Bertie Speech Digest

By | April 2, 2008

1. I’m great
2. I’m really great
3. I’m a martyr
4. I’ve done nuttin wrong
5. Did I mention how great I am?

Question: What the f*ck was Gormley doing? Standing behind him like an old party hack gravely nodding. Has he Stockholm Syndrome?

Keywords: Patriotism*, loyalty, family (stifle sob), “minutae”, “the people”

*Note: Although common usage defines patriotism as loyalty towards one country, non-Irish readers should note that when deployed by an FnFer it actually means loyalty towards Fianna Fail (inextricably intertwined with loyalty to leader of Fianna Fail). The confusion arises since Fianna Fail members identify the party and the country as being the same entity. What’s good for FF is good for Ireland and visa versa. An attempt to explain the difference to members will generally be met by total confusion.

91 thoughts on “Bertie Speech Digest

  1. Elizabeth

    This is not the reality of politics, it is the reality of the Fianna Fail brand of politics.

    Being on the take personally isn’t the only form of corruption. Staying silent about the wrong doing of others or condoning it in the hope of personal advancement is also corrupt. Ahern saw no evil, heard no evil in the Haughey years. He never raised a dissenting voice, just kept his head down and kept signing the blank cheques, and was duly rewarded with promotion. Some spoke out, most notably Des O’Malley, but not the protegee.

    Fast forward to the present day. The protegee now has serious questions of his own to answer in relation to the equivalent in today’s terms of €800,000. If he didn’t get it from Owen O’Callaghan, as FF assure us (and which is probably true) where did he get it from? And, more importantly, what did he do in return for it? Did it buy any socially disastrous planning decisions, for example? The difference between then and now is that no one speaks out in Fianna Fail. And Cowen, the chief loyalist, is about to reap his reward. The country will continue to be governed by people who are prepared to stand idly by in the face of corruption, even if they are not personally on the take.

  2. Tomaltach

    While I agree with much of the sentiment of your comment Elizabeth, and I particularly admired O Malley’s courage myself, there is still more context missing.

    You said The difference between then and now is that no one speaks out in Fianna Fail.

    But there are other important differences.

    1.Haughey was a deeply divisive figure from the beginning and his early saga in the arms trial.
    2.Haughey, and many of those he surrounded himself with, were bullys in the brutest sense of the word. Those who crossed him or hated his antics were always waiting in the long grass. Ahern is the opposite, a uniting figure who, from all I heard, and this happens to be one of his great skills, is courteous to everyone and attempts to keep people on his side for as long as he can.
    3.The political climate of the time – with the economic vandalism that had been wrought on the country from Lynch’s government (and indeed early Haughey govs) made the political Arena a place an angry, fraught place, where cleavages and division were never far away.
    4.Haughey’s personal wealth was conspicusous, the scale of his extra-political income was extra-ordinary, and the arrogance, indeed conceit with which he wore all of this gave him the auro of a Lord in the Manor in whose service were the little people whose belts had to be tightened.

    A different era I’m afraid, and when examined in detail, any likeness between then and now, an the very least, begins to fade.

  3. Tom N

    FF are corrupt to the core.

    Burke, Lawlor, Flynn, Cooper-Flynn, and now Ahern. Their proteges are unlikely to be any better.

  4. Tom N

    Haughey was held up as a man of the people, had the common touch, etc.

    A friend of my, a smart guy and same age as me (mid 30s) has totally forgotten about all the corruption of Haughey.

    The same way the people now think that there is no corruptionin FF because most are so bent, they genuinely cannot see the wood from the trees.

  5. Sarah Post author

    “Yea, I actually do believe that practices have changed. Call me naive, I would be very surprised if I found out that B. Cowen had somewhere just under 1m (Ir Times figure of over 800k) slushing through funds that he cannot explain.”

    I said that about Bertie loadsa times.

  6. Tomaltach

    Fair comment Sarah, but everyone knew that Ahern was firmly from the old Haughey camp, and he has always had the cute hoor aura about him, and his reign in Finance was during an era when, I believe, more of these shananagans were going on.

