O’Donoghue and media capture?

I was floored on Friday driving while listening to Today with Pat Kenny (Friday July 31, last 15 mins). Well, when I say floored, I was shouting at the radio. In the usual PK roundup of the week, where a panel of guests is invited to comment on events of the past seven days, some startling remarks were made.

The panel consisted of Noirin Hegarty, editor of the Sunday Tribune, Michael O’Regan, Dail correspondent of the Irish Times and Brendan Walsh of UCD.

They spent some time discussing various things, until the issue of former Tourism Minister John O’Donoghue’s travel expenses came around. Pat Kenny asked if the panel were surprised by the revelation that O’Donoghue had spent upwards of €250,000 of taxpayers’ money on hotels, water taxis, hats, limousines and use of the government jet.

I will let Michael O’Regan take it from here, but emphasis is mine.

Michael: I was surprised Pat yes. I know John O’Donoghue for many years and I would have thought that he’s more at home in the land of [inaudible] rather than the fleshpots of Paris. (laughing). He certainly did a lot of work in that area at that time. There was money around, which there isn’t now by the way, for arts and sport and tourism. And he did dwell on the arts. He had Fiach Mac Conghail was his personal adviser. He did his best in fairness

PK: He did a great job at the Abbey. Actually I saw the Rivals at the Abbey last week, terrific. Cast led by Nick.. Absolutely fantastic

Michael: Yea. I know that Fiach Mac Conghail played a huge role and John O’Donoghue has always admitted in his arts policy, y’know, like filling vacancies in the arts council he went off and he tried to get the best people.

But I presume the Department would have booked this for him, he certainly should have been more vigilant. John O’Donoghue y’know owes much of his career to his mother – certainly the initial parts of his career – Cllr Mary O’Donoghue, who was a formidable Kerry politican – I knew her Pat! She saw off a challenge from Mick O’Dwyer of some Gaelic Football fame many years ago, when Charlie Haughey wanted him to be the second candidate in South Kerry. I do think John O’Donoghue should have been more vigilant, clearly this was the standard ministerial spending at the time.

I do think that if Mary O’Donoghue was alive she wouldn’t be pleased – she would give him a metaphorical clip on the ear, and tell him not to do it again. (Laughs all round)

I actually had to read that back to myself a few times. One question: What planet are Kenny and O’Regan on? And has O’Regan just admitted he himself has been captured by the political establishment? I mean capture in the Bernstein sense of regulatory capture, except in this case it’s the media.

Instead of dealing with the issue, O’Regan makes excuse after excuse for O’Donoghue. None of them relevant, but all of them indicative of someone who appears to be pals with the minister. Let’s look at these comments together:

“I know John O’Donoghue for many years… He certainly did a lot of work in that area at that time…There was money around, which there isn’t now by the way…He did his best in fairness…he tried to get the best people…But I presume the Department would have booked this for him, he certainly should have been more vigilant..I knew [his mother] Pat…clearly this was the standard ministerial spending at the time.”

I had to read that back to myself again too. O’Regan has clearly lost all sense of perspective, and even plain old objectivity. He to me is an example of journalists who have spent too long supping pints with the great and the good of Irish politics, or you might say has spent too long drinking the Fianna Fail Kool-aid.

All of the points made by O’Regan are flippant and irrelevant.

The point is obvious to the rest of us: John O’Donoghue squandered huge amounts of taxpayers money. That is the only point.

It is irrelevant that it happened when the coffers were full, irrelevant whether O’Regan knows him or not, irrelevant that O’Donoghue did his best (you might expect a minister to do this, given the wages he’s on?), irrelevant that O’Donoghue tried get the best people (again, is that not his job?), irrelevant what the department knew or didn’t know, irrelevant that he knew O’Donoghue’s mother (is O’Regan showing off or something?), irrelevant whether it was the standard at the time (in fact it likely was, and that makes the whole thing 100 times worse).

