After years of giving us the strong impression he couldn’t give two figs, the Irish people want to see accountability for Phil Hogan’s actions
There’s a lack of sympathy for Big Phil. Not that he ever gave the impression of looking for any.
He has always exuded the air of full knowledge that politics is a place for mean hombres, and that he aimed to be meanest.
Phil was taking no prisoners, we remember, when he was Minister for the Environment and was handed the rough job of making sure that Irish Water got up and running and that incipient unrest and resistance was crushed.
The Minister believed people should buy into Irish Water. It wasn’t that we were all in it together to pool subscriptions to repair creaking, leaking Victorian infrastructure. Instead, it was stand and deliver – with Phil quite prepared to threaten.
Anyone who didn’t pay would have their supply reduced to “a trickle”, he declared on radio. It had all the subtlety of King Herod or Vlad the Impaler, neither of whom ever represented Carlow-Kilkenny.
Now he seems to realise that we are indeed a community and that the most vulnerable should be most protected, instead of the devil being openly encouraged by Government to take the hindmost.
Phil is now very sorry that he ever gave the impression that he was indifferent to the fate of folks, or that achieving his own way was always his uppermost consideration.
It is a most unfortunate misapprehension on the part of anyone who might think that, because – while he is very sorry for the offence you feel – he is also confident that he was right every step of the way.
Even when he was momentarily weak by being on his phone while at the wheel of his car, it was because he was obliging to others. He was very careful to say that he answered a call, because he would never, ever make one while driving. For that reason, he presumably always powers his mobile off before turning the ignition.
On this occasion it must have been that he didn’t, because his head was full of impending tariff talks with the Americans and the big philosophy of the European Union. And that’s the reason he went to Kildare, of course – to pick up those “vital papers”.
There is a theme here, which is that Phil’s motives were pure.
If you thought, for instance, that his Kildare accommodation, which happens to be in the village located in the K Club – a golf resort – would be the kind of place that he would leave his clubs… and that he would need that ‘vital’ bag in order to negotiate tricky fairways and greens in Adare and Connemara, then he would pity your narrow-minded scheming and idle theories
As for his reputation as a political enforcer, this has always been a media caricature, encouraged by the mediocre, jealous and craven, and does not mean that he feels he can ride roughshod over people.
And it is a measure of his ordinary decency that, when apparently being told by his doctors that he was “good to go”, that he happened to check not the website of the Department of Health, or the HSE, but that of the Citizens’ Information Bureau.
It happens to be a website with unclear or misleading advice in this one instance, yet Phil knows so much about it that he made sure to mention that it was partially funded by the HSE. If he’s that clued in, why didn’t he just know the damn rules?
His tardy responses give a clear impression that he never felt he owed us an explanation or apology, while omissions and later additions are a matter of regret – like the leaking of his private road traffic affairs into the public domain when he hadn’t told the Taoiseach and Tánaiste about it, since it wasn’t what they were talking about.
But the Irish people distinctly don’t owe this commissioner anything either. After years of giving us the strong conviction that he couldn’t give two figs, it’s finally a matter of sending the fig bill to Big Phil.