Time the penny dropped

Off the fence
Time the penny dropped


Edwin McGreal


Most politicians just don’t get it. They can’t see anything wrong in some of the ridiculous expenses being claimed by their kind - TDs, senators and councillors.
As far as most of them are concerned the only thing that is wrong is what they consider the overkill of the issue by the media.
They would rather that in a time that people are being denied essential healthcare, that a blind eye be turned to lavish foreign trips and coteries of councillors claiming mileage for long journeys to summer schools they have little or no interest in.
Everything is up for discussion folks. That’s because of the perilous state of our economy. And politicians have to take much of the blame for the mess.
The most hilarious part is the outrage expressed by politicians. Some of the off-the-record conversations I have had with local politicians about expenses sum up their intransigence on the issue. One county councillor told me that people just don’t understand how things work. He explained that he had to go to Brussels and had to pay for the hotel out of his own pocket.
“Really,” says I, amazed that he wasn’t entitled to claim.
“Yeah it was only three months later that I was able to get the money back. People don’t appreciate that.” Hmmm.
Another local politician told me how he paid £90 for a taxi from Gatwick to the middle of London on a political trip.
It was only when he got to his destination that he was told there was a train service that ran directly from the airport to where he was going which only cost £5. Question is, if the cost was coming out of his own pocket, would he have left Ireland without finding out the cheapest available way into the city? I think not. But because whatever he paid could be claimed back, what was the point in wasting five minutes on Google?
Ivor Callelly has, of course, kept the issue in the news in recent weeks. And he is different from virtually every other politician because he claimed for expenses he wasn’t entitled to.
But that is another thing worth commenting on. Politicians will always fall back on that chesnut – ‘we’re only claiming what we’re entitled to’. The old line about the letter of the law and the spirit of the law springs to mind. Politicians, most of them anyway, don’t seem to appreciate the cost is borne by the taxpayer.
Austin Francis O’Malley, a county councillor, argued on Mid West Radio last week that you never hear about what expenses the media writing the stories claim. As one texter pointed out, that’s because the people don’t pay for reporters expenses.
And it is not fair to single out Cllr O’Malley because the vast majority of politicians would agree with him. At a time when we need leadership and responsibility among our elected politicians, we are left with far too many defending freeloading.
It would be a pleasant surprise if we saw a bit more integrity for our elected representatives.