Of course another fundamental question arises. Pat Kenny. Instead of challenging O’Regan, not to mention simply calling out the clear irrelevancy of his points, Kenny compounds the issue by agreeing with O’Regan that O’Donoghue did a great job as minister – as if by implication it means that the expenses incurred are somehow justifiable. They are not justifiable. Full stop.

This does not bode well for Kenny’s upcoming shift in job from the Late Late to current affairs. One has to wonder to what extent media capture extends into Montrose too.

I will not be forgetting about the Ceann Comhairle’s misdeeds, and his obvious love for the high life at the expense of the taxpayer. Come the return of the Dail anyway, we shall see.

11 Responses to “O’Donoghue and media capture?”

  1. For sheer political AND journalistic cynicism, this radio interview takes some beating. Has it STILL not dawned on anyone in authority that this kind of attitude while times were good is a large part of the reason why the economy’s in the mess it’s fallen into now? The money which was “around” for arts and sports and tourism was intended to be SPENT on those things, not on funding lavish lifestyles for the political establishment!

    How do the people involved in this interview imagine people suffering as a result of the recession feel when they hear this sort of complacency – not, for once, from politicians, but from the very journalists you might imagine would be speaking out against such shocking waste of taxpayers’ money?

    Do they imagine the people stuck in massive queues at pharmacies this weekend are comforted to hear that in spending over €250,000 of THEIR money on travel (not, of course, forgetting his vital need for a new hat) John O’Donohue was “doing his best”? (To achieve WHAT, exactly – spending as much of other people’s money as he could?)

    Or that his mother, were she still alive, would “give him a metaphorical clip on the ear”?

    The most offensive aspect of the whole thing is that this is apparently NOT an individual error of judgement, but allegedly “standard ministerial spending at the time”.

    Why was this allowed, and why did supposedly independent journalists apparently see fit to overlook it? I doubt it’s possible to go around in limousines and the government jet without politicial correspondents even noticing! What, exactly, do they think they’re paid for?

    And how in the wide world does a journalist justify appearing to act as a mouthpiece for gross political mismanagement?

    I’m very glad I didn’t hear the broadcast – I fear MY radio might have suffered considerably worse damage than merely being shouted at.

  2. simon says:

    Pretty Odd alright but not very surprising

  3. steve white says:

    sent this to rte?

  4. I heard that conversation. It was bizarre. Nobody thought it was worth mentioning that the Bull spent something like 9 grand on car hire for the three or four days he was in Cannes. Or that he flew back to attend the opening of somebody’s office. Or that he then flew to the Heineken Cup final at our expense and onwards to to continue his jolly in Cannes followed by a trip back to London for some Ryder Cup promotion.

    I’m sure none of these events would have been any poorer for the absence of such a bullshitter and I have no idea why his wife needed to attend at public expense. Do you?

    The hotel bill for Cannes came to about five thousand for himself, the missus and his private secretary.

    I wonder what they contributed to the film festival and the Heineken Cup final?

  5. Gavin Sheridan says:

    Something needs to be done. And I’m working on it.

  6. niall says:

    Gav – I’ll repeat what I said when we were knocking back a few ales – what the fuck are journalists in Ireland employed for?

    It’s like shooting fish in a barrel, with a bazooka, yet still they remain supine??

  7. Gavin says:

    I know Niall, I know…

  8. justinf says:

    absolutely staggering.

    compare this supine crap to the UK media’s treatment of the MP expense scandal.

    ireland is not an advanced 1st world nation. we’re a 3rd world corrupt country, with an utterly corrupt oligarchy.

  9. Di Forsyth says:

    Excellent piece Gavin – the transcription of the conversation rams home the odiousness of the prevailing attitude in Montrose. I wonder how many more RTE “interviews” and “panel discussions” would be shown up so well once set down in writing. As someone with half a brain, O’Regan must cringe to re-read it. Have you sent this to him?

  10. justinf says:

    cant remember where i read this , but with “Questions & Answers”, it wasnt the audience deciding the questions to ask – they were formulated by RTE and dished out to certain audience members.

  11. David Kenny says:

    Absolutely cracking post.