    Ahern wasn’t long Taoiseach when he was claiming that he had gone to extraordinary lengths to find out about the 30k payment to Ray Burke.

  7. Sarah Post author

    sigh. See I do actually hope you are right. Personally I am depressed this morning. A new man will come in and nothing will change.

    I think Crewser is either crying into his pillow OR he must be somebody VERY high up in FF and is terribly busy arranging the regime change.

  8. Andrew Lawlor

    Last night I read the full transcript of Ahern’s resignation speech. The first thought that came to mind as I read it was that here was a man who was anything but the humble man of the people we are asked to believe he is. In the current circumstance one would feel that his resignation speech would be a little more apologetic and a little less look at me, look at my achievements, am I not fantastic?

    “I am today Ireland’s second longest serving Taoiseach and the second longest serving leader of Fianna Fail.

    I am proud to be the first Taoiseach since 1944 to be elected on three successive occasions.

    All levels of Irish society have seen their well-being dramatically improved in the period I have served as Taoiseach.

    In looking back on all the things I wanted to achieve in politics, I am proud that as Taoiseach I have:
    • delivered on my objective to bring the peace process to fruition;
    • delivered on my objective to see a stable administration based on the power-sharing model take root in Northern Ireland;
    • delivered successive social partnership agreements which underpin our social and economic progress;
    • delivered a modern economy with sustainable growth in employment and brought an end to the days of forced emigration;
    • delivered on my objective to improve and to secure Ireland’s position as a modern, dynamic and integral part of the European Union.”

    I am sick of the lie that Bertie Ahern is responsible for the peace in Northern Ireland. Many, many people worked to secure that peace both before and after Ahern. The serious groundwork for a peace deal was done by people like John Hume, Seamus Mallon, John Major, David Trimble, Gerry Adams, Albert Reynolds and many more years before Ahern ever became involved. Yes, he played a large part in the final settlement, but many others who contributed equally do not go around shouting from the rooftops that they saved Northern Ireland. Why is this? Could it be that others who were involved were indeed decent, humble men and women.

    Ahern also said, “I believe the secret of Fianna Fail’s enduring success is rooted in the quality of people that we have as public representatives.”

    Which of these quality representatives ever shouted stop when the lies, the obstruction and the obfuscation were mounting before their eyes.

    Much has been made of the fact that Ahern leaves a strong, united Fianna Fáil party after fourteen years in charge. This worries me more than anything else. During the Haughey years there was no shortage of Fianna Fáil members willing to challenge the corruption and the wrong-doing at the top. Many paid a heavy political price for doing so. Now it seems that the Haughey – Ahern wing of the party has crushed all opposition. During the last eighteen months not one senior member of Fianna Fáil has raised a critical voice against their leader. This one small fact spaeaks volumes about the calibre and the quality of public representatives within Fianna Fáil and it does not bode well for the future of this country, as I have no doubt that the electorate will continue to usher in many more Fianna Fáil led administrations.

  9. An Spailpín Fánach

    Elizabeth asks for “a non Fianna Fail leader since the foundation of the state, or indeed any Western leader, who could [A] bring disgrace and shame on himself and his party through financial wrong doing (at the very least, we know for a fact that he has serious tax issues), [B] give untruthful and contradictory sworn testimony to a tribunal and then [C] be given a standing ovation by that party when he is finally forced to resign, [D] all the time refusing to admit he had done wrong.”

    There are four conditions, at least, in that request, depending on how you seperate criteria that may be dependant on each other.

    Gosh. You don’t ask for much Liz, do you? But shall we just say Chirac and Berlusconi and leave it at that?

    Zara – how fabulous you are. :)

  10. Electron

    Sarah, I was somewhat surprised by Cowen’s statement during an interview with RTE, some weeks ago, when he intimated that back then, during the period that’s now in question, he and others would have difficulty separating their personal finances and political donations – what was he trying to tell us?

