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Lise Hand: Mahon Moanathon rumbles on in orgy of self-flagellation

IT was Day Two of gazing into the grisly entrails of the Mahon Report, and the atmosphere in the Dail chamber yesterday was in stark contrast to the azure sky and bright, summer-like sunshine dancing on the roof of Leinster House.

For inside all was gloom and introspection, the mood more indigo than azure. After the fractious, finger-pointing blame-game of Tuesday, it seemed as if all sides of the House had begun to realise that the smoking rubble of Ireland's political reputation was in danger of burying them all, and not just the desperados in Fianna Fail.

But yesterday the Soldiers of Destiny's rations were large slices of humble pie. A sombre Dara Calleary gave a thoughtful speech, describing the report as "a catalogue of disservice.

"Every single finding represents disservice, at the very least, betrayal, and, in many cases, treachery," said Fianna Fail's Mayo deputy.

Likewise, Cork South-Central's Michael McGrath pledged: "Over time, we will permanently and resolutely detach from Fianna Fail the stench of corruption that a small number of disgraced former members brought upon us."

Independent Mattie McGrath, formerly of the Fianna Fail parish, wanted his pound of flesh like a vengeful Tipp South Shylock.

"We have to remove the pensions from those who have tarnished the good names of the 1916 leaders, those involved in the War of Independence and those who established this State. The people in question have tarnished politics and tarnished democracy," he thundered.

But if one thing united all sides of the House yesterday it was a mass outbreak of fretting about the severe beating which Mahon has administered to the battered body politic.

Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald was particularly pessimistic. "The public confidence in the entire system of public administration has been deeply undermined and people ask themselves if the behaviour of the political class is consistent with any real claim that this State is a functioning republic," she pondered.

This dismal view was echoed by her party colleague, Cork North Central's Jonathan O'Brien. "Our political system is corrupt from the ground up, the architecture of this State is crumbling," he declared.

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton was one politician who, when she sat on Dublin County Council in the 1990s, did repeatedly try to shout stop to the shady dealings she saw around her. And her reward?

"I have been threatened with 42 libel actions. The purpose was to threaten and silence journalists and people like me," she told the chamber yesterday. "The people named in these reports have damaged the good name of politics in Ireland."

And Joan also pinpointed one grim reality which drives every depressed denizen up the collective walls in fury.

"A certain few of those named and shamed eventually served jail time but many others returned to business as usual without suffering serious consequences," she said.

"It outrages ordinary citizens to see successive scandals being uncovered at enormous taxpayer expense and the same characters and plot lines popping up repeatedly."

Indeed. And it isn't just greed-head politicians who star in repeat episodes of these ghastly dramas, either. 'I'm A Banjaxed Banker ... Get Me Out Of Here' has been running without any satisfying denouement since September 2008, for a start.

And so the Festival of Self-Flagellation wailed on. There were sporadic outbreaks of Fianna Fail bashing, of course. But it would have all stayed quite subdued, except for the Two Angry Men.

Willie O'Dea rolled into the chamber like a mini Death Star, emanating vibes of menace and a burning desire to zap a few enemies. For let's face it -- Willie does penitence like Madonna does burqas.

And everyone got scorched by Willie's superlaser. It was even wigs on the green for some legal eagles. Speaking about his infamous remark in 2007 that he was waiting for the tribunal to go "back to Bertie Ahern's First Communion money," Willie took a bite of humble pie.

"If the tribunal regards my statement as too flippant, harsh or disrespectful, I regret making it," he said.

But then, alas, he spat it right back out, and promptly quoted other remarks made about the tribunal by various eminent members of the judiciary, including Justice Adrian Hardiman of the Supreme Court and the High Court's Justice Susan Denham.

"My remark, however flippant it may have been, pales into significance by comparison," he claimed with an injured air.

What's more, he felt hard done by the national broadcaster choosing to highlight the "humble pie" remark amid all the stuff he has said about the tribunal.

"I'm amazed that the national broadcaster, RTE, which has a well deserved reputation for balance and a lack of bias, could only find one statement," he sniffed.

Nor was Death Star O'Dea finished.

"I will take no criticism on standards from the spawn of murderers, robbers, extortionists and purveyors of every sort of crime. When Sinn Fein, of all parties, talks about standards, it sticks in my craw," he snarled.

But Fine Gael's Alan Shatter was even angrier. (Maybe it's a Justice Minister macho thing). He gave Fianna Fail both barrels, declaring that he "constantly marvelled" at the party's shamelessness.

"It is as if they lived in a parallel universe oblivious to the revelations of recent years that received widespread publicity and were known to the dogs in the street well advance of the publication of the Mahon Report," he sniped.

"It's hard to avoid the conclusion that one party in particular, rather than face up to the consequences of what had been going on, simply adopted a policy of 'don't ask, don't tell' when it came to corruption. In reality it wasn't so much a case of ignoring the elephant in the living room, as patting it on the head amid steadfast expressions of support," he blasted.

One day left. The Mahon Moanathon could end with a whimper -- or if Willie gets his hands on some of Alan's ordnance -- with a bloody great big bang.