03 Jul 2022

Poitical Notebook - A betrayed people

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The Irish people could be forgiven for thinking they had reached a grim stage when nothing more could shock.

The Irish people could be forgiven for thinking they had reached a grim stage when nothing more could shock.

As they surveyed the wreckage of a broken Republic, consigned to an economic and social wasteland by some of those in the higher echelons of society, they must have felt there was not a lot more to emerge from the rotten wood.

And yet, there was, as the shocking revelations about the the Central Remedial Clinic reveal. That a handsomely paid chief executive, Paul Kiely, should be given a severance package of €740,000 by a charity beggars belief.

It also raises serious questions, already posed by the Public Accounts Committee, about how the clinic was run. Worse, as the interim administrator John Cregan observed, the payments to Mr Kiely could not have been made by the CRC if the money had not been received by the Friends and Supporters of this very worthy charity.

Think of it. People already caught for cash, as The Economic War rages, reaching into their pockets to contribute to the clinic which cares for disabled children. As callers to radio programmes have made clear, those who made contributions to the CRC did so on the basis that all of the money was earmarked for charitable purposes.

Matters relating to the CRC will take their course. The Dail’s Public Accounts Committee has done excellent work in exposing this sorry mess. Its work is far from over. When it is completed, a comprehensive judgement can then be made of what went on.

But, so far, one thing is clear: events at the CRC have all the hallmarks of that sense of entitlement that was the hallmark of those in the higher echelons in that wretched Celtic Tiger Ireland.

It was to be found in politics, banking, the higher levels of the Civil Service and in high-profile organisations which owed their existence in full or in part to State funding.

And the waste! Waste was everywhere. Remember the millions lost in the computer system for the health service, the money squandered on those hideous electronic voting machines, to mention just two examples.

There is a particular poignancy about the controversy surrounding the CRC. Its driving force was Valerie Lady Goulding, a British aristocrat, who came to Ireland in the 1940s when she married Sir Basil Goulding of the well known fertiliser firm.

She could have opted for a life of ease. A convert to Catholicism, Fr Patrick Farnan, the priest officiated at her funeral in 2003. “She could so easily have spent her time beside a swimming pool in the south of France. But that was not her way,” he said.

Appalled by the poverty in the Ireland of the 1940s, she first worked as a kitchen help in a Dublin clinic and later set up the CRC with a friend to provide aftercare facilities for polio victims. The year was 1951; the clinic grew and grew, thanks to her dynamism and ability to raise money.

It was not until 1977, when it was well established in its current base in Clontarf, that it received State funding.

She was a remarkable woman who gave a significant part of her life to helping those less fortunate than herself. Where did the idealism shown by Lady Goulding disappear to? Where indeed!

Meanwhile, the debacle surrounding Irish Water has been overshadowed by the CRC revelations.

Democratic revolution, as promised by this Government, how are you! As Fianna Fail’s Barry Cowen told the Dail, this is indeed the return of GUBU. The failure to answer basic questions, the failure to adequately explain the spending of 50,000 euro on consultancies, and the failure to remotely justify the payment of bonuses in a commercial semi-State monopoly, is indeed grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented.

When, last November, Mr Cowen and Labour TD Kevin Humphreys tabled legitimate Dail questions about the cost of consultancy services, this Government of alleged openness, transparency and accountability stonewalled. They were told that it was an operational matter for Bord Gais/Irish Water, as the costs were not being funded from the exchequer.

No doubt the mandarins in the Department of the Environment felt they could draft a reply like that because the money was coming from the National Pension Reserve Fund. It was conveniently forgotten that the money in the fund was contributed by the Irish people.

Irish Water’s chief executive John Tierney cut a sorry sight at Dail committees as he and his colleagues tried to explain themselves. Meanwhile, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore tried to bluff their way out this controversy which has damaged the Government.

We are truly betrayed.

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