Political Notebook: Technical Group found ‘sorely wanting’ in Wallace affair

We have had our quota of the broth of a boy-type politician in this country who seem to feel that the usual rules do not necessarily apply to them.

We have had our quota of the broth of a boy-type politician in this country who seem to feel that the usual rules do not necessarily apply to them.

And Mick Wallace, of the distinctive dress and seemingly devil-may-care attitude, seems to fit that mould.

In appearance terms, he is not a man who could slip quietly into a crowd.

Hairstyle alone would see to that.

Not that Mr Wallace’s sartorial standards are likely to be of interest to the Irish people as they battle The Economic War.

It could be argued, mind you, that it is a privilege to be elected to Dail Eireann to serve the people.

And it could be further argued that those elected should have respect for the rules of the national parliament, including its dress code.

But let us park his sartorial standards, which, one suspects, he has put a lot of time and effort into.

The blunt reality is that he owes the Irish people €2.1 million in a VAT debt.

He did not go to the Revenue Commissioners and say that his company was in difficulty and seek some kind of arrangement which might save it in the long-term.

No. He turned the other cheek in terms of paying his bill. His bizarre logic is that while it was wrong it was right.

This is the man who passes himself off as a left-of-centre politician and activist on the side of the disadvantaged and the downtrodden.

He is also the man who, in the past, was fined for failing to pay the required pension contributions of his workforce.

Yet, before the revelation about his unpaid VAT bill, he was planning to head off to Poland for the Euros.

Here was a man, heavily in debt to the Irish people, who are employing him as a TD, intending to take paid leave to follow a soccer championship !

The Dail is sitting. And surely, despite some Dail reform, its long summer break should be enough for all TDs.

Nice work, indeed, if you can get it.

Mr Wallace’s personal financial situation could not have been that bad when he decided he would take his paid Dail leave to go to a soccer tournament.

How could he reconcile all that with his hefty debt to the Irish people which he claimed he could not pay ?

And how could his colleagues in the Technical Group, the Independents who have come together to secure more Dail speaking time, justify it ?

If Mr Wallace was a member of a political party, he would have lost the whip and be expelled from the organisation by now.

The Technical Group would have been first to join in the political calls for him to go.

But given that he was one of their own, they clearly felt otherwise when the story broke.

They went to ground. Throughout last Thursday, as the media sought a response, and the mainstream political parties looked on aghast, it seemed as if the normally loquacious Technical Group members and others had taken a vow of silence.

Finally, in late evening, they responded to the growing clamour for a comment by issuing a brief statement.

Yes, it said, Mr Wallace had done wrong. But he was a member of the Technical Group, as any Independent was entitled to be.

The statement’s brevity said more than words. The Technical Group was closing ranks around one of its own.

The broth of a Wexford boy was different to others, it seemed.

The Technical Group is not a mainstream party. But it is a group which has come together to maximise its members’ parliamentary role.

So there was an onus on all its members to adjudicate on Mr Wallace in the same way as they would do if he was a TD from a political party.

Mr Wallace gave some self-serving interviews. But it appeared that he was still planning to remain a TD and head for Poland.

Finally, some Technical Group members got their act together.

Independent TD for Waterford John Halligan broke ranks when he made it clear he believed Mr Wallace should resign from the Dail.

Others joined in over the weekend.

Pressure from the media and the political parties intensified.

Mr Wallace had a change of heart on Saturday afternoon.

He sought to make a personal statement to the Dail on Tuesday and said he would not be going to Poland.

That statement was an option open to him from the minute the VAT story broke.

So it was too little, too late.

And it was too little, too late, also, for the Technical Group.

When trouble came to their own doorstep, they were found to be sorely wanting with a quick and decisive response.

The Independents were elected with a promise of a new brand of politics very different to the mainstream political parties.

New politics, how are you !

Confidence in our political structures has been further eroded.

Another bad week for Irish politics.

I suppose a minor consolation is that they are not hogging things in Poland, some at the taxpayers’ expense, as would have happened in the old days.