Home Columnists John Whelan: Fine Gael now at the mercy of Murphy’s Law

John Whelan: Fine Gael now at the mercy of Murphy’s Law

Leo Varadkar tries his hand at sheep shearing at the 2016 National Ploughing Championships in Tullamore. Who is next for shearing is anyone's guess...

Murphy’s Law states that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

Add in to that mix Verona Murphy, Eoghan Murphy and Dara Murphy and Fine Gael are really tempting fate. That’s a lot of Murphia raw material to work with right there.

Despite the efforts of a handful of politicians and wannabe politicians to whip up racist and anti-immigrant sentiment, to date this right wing rhetoric hasn’t got much traction here or yielded much in terms of electoral dividends.

We all have our own thoughts, views and feelings on this complex issue but at heart the Irish are a decent bunch who have no stomach to turn our backs on those less fortunate than ourselves; those fleeing persecution, terror and war; those seeking a fresh start.

Who would want to be the one who says there is no room at the Inn, in the run up to Christmas?  Verona Murphy take note.

And that is not incompatible with wanting to see all families in their own homes this Christmas, no matter what their creed or colour or where they come from.

Homes, not hotels or hostels. That’s not too much to ask is it?

Well unfortunately it seems so as the government continue to struggle to get on top of a shortage of social and affordable housing, access to homes for first time buyers and rocketing rents.

The current housing policy is not working and needs to be radically changed. Farming out the responsibility for housing to charities and approved housing bodies (over 800 of them at the last count) and cosmetically taking families off the housing waiting lists though Housing Assistance Payments (HAP) are short sighted policies and not sustainable solutions.

HAP is being used to doctor the housing waiting list figures and is aggravating the situation by inflating rents and serving as a subsidy to landlords. HAP is not is not a housing policy.

Homelessness lurks among us like a cancer that we thought was in remission but we can’t seem to shake.

Even in Laois where the Housing Department of the local authority have been most pro-active and progressive under the leadership of its Director, Michael Rainey the housing waiting list is effectively 1,800; the lead in time for new builds is too long at anything from 18 months to two years; the bulk of the housing provision through acquisitions, turnkey purchase or transfer of funding to bodies such as Respond, Cliúd or Sophia Housing – who all do a good job – but ultimately is stripping the Council and the State of the asset value of the housing stock and the valuable rental income stream into the future.

It is a grievously flawed and short sighted approach which will come back to bite us.

Despite their best efforts Laois County Council have made a provision of €642,500 to address homelessness in 2020. So far this year 275 people have presented themselves as homeless in Laois; a further 19 adults and nine 9 children did so in August.

Nationally, the figure is well over 10,000, over one third of them children. Eoghan Murphy take note.

All this adds up to a damning view of politicians in general; that they are all useless and this feeds the cynical worldview of a plague on all their houses.

Dara Murphy hasn’t helped.

The former TD and Minister insists that he has done nothing wrong and that he is fully compliant with all the rules. That’s not altogether true.

Dara Murphy did nothing illegal. He fobbed in – the Leinster House equivalent of clocking in for work – and under the rules as they are currently applied qualified for his full expenses regime of €51,000 on top of his salary of close to another €100,000.

Like he said, he did nothing illegal but what he did was morally wrong, morally redundant and morally bankrupt in its contemptuous disregard for everyone – his constituents, his community his colleagues of all political persuasions.

His conduct is contemptable but he will get away with it as he rides off into the sunset with his saddle bags full, leaving others to pick up the pieces and pay the price, as technically he did nothing wrong.

He hasn’t broken any laws but he was given a mighty two-fingered salute to the spirit of the law. In any other job if you clocked in, then did a bunk to do a nixer elsewhere and were found out you would face the sack for sure.

Dara Murphy has inflicted damage on the reputation of all politicians and particularly that of his boss, the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar. We won’t here ask Dara Murphy to take note as we already know that he doesn’t give a s***e about anyone else except himself.

Dara Murphy was fobbing in on his way to and from his other lucrative gig in Brussels and was not by any measure or reasonable assessment carrying out his duties and responsibilities as a highly paid TD. His response when found out was that the rest of us can all go Fob Off as well.

This just doesn’t look bad, it is bad. Just as was the case with the previous disclosures that members of the Oireachtas have voted for their colleagues sometimes in their absence, it is also the situation that Dara Murphy is not the only one that is double-jobbing and double-fobbing.

They’re not all at it, but many are clocking in and heading for the hills. Dara Murphy knows that. He knows they know he knows that. Therefore expect it all to fizzle out.

I am absolutely certain that the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is an honest and honourable man. All this Murphia stuff must really be sticking in his craw and to have to go out there over and over again to defend the indefensible will not sit easy with him at all.

Not helping matters this week was a short letter to the Irish Times. Who would have thought in the age of social media onslaught that a few paragraphs to the letter pages of the Times could prove so potent?

Notwithstanding that its author was Fr Peter McVerry whose name is currency and credibility personified, the letter said it all and summed up the sighs of a nation.

With clinical Jesuitical precision the priest filleted not just Dara Murphy (without even naming him) but the entire body politic.

It is official there is one law for the rich and one for the poor, to the letter of the law, so to speak.

The letter is worth recording here:

A tale of two cities

Tue, Dec 3, 2019, 09:13

Sir, – I attended court with a young homeless boy who had been charged with theft of a bottle of orange, value €1.

Another homeless man was charged with theft of four bars of chocolate, value €3.

Another homeless man was charged with theft of two packets of Silk Cut cigarettes.

A TD, on his way to, or from, his full-time, very well paid job in Brussels, stops by at Dáil Éireann to sign in, so that he can collect his full €51,600 expenses for his attendance in the Dáil. – Yours, etc,

Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice,
Gardiner Street,
Dublin 1.

One of the last remaining prerogatives and authorities absolutely retained by a sitting Taoiseach, even a lame-duck one, is to call the date of the next general election.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar would prefer the first week in May 2020; after the St Patrick’s Day worldwide feel-good excursions; after the Easter holidays when the nation’s mood mellows with thoughts of summer holidays around the corner and the wintry weather, flooding and frost are all in the rear view mirror.

However, there is the small matter of Murphy’s Law.

Meanwhile back at the ranch the cost of the Children’s Hospital is heading for €2 billion; the winter vomiting bug and flu season hasn’t really got going and the queues are already out the doors in A&E; there were never as many trolleys on corridors; the HSE is still dragging sick children to the courts to vindicate their rights; there are over 200,000 children on hospital waiting lists.

In fact I wouldn’t be surprised the way things are going if Health Minister, Simon Harris’ mother was a Murphy and neither should Taoiseach Varadkar be surprised if Murphy’s Law is waiting for him around the corner…

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John Whelan has been a journalist, commentator, columnist, political analyst, campaigner, politician and publisher ever since he was 17. Having been Editor of the Leinster Express, Offaly Express and the Leinster Leader he has also contributed extensively on a number of issues to all of the country's flagship titles and programmes including the Irish Press, The Irish Independent, the Star, the Sunday Independent, the Sunday Business Post, The Sunday Times and Prime Time. He is founder of Communicate Ireland a PR, public affairs, event management and media services company. He is the author of the popular camping blog, Vanhalla - Camper Heaven.