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Alison O’Connor: Mick Wallace was so busy seeing himself as different that he failed to see the grubbiness of his actions

It takes a very particular emotional skill set to be Irish. At the end of a rather dismal week those skills have been very heavily drawn on. At least the Greeks, for all of their travails, know that when they wake up in the morning the sun will be shining.

On Thursday evening, prior to settling down to watch the soccer, I visited the Taste of Dublin food festival. It can be a wonderful event and a good opportunity for recession-hit restaurants to showcase their wares. Instead the hour before the gates to the Iveagh Gardens opened, so too did the heavens. It was hard to know who to feel most sorry for -- us the sodden punters, or the poor traders attempting to make a few bob. They stood shivering at their stalls. It ranks as possibly one of the most rain-sodden events I have ever experienced. And this in June?

Last Sunday night I looked at the crowd of 30,000 or so Irish fans in Poznan and wondered, I will admit in a slightly curmudgeonly fashion, how in heaven they had afforded to travel to Poland. You could understand how German Chancellor Angela Merkel might equally have thrown a jaundiced eye over the "bankrupt" Irish, managing to travel en masse to the European Championships.

But by Thursday night -- as they sang their hearts out in Gdansk's PGE Arena -- all I could think was how Irish fans are so wonderful and Merkel should learn to loosen up a bit.

How many of these heroes would be in the grips of loan sharks when they returned, and with nothing whatsoever to show for it?

There seemed an almost religious fervour to them during the game, despite how clear it was from the off that we were outclassed. In the end we just made up the numbers.

Coming home is going to be one massive reality check for the fans who had been planning this trip for so long. They will board their flights, and just like every other Irish person who has ever been abroad, the chances are the pilot will be telling them that the weather in Dublin/Cork/Shannon is awful and looks set to remain so.

If they buy a copy of the Irish Independent on that flight they'll see that one of their most high-profile brethren, a soccer-mad TD, who seemed a breath of fresh air in Irish politics, made a belatedly wise decision to stay at home.

Unlike many of his colleagues Mick Wallace is one TD who would be immediately recognisable to any soccer fan, not just those from Wexford.

In fact it is his "everyman" appeal that makes his underpaying of his company's tax liabilities all the more damaging to the body politic -- with people feeling an added legitimacy when they utter that favoured Irish phrase concerning politicians in Leinster House -- "sure they're all at it".

It's clear before Wallace decided to "come clean" on this affair, prior to his troubles being published in the Revenue Commissioner's official list of defaulters, the Wexford TD believed the issue would blow over after a few days of media bluster.

If we cast our minds back, he "placed" the story by giving it to a journalist ahead of the list of defaulters being published. That was nine days ago. What he said then was: "I'm going to get hammered anyway. This kind of thing is happening to builders every day of the week but I'm different because I'm in the Dail."

He said that what he did in knowingly making a false VAT declaration was wrong but he wasn't in a position to undo it now.

The one part of his strategy that has worked is that the furore built up so quickly he decided to stay home from the European championships. Had he left the news to break when it was published in the official list he could have already been in Poland and attempting to defend himself down a phone line. That would have ended his political career.

As it was he struggled seriously with the fallout at home. He may have said on that first day that he was different, and would therefore be treated differently because he is a Dail deputy, but obviously he really didn't understand this as he should. As a representative of the people, elected with well over 13,000 first preference votes, his duty, in theory at least, is to display far more probity than the "average" builder.

In truth I think that Mick Wallace, a highly likeable guy, (easy to see how the people of Wexford elected him) fell somewhat in love with his own hype.

He was so busy seeing himself as different (be it the tatty T-shirts in the Dail chamber or the unruly flaxen locks) he failed to see the grubbiness of his actions. Funny actually, how any tolerance one might have had of the shabby chic and the unkempt locks seemed to erode as this episode has progressed.

Part of his penance could surely involve having to wear a shirt and tie, and putting his hair in a ponytail.

Even in hindsight he didn't seem to see where he had done wrong, only when faced with an onslaught of criticism. It's almost a cliche to point it out, but this carry-on is the sort of behaviour we'd have expected from a Fianna Fail backbencher. His election phrase "For a new politics" rings a little hollow now.

At any rate, he and the other Irish soccer fans will remember Euro 2012 for all of the wrong reasons. The best we can hope for now is a proper summer to give us some solace. It's the least we deserve.

Irish Independent