Rules and Dáil expenses review - Dodging and ethics don’t mix

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar found himself in familiar, discomfiting — or at least it should be — territory on Saturday when he had to give a plausible response to the latest challenge to the idea of high standards in high places bedeviling Fine Gael’s long-cherished but now threadbare idea of itself.

Rules and Dáil expenses review - Dodging and ethics don’t mix

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar found himself in familiar, discomfiting — or at least it should be — territory on Saturday when he had to give a plausible response to the latest challenge to the idea of high standards in high places bedeviling Fine Gael’s long-cherished but now threadbare idea of itself.

The issue was how former Dáil deputy Dara Murphy’s expense claims could not be reviewed.

Though Mr Varadkar insisted that “we’re going to have to find a way” it did not require much imagination to hear the ghosts of Maria Bailey and Verona Murphy clunking around the studio.

His insistence that the issue had moved beyond his reach had far too much of a let-them-eat-cake ring about it. It was also an unacceptable use of the oldest, most cowardly dodge in the game: “I would if I could, but the law prevents me.”

This unease, this sense that we are once again being spun a line could be easily dismissed if Mr Varadkar had done what he should have done.

He should have announced that the rules will be changed immediately and that the electorate will have an opportunity to judge those, if there are any, who oppose the changes in the forthcoming election. Simple.

One of the reasons Boris Johnson has a huge Commons majority is that Labour and its feeble leader Jeremy Corbyn turned an utterly deaf ear to the well-founded concerns of millions of voters.

By prevaricating on simple, black-or-white ethical issues Fine Gael is making the very same mistake.

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