THE cost to patients of the health service jobs freeze: Unknown.
The cost to taxpayers of Bertie Ahern’s pay rise: €38,000. The comedy value of the Taoiseach’s embarrassing attempts to justify pay rise: Priceless.
As Mr Ahern swaggered down the central steps of the Dáil chamber yesterday to bleat about not having a yacht or butler like his world leader mates he was immediately followed by hapless Transport Minister Noel Dempsey, who was in turn followed by his hapless predecessor Minister Martin Cullen.
It was like a real life version of one those ascent of man graphics showing how we evolved from apes into homo sapiens, except that this was in reverse, and more a representation of the descent of manners from a government that no longer seems to care who it outrages.
Mr Cullen used to be a byword for arrogance and calamity, Mr Dempsey then surpassed his efforts over Shannon and L-plategate, and now the Taoiseach has evolved into the supreme example of self pity fused with a total lack of self awareness.
It’s sooo unfair: Not only do his buddies in Paris and Washington have palaces and yachts, but they get “prolonged holidays” too — this from a man who attends the Dáil for 60 days a year.
Jaws were merely on the floor at this point, they went subterranean with the rest of his self-justifying Tourette’s style outburst, as he stated most of the leaders he is compared with “would not pay for a cup of tea from one end of the year to the other because they have catering staff in their homes and can use jets for social occasions”.
“It would not be hard for a member of the media to write a glowing article about how poverty-stricken we are compared to other countries. I suppose I will have to wait for that,” he moaned.
Erm, yes Taoiseach you will. But haven’t we heard the cup of tea analogy somewhere before? Oh yes, it was at the Mahon corruption probe where Mr Ahern stated he hadn’t been offered the beverage by developers, let alone the £50,000 bribe alleged.
It was an unfortunate memory to drag up, especially as he then went on to attack leaders like the French President for not being “up front” over their finances.
You could almost hear every pot and kettle in a five-mile radius of Leinster House exploding into simultaneous blackness at the remark from a man accused of being, shall we say, evasive, regarding money matters to Mahon.
But we do really need to do something about our underprivileged €310,000-a-year Premier.
Surely it’s time we showed our national gratitude to the sacrifices he has made for us by having a telethon for him — Bertie’s In Need. It will be easy to set up — a quick phone call would panic RTÉ into clearing the schedules.
We would then be spurred on to bung Bertie a few more quid by heartfelt tributes to our Taoiseach in Trouble along the lines of: “I know the economy’s nose-dived since polling day and am resigned to losing a couple of the young ‘uns to the cold and hunger this winter — after all me and the wife can always have more children when the financial situation improves — but I just cannot bear the idea of my Taoiseach going without a butler for one day longer. That is why I have decided to sell my kidneys on the Chinese organ market to raise some cash for Bertie’s In Need — sure, it’s safer than letting the HSE get their hands on them.”
Mr Ahern topped an unforgettable Dáil performance by saying he would “gladly forego” the pay rise, but that would only make page 99 of the newspapers, so what would the point be?
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
INSIDE POLITICS - BERTIE IN NEED
I know that there are other things going on in the world but the huge pay hikes are symptomatic of a creeping me-féin attitude and greed in Irish society. There were two excellent pieces on Bertie's pay in this morning's Irish Examiner, written by my colleagues on the political team. One, a sketch, was written by Shaun Connolly who is one of the best colour writers in the business. The other was a fantastic analysis of Bertie Ahern's obsession with money, written by Paul O'Brien. Shaun kindly allowed me to reproduce his piece here: