Paschal Donohoe’s rendezvous with fate is not as trivial as it might first appear. The last two elections are not just about “about a giant for posters”.
It’s about our still flawed efforts to control the role of money and the input of business in our politics, to show the people that the system that runs our affairs is open and properly monitored.
In a rather tense hour of the Dáil exchange, the Public Expenditure Minister conceded to Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín that Ireland has a recent “dark history” of businessmen falsely buying political influence for their own selfish ends.
“I am aware of this ‘dark history’. I know what that has done to our politics – and I don’t play a part in that,” said the embattled Fine Gael minister.
Far from being a political newcomer, the Dublin Central TD made his debut as a candidate for the general election in May 2007 and was part of the government team for a decade.
It hasn’t escaped anyone that he was Finance Minister, and his current job as Public Expenditure Minister ironically puts him in charge of the Commission on Standards in Public Offices (Sipo), which most observers agree has woefully little authority to oversee the effectively monitor public life.
The most recent briefing session was number three in a series on donations in kind by businessman Michael Stone and his engineering firm to the 2016 and 2020 general elections.
Mr Donohoe had called a highly unusual press conference on Sunday 15 January, made a special but incomplete Dáil statement last Wednesday and finally was back yesterday to make another statement.
For such an experienced politician, this is quite a deplorable situation. Add to that the fact that back in 2017 and again last November he brushed aside questions about the 2016 campaign donations and you have reason to believe that Mr Donohoe brought much of that suffering on himself.
But before we go any further, it’s also worth noting that Mr. Donohoe comes across as genuine, direct, polite, and personable to most people who meet him. He has a good track record as a hard-working and competent minister and his retention as President of the Eurogroup of Finance Ministers, despite a sideways move to Ireland’s Department of Public Expenditure, speaks to the general standing held for him.
The opposition still has reasons to say that important issues remain unanswered
Of most politicians in Leinster House, he is one of the least likely suppliers of dodgy work. And yesterday he largely played “pardon a fool” and insisted he would never be a “scoundrel” but admitted he should have exercised more caution.
Despite the acknowledgment of that reality, and despite a belated improvement in explanations – largely relieved by Mr Stone, who earlier took much of the blame – the opposition still has reasons to say important issues remain. Mr Stone said he was very belated about telling Mr Donohoe of his paying workers to put up the posters, a move that turned volunteer work into a donation in kind under election finance rules.
For Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty, the amounts Mr Donohoe is attributing to labor and vehicles used to put up posters in the 2016 and 2020 elections are not realistically priced. He accuses the minister of “reverse engineering” to keep the amounts comfortably below the permitted limits.
Social Democrat leader Róisín Shortall addressed Mr Donohoe’s confidence that he was unaware of these realities of campaign finance
So, is this the end of all this then? Well, that’s what the opposition will have to decide when they move to the surrender or stand period. It remains unclear whether they will opt for a full-scale motion of no confidence. That could increase the political stakes again.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/paschal-donohoes-late-mea-culpa-will-not-encourage-the-opposition-to-leave-this-huge-self-inflicted-harm-rest-easy-42311863.html Paschal Donohoe’s late mea culpa will not encourage the opposition to simply let this enormous self-inflicted damage rest