Wednesday, January 7, 2009

In, like Flynn

This was not the post Malcolm intended: that's still cooking, and may be worth the effort.

Instead he was inflamed to words by the continued obtuseness of Beverley Flynn, the TD for Mayo (right, with Da).

Once upon a time, when the world was young, o best beloved, her Fianna Fáil seat in Dáil Éireann was the feudal fief of her adoring Da, Pádraig (universally known and loved as "Pee") Flynn. In its wisdom, Fianna Fáil nominated said adoring Da to be a European Commissioner (the full force of Pee's personality is amply illustrated here).

This created a by-election in June 1994: the young Beverley (just 28 years of age, but old in the ways of the Western World) stood, expecting the reversion. Alas! It was not to be. She was shouldered aside by the bread-boy and auctioneer, Michael Ring of Fine Gael (though, as with all things to do with Mayo, his is a loose and intermittent connection).

So, sorrowing Beverley had to wait until the 1997 General Election to come into her own. But, lo!, the prophecies were fulfilled and Mayo again had a Flynn as its TD (albeit a "Cooper Flynn", for Beverley was then flying under a married name). But not for long.

Malcolm is now wracking his brains to recall precisely why Beverley gave herself the heave-ho from the Soldiers of Destiny on the first occasion: he seems to recall it was because she opposed the idea that Pee might be asked to explain his own dodgy dealings. Now, come on, don't be shocked! we're talking Mayo here!

Anyway, she wriggled back into the good graces of the Fianna in almost no time at all.

Then, a further cloud, at first no bigger than a young woman's hand drifted over the clear blue-green horizon. It transpired that Bev, while employed as a financial consultant by the National Irish Bank, was advising tax evasion. So she was out of the Party again, but -- again -- allowed back in time for the 2002 General Election. A result!

Bev had taken the hump against RTÉ for banging on about that tax business. She sued Charlie Bird of RTÉ for libel. She lost. She was now facing a bill of nearly €2½ million. Gulp, swallow, choke. Worse still, she was again evicted from FF, who then did the incredible: the Party dissolved the Cumann on which the Flynn power was based.

Bev was now bankrupt. As a bankrupt she was ineligible to be a TD. The Perils of Pauline have nothing on our lass's alarums and excursions.

But our Bev is a famously feisty female: she challenged the legislation which would disqualify her. This gave her time to negotiate a lesser settlement with RTÉ (it still amounted to some €1¼million; and as far as Malcolm can ascertain, there is another liability and settlement to a third party still outstanding). It also allowed her to stand as an independent in the last General Election. To the surprise of many, Beverley Flynn (the erstwhile husband, along with his name, having been cast aside) squeaked home on the eighth and final count, edging out the sitting FF man, John Carty. Shed few tears for Mr Carty, o best beloved, the Party looked after him: he is in the Seanad as a member of the agriculture panel.

Now, it might be recalled by a few number-crunchers that the 2007 General Election gave FF just 77 of the 166 seats in the Dail. Rounding up a couple of dead-end PDs was the easy part. The Greens had to make a small show of reluctance, but were ready to swallow pride and decency in the hope of office: there went another lost hope. It was also necessary to corral the five independents, of whom our Bev was one.

So, by April 2008, Beverley was again one of the elect, admitted yet again to dip her snout in the trough of the holy whited sepulchre that is the FF Party.

All of that left this one lingering problem. An independent TD is eligible for €41,000 to compensate for not having the support of a party machine. Ms Flynn is keeping her hand on her ha'penny, on the ground that she was elected as an independent. Most would see that as wanting the best of both worlds.

The Irish Times today is calling foul:
If Beverley Flynn lacks the moral compass to behave in an ethical fashion, then Taoiseach Brian Cowen has a duty to remove her from membership of Fianna Fáil. At a time when public confidence in Government is at an all-time low and people are desperately seeking a restoration of standards in public life, her determination to draw the untaxed allowances of an Independent TD while enjoying the full benefits of Fianna Fáil membership cannot be tolerated.
Not without reason, the editorial sees this as part of a greater whole:
Since the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission was established five years ago, the situation has worsened. Granting elected members the right to draw up their own terms and conditions failed to produce necessary reforms. TDs' salaries, linked to those of principal officers, more than doubled in five years. More than half of the electorate see the Oireachtas as "unimportant". And the Government is largely to blame. Ministers resent being held to account. Important policy decisions are announced elsewhere. The Dáil continues to meet for only three days a week in plenary session. Extended holidays are the norm. A better democratic balance is required.

In the meantime, the scandal of unvouched expenses and of untaxed allowances amounting to €40,000 that do not have to be accounted for must end. Leaders of all political parties have a responsibility here. The brass-necked behaviour of Ms Flynn, in challenging the authority of the Taoiseach to moderate her behaviour, has cast her in the role of lightning rod, drawing attention to an unacceptable system of payments and allowances for all Oireachtas members. She is no stranger to such controversy, having been twice expelled from Fianna Fáil and readmitted in questionable circumstances by Bertie Ahern. Ms Flynn may be legally entitled to hang on to the allowances of an independent TD but, in this economic climate, she is damaging Mr Cowen's authority every week that she draws it down. The Taoiseach must act.
Out-of-the-mouths-of babes-and-sucklings footnote:

At mid-day today [Wednesday], Beverley Flynn issued a statement, saying she had foregone the €41,152 allowance for Independent TDs:
"I was using the allowance for the purpose of my constituents, it was not an allowance that was being used personally for myself ... that was never the intention of the allowance of the first place and certainly it was never my intention to benefit personally in any way from it and nor did I," said Ms Flynn.

"I have been absolutely honest and upfront. I used that allowance for the benefit of my constituents all the time that I got it and long before I was in receipt of it I actually dipped into my own resources to enhance the services I provide to my constituents."

"The reason why I've taken this step this morning, is not because I'm not in compliance with the regualations as it currently stands [sic] I am, but I'm taking this decision because it has developed into a controversy," she added.
Her honour rooted in dishonour stood,
And faith unfaithful kept her falsely true.
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