IF asked to select a politician deserving of a place in the pantheon of Greatest Limerick Stars of All Time, people would joyously nominate the distinguished Mr Willie O’Dea, Teachta Dála, barrister, accountant and former Defence Minister.
Willie deserves the honour because of his experience in the art of good government and for his skills at guiding and inspiring ordinary folk. As a leader and role model he always puts himself at the service of the nation, unlike those Fine Gael hobos who put the nation at their service.
All his life he has been engaged in politics for the good of humanity. Oh yes!
So, for uncommonly going beyond the ordinary, we deem him a member of that remarkable group of Shannonside immortals who changed Irish history. Giants such as Sir Terry Wogan, Knight of the Realm; Michael Noonan, the everlasting FG politico; Vincent Browne, the almost incorporeal commentator whose prognosticating has affected the course of human destiny; Lola Montez, the Uncrowned Queen of Bavaria; Tom and Paschal, comedians to be remembered throughout time; Pat Cox, Liberator of the Ukraine; JP McManus, the world’s greatest philanthropist; and ... cripes we’re short two! Got it! A jockey and another jockey!
You see, according to reports in The Sunday Times and Irish Examiner, Willie has a really super-dooper plan to solve homelessness and the dreadful social housing problem in Limerick. In a webcast interview on the LSE investor portal, he informed the world that the Irish government was giving incentives to develop social housing, and also incentives to provide houses that could be afforded by first-time house purchasers.
‘Cash rich’ company
He seemed to be fishing discreetly for people prepared to invest capital in a company that would give substantial financial returns and that, according to Willie, ‘was eyeing the social housing market in Ireland.’ Describing the company as ‘cash rich,’ Willie emphasised that it was in a strong position to take advantage of the extremely fast-growing Irish economy,
The Sunday Times said Willie was the non-executive chairman of a London-based property outfit that ‘was looking at a possible joint venture.’
Should anyone think it incongruent that Willie wants to represent property developers after such people (mostly Fianna Fáil) recently destroyed the Irish economy, well, a glance at Willie’s website explains all. His deep concern for the humble, underprivileged, property-less grass roots of his native city is reflected in everything he says.
It’s ‘sickening,’ he complains, to have ‘thousands of people on the housing list in Limerick and emergency homeless shelters running out of space to accommodate the escalating crisis.’ And it is wrong that a ‘massive number of vacant housing units owned by the Local Authority were sitting idle.’ Clearly and demonstrably, the comments come from the heart. Gawd bless him!
Count on Batto!
Reassuring too that Willie can count on the advice and help of one Bartholomew O’Keeffe, who is listed as a non-executive director of the company. The said gent is none other than Batto, the former Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, former Minister for Education and former Minister of State for Housing.
Indeed Batto’s experience in matters commercial could be of great assistance should things go topsy-turvy. Three years ago, he was appointed president and chairman of the board of Eden College on Burgh Quay, Dublin, on account of ‘his unrivalled experience and insight into public policy formulation and strategic planning in education both in Ireland and internationally.’
Sadly, a year later Eden College was one of several English language colleges suddenly closed by Irish immigration authorities. Batto told RTÉ that he was astounded by claims of irregularities, and that he had no involvement whatsoever in the day-to-day running of the college.
Conflict of interest
But, as with everything in this country that is novel and adventurous, Willie’s compassionate foray into the property market has its detractors: such as De Paper, which grumbled: ‘One has to wonder what the leader of the Fianna Fáil party will make of all this? Surely Mr Martin will have concerns relating to ethics, conflicts of interest and, above all, Fianna Fáil’s deep-seated desire to, once and for all, bury the sleazy innuendos which have persisted since the Haughey-Ahern eras.’
But the Cork publication is missing the point. Conflict of interest is very hard to define. For instance, James Reilly, when Minister for Health, had an investment in a commercial nursing home.
And, who can forget the passports for sale scheme, which only came to wide public notice when it emerged that a wealthy Saudi family invested in Taoiseach Albert Reynolds’ petfood business?
Then there’s this interesting fact. At least 30 of the current 158 TDs own rental property that individually is raking in more than €2,600 a month in rent. The number of landlord TDs could be high as 52 since new TDs have yet to record their land and property interests.
In other words, landlords make up as much as 32% of the Dáil. For instance, Minister for Housing Simon Coveney, whose brief it is to deal with the housing market and spiralling rents, benefits from a rental property in Rochestown.
Bearing in mind that only the better sort of politico owns rental property (Lefties and Republicans generally possess bugger-all), Willie shouldn’t feel the slightest bit uneasy about a possible hostile reaction to his property management and development company. Of course not!
He’s only doing his best for the good of the country, and Limerick.
Indeed he put it brilliantly with the apt comment: ‘in this world everybody has to make a few bob, you know.’
Claud Cockburn once ran a competition for the most accurate yet boring headline of all time. The winner was ‘Small earthquake in Chile. Not many killed.’
A recent Indo headline, ‘High Profile Professional Falls into Sea,’ comes a close second in the boredom league: Almost as awful as the Star’s ‘Useless Gobshites’ that accompanied a picture of Cowen’s government. Or the Sunday Business Post’s ‘Bishops Agree Sex Abuse Rules’!
Then there is the Kerryman’s ‘No Serious Incidents at Killarney Motor Rally’ and the Limerick Leader’s ‘County Limerick Cemetery a Death Trap,’ or the Echo’s ‘Man Found Dead in Cemetery.’
But perhaps it is the free newspapers that take the biscuit. One in Bishopstown had the headline ‘Grass Growing Fast after Rain’ and, on another occasion, ‘Woman, 85, Dies.’
And no, we’re not going to reveal the source of these boring beauties: ‘Fury after Bus Fails to Arrive,’ ‘Rotten Tree Falls in Garden,’ ‘Intoxicated Man Falls on Face’ and the classic ‘Woman Missing since She Got Lost’
But, the headline about the telecom giant Eurotel downsizing in Belmullet, which was a massive blow to employment in the area, was the most eye- popping headline of all time. It read: ‘Massive Blow Jobs for Belmullet’!