Tuesday 21 November 2017

Higgins lashes 'nauseating' backtrack by PDs

Senan Molony

THE poodles of Ranelagh will be "seeing to" the Progressive Democrat lamppost after Michael McDowell's craven climbdown from his position of holding Fianna Fail to account from its top, said Joe Higgins in the Dail.

The independent socialist TD for Dublin West said the Tanaiste had decided to prop up an unreconstructed Fianna Fail. The Taoiseach had expressed regret, not because his money-taking was wrong, but because it came out into the open.

"How nauseating in view of all this to see Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats, the Taoiseach and the Tanaiste, reduce this to a game of scrabble . . . to a matter of finding the right words," he sneered.

"We now know that Fianna Fail ministers see nothing wrong with a Minister for Finance taking large amounts of money for personal use from business interests as long as there is no proof that any specific favours were done," he said.

Thereby they were also defending the sleaze, cronyism, patronage and corruption that pervaded Irish politics in the 1980s and 1990s. "Not one person was caught in the middle of that who did not come up with the same catch-cry: 'We did no favours and we did nothing wrong.'"

The current controversy could not be "boxed off" from the Taoiseach's relationship with big business interests.

"It was the Taoiseach's associate (Des Richardson) who helped him with his personal donations - who, in the 1990s, sat in a plush Dublin hotel and took in millions from speculators, developers, multinational corporations, oil firms and any kind of moneybags that darkened the door of his suite."

"Every ordinary person knows that business does this to influence government policies, and that it succeeds."

Ordinary people were the victims, he insisted.

"Look at the strife, struggle and stress that young people must endure to secure the basic right of a roof over their heads - because the Fianna Fail-backing speculators have put the price of a home out of their reach. The Government sat and let them do it for 10 years."

Tens of thousands were now terrified of mortgage increases, he said. A rise of ?200 a month would virtually impoverish them, but it was "cigar money" to the wealthy people who financed the Taoiseach.

Sinn Fein leader in the Dail Caoimhghin O'Caolain was constantly barracked by Fianna Fail TDs as he spoke.

Mr O'Caolain said the Taoiseach was "clearly wrong" to accept the personal donation at the Manchester event when he was Finance Minister, although most people believed that he was not personally corrupt.

"However, only the most naive believe that he was not aware of what went on in the brown envelope and blank-cheque culture of the Fianna Fail leadership" at the time he took the money, he said.

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