Tuesday, May 8, 2007

So, Bertie has questions to answer.Among the blizzard of questions about Bertie’s finances this last week there was one startling omission.

Yes, we all want to know if the purchase of his house in Drumcondra was ‘an arms length, bone fide transaction for full market value’.
Yes, we all want to know how he managed to ‘save’ £28,000 in just eight or nine months of 1994. A year during which his salary was about £52,000, out of which he had to pay income tax, a mortgage on a house in Malahide, maintenance to his wife, child support for his kids and he had to eat and provide a roof over his own head.
Yes, we all want to know, also, why he would keep £50,000 in a safe in his office. It certainly wasn’t ‘run away money’ – I mean why would he run away after the separation. (I know, I know, we’re not supposed to be getting into his private life!)

Yes, we all want an explanation for the startling coincidence of the lodgements to Celia’s bank account which don’t match up to Stg£30,000 but do make up exactly $45,000 at that day’s exchange rate.

However, the question I would like an answer to is this.

In what sane, democratic, developed nation is it deemed ok for the serving minister for finance to be in the same room as a business man and a briefcase containing Stg£30,000 in cash? (I said sane, Mr. Mugabe.)

Here’s another question.

In what sane, democratic, developed nation could said minister expect to be exonerated by simply claiming that the money wasn’t for him. It was, apparently, for his girlfriend! So that’s all right then.

I don’t do business at the scale of thirty grand transactions, but this last week I have spoken to some people who do. Neither they nor I do business by carrying around briefcases stuffed with cash. Regular business transactions involve bank drafts, cheques, inter bank transfers and other normal, traceable methods of transferring money.

The essence of our democracy should be that those charged with dispensing the democratic will of the people should be like Caesars wife. That is they should not only be above suspicion but should be seen to be above suspicion. If a serving govrnment minister is hanging around with business men and large sums of cash, well let’s just say that the optics are not great.

However, in a country where an admitted tax cheat can top the poll in a general election. Where a minister can waste €50,000,000 on electronic voting machines that will never be used, and still get reelected. Where a Prime Minister can openly live the life of a multi millionaire (private island, racehorses, huge mansion stuffed with art works etc.), all on a salary which wouldn’t support even the house he lived in, without serious questions being asked, it is just possible that Bertie can flash that famous cheesy grin of his, revert back to the poor northside boy who done good persona, grumble about how it’s really not fair and is distracting him from the running of the country, and he might just get away with it.

So if you’re thinking of voting Fianna Fáil on May 24th let me ask you one more time.

Should a serving minister be hanging around business men with briefcases full of cash – even if the cash was for his girlfriend?