02 April 2008

The Toppling of the Teflon Taoiseach

Good grief. Bertie's gone. Or going anyway. It shouldn't be surprising, considering the past week in particular, but I had a feeling that he'd hang on a while longer.

I'd not have known either, only I checked Facebook a few minutes back to find that a couple of friends had posted status updates to the effect that one 'defies popular opinion by still thinking Bertie is great. The teflon is dead, long live the teflon,' while another ' celebrates the news, a bad day for Teflon but a great day for democracy.'

Is Bertie gone, I wondered aloud, and moments later established that if not gone, he's certainly said he'll be gone in just over a month.

'Taoiseach Resigns,' announces the Irish Times in its breaking news section, accompanied by the most extraordinary picture, a modern Irish Mount Rushmore that just looks like some incompetent work on Photoshop. If that's what it is, someone sucks at Photoshop.

So yes, it appears Bertie will be stepping down on 6 May, and is doing so purely because what he terms a 'barrage of commentary' on his life, his lifestyle, and his finances is distracting the work of government. He says that he wasn't pushed into the decision and that the decision is motivated purely by his desire to refocus the political agenda. In short, he's stepping down in the national interest. He says.

He says he's privileged to have served his community, party, and country -- though presumably not in that order of importance -- for many years, and is proud of his work on the Northern Ireland peace process, on successive social partnership agreements, on delivering a modern economy and of Ireland's involvement in the European Union, as well as ending the purported myth that his party was incapable of sustaining a coalition government.

Supposedly this has nothing to do with Gráinne Carruth's recent evidence to the Mahon Tribunal, but if you believe that, well, you might be interested to hear that penguins can fly. He was due to be grilled on the matter in the Dáil this afternoon. I guess instead the session will be given over to praise and political obituaries instead.

In case you're not Irish, and haven't been paying attention, one of the things the Mahon tribunal is investigating concerns claims that Mr Ahern received money from property developer Owen O'Callaghan some years back. The claims have been denied numerous times by both O'Callaghan and the Taoiseach, but the investigations have taken some odd turns and raised plenty of questions about suspicious lodgements to Ahern's personal accounts back in the early nineties.

The peculiar lodgements took place between 1985 and 1997, and in total come to £452,800 in value -- that's €886,830 in today's terms, apparently, allowing for inflation and such. Basically this just means the lodgements the origins of which can't be convincingly explained. I was amazed to see God alone knows where the money's gone to, though. It's not as if Bertie's got a lavish lifestyle, after all.

It's probably worth following this over at Gavin Sheridan's blog, as he's been assiduous in following the tribunal over the months, and scathing in his contempt for the media that have paid the story far less attention that its been due over that time. So far today all he's really had to say, though, is that he has no sympathy for Mr Aherne, as 'For 20 months we have been dragged through this nonsense. If this country was truly functioning, he would have resigned a very long time ago indeed. And it all was of his own making,' following that up by rightly observing that:
'Now we have to see how the media reacts to the news. So far RTE television have been bringing on a stream of FF deputies. And each of them runs the usual ‘trial by media’ line.

This is clearly nonsense. The media in fact did not go out of its way to criticise Ahern, all it did was seek answers about his tribunal evidence. And even after Carruth’s evidence broke two weeks ago, the media remained quiet for a very long time.

Ahern’s silence since Carruth’s evidence is perhaps a sign of how bad things are. We still await explanations of sterling lodgments, and indeed more lodgments. Questions of money laundering and vast sums of money going through Ahern’s and other accounts to which he is linked.

Ahern is not off the hook.'


1 comment:

Amanda said...

It sounds like this might leave as distastful an aftertaste as eating bugs.