“a mighty big claim”

“I have sent up to you a mighty big claim – which my visa really needs to see some monies but aside from that minor detail for some reason the receipts requested is for the one thing I don’t have receipts for which was the tips I forked out to the Indians for moving the luggage around airports, hotels etc…”

THE passage above is the guts of a covering note for an expenses claim submitted in February 2006 on foot of a trip to India by then minister John O’Donoghue, his wife, and his private secretary Therese O’Connor.

It was made public by Gavin Sheridan‘s blog after a Freedom of Information request which adds further texture and detail to recent articles in The Sunday Tribune.

I don’t want to distract from the real issue – government corruption and waste. Nor do I want to unduly emphasise the unreceipted component, €80 on tips to “the Indians”. Mere pennies compared to, for instance, the €7,591 O’Donoghue spent on “airport pick-ups” on a two-day trip to London. Deep breath after that one.

Nor do I mean to single out for ridicule the private secretary who wote the email above: I’m sure she’s a perfectly decent well-educated person who’s capable of better grammar and syntax than this particular scribble might suggest. We all dash stuff off like that, and god between us and linguistic nazism.

But, just as a piece of music can sometimes more eloquently describe a mood, a time and a place than any voluminous report, the tone of that email goes to the heart of the issue. The air of casual presumption, focused entirely on the need of the travelling party (…my visa really needs to see some monies…) is precisely one half of the problem.

This is the same insolent presumption displayed by the builders and bankers who populated the Fianna Fáil tent at Galway Races. It exhibits the same casual disregard for the mores, standards and budgetary strictures of ordinary families, of PAYE employees, and of the people running small businesses. It displays the same petulant arrogance as that of His Royal Highness Ned “droit de seigneur” O’Keeffe during his recent notorious antics.

Well, it’s not okay.

It wasn’t okay then, during the boom bubble. And maybe now that people are beginning to comprehend the outrage that is the NAMA socialism-for-the-rich scheme, perhaps more people might cop on that it was never okay.

The other half of the problem is us. We keep on voting for [or failing to vote against – same difference] the same dopey old mé féiners who feel entitled to run this country, and by extension their well-heeled apparatchiks who dash off the likes of the lumpen email above.

Please bookmark Gavin’s blog and watch these issues unfurl. ♦

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