Making friends and influencing people

September 7th, 2020 11:40 AM

By Southern Star Team

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Prominent ex-politicos like to get involved in ‘banking’ because it’s not a particularly burdensome vocation

THE Irish Times got it spot-on when a hack dubbed the recent golfing ‘knees-up’ in a Clifden hotel as an ‘old farts’ convention’ – an observation that comically led to a cartoon of Europe’s ex-trade commissioner, Phil Hogan, blundering around in the doo-dahs.

We’re referring, of course, to the Oireachtas Golfgate Dinner, that exotic ‘munchie-fest’  attended by big-shots such as Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary and Fine Gael Brian Hayes.

Hayes is now CEO of an outfit that carries the grand title of Banking and Payments Federation of Ireland. It purports to be the main lobbying body for Irish banks!

And, while there’s nothing inappropriate in former politicos becoming professional lobbyists for banks, the practice has led to the individuals involved being described as ‘oscillating’ from a position of searing criticism of the banks to being their chief defenders!’

Of course, a reason why prominent ex-politicos like to get involved in ‘banking’ is because it’s not a particularly burdensome vocation. It pays very well and all that’s required is political experience and ‘connections,’ as well as having the ‘cop-on’ (of course) on how to do ‘a turn’ for a client.

Networking in Clifden

Nonetheless, trying to exert influence on decisions taken in the public interest (‘representing clients to politicians’) through personal chats with former or current government cronies, can give off a slightly less than sweet odour. ‘Stink’ might be the word.

But, let’s bear in mind that there’s nothing wrong with having an ex-politico-cum-‘bank lobbyist’ ensure that his /her snout remains within a circle of political power brokers, even if that includes participation in a controversial golf tournament during the Covid-19 crisis.

Indeed, what’s wrong with using one’s political expertise, social astuteness, interpersonal influence and ‘sincere overtures’ at a networking golf outing in Clifden?  So long, of course, as everything is above board!

After all, a banking lobbyist enhances his/her professional objectives by having the ability to understand the ideas of others and by using such expertise in a discreet way to influence people.

Complicated, needless to say, but grist to the mill for a politico skilled in the art of spouting the auld jargon regarding making friends and influencing people.

Indeed, we should not be surprised that financial institutions snap-up prominent ex-politicos for frontline jobs, despite the fact that, not too long ago, the Irish banking system was so incompetent that it required a €64bn bail-out!

Jolly proletarians

And it also seems incongruous that politicos, who spend their professional lives helping people, should promote in their retirement an industry notorious for greed, house repossessions, and dodgy tracker bond schemes.

Also present at the high-class celebration was former Senator Lorraine Higgins who will be remembered for her association with those jolly proletarians, the Labour Party, now just a miniscule blob in Irish history. Honorary Consul of the Slovak Republic, Ms Higgins, was a Taoiseach’s nomination to Seanad Eireann.

To whom we send our congrats, and admit that, as a onetime Labourite (aeons ago), we are most impressed at the way party members integrate so successfully in the capitalist golfing world!

Spotted too was former Workers Party Teachta Dála for the Dublin North-East constituency, Circuit Court judge Pat McCartan. The Workers Party was once perceived as an extreme leftist outfit only for it to morph into the innocuous Democratic Left and, after that, into oblivion.

Other golfers that caught the eye included a legal eagle who advised the government on drafting the Covid-19 emergency laws and to whose cautionary advice few people at the happy event paid any attention.

Nobly fell on sword

Of course, in there too was a Cork FG senator and golfer, the nattily-dressed Jerry Buttimer, who nobly fell on his sword in the wake of the controversy surrounding health warnings, large gatherings, golf, the spread of Covid-19 and himself. ‘I committed a serious lapse of judgement,’ moaned a disconsolate Mr Buttimer as he resigned as Leas Cathaoirleach of the Seanad.

His public apology seemed to fit the category of those dreadful post-concussion syndromes that are peculiar to politicians on whom public opprobrium has been heaped.

Our hearts went out to him because we consider his resignation to be somewhat impetuous, even precipitous; he will be missed.

Surprising too that among the 80 munchers at the dinner, not one guest seemed uneasy at participating in an event that reeked of biological danger. Were they in possession, we wondered, of that mysterious Chinese antitoxin capable of neutralising the vicious Covid-19?

Or was it that thanks to social ‘distancing’ and good hygiene, the guests were confident they wouldn’t be going home with one foot in the grave – whatever about infecting the neighbours?

No doubt they also hoped that nobody would notice the incongruity of the Establishment breaking every rule in the book regarding Covid-19. Clearly, such respectable people were confident they would not end up pilloried  as a collection of ‘right gobshites’ and irresponsible nutters!

Stop press!

And how’s this to raise a titter of laughter or, at least, a wry smile?  It’s the story of Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher, the former Cork Northside TD who, perhaps, one day will follow in the footsteps of Jack Lynch (and Mickey Martin) and become Taoiseach of all he surveys.

Currently an MEP and guided by the old adage that visibility is at the heart of politics, Kelleher got the first flight from Brussels at the end of June in order to be up close to the Boss, Mickey Martin, when the latter was selected as Half-Term-Taoiseach in Dublin’s Convention Centre.

But poor ole Billy got a decidedly cool reception from Fianna Fáil and was told in no uncertain terms that he should be isolating and not spreading germs.

His response sounded familiar: ‘I apologise unreservedly’!

Party comrade,  Michael ‘First Class Honours’ McGrath, who keeps a very close eye on Kelleher and his political ambitions, tartly remarked that ‘guidelines in relation to self-isolation applied to everyone, particularly to those of us who are in positions of leadership!’

Ironic, indeed!

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