  11. An Spailpín Fánach

    My guess would be Cowen made the remarks he did because the notion that there is a clear and obvious difference between a personal and political donation is a hopelessly aspirational one. Politicans have to take contributions because the taxpayer, while demanding the highest standards, does not demand the highest standards so loudly as to actually have to pay for them. Therefore, politicans have to source money from elsewhere and if I give someone money I by God expect something back. That, as David Mamet says, is why they call it money.

  12. Sarah Post author

    Don’t fall for that one.

    1. Ahern was taking money (as was Burke, Haughey and Lawlor) directly from the Fianna Fail organisation. This line that public/personal were confused is rubbish. There was no confusion. They knowingly took money meant for politics and used it to buy themselves houses.

    2. The variation on this line is that all this standards business is quite new. Not its not. It was always the law to declare your personal income and pay tax on it. That’s why Bruton fired Lowry. Remember when politicians applied their own standards and didn’t wait for Tribunals to tell them when someone was acting unethically.

    Other politicians had quite clear demarcations between political donations and private income. Anyone who didn’t can answer for themselves but don’t try to pretend “they were all at it”.

  13. Tomaltach

    An Spailpín has a point.

    Suppose a donor makes a political donation to a TD and says it is for the FF party. First, why did the donor not give straight to the FF organisation or fundraiser or treasurer? There is a reason. The reason is that the donor is buying the favour (not necessarily a favour) of our TD. The TD gains too. He or she goes to the fundraiser and says – hey, look what I was given, and that’s the third this week. Is that not a boost for the TDs career? If the donor gives directly to the TD for the TDs own election campaign, is that not helping the TDs career anyway?

    True, if the TD pockets a donation that was intended for the party then that’s obviously a breech of trust, but the point is that in all these cases the TD gains from the donor’s action.

    In fact this nullifies Eoghan Harris’s argument that Bertie could not have been corrupt because there are no mansions, no horses, no paintings, no extravagance, no manifestation of vast private wealth. It misses the point. Even if all monies that Ahern received were used for political purposes, personal or party, it is still in a sense a private gain to him.

  14. An Spailpín Fánach

    I’m interested in these “quite clear demarcations between political donations and private income.”

    Let’s say I’m in Castlebar this Sunday for the Mayo v Galway football game, as I hope to be. Who do I meet in Tom Byrne’s pub on Main Street only Enda Kenny, a local. I buy him a pint.

    This imperial pint of strong, black porter is valued at four Euro or so. When Enda Kenny toasts my health like the gentleman he is and sinks the pint, is that strong black porter going down the throat of Enda Kenny, private citizen, or Enda Kenny, public representative? And how can I, as the man who made the donation, tell? I wanted to make a political donation, but all for all I know Enda Kenny the private citizen is sating himself on the porter that was meant for the betterment of the country, in order to build a brighter future for all our children. I demand that only Enda public drink my porter, and let Enda private buy his own.

    Really Sarah. This seems difficult to implement for a simple-minded fellow like myself.

    You may say that four Euro is a trifling sum. But what if I buy Enda a second pint? And a third? At what stage does the sum become significant? What is the porter threshold of political life?

    I think, Sarah, that the situation may be a little more complex than you would paint it.

  15. Tomaltach

    Why is it that the discussion breaks down if you don’t toe the line regarding FF and Ahern. Even if you, like me, go 3/4 way, you are still snubbed if you dont’ agree in full with those blinded by some visceral rage.

    Uncharacteristically you just shut down the discussion on the dubious difference between private and political gain. Why? An Spailpín asked you, not Padraid O’Connor. O’Connor’s case does not really answer the question anyway.

  16. Mark Waters

    4 euro to buy a pint is personal. 4 euro to buy an election poster is political.

    It’s not hard to make the distinction unless your lazy or wilfully confusing the issue.

    I suppose you could argue that a drunken Enda would be more politically appealing but that’s pushing it I think.

  17. Sarah Post author

    I didn’t shut it down, but Tribunals have nothing do with pints.

