Government decisions, but over omissions on personal declarations.

It might seem like a relatively trivial matter when compared with the huge impact that Government policies have on people’s lives. But governance is important.

Last autumn, the Longford-Westmeath TD Robert Troy ran into trouble when the online investigative site, On the Ditch, investigated his property interests. It emerged that Troy, a Minister of State for Enterprise, had not declared all his properties in his register of interests.

Troy initially did not respond but when he did it was only a partial explanation. Then there was more new information about his properties that was not known before. When you are explaining, you are losing, the American political adviser Karl Rove famously said. Now Troy was explaining and the more he explained the closer he got to the exit door. In the end he had no choice but to go.

Then only last week, the same website broke a story about Damien English and his home in Meath. This one went back a long time, to 2008 when English was a 30-year-old backbench TD.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Two Frank Fahys – sharing a name but not ideologies

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Ruairí Ó Brádaigh.... graveside oration.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

This is the story of two Fahys from East Galway. Both were involved in politics. One was a priest; the other a teacher and a barrister. Both opposed the Treaty but from the 1920s their paths diverged radically.   I had no knowledge of either man until very recently. Then a biography of Frank Fahy, written by Michael Fahy, was published last year.

‘Frank Fahy, Revolutionary and Public Servant’ is a fascinating account of how a teacher’s son from Kilchreest, born in 1879, became a leading figure in the Easter Rising, chose the anti-treaty side in the civil war, and became the Dáil’s longest serving Ceann Comhairle, chairing the chamber for 19 years.

Fr John Fahy was 14 years younger than his namesake but was already a militant nationalist by the time of his ordination in 1919. He travelled back to Ireland to attend the funeral of the republican priest Fr Michael Griffin, who was kidnapped and killed by the Auxiliaries.

Like Frank Fahy he took the anti-treaty side but for the turbulent priest there would be no reconciliation. He remained an unreconstructed militant until his death five decades later.

Frank Fahy went to UCG and became a teacher in Castleknock College in Dublin. He was a beautiful Irish speaker and very involved in Conradh na Gaeilge, becoming general secretary for a time.

He took part in the Easter Rising, being second-in-command of the brigade which took over the Four Courts. After narrowly escaping execution, he was one of the new MPs elected to Westminster when Sinn Fein’s won a complete landslide in 1918.

Taking the anti-treaty side, he was an abstentionist TD but joined Fianna Fáil when it was founded in La Scala in 1926. Michael Fahy paints a great scene when Frank Fahy topped the poll in Co Galway in 1932, which ushered in the first Fianna Fáil government.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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Connacht Tribune

Ten political pointers and the perennial sporting question

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Leo Varadkar...year of the lion or the pussycat?

World of Politics with Harry McGee

As we begin a new year here are ten things to look out for in politics in 2023 – with the perennial sporting question thrown in for good measure at the finish.

  1. Read My Lips, No elections

It’s not an election year. The European and local elections will not take place until 2024 and the next general election is not scheduled to take place until 2025. Governments don’t always run their full five year term in Ireland.

But this is different. There is a historic agreement between the two Civil War parties to rotate the Taoiseach’s position. Fianna Fáil has got its time and it would be considered a betrayal of the most fundamental kind for it to renege on its part of the dial.

At this stage, too, it looks unlikely that the Greens will pull out of Government. In reality, it would take a calamity. Calamities, of course, are not unheard of, But at this moment, it looks unlikely.

  1. Leo, the Lion or the Pussycat

Leo Varadkar took over for his second stint as Taoiseach in mid-December. He said that he has learned from the mistakes he made during his first outing in the top job.

The cut of his jib back then was pro-enterprise, fiscally conservative, low taxes Fine Gael. That’s still the basic formula but he’s stopped playing the sharp keys and opted for a softer melody.

He still talks about the need to lower taxes but that comes across as a wish or aspiration these day, rather than policy. Irrespective of what you think of him, Varadkar is a clear thinker, a strong communicator, with a good political head and is ideological Fine Gael rather than heritage Fine Gael.

He’s in a three-way coalition though so no matter how much each party tries to assert its identity, it all ends up diluted.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

 

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