00:00 Saturday 29 May 2010  Written by Archon

When losing your seat can actually help pay the bills!

LAST week Sir Anto's organ revealed that former Justice Minister and Tanaiste, Michael McDowell, trousered two separate 'golden parachute' payments after failing to win back his seat in two general elections and that he was also the happy recipient of a substantial severance payment, plus the two 'auld pinsins,' of course.

In a spot of classic whinging, the Irish Independent moaned that McDowell was living proof that 'losing your seat can actually help pay the bills'. Here's what it said: "He (McDowell) received a £21,089 tax-free lump sum when he was ousted in the 1997 election, and a £57,848 tax-free lump sum when he suffered electoral defeat again in 2007 - giving him a taxpayer-funded windfall of £78,937."

In addition to the two lump sums, he also got a severance payment from the Department of Finance. After his 2007 defeat he picked up this payment, worth £49,657, because of his service as an attorney general and a minister. McDowell is also receiving a double pension - a £31,653 Oireachtas pension and a £31,453 ministerial pension.

The newspaper crowed that the revelations came in the midst of controversy over politicians' pension entitlements, and that traditionally workers only got one pension lump sum when they retired. (Information relating to McDowell's numerous pensions, lump sums and severance payment was contained in confidential documents the newspaper obtained under the Freedom of Information Act).

Later the Department of Finance said there was no proposed legislation to stop politicians receiving a severance payment and an Oireachtas lump sum together.

A SUB-CLASS

Perhaps it was a coincidence, but within forty-eight hours, McDowell went straight for the meeja's jugular during a shindig organised by the UCD School of Law. To whoops and cries of 'doubtcha boy' from the pointy-heads, McDowell declared that Irish journos treated politicians as a 'sub-class barely deserving of an audience.'

Politicians are heard only 'after they've been interpreted by Tony O'Reilly, Denis O'Brien or Rupert Murdoch,' he complained.

He continued with a stab at RTE's 'Morning Ireland', a programme where interviewers 'cut across politicians, interrupt them and tell them their time is up.' He also resented the media snooping into every donation a political party receives.

Last March, he warned that politicians should resist humouring the 'anti-political lynch mob. Public debate on the effectiveness of our democracy should not proceed on glib populism and tabloid superficiality, but rather on a carefully considered and measured basis' - no one is sure what he meant by that!

Of course, many media types never liked McDowell. They considered his PD politics to be at the right of Genghis Khan.

After he became the first sitting Tanaiste to lose his seat and the shortest-serving political-party leader in the history of the State, John Cooney attributed his failure to the fact that 'he courted controversy to such a fevered extent that he became the most unpopular political leader in the country. He became a national turn-off whenever he spoke in public!'

INCONSISTENCY

McDowell, for his part, never pulled punches, even when he departed politics. For instance, he recently lambasted Enda Kenny for his 'crass' proposal to abolish the Senate. It would be a thoughtless, populist attack on the political establishment, he warned.

Yet, he seemed to forget that in the 1980s he drafted legislation to abolish the Senate. At the time, he referred to the upper house as a cross between a political convalescent home and crèche!

But political consistency was never McDowell's hallmark. Rather, his Dáil life was characterised by knee-jerk actions, thanks to the loose collection of illiberal political and economic ideas that he expressed.

Other madcap contrivances that he inflicted on us included the Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs)! Or his famous plan for a European-style café culture that would combat binge drinking!

Or his promise to implement the biggest police and judicial reform in the history of the State in the wake of the Morris and Barr Tribunals! Or his privacy law that was heavily criticised by the newspaper industry!

Or the State purchase for millions of a farm in North Fingal, at Thornton Hall, for a proposed new prison! Or his closure of Spike Island jail!

Or his assertion that gangland killings were ending! Or his disgraceful use of Dáil privilege to attack Frank Connolly, an investigative reporter!

Or his description of Richard Bruton, TD, as the 'Joseph Goebbels of Irish political life'!

Of course his present position in the Bar Counsel may well insulate him from the realities of present day Ireland, and from the ferocious anger, the plain people feel at the economic disaster visited upon them by useless, self-serving politicos, including those of McDowell's former 'greed is good' party.

So what, the argument goes, if the media picks up on the rage of the common man who is asked to make sacrifices and, at the same time, can see plainly that his politico-masters are undeserving of the wages they pay themselves?

The media is merely reflecting public disgust at the sight of elected representatives wallowing in the readies, their snouts deep into enormous wages and benefits, such as expenses and pensions entitlements.

THE COMEBACK KID?

Speculation has also surfaced that the 'Mad Mullah' may be planning a Dáil comeback with a sort of Frankenstein resurrection of himself, former MEP Pat Cox and anti-Lisbon Treaty Declan Ganley. The intention of the new party is to 'break the mould' - again!

However, to succeed with a party that has Pat Cox and Declan Ganley as gurus would be an extraordinary feat. Cox is a PD turncoat who left the party in a dispute over his seat as an MEP and since then has seriously faded from the political radar. Ganley led the campaign against the Lisbon Treaty, but later failed to take a Euro-seat in the North West constituency.

The thought of Cox jumping into a political bed with the Euro-sceptic Ganley is mind-boggling but, then, anything to do with McDowell always demands a suspension of disbelief.

The question is if the Irish electorate is ready for another dose of McDowell, sometimes described as the 'greatest brain' ever to dominate the Dail? Can the people be fooled all the time?

As far as the Dublin wits are concerned, no. Already they're describing the proposed political outfit as the 'Two Failures and a Fossil' party or, cruelly, the 'Gruesome Threesome'.

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