It is an accepted convention of our political system that the Ceann Comhairle should remain above political controversy. Implied in that duty is an overriding obligation of fairness among all Members. It was, therefore, inappropriate for me as Ceann Comhairle to respond publicly to various matters concerning costs incurred while I was Minister for Arts, Sport and Tourism. For many people my silence probably indicated an absence of justification and a lack of defence.
These are the promises made by the Green Party at the 2007 election:
Housing - Ensure the delivery of 10,000 social and affordable housing units a year until the housing waiting lists are cleared.
Health - Provide an additional 4000 beds to cut A&E queues. Introduce medical cards for children under 6.
Child Care - Replace the Early Childcare Supplement with a higher Refundable Parenting Tax Credit available as a cash payment or used to reduce income tax bills.
The deferral of resignation until next week is incomprehensible, unless it is in the expectation (hope?) the government and the Dáil will fall before then and he (John O’Donoghue) will go into the election as sitting Ceann Comhairle with a guaranteed seat in the next Dáil. And the chances of that happening are not entirely remote.
The announced resignation of John O’Donoghue tonight (Tuesday, 6 October) was inevitable once first Sinn Fein, then Labour and, belatedly, Fine Gael pulled the plug on him. It raises questions about the survival of the government but, more critically, it underlines how politics here has become a tussle for the perks of office rather than anything substantive politically. There is no difference at all between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, they are in contest not at all over policy or strategy for this society, merely about office.
We seem to be on our way to yet another act of abject deference. But then acts of deference are what we are best at. They are part of what we are.
Friday is to be the next day of deference, although perhaps Tuesday should be the National Day of Deference, for reasons that I will explain later. On Friday, we look set to endorse the Lisbon Treaty, reversing what we did in June last year for no reason other than deference.
The Lisbon Treaty proposes to incorporate the European Defence Agency (EDA) within the institutional structure of the European Union. Among the tasks of the EDA will be to co-ordinate the military equipment of EU member states to ensure there is greater efficiency and synchronisation of the military capacities of member states in the conduct of humanitarian and peacekeeping projects. It also sponsors research on measures to improve the protection of military personnel engaged in such missions.
The Zoe case in the High and Supreme Courts over the last few weeks has given a disquieting insight into the disposition of the banks, which suggests that Nama may be an even greater disaster than many of us feel. It also raises questions about the conduct of accountants, who will be crucial agents in how Nama works out.
Jean Baptiste Colbert was minister for finance during the regime of Louis XIV. He was credited with rescuing the French economy from bankruptcy in the middle of the 17th century. One of his successes was to extend the tax base beyond small landowners.
He offered the following advice on taxation policy: “The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest amount of feathers with the least amount of hissing.” The quotation is displayed prominently in the museum of the Revenue Commissioners at Dublin Castle.