Former Fianna Fáil junior minister Ivor Callely, who was sent to jail yesterday over fraudulent mobile phone expenses claims, came, maybe even unjustly, to epitomise the hubris and disdain a certain type of politician expressed so very freely for what most people consider decent, common-garden honesty. His arrogance was as unfettered and boundless as his character was transparent.
His repeated refusal to countenance that he might have behaved inappropriately set him apart even in an environment populated by some of the the most confident and robust personalities in Ireland. That his peers, through an Oireachtas committee, were unable to reach a conclusion about his behaviour was another indictment of our political process and its capacity to reform our public life.
Callely’s assertion that his holiday home in West Cork, rather than his address on the Northside of Dublin the area he represented in the Dáil as a TD, was his principle residence so he could claim greater mileage expenses showed a particularly hard-necked brazenness as did the issue for which he was jailed — a €4,207.45 swindle over mobile phone expenses. He operated in world where he was unchecked and enjoyed promotion despite his obvious inability — or indifference to the idea — to tell right from wrong. However, his greed cost him his reputation and yesterday’s day of reckoning cost him his freedom.
Callely may not have been the only politician to take advantage of an overly-trusting expenses regime -— one that has been tightened considerably — but it is difficult to understand how a person with such open disdain for the ideals that should shape a politician was offered such a central role. Only one person can resolve that mystery— his great benefactor and former party leader, former Taoiseach turned peace intermediary in Ukraine Bertie Ahern, the man who time and time again ignored the decision of relevant electorates to reject Callely and offered him a nomination to the Seanad. In hindsight it might have been better for both men if he had not. It would be churlish to celebrate any man’s downfall even if there was an inevitabilty about yesterday’s ruling but it reminds us though that we must be much more forceful in confronting white-collar crime.
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