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Despite all the talk, Enda has still said little of real substance

Whoever wrote Enda Kenny's speech in the Dail on Tuesday did a good job. Who could argue against us re-establishing a moral code in our society and restoring public confidence to politics, which the Taoiseach pledged to do during the debate on the Moriarty Tribunal report.



The word that kept cropping up as you listened to this fine rhetoric, though, was: but -- but, but, but. Enda was promising the sun, the moon and the stars when it came to de-polluting Irish society from political corruption, but there was this lingering sense that he was speaking out of one side of his mouth.

It was as much about what he hasn't said in relation to all of this, as what he did say. It's not just that he was equivocal about whether Michael Lowry should resign as a Dail deputy, putting about that old line about not wanting to prejudice any future case; but he also failed to address, in fact simply ignored, the issues that are on so many minds in relation to Fine Gael and the Tipperary North TD.

As a politician who has been around as long as Enda knows, there are ways of saying things and ways of saying things, especially if you have a few experienced speech- writers at your disposal.

The phrase "in an ideal world" -- which he tagged on to his answer when asked whether Lowry should resign -- was lame.

From the day the Moriarty report was published, the party appeared on the back foot in relation to its former minister and chief fundraiser, and the difficulties over its $50,000 donation from Esat's Norwegian partners Telenor.

It was all shifty and uncomfortable in its responses, and you couldn't help but feel you were having a flashback to a Fianna Fail response in some sort of similar situation.

One was reminded of a speech given at the Macgill summer school by the now Minister for European Affairs, Lucinda Creighton, in which she said that if her party got into government, it needed to be more than simply "Fianna Fail" light.

After all, Michael Lowry is a man who once held the keys to the Fine Gael safe. The party was in thrall to him after he managed to turn its finances around at a time when it was flat broke. He was a golden boy.

It may be entirely without foundation, but you are left with a lingering sense that the party is a little afraid of its former fundraiser, and what information he may have that it would rather not be made public. This could all, of course, be entirely fanciful, but the manner of the party's responses, and especially Enda Kenny's, has left the impression remain.

Couldn't our new Taoiseach have come a little cleaner on this issue; acknowledging his and his party's awkwardness in relation to Michael Lowry, but then saying what he needed to say to ensure it was clear what he thought of this deputy's behaviour.

Our politics was corrupted by Fianna Fail over recent decades, not just by grubby money issues, but also by a certain manner of speaking and explaining that was anything from clear, majored on obfuscation, and always left out far more than was ever actually said.

Enda Kenny may think it unfair to attempt to tar him with this brush, but if he wants his lofty vision of reform to be wholly credible, and he to be credibly the one to deliver it, he will have to come up with a new approach to explaining himself in relation to Michael Lowry and related issues.

Added to the fostering on Lowry was the embarrassing Telenor situation. Again, the Taoiseach found himself on shaky ground. On the one hand, he is now all in favour of banning corporate donations, yet on the other, Fine Gael has appeared little short of shady when it comes to revealing who has been giving it funds.

I wrote here around the time of the general election that the party hoped to have cleared its election debt of around €1.3m by the end of this year. It was mostly raised, they insisted, through its national draw and with very little coming from corporate donations.

On one hand you'd admire Fine Gael's efficiency in these straitened times, on the other you might wonder exactly how it did it.

Its chance to stop you wondering would be to publish the list of corporate donors who have given to the party, yet managed to avoid official detection through ensuring that donations are broken up so that they don't breach the €5,078.95 limit. If that was breached, donations would have to be disclosed.

It's all legitimate and within the law, but these were laws largely introduced by the party that it claims is responsible for ruining Irish politics -- Fianna Fail.

Adopting a "what's good for the goose" approach does not add to your credibility.

Money follows power and even the hint of power, something which Fine Gael has had for quite some time in the run-up to the election.

The Standards in Public Office Commission report has long been unhappy with the transparency and openness in relation to the disclosure of donations and expenditure at election time saying the provisions relating to this area remain ineffective.

If we never get to see the books of political parties, and not just Fine Gael, there are too many opportunities and temptations to try and cook them.

The financial reform of how our political parties are funded is crucial to introducing a new politics in this country. The Moriarty debate of the past two weeks has reminded us how tainted our politics has been and how, with our current system, it remains open to abuse.

Now, Enda, take a deep breath and tell it to us like it is and was ...

Irish Independent