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Tuesday 16 January 2018

Unholy mess as Dail nuns try to solve problem like Mick Wallace

The United Left Alliance (ULA), along with sundry members of the Dail's Technical Group, loves a good righteous rant about the shortcomings -- perceived or real -- of politicians on the far side of the chamber.

Indeed this posse of assiduous self-promoters are veritable moral mountaineers who have occupied the high ground more times than Sherpa Tensing.

But they found themselves clinging to the cliff-face of credibility yesterday when one of their team stepped off the edge by admitting that he was a tax-dodger.

What were Joe Higgins, Richard Boyd Barrett, Clare Daly and Shane Ross to do? Denounce their buddy Mick Wallace as yet another politician who believes there's one law for them and another for everyone else, or back up his mind-boggling statement on 'Morning Ireland' yesterday that "Even though it was illegal I thought it was the right thing to do".

And there were decidedly mixed messages emanating from the members of the Technical Group as Leaders' Questions got under way at 10.30am. The Independent TD strolled into the chamber in a disguise of sorts -- he had swapped his trademark bright pink shirt for a more muted green T-shirt -- and slipped into his usual seat.

Beside him sat Clare Daly, the Socialist Party TD for Dublin North. The pair are frequently spotted walking around the city and in the pubs and restaurants close to Leinster House.

Clare was clearly standing by her pal and the two chatted in a relaxed fashion as a vote was called. And so were two other women in the group -- Independent deputy Maureen O'Sullivan shared a laugh with the duo, as did People Before Profit TD Joan Collins.

But not all their comrades were so unbothered. Joe Higgins was sitting some distance away, and ended up in an unsmiling conclave with Richard Boyd Barrett, nor were Independents Thomas Pringle or Finian McGrath looking too impressed when Mick stopped to have a word.

And Shane Ross hovered at the top of the chamber until the vote was called and he slipped into his assigned seat beside Mick. There was a bit of a confabulation between the Dublin South deputy and the Wexford TD -- but it appeared to have all the polite awkwardness of an ill-matched first date.

It's possible that the Technical Group empathized with the bamboozled nuns from the 'Sound of Music', as they pondered how do they solve a problem like Mick Wallace?

This isn't the first time that Mick has found himself in the middle of a furore since he won his seat last year, topping the poll in Wexford much to the shock of the fuddy-duddy political establishment who had largely dismissed him as a no-hoper, colourful character.

And so Mick Wallace -- builder/developer/restaurateur/football manager/vineyard owner -- arrived into Leinster House in a flurry of pink shirts, peroxide locks and dangly ear-rings. He divided his time between his home county of Wexford and his Dublin base around the Italian Quarter on the north quays which he had constructed.

But after a few months he landed himself in his first parliamentary pickle when he became embroiled in the 'Piggygate' incident in July 2011, when he was overheard on an open microphone remarking of Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell O'Connor, that "Miss Piggy has toned it down today".

A penitent Mick went on the airwaves the following morning as the hullaballoo grew, and apologised to the Dun Laoghaire TD.

This fracas blew over quickly enough, but the long shadow of his massive debts has dogged him for over a year.

Yesterday it emerged that he had deliberately under-declared VAT owed by his firm and had landed himself with a €2.1m bill from Revenue -- a sum which he admitted he can't pay.

It's such an unholy mess, that nobody in the Oireachtas knew quite what to do with him yesterday. There was barely a peep out of the government parties on his law-breaking activities.

Mick himself did another round of mea culpa on the 'Six-One News'. He's heading to Poland to support the boys in green.

From ULA to Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole

Not a bother on him.

Irish Independent

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