SHE would be just another nobody senator if it were not for Fidelma Healy Eames’ amazing ability to generate the worst sort of publicity via trains, drains, and automobiles.
From anonymous upper house Fine Gael politician to down-market media sensation in the space of a few weeks — it has been quite a whirlwind rise to notoriety.
Thanks to a court battle over her jumbo jacuzzi, an on-the-spot €100 fine for not buying her train ticket, and the humiliation of having her Mercedes towed away due to another non-payment — this time road tax — Ms Healy Eames has become the most high-profile member of the Seanad for all the wrong reasons.
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 Ms 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 deny that version of events.
Another witness, Galway photographer Chris Tierney, took to Twitter to defend Ms Healy Eames, stating: “I was on the train next to the senator; she wasn’t arrogant, didn’t use the ‘do you know who I am’ route.”
Fine Gael did admit Ms Healy Eames had used her Seanad pass when asked for ID by the inspector after she boarded the train “in a rush” and was “shocked” that she could not purchase a ticket on board the train.
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 a deal for less than the agreed price, speaks for itself.”
The judge described Ms Healy Eames’ 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 Ms 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.”
The case again saw Ms Healy Eames catch fire across social media with much bitchy comment about the “vulgarity” of her jacuzzi size — but if she thought the conclusion of the case meant she was out of hot water, she was wrong.
Yet another peak into her bling Blueshirt lifestyle saw Ms Healy Eames’ Mercedes impounded in Galway during the Volvo Ocean Race because it did not sport a valid tax disk.
After being “shocked” by the train incident, and said to be “emotional” in the witness box while her jacuzzi drains became a national talking point, the senator now expressed herself “mortified” by her failure to obey tax rules regarding automobiles.
Explaining her dramatic slide from law maker to law breaker, Ms Healy Eames said she had forgotten to renew her car tax as she had been trying to sell the Mercedes and thus using the public transport which saw her receive the €100 fine she is now appealing.
“I was mortified. On this matter I was totally wrong. Mea culpa,” she said after being branded a Merc jerk.
Enda Kenny’s take on her sudden notoriety seem to display a distinct irritation at her uncanny knack for the wrong sort of celebrity as he mused it would be up to the electorate to decide her fate — though as she is in the upper house via the highly restricted Labour panel, and the Seanad will probably be abolished by the next election, it was an oblique comment even for this Taoiseach.
Ms Healy Eames complains darkly that there have been attempts to sully her name — but as she manages such an amazing job of doing that all by herself, would anyone else really need to bother?
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