15 Aug 2022

Longford Leader opinion: Politicians in the rough following public #GolfGate backlash

EU commissioner Phil Hogan

Phil Hogan

On Thursday evening, shortly after the Irish Examiner broke the story of the Oireachtas Golf Society's dinner, and how the gathering at the Station House Hotel in Clifden, was attended by a host of senior politicians and notable public figures, my wife, a very quiet lady may I add, gasped annoyingly.

“They tell me I can’t travel 35 minutes up the road to see my mother, yet these people are carrying on like this. Who do they think they are?”

Residing in a county where recently imposed restrictions owing to a rise in Covid-19 positive cases had yet to be lifted, she stuck rigidly by the rules and was seething with anger that a cohort of those responsible for tightening guidelines on gatherings and coming up with protocols to protect public health were flagrantly ignoring them.

Her reaction was mild compared to how social media had lit up.

The criticism was scathing and an enraged public were quite justifiably demanding heads on a platter.

Agriculture Minister Dara Calleary issued an apology within a couple of hours of the story breaking. But it soon became apparent this wasn’t going to be sufficient to satisfy the baying hordes and he subsequently tendered his resignation by Friday morning.

One couldn’t imagine that farmers or their representative organisations are particularly impressed about having to wait until the Dáil reconvenes to learn the identity of the fourth Minister they’ll have to deal with this year. Deputy Calleary was preceded in the role by Barry Cowen and Michael Creed.

Jerry Buttimer, the Seanad leas-cathaoirleach, also resigned, while Supreme Court judge Séamus Woulfe, apologised for his attendance.

Many other political figures were in attendance and issued apologies.

But ‘sorry seems to be the hardest word’ and for EU trade commissioner Phil Hogan, who has bullishly repelled calls for him to quit, it was Sunday morning, before he issued a "fulsome and profound" apology for attending the #GolfGate event.

Big Phil, following a journey to Kildare and a caution for using his mobile phone while driving, is still under serious pressure and his fate rests in the hands of EU Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen.

Midlands Northwest Sinn Fein MEP Chris MacManus has suggested the actions of Commissioner Phil Hogan could be in contravention of Article 2.5 of the EU Commission’s own Code of Conduct, in that he may have acted in a manner which adversely affects public perception of his integrity and the dignity of his office.

It will be intriguing to see how that is interpreted by the Commission President and how she ultimately adjudicates.
Opinion, however, is somewhat divided on Big Phil’s fate.

Fianna Fáil’s Jim O’Callaghan, interviewed on RTÉ’s This Week, said that with crunch Brexit deal negotiations coming up the national interest would be best served by Commissioner Hogan remaining in situ and this view was shared by ICSA president Edmond Phelan.

Mr Phelan argued that it is absolutely essential that Ireland keeps the trade portfolio in the European Commission because a bad Brexit outcome will devastate the country for generations.

Their view certainly isn’t shared by Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald or Labour’s Alan Kelly.

They believe Commissioner Hogan should resign and they want the Dáil to reconvene sooner than what was indicated in a press release issued after midnight on Saturday by An Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Minister Eamon Ryan. They have agreed that the Dáil should be recalled following the reopening of schools.

“To begin the process of rebuilding public confidence,” is one of the reasons why the Dáil needs to return, according to Deputy McDonald.

She is bang on the money there.

The confusion and mixed messaging emanating from the corridors of power needs to end. It is merely fuelling public anxiety and outrage.

Our tripartite government has got off to a disastrous start and it is time they rose to the rigours of playing political senior hurling and showing leadership.

If they can’t do that, well then they should leave the pitch (and turn their attention to golf!).

Best wishes and thanks to Mattie Fox

In the summer of 2013, Ballinalee’s Mattie Fox, following some gentle persuasion from former Longford Leader Managing Director and now Teachta Dála, Joe Flaherty, agreed to pen his maiden column for Longford Leader readers to enjoy, dissect and debate.

Whether you agreed with Mattie’s analysis of politics, rural life, religious affairs, GAA and music or not, his commentary and opinion was always insightful and well researched.

It was certainly never boring and for many Leader readers, his column was their first port of call. ‘Well, what is Mattie saying this week?’

Unfortunately, last week proved to be Mattie’s final column for the Leader and his contribution will be missed.

A true professional, he plans to continue his writing and no doubt he will keep the public informed as to the platform where this can be sourced.

In April 2016, Mattie’s first book ‘The Golden Years - Longford GAA 1965 - ‘68’, was launched by former inter-county star Paul Barden.

Longford captured the National Football League Division 1 title (1966) and Leinster Senior Championship glory (1968) and Mattie recounted, how as a 15-year-old, and courtesy of his late father Matt (who was Longford GAA Co Board secretary at that time), he was privileged to have a coveted ‘ringside seat’ to witness Longford’s greatest ever victories.

At the launch of ‘The Golden Years’, Mattie quipped, “Talk about St Mel’s Cathedral rising from the ashes like the Phoenix, it was nothing compared to the rising of this Longford team from losers to winners on the national stage!”

You know Mattie, there is another book in you…

Best wishes for the future.

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