The law only applies to the lower orders, not members of the upper house, Senator Fidelma Healy Eames seems to believe.
Once again putting the fine into Fine Gael, Healy Eames was ordered by a judge to pay €1,850 for driving her Mercedes without a tax disc on three separate occasion.
Though usually one of the more publicity-hungry members of the Seanad, Healy Eames, who takes a €65,621 annual salary from taxpayers as well as expenses of some €3,600 a month, did not bother attending court to hear Judge Mary Fahydeliver a damning verdict on her.
“The situation is that this lady was continuously driving a Mercedes car while employed by the State and in receipt of a good salary from the State and was not paying her car tax,” the judge declared.
But then Healy Eames had other things to do last Wednesday than listen to Judge Fahy because the senator was busy voting through two particularly cruel cuts in the budget which slashed child benefit by €10 for the most vulnerable families in the country, and took €325 a year from the respite allowance for carers — cuts, that we have been repeatedly told are necessary by her Fine Gael colleagues, because the State does not have enough money to keep going.
And while one person’s road tax would hardly make much of a dent in the €3.1bn black hole the latest austerity budget sought to rectify via shock-therapy tax hikes and spending cuts, it is really too much to expect that the Oireachtas lobby who impose such hardship on others without a second thought should lead my example and pay the State what they owe?
How can Healy Eames remain a lawmaker when she has been exposed as a lawbreaker?
It seems she can do so because Fine Gael, which presents itself as the law and order party does not care, and will not even attempt to discipline her.
But then the same government that is threatening to take tens of thousands of people to court over non-payment of the outrageously unfair flat-rate household tax is the same government that contains a certain James Reilly as a senior member.
The same Dr Reilly who has been named and shamed in debtors’ register The Stubbs Gazette over his failure to comply with the High Court regarding an outstanding amount of €1.9m owed by a consortium he is part of.
It seems complying with the courts is really just for the “little people” as far as Fine Gael is concerned.
And let us not forget that on the very weekend the household tax was imposed it emerged that the Environment Minister responsible for one of the biggest the political messes of the year, Phil Hogan, had outstanding charges on his holiday home in Portugal — so the stench of hypocrisy rests as unhappily as ever above Leinster House.
You could say that Healy Eames is accident prone but the things she has been fined for, continuously driving without road tax, and boarding a train without a ticket, were not accidents, they were calculated decisions made by her.
And it is not as if Healy Eames is a stranger to court either as the rather vulgar legal tussle over her jumbo jacuzzi proved.
A three-time Dáil loser elevated to the upper house in 2007, her rise to the dubious status of tabloid fixture began when her failure to purchase a ticket before boarding a Galway-Dublin train provoked a social media frenzy.
An anonymous message board user called Captain Darling said he was on the train and witnessed Healy Eames tell the inspector “that she is a senator and that she makes the law”, and “she took bloody strips off him”.
The senator and Fine Gael strongly denied that version of events, but a certain image began to solidify in the public mind nonetheless.
Barely had her reputation time to recover from the embarrassing encounter before her jacuzzi was splashed across the front pages as a civil action brought by a contractor against the senator was settled when the case against her was dismissed, while an order was made against her husband Michael for €12,412.
A judge found in favour of the plaintiff, Michael Allen, who sued the couple for money owed for plumbing and heating works at their home in Maree, Oranmore, Co Galway, three years ago.
The couple had countersued for shoddy workmanship, but the judge was scathing, saying: “The fact that the defendants tried to rewrite the contract, and force the plaintiff to accept adeal for less than the agreed price, speaks for itself.”
The judge described Healy Eames’s claim that Mr Allen carried out works on the couple’s garage without being instructed to do so as “implausible”.
Mr Allen told the court extra costs had been incurred for works to accommodate a jacuzzi chosen by Healy Eames for the master en suite bathroom.
Asked by the defendants’ counsel why he had not advised his client about this, Mr Allen replied: “If she wanted a jacuzzi bath that size she was getting it… Fidelma is a very intelligent person, she knows what she wants.”
Presumably what she does not want is exactly what she now has — one of the shabbiest public images of any Oireachtas member. And that’s saying something.
After declaring herself “shocked” by the rail ticket incident, and said to be “emotional” in the witness box while her jacuzzi drains became a national talking point, the senator expressed herself “mortified” by her repeated failure to obey basic car tax rules.
Trains, drains and automobiles — Healy Eames is the poster girl for Seanad abolition that just keeps on giving.
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