    I have worked for FG as a fundraiser. As you all know I have worked for Esat who were giving political donations. I am the daughter of a politician. There is no confusion. Parties and constituencies hold fundraising events or formally seek donations from business people to fund their activities. There are cheques and drafts made out to named parties or constituency organisations. These are political donations for political purposes. Enda Kenny does not get a cheque or a bag load of cash which he lodges to his personal account. That is what particular people in a particular party do. When they take money, in cash, and lodge it to undeclared bank accounts and use it to buy houses, it is quite clear that while they may do no specific favour for the donor, they are acting unethically and illegally if that money is not declared as income to the revenue commissioners.

    Padraig O’Connor gave what he thought was a political donation and heard on the news it was a personal one. He was quite clear that this was not the case. So no one else should pretend to be confused either.

  18. Electron

    So was Cowen, admitting in that interview, that he too could have problems if he were to be investigated and was he laying down a marker for future reference – I thought that it was most peculiar. Could you trust any of them?

  19. Sarah Post author

    Well i don’t vote for them or anyone who’s ever gone into government with them, so that answer is No!

    I’m not sure if he has anything to hide. He seems to have more cop, but sure who can tell? I think it was just putting a gloss things. But don’t take my word: my record on political predictions isn’t exactly great :-)

  20. Electron

    I don’t know if he has that much cop – remember some years ago he was minister for something and he held shares in a company that could benefit from his decisions – very sloppy for a legal mind or was it that he didn’t give a damn about the rules.

  21. Zara

    Dammit An Spailpín, I thought for a second you were paying me a compliment 😀

  22. Paul

    I thought Bertie did very well as Taoiseach. Maybe a third term was one too many but generally he ran the country very well.

  23. An Spailpín Fánach

    Oh but Zara, I was, I was!

    “Oh Zara
    I’d go as far-a
    To say
    You’re my peach, my day on the beach,
    My sunny day in May!!!”

    Kind of a Cole Porter number. :)

    Call into Mick Bryne’s in Castlebar before the Mayo v Galway game on Sunday:,-95.677068&sspn=34.176059,70.488281&ie=UTF8&ll=53.856627,-9.298511&spn=0.012428,0.034418&z=15&iwloc=addr

    I’ll be in there trying to corrupt Enda Kenny. 😀

  24. Andrew Lawlor

    I must be confused. I seem to have stumbled into some kind of a singles club chat room!! Sarah, you should talk to your IT guys about this.

  25. Zara

    It’s a date An Spailpín. I’ll be wearing a maroon ‘n white micro mini.

    Apologies Andrew, regular programming can now resume.

  26. John of Dublin

    Hi Sarah, I had a good belly laugh at your lovely pithy 5 point summary. Hilarious. Even though I’d lean towards being a Bertie fan…it doesn’t stop me having a sense of humour, LOL!

  27. Tom N

    Sense of humour….

    In recent years I had two foreign bosses. One French, one English. Still in contact with both and have coffee with the French guy occasionally. Haven’t met the English one since he resigned, but she was very insightful.

    She always said that if an English politician did what Bertie did, he would resign and scarper off into the night. He was like a child who was caught lying.

    The French guy is far more pragmatic. He said “Zut alors…your public services are a disaster. I can’t believe you had to wait this long to get him out”. OK I added the “zut alors” but the rest was true.

  28. An Spailpín Fánach

    A Frenchman giving out about public services? These are the same shams who paralysed Paris with a strike the day of the Rugby World Cup Final and were torching cars for no good reason eighteen months ago? Zut, as you say, alors. I hope you swung for him Tommy boy. 😉

  29. Tomaltach

    But a Spailpín Fhánaigh, in spite of (or maybe because of) their propensity to strike, many French public services such as health and transport would put ours to shame. And I’m not sure I see the link with the torched cars – a mob reaction surely, but certainly did have reasons behind it.

  30. Andrew

    Good point, Tomaltach. Vincent Browne has a fine piece in today (Wednesday’s) Irish Times about the consensus that seems to have emerged in the media: tax take is down so services must be cut. In France, whatever one thinks of their tactics, they are less willing to let the most vulnerable in society – the consumers of ‘public services’, as Browne points out – suffer every time the economy takes a downturn. He makes a point that’s been made here before – that the media are part and parcel of the private sector, with an inherent political bias toward business interests and capital. The French media, too, are more reflective of the full spectrum of political opinion.

