A decision by Ireland’s main opposition party, Fine Gael, to take corporate donations from some of Ireland’s most notorious developers has threatened to re-open splits within the party.
Lucinda Creighton, Fine Gael TD for Dublin South-East, who claimed the party was involved in “gombeen” [small-minded] and “cute-hoor” [corrupt] politics.
She spoke out at the MacGill Summer School in Donegal following public anger over reports that Fine Gael had held a fundraiser at a country club attended by top developers and banking chiefs last week.
However, the party’s director of elections Phil Hogan said Fine Gael made no apology for accepting corporate gifts.
He also said he would oppose plans by the Fianna Fail/Green Party coalition government, at the insistence of the Greens, to introduce legislation banning corporate donations.
Also speaking at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, he claimed the party offered no favours in return for the money.
And last night, another prominent Fine Gael TD, Leo Varadkar said it was wrong to assume that developers who were bailed out by the current government had done anything wrong.
“There are at least 300 people who are paying their loans back (to NAMA), so I don’t think it’s right to assume that anyone who has any association with NAMA is some sort of criminal.”
Payments by developers to politicians have been identified as a major source of the planning corruption which fuelled ‘cowboy’ property speculation during the economic boom and was a major contributor to the recent crash.
While the ‘golden circles’ of politicians, bankers and developers have become synonymous with Fianna Fail government in recent years, Fine Gael politicians have also been found to have engaged in similar corrupt practices in tribunals of inquiry.
Last week, former Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Garret Fitzgerald dissociated himself from such activity and blamed the electorate for consistently re-electing “politicians of such stupidity” that they “should never have been in government”.
“We’re too parochial, and that’s been our downfall,” he insisted.
“Commitment to the common good of the Irish people as a whole has all to often been undermined by the intense localism of our society - the practice of persistently putting the interests of one locality before that of the country as a whole.”
We’re also guilty of tolerating low standards “both in public life and frequently also in the quality of the service we give through our work”, he said.
Independent MEP Pat Cox was also of the view that we should be taking a long, hard look ourselves, not just our bankers, regulators, developers, government and any one else we care to blame.
The Irish psyche, he said, was characterised by “world class analysis followed by world class inertia”.
Despite Creighton receiving public support for her statement, the Fine Gael leadership is now reportedly planning to subtly oust her from her seat at the next election by selecting a prominent ‘running mate’ in her tightly contested Dublin South-East constituency.
GILMORE BACKS FG
Meanwhile, Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore has categorically ruled out a coalition between his party and Fianna Fail after the next general election even if he were in a position to become Taoiseach.
Mr Gilmore has also claimed his party is well-positioned to win at least a seat in each of the country’s 43 constituencies and two in some.
The Labour leader declared that a coalition between his party and Fine Gael would be the best outcome after the next election.