Friday 25 January 2008

A tale of two polities

Today's Irish Times poll suggests that the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is suffering in personal popularity from the constant scrutiny of the tribunals and the media into his tax and financial affairs. Nevetheless, a plurality of voters think he should stay in office, and support for the governing parties has actually risen despite the story dominating the news for weeks. Unlike Peter Hain, whom nobody suggests has gained personally from any of his late-declared donations to his deputy leadership campaign, Bertie received an envelope stuffed with £8000 worth of £50 notes from friendly businessmen to help pay legal bills, which he regarded as 'no big deal', as well as significant other personal loans, while he was finance minister in the 1990s; as a result he had to give lengthy testimony to the Mahon corruption tribunal last year over several days. He has not managed to get a certificate of tax compliancy from the Revenue Commissioners this year. Yet, while the opposition leader Enda Kenny has been regularly calling for his resignation, his own Fianna Fail party and their allies in the Greens and Progressive Democrats, seem happy enough for him to stay on, although Finance Minister Brian Cowan has established himself as the leader-in-waiting, just in case. Bertie's response has been to attack the main Tribunal and his critics, playing the anti-establishment card beloved of the Fianna Fail establishment. But for all Bertie's travails, it is small beer compared to his mentor, the late Charlie Haughey's corrupt lifestyle. And Haughey was well out of politics before he was called to account, when it emerged that he had acquired over £8 million from business donors to finance his personal high-living expenses (which included a mansion and a private island). It does put things into perspective.

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