  31. Electron

    Andrew, France tries to hold firm to the concept of a true Republic – the provision of good public services is a core value. To Fianna Fail, Republican is only a Brand name and all it really means is anti-Brit.

  32. An Spailpín Fánach

    A Thomaltaigh, I’m sure the French mob had reasons behind their actions. I just question whether or not those reasons were valid, or did any good. My own guess is neither, I’m afraid. But perhaps it was a cheap shot to draw it down; if so, I apologise, and withdraw the remark.

  33. Tomaltach

    I think that is spot on. A consensus has been manufactured, to borrow a phrase from Chomsky, and I find it stunning how successfully it has been done. So many people now follow the group think that low tax = good. I’ve often heard the same people arguing for better public services, retention of local services, and at the same time cursing the tax system for being punitive. I think it’s extraodinary that there is no genuine debate about what levels of public funding we want to aim for and what is the fairest way to balance tax base to achieve these levels.

    While I admire French public services in some of the areas we mentioned, I would be far more reluctant to laud her sincerity in respect of her republican ideals. Here I might reference the riots mentioned by An Spailpín. France has an immense problem with its North African population who are severly ghettoised and feel badly alienated from French society. There are issues too such as how France treated the Algerian soldats who fought for her in a number of wars. Principles of equality were set aside. Furthermore, France is an extremely elitist society. The elitism is built into the structure of society in matter such as politics and education, how people from priveleged backgrounds have a set path to comfort while other find it tougher. And example is how the state funds its elitist preparatory schools more than ordinary universities. Basically, upward mobility is not a particularly strong point in France.

    Whether you reside in a high rise, deprived area or a plush suburb, you can see a doctor for free or travel on a wonderful train, but otherwise your life chances are set in stone the same way as in any other country, or even worse.

  34. An Spailpín Fánach

    On the public services issues a Thomaltaigh, I again bow to your superior experience in the area. I do pause to note, however, that the French have considerably more money to spend than we do – they have a labour force that is ten times the size of Ireland’s. That means that if they halved their tax rate they would still have five times the funds available for services (or thereabouts – I haven’t the time to do the full sums). This is gives them a certain advantage in my view.

  35. Tomaltach

    [the French] have a lobour force that is ten times the size of Ireland’s….This is gives them a certain advantage in my view.. None whatever. The only way you can compare is on a per capita basis. If the French have ten times the labour force, presummably they have ten times the amount of sick people, ten times the number of commuters to carry, and so on.

  36. An Spailpín Fánach

    Not so a Thomaltaigh uasal. Per capita comparisons work only in terms of righteousness, and their usefulness in the real world not always obvious. Ten Euro is is ten Euro, irrespective of how it was gathered.

    The ten times the commuters argument works in the French’s favour. A train cost the same to run twenty miles, whether those twenty miles are in Ireland or in France. But the French train is ten times more efficient, as it carries ten times the passengers. We are not comparing like with like when we compare France and Ireland.

  37. Andrew

    We often hear that in Ireland we spend less than the OECD or EU average on education, health and other services, as a percentage of GDP. I sometimes wonder: in what areas do we spend more than average? Not defence, presumably – a big drain on the resources of some countries.
    Is it just that we pay a much lower proportion of our GDP in tax, so that we spend the wealth we’ve generated on weekends in Prague and spa treatments and Mars bars, instead of schools and hospitals?

  38. Tomaltach

    A Spailpín,
    What big countries gain in economies of scale, they lose in terms of complexity and inertia. The French polity is hugely complex – they have regional, and departmental layers to government and administration. The whole edifice is, for historical reasons, hugely complex and inefficient. Their tax system is horrendously complex and some of their taxes are terribly inefficent. The train analogy is far too simple. The bottom line is that the French are far more committed, financially, politically, and culturally to their public services. If big countries were more efficient, countries like Sweden could never hope to rank, as it does, among the best in the world for public services. And on a smaller scale, no one has ever argued that say Dublin is too small to have the scale required for a first class city transport network.

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