John O’Donoghue, the Ceann Comhairle (speaker) of Dáil Éireann the lower house of the Oireachtas (parliament), was forced out of office last week in an expenses scandal arising from Freedom of Information requests exposing his troughing to the tune of €200,000. He became the first Ceann Comhairle to be forced out of office in Irish history. The picture of his robe of office draped over the chair is set to become iconic.
With the usual sense of exaggerated self-entitlement that is characteristic of politicians the world over, he tried in his resignation speech to justify his nights in Cannes hotels and trips to international horse race meetings as in the Irish national interest. FoI revelations that he had taken a private Lear jet from Dublin to Cardiff for the Heineken Cup rugby match, before heading on to Cannes for the film festival and then to London for a Ryder Cup promotional event before returning home to Kerry in a trip that is estimated to have cost the taxpayer in the region of €32,450, did for him.
The Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen shares his fate with his British counterpart, Gordon Brown. Like the Prime Mentalist he is the former finance minister, like Gordon he is unelected and without a personal mandate, having succeeded his more politically skilled predecessor, Bertie Ahern. Like the former Chancellor he can’t escape political responsibility for the state of the economy. The parallels across the Irish Sea are remarkable.