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Self-styled banking expert didn't count on politics being this tough

WEDNESDAY night's farcical events at the Oireachtas Finance Committee, which saw the Government lose its first parliamentary vote since coming to office, caps a dreadful first year in politics for new Fine Gael TD and self-styled banking 'expert' Peter Mathews.

Mr Mathews was one of a clutch of banking and finance pundits to emerge following the previous government's disastrous decision to unconditionally guarantee the deposits and bonds of the Irish-owned banks in September 2008.

A competent media performer, he was a TV regular, particularly on Vincent Browne's TV3 late-night political discussion programme.

At a time when the government of the day was clearly out of its depth and the whole world seemed to be going mad, Mr Mathews's calm, reasoned tones provided some reassurance to an increasingly worried Irish public.

With Fine Gael seeking a replacement for George Lee, who had resigned from the Dail in a huff in February 2010, Mr Mitchell was a natural replacement to run in Dublin South, a constituency that has always had a weakness for marquee candidates.

After the promise of Mr Mathews the pundit, Mr Mathews the politician has been something of a disappointment.

Favoured

The record number of Fine Gael TDs elected in February 2011 meant that he was never going to be favoured over longer-serving TDs when cabinet and minister of state positions were being handed out.

Even before Wednesday night's farcical events, when Mr Mathews was forced to vote against a proposal that he himself had tabled in the Oireachtas Finance Committee, there were signs that he was finding the political going tougher than he had anticipated.

In August 2011 he was reported as having stated that he had more economic experience than Finance Minister Michael Noonan, a remark that caused intense irritation in the Fine Gael parliamentary party.

Like many newly elected TDs, including his predecessor Mr Lee, Mr Mathews is quickly learning that the game of politics isn't quite as easy as it looks.

Irish Independent