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Saturday, June 16, 2012
SHAMELESS — sometimes that is the only word to sum up the Dáil.
And just like the TV show of the same name, there amidst the scavengers stands the shabby looking character who symbolises the moral decay engulfing all — the Chatsworth estate has Frank Gallagher, Leinster House has Mick Wallace.
Both are prone to tear-sodden emotional outbursts, interspersed with grand sounding pronouncements on how the little guy is being crushed by the state — the same state they assume owes them a living and which they feed off.
Wallace defrauded the taxpayer, leaving the country with a €2.1m debt, yet has the breathtaking hypocrisy to present himself as the apologetic victim of circumstance who must remain in the Dáil to battle for the impoverished.
He served up the tears in his 10-minute Dáil melodrama, but tricky Mick proved he was as skilful at evading questions as he was at dodging taxes.
Wallace again deployed a vague form of words to make it look as if he went to the Revenue and ’fessed up, when Revenue documents show the size of the fine imposed on him makes it clear they moved in first. We will only know the truth if he agrees to a request by the Dáil members’ interests committee to release his confidential tax papers — again, tear-choking Mick was strangely silent on whether he would comply.
And just look at that committee which is so neutered it will take a week for it to have an inquiry into whether it has the power to have an inquiry into Wallace.
In some oblique reference to his own self-perceived personal martyrdom, Wallace borrowed from Jesus, insisting that only those without sin could cast stones in his direction.
This would seem to rule out Olivia Mitchell, who sits on the committee that may or may not judge him, and who was found by the Mahon Tribunal to have received an "inappropriate" payment of £500 while a councillor — yet moral guardians of the nation Fine Gael have refused to censure her in any way.
Given the farcical slow-motion car crash that was the Seanad probe into dear old Ivor Callely, one does not hold out much hope for Shameless Mick being brought to book by his Dáil colleagues.
The system is loose so as not to allow the Dáil machine to smash politicians it may find awkward on a whim or a witch hunt.
But the Wallace case is different: He hunted for which tax dodge would best suit him as he doubled the pay he gave himself and his son as directors of the construction company to €290,000 a year.
As Wallace clearly lacks the basic shame and decency to stand down, the very least he must do is put himself before the people again and stand in a byelection.
Health and care services in Wexford have been savaged by cuts far in excess of the €2.1m Wallace’s deliberate and knowing tax dodges have cost the State, and he knows he could not win a byelection, but still has a good chance of being returned to parliament in a general election.
Irish politicians seem to enjoy an airbag of incompetence which automatically protects them as people expect them to be merely be in it for themselves so when this turns out to be the case, voters just shrug their shoulders and carry on backing them because, well, what do you expect?
And in a country brought up to hate the taxman, and where the very legitimacy of the State is called into question by some of the political elite, what do you expect?
Such a rejection of legitimised authority runs deep in the political psyche.
The country was born in bloody revolution as Sinn Féin rejected the legitimacy of a British controlled state. And now their self-appointed heirs in the Sinn Féin that not so long ago boasted about brandishing Armalites and excused the murder of Gardaí — a party which commands 24% in the opinion polls — until very recently dismissed any idea of the legitimacy of a 26-county sellout State.
Meanwhile, Sean Lemass — whom the faithful left in Fianna Fáil worship as their lost, sainted leader — infamously described his party as "slightly constitutional".
The moral rot really set in for Fianna Fáil with the smash and grab premiership of Charlie Haughey, whom some still insist was not corrupt. No, big business buddies would just pin money on him as if he was a bride at a Greek wedding, it was just a gift they never expected anything in return. The very idea.
The Moriarty Tribunal found he amassed a fortune equivalent to €75m via such "gifts". Talk about a taoiseach for sale.
And then there was Bertie — the unbelievable taoiseach, exposed as a liar by the Mahon corruption probe.
Bertie said he trousered the cash from strangers at dinners in Manchester (home of the fabled Chatsworth estate, where Shameless is set) and getting lucky on the gee-gees, but unfortunately for him the judges — whom the then taoiseach gracelessly dismissed as "low lifes" — decided otherwise, but we will probably never know exactly where all those sterling and dollar lodgements sloshing around the 23 bank accounts he operated while finance minister in the early 1990s came from.
Say what you like about Enda, but at least he seems honest. Sometimes endearingly flakey, maybe, but honest none the less.
Although that business with the shredding this week shows what happens when he shoots off on one of his tangents as he tries to distract attention from his failure to secure a better bank bail-out deal.
It is quite a charge for a Taoiseach to accuse the previous government of shredding and destroying key documents relating to the disastrous bank guarantee for Anglo which has crippled this country (and which Fine Gael and Sinn Féin happily voted through against the protests of Labour) — and quite a stupid charge when you do not have a sliver of evidence to back it up with.
Defrauders, tax dodgers, shredders, liars, and bung merchants — the Dáil spews out them all. Shame there’s no shame though.
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