Sometimes the timing is just as damaging as the transgression. Robert Troy’s home declaring errors and omissions were perhaps seen as “awkward but never politically fatal” in the heady days of the early “Naughties.”
In those crazy days when many Irish people were contemplating buying that third home in Bulgaria and/or Turkey, the embattled junior minister could have punched his way out of that difficult corner.
But when these revelations about Mr. Troy were blown out of the woods, along with news reports featuring photos of queues of well-paid young people desperately waiting to rent an extortionate apartment, it was clear how this would end. The only question for him was the means of exit and when.
In the end, Mr Troy’s bellicose resignation announcement came swiftly at 9pm on Wednesday, accompanied by unrepentant landlord statements.
Just hours earlier, he had signaled that he would fight on, and both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste had renewed their solidary support for his continuation as junior enterprise minister.
This weekend, when the dust has settled, there is a growing acceptance across all parties and none in Leinster House that Robert Troy has simply been too lax about his members’ declarations of interest for too long. Time and place, in the midst of a chronic real estate crisis, his dual career in real estate and politics has proved a very difficult mix.
For a certain Fianna Fáil TD, admittedly an opponent of Micheál Martin’s leadership, the Taoiseach’s and Tánaiste’s steadfast support for Mr Troy was about “survival in office at all costs” – for both the coalition and their two board members
“Their stance was politically numb at a time when people with money can’t even rent an apartment – let alone dream of buying anything.
“Here was a member of the government with 11 properties and many of them with rental income paid for by the taxpayer,” dissident Fianna Fáil told this writer.
That’s the unspoken factor that was a strong feature of this one. There is absolutely no evidence that Mr Troy was corrupt and he only had to resign for failing to meet his obligations in relation to the Register of Interests of Oireachtas members.
His explanations of property interests have been partial and incomplete at best over a long period of time.
His explanations of simply making mistakes and misunderstanding the rules were very poorly received.
Full details of Mr Troy’s rapid change of heart on Wednesday night are still pending. But plenty of evidence suggests he was not pressured either by his own party leader or by Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar, who was technically his senior minister in the Enterprises Department.
“It’s likely that Robert Troy, a veteran politician, read the runes and decided he wasn’t going to win. This would not end anytime soon and would flare up again next month with the return of the Dáil, even if it eased off for a while,” a member of the government team said yesterday.
Members of both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael say Mr Varadkar was doubly indebted to Mr Martin for past and future factors. Mr Varadkar owed support during the long so-called “leakgate” controversy, when a prosecutor’s office remained a possibility for a document leak. He also still needs the support of Fianna Fáil to return to the office of Taoiseach in the first-ever job swap in December.
It was also widely commented how few opposition TDs joined in the public criticism of Mr Troy. Could it be related to the number of TDs and Senators – an estimate of 77 out of 220 – who are landowners or landowners?
There were suggestions in Leinster House that not all of these elected politicians, spread across all parties and independents, were entirely happy with the status of their members’ declarations of interest. Ahead of the summer break, the Tánaiste told the Dáil that the Sinn Féin party is one of the biggest landowners in the country. Could this explain the delayed actions of Mary Lou McDonald’s party?
Political exits like this are less common in the Irish system than in other jurisdictions. The contrast to British politics, where misguided politicians are more likely to be pushed out, is often made. But we must not forget that Ireland’s policy space is smaller and more consensual.
This alone is another dynamic that hinders the development of proper governance in public life.
Despite all this, there are enough political resignations in the Irish system – be it forced political resignations without a vote or widespread redundancies.
Those of you who follow politics will recall many of the following statements, which came from a number of parties.
Fianna Fáil Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was forced to resign in May 2008 after allegations before the Planning Court caused the political temperature to boil. He was pushed out of the party in 2012 when the tribunal finally made serious findings against him, which he continues to deny.
In 2017, Fine Gael Tánaiste and Justice Secretary Frances Fitzgerald ended an obscure who-knows-what-when investigation. She was later fully cleared of any wrongdoing, but too late to undo the career damage.
Fianna Fáil’s Secretary of Defense Willie O’Dea was forced to resign in 2010 on perjury charges that were later dropped after an investigation.
Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue was forced to resign in 2009 after allegations about his office’s spending. And the list goes on.
All left a legacy of bitterness and hurt relationships, much of which has survived. Some lessons learned, some not learned.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/resignations-often-leave-a-harsh-legacy-of-recrimination-and-damaged-relations-which-can-endure-41940860.html Resignations often leave a harsh legacy of blame and damaged relationships that can linger