8 October 2009 Edition
O'Donoghue resigns in expenses scandal
Government in crisis
The Irish Government is in crisis following Tuesday’s announcement by Ceann Comhairle and Fianna Fáil South Kerry TD John O’Donoghue that he would resign his position next week and make a statement to the Dáil.
The announcement came after a day in which political pressure, initiated by Sinn Féin, mounted for O’Donoghue to resign over lavish expenses he enjoyed both in his previous role as Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism and in his current role as Ceann Comhairle.
Responding to the announcement which finally came on Tuesday night, Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:
“I welcome the decision of Deputy John O’Donoghue to resign as Ceann Comhairle.
“This was clearly the only credible course open to him as he had lost the confidence of the Dáil and of the people.
“I note that his resignation is effective from Tuesday of next week. I believe it should be effective from tomorrow, Wednesday and I question the need for the delay.
“However, far more important is the need for the Government to follow this up with real and radical reform of payments and expenses for all Oireachtas members, with full transparency and accountability, including for Ministers and Ministers of State.”
Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams welcomed O’Dono-ghue’s resignation.
“John O’Donoghue is not alone in wastefully spending large sums of taxpayers’ money. There has been a culture of extravagance and greed within government which predates the 12 years of this Fianna Fáil administration. There should be no delay in his resignation. It should take affect immediately. Any other stance is an abuse of the position”, he said.
O’Donoghue’s announcement came as political pressure on him built throughout the day following a call by Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin for him to resign as Ceann Comhairle, saying that his position had become untenable given his continued waste of public money since he took the chair of the Dáil.
Speaking at the gates of Leinster House after a meeting of Sinn Féin’s Oireachtas team and flanked by fellow Sinn Féin TDs Martin Ferris (Kerry North) and Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central), Ó Caoláin said the Ceann Comhairle had embarked on a series of “lavish junkets” since he took office, bringing to the position “the same cavalier attitude to public money that became all-pervasive during the Celtic Tiger years at the highest levels in Government.”
He went on to urge both Fine Gael and the Labour Party to support his call for John O’Donoghue’s resignation.
Ó Caoláin said:
“The position of John O’Donoghue TD as Ceann Comhairle has become untenable given his continued waste of public money since he took the chair of the Dáil.
“It is clear now that Deputy O’Donoghue embarked on a series of lavish junkets since taking up the office of Chair of the House.
“He brought to the position of Ceann Comhairle the same cavalier attitude to public money that became all-pervasive during the Celtic Tiger years at the highest levels in Government.”
“We have to challenge a culture whereby a senior official of the State, such as Deputy O’Donoghue, can, for example, avail of £799 sterling of Irish taxpayers’ money to hire a limousine to take him between terminals and a VIP lounge at Heathrow Airport.
“Deputy O’Donoghue should resign immediately and, if he does not, a motion calling on him to resign should be tabled in the Dáil. I am calling on both Fine Gael and the Labour Party to support this position and to facilitate the moving of a motion calling for his resignation if the need arises”, concluded the Sinn Féin Dáil leader.
Several hours after the Sinn Féin call, Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore called for O’Donoghue’s resignation. However until Sinn Féin had set the ball rolling, Gilmore had maintained his position of seeking a meeting on the issue with all the party leaders in the Dáil. Meanwhile, the Fine Gael position was even weaker with Enda Kenny planning a meeting with the Fine Gael members of the Oireachtas Commission merely to demand cutbacks in the Ceann Comhairle’s office.
With his hand forced by Sinn Féin, and echoing Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin’s comments, the Labour Party leader told the Dáil late on Tuesday afternoon that John O’Donoghue’s position was untenable.
At a meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party on Tuesday night, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan argued that O’Donoghue should have been given the opportunity to explain himself to the Oireachtas Commission, the body that runs the Dáil and the Seanad, as suggested by Fine Gael’s Enda Kenny. However it was by now already too late for the Ceann Comhairle.
A Green Party spokesperson told the media that its leader John Gormley TD had been asked by the Taoiseach whether or not the Greens could support O’Donoghue in a Dáil motion of confidence but that he refused.
John O’Donoghue has been at the centre of media attention for the past two months following revelations about his lavish travel expenses. He was forced to apologise over the issue twice in September.
When the details of €90,000 expenses incurred for foreign travel in his present position were made public at the weekend, Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin sought a meeting of the party’s TDs to force the issue to a head.
The Irish Government is now in serious crisis in that it was forced to let O’Donoghue fall on his sword because it did not have the numbers in the Dáil to win a vote of confidence in him.
The failure of Brian Cowen to win Green party support for such a motion comes before a meeting of the Greens this Saturday to discuss and decide upon continued coalition with Fianna Fáil.
The O’Donoghue expenses scandal follows hot on the heels of the scandal over the wastage of public money at FÁS and the golden handshake to its former Director General Rody Molloy. These scandals coupled with widespread public anger over the NAMA bank bailout and the proposed cuts to vital public services and pay and the likelihood of major industrial action are all now combining to put a major question mark over the stability of this Fianna Fáil-led government.
RESIGNATION CALL: Sinn Féin TDs Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Martin Ferris and Aengus Ó Snodaigh at the gates of Leinster House where they made the first call of any Dáil party for O’Donoghue’s resignation