In last year’s general election, or so the Leinster House lore goes, a banker in a pinstripe suit would knock on the doors of homes in Dublin South and introduce himself by saying “you might know me from the Vincent Browne show”.
Now a Fine Gael TD, Peter Mathews had made his name as a panel stalwart during the financial crisis, regularly appearing on the TV3 nightly programme.
He had previously worked with ICC Bank before setting up his own financial consultancy firm and claims that advice he offered to then finance minister Brian Lenihan on the banking crisis was ignored.
Briefly a member of the Progressive Democrats at the time of the party’s foundation, Mr Mathews joined Fine Gael weeks before it was announced in Jan 2011 that he would be put on the party’s ticket.
He ran in Dublin South and got 9,053 first preference votes — almost the same as his Fine Gael running mate Olivia Mitchell and almost 2,000 more votes than now Justice Minister Alan Shatter, who was in the same constituency.
When he announced his intention to run for the Dáil, Mr Mathews insisted he was not a “celebrity economist” declaring: “I’m a banking analyst. My background is chartered accountancy and people would say that’s fairly steady and boring.”
During the campaign, Fine Gael lauded him as a “leading expert” on the banking crisis. But he was hardly in office for two months when the party no longer wanted to hear his expert advice.
In April, he caused the first headache for his party when a spokesperson for Michael Noonan, the finance minister, had to dismiss his claims that the banks would need another €20bn on top of the €24bn being injected by the Government.
A month later, he spoke independently of his party by saying that Ireland was being “financially bullied” by its European partners and continued to argue for a different approach to promissory note payments.
He raised eyebrows for different reasons at a parliamentary party meeting last month when he whipped out his rosary beads on the suggestion of one TD, as a joke, that they say a decade of the rosary.
He was the centre of attention at anther meeting when colleagues believed he dominated proceedings during discussions on the EU fiscal compact treaty.
Dún Laoghaire TD, Mary Mitchell-O’Connor, told him that she and everyone else had enough of his talk and he should give someone else a go.
“Mary, please!” he implored, according to reports. “No, Peter, please!” she hit back. When he kept talking, another TD commented: “He seems to have a need to lecture us every week”.
He did nothing to resurrect his popularity among party members when he proposed a motion at the finance committee which the Government lost despite its big majority.
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