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Friday 20 April 2018

It's the Wallace and Grovel show as Mick gets his 15 minutes of shame

Mick had dumped his usual cheery pink shirt for one of deep cobalt blue, which was perhaps the troubled TD's equivalent of penitential sackcloth and ashes.

"I want to apologise and say sorry to all the people who expected more from me, I want to apologise to the members of this Dail for bringing any dishonour on a profession which hardly needed it, I want to especially apologise to the people of Wexford," he said, head bowed over his typed script.

This speech was a mega mea culpa -- a veritable avalanche of apologies.

Ever since the storm broke over his financial dealings with Revenue, Mick Wallace had been desperate to get speaking time in the Dail, and after an initial rebuff from the Ceann Comhairle, finally got his 15 minutes of shame yesterday evening.

There had been some speculation that the intense pressure heaped on him would lead to his resignation, but as the Wexford TD said in his speech: "I was never very good at quitting."

There were a surprising number of TDs present, given the fact that it was less than two hours to the kick-off of the crucial match in Gdansk -- a clash which until last week, Mick Wallace had fondly believed he would be at, waving a plastic hammer with the rest of the fans.

But a week is an eternity in politics -- longer even than when one's team is a goal up in injury-time and under siege from the other side.

And so he found himself an isolated figure for much of this week; most of his former colleagues in the Technical Group had turned up to hear his statement, but few were showing signs of overt solidarity, except for Ming Flanagan who sat on one side of him, and his closest companion in the Dail, a shattered-looking Clare Daly who sat on his other side.

Mick -- a chap prone to getting tearful in the chamber -- kept his composure for much of his speech, explaining how "the manner in which the VAT was dealt with was, in hindsight, an error of judgment".

"I understand that many people suffering under vicious austerity were upset by my statement last week that M&J Wallace Ltd would not be able to repay the tax debt -- this was not a cavalier comment but rather an honest statement of fact. I understand that PAYE workers and social welfare recipients are not afforded this flexibility, although life for most people in small and medium sized business is far from rosy either".

It was a speech aimed at the electorate. He kept his apologies straightforward and largely unqualified and then announced he was making arrangements to pay half of his TD's salary to the taxman -- a move which will in all likelihood stymie calls for his peroxide head on a plate.

He got a bit emotional towards the end, but made it over the finish line with a comforting pat from Ming.

It was a low-key occasion -- it isn't of course an end to the woes of Wallace and Grovel, but he may have done enough to calm the storm.

And at least one government TD approved -- Fine Gael's Peter Mathews applauded him, joined briefly by Frank Feighan.

It was a result of sorts for Mick -- but more a half-hearted OK, OK, OK, than a full-blooded Ole, Ole, Ole.

Irish Independent

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