VICTORIA WHITE: Citizens beware, Kenny’s musketeers are leading the Government charge

WATCH them riding on, the three musketeers, Alan Shatter, James Reilly and Phil Hogan!

Watch them raise their muskets with Enda Kenny, their D’Artagnon!

They got Enda where he is. He got them where they are. And they will continue to enjoy Enda’s “100% support” because Enda owes them and he knows it.

He would not be Taoiseach now if it hadn’t been for them. Remember the ides of June 2010 when Richard Bruton took to giggling “like Princess Diana” in the immortal phrase of Miriam Lord, when he was asked on Prime Time if he wanted the leadership of Fine Gael?

That was one princess who never did get to the ball. All because Kenny and his musketeers had more of a certain quality considered vital in political life: ruthlessness.

The payola was always going to go the way of Shatter, Reilly and Hogan. Indeed this newspaper predicted that Shatter would land the justice portfolio eight months before the general election.

Now D’Artagnon and his three musketeers are in Government and the Government is the State. Fine Gael founded it, for goodness sake. Enda Kenny thought fit to remind the Dáil of this in the wake of the Moriarty Tribunal findings, when he boasted that Michael Lowry had been removed from Fine Gael quickly “in keeping with our desire to maintain probity and standards in politics as befits the party that founded the State.”

It took some brass neck to say this given that in 1996 he had expressed regret at Lowry’s departure from Cabinet and called him “a man of the highest integrity and honour”. And given that the Moriarty Tribunal had found Denis O’Brien’s Esat Digifone had engaged in a “conspicuous” campaign of financial support to Fine Gael before a Fine Gael-led government awarded them the largest commercial contract in the history of the State.

Kenny himself, then Minister for Tourism and Trade, had a meeting with Denis O’Brien in May 1995, just months before the licence was awarded. The meeting was arranged by Dan Egan, a former Fine Gael adviser, then working for Esat. No witnesses or written record of this meeting have ever been brought forward, which contravened the then cabinet’s own guidelines on meetings during the competition period for this licence.

Kenny was heavily involved in fund-raising for Fine Gael at this time and it is hard to believe that he did not know that Denis O’Brien was making substantial donations to Fine Gael as the competition intensified. But chief bag-man was most certainly his trusted musketeer Phil Hogan, whose payola for his loyalty during the heave was the job of Minister for the Environment.

Stroke-meister James Reilly probably gets the worst press and Alan Shatter is the musketeer most in the news this week. But it is Michael Lowry’s good friend Phil Hogan that I find most disturbing because of the latter’s role in the Moriarty Tribunal.

Mark Fitzgerald, Fine Gael treasurer at the time, gave evidence that he was asked to attend a meeting with Denis O’Brien in Lloyds Brasserie on October 17, 1995, days before the awarding of the mobile phone licence. When he got there he was surprised to see that Fine Gael chairman Phil Hogan and the late Deputy Jim Mitchell were in attendance.

Deputy Jim Mitchell is dead and that he cannot contradict Phil Hogan’s evidence which is that the meeting never took place, or if it did, he cannot remember it. Nor does Denis O’Brien remember it. But Moriarty came down in favour of Mark Fitzgerald saying he was “composed” in giving his evidence and it was “difficult to conceive in the extreme” why he would make it up.

Does it not strike anyone as astonishing that this same Phil Hogan is now the man bringing forward legislation on limiting corporate donations to political parties?

Is no one concerned that he cancelled six independent enquiries ordered by the former minister, John Gormley, into suspected irregularities in the planning process in Cork City and County, Galway, Meath, Dublin and the minister’s own constituency of Carlow — some of them on foot of concerns expressed by the ombudsman? And that this is in the context of local government which is dominated in most areas by Fine Gael?

Does no one find this worrying? Oh, sorry, I’ve got it all wrong. This is Fine Gael we’re talking about. Fine Gael founded the State, Fine Gael is the State so what Fine Gael says goes.

Fine Gael founded the Garda Siochána, for God’s sake. Why should there be anything wrong with the Garda Commissioner mentioning to the Justice Minister that a self-confessed pinko Mick Wallace has been seen speaking on his mobile phone while driving a car? What’s wrong with the Justice Minister using the leak for political gain on national television? It’s a public service if it stops them voting any more pinkos into the Dáil.

What a lot of nonsense that was from Judge Peter Kelly, President of the Association of Judges in Ireland, about the government “demolishing the country’s judicial system, brick by brick.” You’d think the President of the High Court, Judge Nicholas Kearns not to mention Supreme Court Judge Adrian Hardiman, would know better than to come out in support of him. Don’t they understand that Fine Gael built the judicial system? If it needs a bit of an extension surely Fine Gael are the ones who’ll know best how to construct it?

EXTENSIONS like the appointment by the Government of their own specialist insolvency judges from the ranks of the Government-appointed county registrars. Extensions to the powers of Oireachtas Committees so that they can establish kangaroo courts in the Dáil to embarrass politicians from other parties – except that suggestion required an amendment to the Constitution and the people went and rejected it.

Got to fix the Constitution. Get rid of the Seanad, don’t reform it. Then it will only take one house to fire a judge, not two, and legislation will be subject to less independent scrutiny.

Hasn’t the importance of the distance between the Government and the judiciary been overplayed throughout our history? Was it really helpful that from 2008 to 2011, during the biggest crisis this country has ever faced, we had a Fianna Fáil-led Government and an attorney general who was perceived to lean politically towards Fine Gael?

Wouldn’t it have been better if there’d been less dithering around over what was legal and what wasn’t?

Was it really such a boast to have had, as Judge Peter Kelly said recently, a State which for 90 years had little need of an Association of Judges in Ireland because its judiciary was so independent? Until now?

Because the musketeers are in charge now and you’d better remember it. We founded the State and we are the State — or “L’etat c’est nous”, as Louis XIV might say. Don’t get your knickers in a knot about what the State knows and what the justice system knows. It’s the same difference.

Just put your trust in the three musketeers and especially in their D’Artagnon as they ride off into the sunset: “All for one, and one for all!”


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