GUEST COLUMNIST: Too much to expect crystal clear waters of full transparency

THIS is my second week writing this column and I need some advice. I’m wondering whether it’s too late to open negotiations with the editor of this fine newspaper regarding my “package”.

I know that your first day is your best and all that, and I should have acted on this before ever putting pen to paper, but I can’t get rid of that feeling that I’ve short changed myself.

I look back now with some regret on the negotiations that took place for me to take over this Friday slot. Clearly reader, I played hard to get, a girl has her pride. But in hindsight I didn’t play quite enough hardball.

I know I could be pushing my luck with the editor but the more I think about it, I’m tempted to accuse him of being on the tight side.

Given my incredible talent, I felt at the time he didn’t do too badly at all. But over the last few days a nagging feeling has been growing that I should have done better for myself.

So go on, accuse me of getting a bit carried away here, but I’ve decided that after well over 20 years in journalism, with no mention ever of a bonus, or indeed a top up of any kind, it’s time I jumped on that national bandwagon.

I know I’m not a banker, or a charity head, or a city of culture chief executive, or an adviser to a minister, or an employee of Bord Gais or Comreg.

I know that we are emerging from a savage recession. I know that things were so bad the IMF had to come in and sort us out and that for a long time things were touch and go, and there were days, nay weeks, when it looked as if we might go under.

I know that hundreds of thousands of us have had to emigrate and that we now have an entire “Skype generation” dotted around the world who felt forced to leave Ireland to find work.

I know that children with Down Syndrome have lost medical cards; that there are toddlers who have never lived anywhere other than hospital because there are not the resources to care for them at home; that maternity hospitals are operating at such capacity, and in such poor and cramped conditions, that there have been warnings over the safety of mothers and their babies.

I know all that but still I want in. I want a “package” so impressive that Sean O’Rourke throws it casually into a radio conversation one day when interviewing me on my amazing career to date. There is such national revulsion at it’s size I am immediately called before a Oireachtas committee to explain, in the words of that (in)famous L’Oreal catchphrase just why I am indeed “worth it”.

I want to look those Oireachtas members in the eye and have them ask me the “right” question before going into great and boring detail about what I’ve spent and why. Now I will, of course, by that time, have changed my title to that of columnist consultant. I know I’ve been behind the curve on this earning/ spending gig thus far, but I’m learning fast.

In fact that’s where a large amount of my spending is going to go — consulting a consultant who will advise me on how to proceed.

I feel that deep down the TDs and senators will understand the complex web of my finances, and how I don’t make it a habit of being up front about them and would wait until I’m dragged, sorry invited, before them.

After all, their own expenses and allowance system could never be accused of being straightforward, and let’s not forget those still unvouched elements of those particular packages.

It’s a good thing no one has ever gone with that silly notion of all the details being put on the Oireachtas website and adopting an attitude of full transparency.

Behind the scenes I will brief journalist colleagues (anonymously) on my “package” and point repeatedly to my contract and how it came from non “voted expenditure”. Detail is all important here.

There is some legitimacy in suggesting, I suppose, that the latest cause of controversy and outrage in a long line — Irish Water — could have been the perfect example of the “new politics” the Government promised us.

Imagine if they and the Department of the Environment, and the Minister Phil Hogan had operated in the crystal clear waters of full transparency, with Phil taking and answering questions in the Dáil regularly as things went along, and more of that boring old stuff that they do in other countries.

What’s that I hear you saying, oh I get the point, that would have left a trail of accountability and no nasty surprises. That’s not the way things are done around here.

But back to me. I’m actually hoping that the editor might ask me to set up a new Examiner on Sunday or something. This is not something done cheaply, and people know that.

I like to think that we’ll talk a lot in headline figures and that he’ll acknowledge that these things cost money (lots of it). We’ll only get into the nitty gritty of it after a year or more if others starting sniffing around and causing trouble. It won’t be my fault that he doesn’t know how to open email attachments.

I’ll be pointing to the small print of my contract again. Also I’ll give him a briefing note with a few details on the project and tell him to simply keep repeating the brief detail therein.

I know that I will gain a certain amount of notoriety, particularly after the Leinster House appearance; that it will be tough and that as I walk down the street people will point at me and mutter: “It’s an absolute disgrace”. But let’s face it the financial rewards are a pretty good compensation.
Anyway Irish people understand that this is the way these things work, regardless of who is in charge or what promises have been made.

Our political rulers understand that we do not have the “political maturity’ to be told these things as they happen, that we’d go bananas immediately and jam the Liveline switchboard.

Actually this is probably exactly what would happen because we are so long suffering from that syndrome where we firmly believe our politicians are a bunch of (money) wasters, those that are working in the public system are there to milk it, and no one can be trusted. All too frequently those aforementioned do exactly as we expected from the beginning, succeeding spectacularly in living up to our abysmal expectations.

The chances of both sides upping their game at this stage seem depressingly remote. The time to do it would have been in the last few years, when we were exposed and raw and looking for answers.

At any rate that’s enough about the state of the nation, I’d like to get back to me. I don’t want to send out the wrong signals at the start of this working relationship but I also feel it’s important to send out the right ones early – I’m worth it all and then some. OK?


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