It might be an unpopular belief but I feel John O'Donoghue has been hard done by and no I'm not a member Fianna Fail (Fine Gael in fact) or from Kerry. I've been hit hard (but not hardest) by the recession, and so have my family and friends. I'm not wearing rose tinted glasses but I refuse to be petty and bitter about our boom years.
I find it hard to watch someone who has worked hard and did an excellent job as Minster for the Arts, Sports and Tourism be made out to be such a villain. Okay his expenses are crazy but I'm sure once the majority are investigated we'll see that he was not the only one to have over indulged. That was the mentality of the time. It is the system that is wrong not the people who use. It's human nature to use these things to our benefit. When I was a child my Mother taught me when someone offers you something you take it and say thank you. To this day if someone gives me something I accept it and say thank you. I don't slide into "are you sure?" "you need it more".
In college I had my first experience in claiming expenses. I was on the committee of five different societies and while we did a lot of good (making friends, developing life skills and raising money for charity) we did spend a lot on non essential things like food and drink or pointless days out. The theory was we had to spend all the money we'd been allocated or else next year our budget will be cut. So we made sure that we spend all the money. I didn't question it. Meanwhile in the same college my course was underfunded and I was being taught in a prefab building out the back of the college with a family of foxes living under it, the equipment was 20 years old, we'd 4 computers between 19 people and we had to be really quiet so we wouldn't wake the homeless guy who lived a tent in the high grass a few feet away... and yes this was in the boom years.
In college I had my first and only experience with John O'Donoghue. He was one of the few Fianna Fail ministers who gave freely of his time to our tiny student radio station (I was studying Radio). He was always lovely with a smile or chuckle in his voice. Perhaps he found my meek interviewing technique and squeaky radio voice amusing I don't know but I glad he took our calls.
Lets look at the world stage and compare for a second. We're shocked John O'Donoghue would bring his wife with him on trips. Italy are shocked (kinda?) that Berlusconi would cheat on his wife and party with hookers on a boat... We're appalled that John O'Donoghue used VIP airport lounges. In the UK people are appalled a Conservative member of parliament, Douglas Hogg, put in for expenses that included the cleaning of a moat around his country estate.
The nail in the coffin no doubt for most people was his trips abroad that matched up with race meetings. If John O"Donoghue hadn't been Minster for Arts, Sports, and Tourism since 2002 this in my mind would be unacceptable too but remember that it was his passion for sport that made him such a good minister maybe his found this hard to left behind and no doubt at these race meetings he was still representing the government and networking with his existing contacts.
So what are we all so angry about? Are we angry at this one person? At the government? At the civil service? The only people we should be angry with ourselves. We voted them in. We didn't pay attention to how the funding in our Health or Education sections were being put to use, we liked our pay increases and didn't question their spending. It reminds me of the bit in the film Independence's Day when someone yells at The President "you didn't think they really spend $500 on a hammer did you?" Like them we didn't think the good times would end. So instead of moaning about our income levy's and pay cuts we should take a little of responsibility for the Credit Cards we max'd out on trips to New York or the car loan we knew we couldn't afford. We were all living beyond our means from the very top to the very bottom. For every crooked staff member in Fas there is a person claiming social welfare payments they aren't entitled too so (and for every good hard working member of Fas there is someone who deserves more support from Social Welfare) maybe we all get off our high horses and disband our lynch mobs because we all had a hand in the death of Celtic Tiger.
Leave John O'Donoghue alone. His a good man who did a good job. He didn't do anything illegal. He made silly mistakes - his human. Don't confuse the injustice on how the crooked bankers got away with it and how head of Fas got a €1 million golden hand shake with exaggerated anger at his expenses. It won't made us feel any better in the long run. Use the energy that could be spend on a witch hunt on reforming the system, debating NAMA and getting the budget right. We'll never get to the other side of this recession if we're stopping every two seconds to point the finger and it won't be long before finger is pointed right back at you.