Thursday 23 November 2017

A mix of the good, the bad -- and the Dempsey

Paul Melia and Aine Kerr

Noel Dempsey's outspoken style made him an often divisive figure, leading to him being nicknamed 'Dunce Dempsey'.

But he also has a number of significant achievements under his belt, and he often had greater vision than many of his colleagues.

The good. . .

Social housing: He stipulated that up to 20pc of new estates had to be made available for social and affordable housing. But property developers found ways around it.

Dual mandate: He proposed doing away with the dual mandate where TDs could serve as councillors. But it was delayed by independents for three years.

Plastic bags: His plastic bag tax, which is still going strong 10 years later, has had enormous environmental benefits.

Drink driving: He pushed through the Road Traffic Act which reduced the drink-driving limit from 80mg to 50mg and down to 20mg for professional and learner drivers.

The bad. . .

E-voting: He came up with this dopey idea, test driving it in the 2002 General Election.

Teachers: He had numerous clashes with teachers when he was Education Minister, including criticising the format of their annual Easter conferences.

Third-level fees: Got shot down by the PDs when he tried to bring them back -- without sufficient support within his own party.

Aer Lingus: The state airline announced it was pulling out of Shannon and transferring its Heathrow slots to Belfast. His officials knew of the decision six weeks earlier, but failed to tell him.

The Dempsey. . .

Jet: He took a jet to the Magill Summer School because he was also due to travel to London for an engagement, running up a bill of €23,000.

PPARS: He defended the waste of €150m on the failed PPARS computer system, saying "the level of expenditure of mis-spent money is relatively very, very small".

Big Freeze: He took a week-long holiday last January during the biggest freeze in 40 years, later claiming the public did not need to hear from him.

Learner drivers: On a Thursday in October 2007, he announced that they would be banned from driving unaccompanied from the following Monday. But the outcry forced him to perform a U-turn, and the move was postponed until June 2008.

Irish Independent

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