Following the ouster on Tuesday of the speaker of the Dail, an Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue, increasing turmoil has beset the political institutions in Dublin and threatens to overwhelm the coalition government.
A sense of panic has gripped the body politic in Dublin as other political figures, particularly government ministers, now face being forced to reveal their own lavish lifestyles to the public.
O’Donoghue offered to resign next week after being confronted by the main opposition parties in the wake of ongoing revelations over his outrageous expense and travel claims, including his employment of advisers and other lackeys at taxpayer expense.
His move came after further damaging revelations at the weekend led to a further increase in political pressure, which prompted a second resignation.
This Thursday it was revealed that the auditor charged with overseeing the regime of expenses and allowances for TDs and Senators had also resigned.
He complained in a strongly worded resignation letter that the parliamentary commission had ignored his proposals for reform and left him with no option but to quit.
Green Party leader John Gormley, a key figure in propping up the ailing coalition with Fianna Fail, said this week’s events had “opened a can of worms”.
His party will consider its position in coalition on Saturday, and could decide to abandon the government if there is insufficient support for either the ‘programme for government’ with Fianna Fail or the proposal for a 54 billion Euro bailout for over-leveraged Irish developers and their bankers.
The convention being held by the Green Party appears to be the real reason behind Mr O’Donoghue’s decision to postpone his resignation, which was ostensibly delayed to put his affairs in order.
O’Donoghue will enjoy automatic re-election to the Dail should the goverment fall before his resignation next week, allowing him a further four years of salaries and privileges. His decision to await that possible development has been the subject of further criticism.
Nevertheless O’Donoghue has been strongly defended by Fianna Fail TDs, who have raged against what they see as “unparliamentary behaviour” by the opposition, particularly the Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore.
Although Gilmore first called for his resignation in the Dail chamber, Sinn Fein has been credited with being the first to call for his removal after further damaging claims at the weekend.
Fianna Fail continued to defend the corrupt political system in Dublin today, with Finance Minister Brian Lenihan claiming that reforming the Dublin parliament’s expenses system would be of no benefit to the country.
He said the 26 County state was facing “a very serious fiscal crisis” and “the abolition of Oireachtas expenses wouldn’t solve that crisis in any degree”.
While he admitted the issue of TD expenses was important he said people need to focus “on the real issues” facing the country.
However, his claim to the high ground was undermined by the comments on Irish television of renowned Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who characterised Lenihan’s conduct in relation to the Nama bailout as “criminal”.
Professor Stiglitz said the Dublin government is “squandering” public money with its plan to purchase property and development assets well above market value. “There’s a sort of a view that there’s no alternative.”
That view is “nonsense”, Mr Stiglitz said. “The rule of capitalism says that when firms can’t pay what they owe, they go bankrupt.”
“It’s a massive transfer of money from the public to bankers,” he said.
While most commentators expect the Green Party to toe the Fianna Fail line on Saturday, it remains unclear whether the party can muster the one-third support of members for Nama or the two-thirds support required for the programme for government.
The current furore over expenses throws a further question mark over Saturday’s meeting.
“We need a complete overhaul of political expenses,” Ciaran Cuffe, one of six Green parliamentary members, said. “Unless we get a clear result on this issue for our members on Saturday, I don’t know if we can get a deal.
“Will we be in or out next week? I think it’s a very tough call.”