The Departure of the Ceann Comhairle, John O’Donoghue, did not come as a surprise as mounting pressure from all quarters saw his situation hard to continue. His expense costs were high, but if the trawl was a wider it would see many more in hot water also.
It seems, since being an ex Minister for Justice, there was extra security but this came out late in the day. The preference for five star hotels when other alternatives were there seems excessive in today’s climate. But what has been done about this process, are Minister’s still doing the same thing? For instance, is the Foreign Affairs Department and its various embassies more curtailed in expenditure.
Then what about our President and her travel costs and similarly the Taoiseach, does the same system apply. Are we going to curb their expenses despite the public relations benefit for the country? Overall, a cost benefit analysis should be carried out.
The debate did become a bit too simplistic and smacked much of jealousy and resentment. There is a wider debate on general political expenses that is worth pursuing as some do seem high for backbench TDs. In Britain, neither expenses nor salaries are excessive but, in Ireland, the pay is better as are the expenses many of which are not vouched. This seems unfair to ordinary people who must show receipts in their own dealings with expenses. Reform is essential and fits in with the wish of the Minister for Finance to save on public expenditure.
Minister Gormley’s Limo trip in the UK, arranged by the embassy was another wasteful example. Ryanair or Aer Lingus to Cardiff or car hire would have been cheaper.
Over spend in Department of Sports and Tourism
One of the outcomes over the weekend was the disclosure that, when Minister for Sport and Tourism, John O’Donoghue over committed and over promised various projects, despite his Department not having the funds in place. There seems to be a huge overhang in project development because of over spending. Minister Martin Cullen’s opportunity to spend has been very limited.
As a result of Mr O’Donoghues over commitments Minister Cullen has had very little discretion on placing investments in the south east. We have suffered heavily here with the loss of Waterford Crystal and, surely, there should be a priority to aid the South East with this handicap. The Viking Quarter that the city council had planned is retarded and delayed due to lack of funding, yet other perhaps less worthy schemes get the go ahead as they are in the system.
Even the National Lottery, we are told, is log-jammed with projects and, as a result, no new ones can be entertained until there is a clearance. This seems a very unfair process and severely limits Ministers to use their powers. In the meantime, projects committed to Kerry and elsewhere get the go ahead while
Waterford stalls with a closed crystal factory and no Viking Quarter. Our front page story suggests there are positive plans for more. But we want to see real financial backing from the state that gained so much from Waterford Crystal over the years. When the next election comes, people will wonder why Waterford is angry but it is easy to see why even after voting in a Minister who topped the poll.
NAMA debate welcome
The likelihood of NAMA going through is almost certain after the Greens’ weekend decision to stay in Government. The costs of NAMA will be a book figure at this stage but, if there are losses, it will be different. The debate on NAMA is welcome but the cost of running the public service and pensions is far more substantial and, with the current deficits, that will be the real worry in the weeks ahead as the budget is prepared.