end corruption,stroke politics, & incompetent administration

Regeneration-Fianna Fail style.!

By Fergus Finlay 
I WANT to tell you about drive-by poverty. It’s a new solution to the problem of poverty, a way of hiding it away so it doesn’t become visible. That way, you see, we don’t have to worry about it. 

But first I want to tell you about Brian. He was ‘an accident’. When he was born, the fourth in his family, the youngest of his older brothers was 16. And already, that older brother was in trouble with the law. Brian’s father was a real tough guy who is serving time right now. His mother dealt with depression by drinking and she became more and more distant from Brian as he grew up.

In fact, he has only one memory of his mother. He found her dead in her bed, with deep cuts in her wrists and blood everywhere. It was Brian who had to call for help, but not before he had shouted and cursed at his mother in an attempt to wake her up. 

Brian was four then. He’s 11 now. He’s been in and out of care a few times and lived sometimes with an aunt who has six children of her own, children she has a lot of difficulty coping with. 

At the age of 11, Brian has been expelled from two schools and there is no denying his behaviour is very difficult. He uses foul language, he hits out easily and he has been known to bite other kids. To this day he believes his mother’s death was his fault. He has sometimes wondered aloud what he did wrong to make her kill herself.

At other times he wonders if he could, even at the end, have saved her if he had done something apart from trying to wake her up by shouting at her. 

The memory of those slashes on her wrist, slashes that he believes he helped to put there, has never left him. And often he hates his mother for leaving him. The anger at being left alone may be part of the reason he lashes out so much. 

Brian’s story is entirely true, although I’ve changed his name for obvious reasons. He is one of thousands of children in Ireland whose lives have been shaped by the circumstances in which they were born and raised. All these circumstances have one thing in common — poverty. 

Poverty never necessarily involves the loss of love and care, or even the support of a family or neighbours. Indeed the poverty many of us remember represented little more than hard times, the absence of certain comforts. 

Thousands and thousands of children grow through poverty like that to become well-adjusted adults and to make their way in the world. There is another kind of poverty. When a child has little or nothing, when he or she is knocked around by life, that can be pretty bad. 

When poverty has also inflicted other stresses and strains on his or her family, that’s worse. And when that family is part of a community that is itself marginalised and alienated, that’s when poverty acts like a wasting disease, destroying lives little by little. 

I could reel you off a list of placenames and you’d recognise them immediately as the communities I’m talking about. 

When you visit them (and not a lot of people do) you realise that those communities nearly all have a couple of things in common. 

First, in many cases disadvantage is built into them. They lack many of the basic amenities the rest of us take for granted — a safe place to play, for instance, or decently heated and dry houses. 

I was in a community in Dublin the other day that was built more than 30 years ago — several thousand houses, in row after row, and not one single solitary tree. 

Secondly, all those communities carry a certain stigma, so that to reveal that you come from one of them is itself a serious obstacle to being accepted in a better job or even a better school. 

And thirdly, many of them now are ringed by fine roads, dual carriageways and even motorways. We’ve almost invented this new concept in Ireland — drive-by poverty. 

Several of the most disadvantaged communities in Ireland are visible from the M50, or easily accessible from it. But it’s now possible to turn a blind eye to the places where poverty is most embedded, especially in urban Ireland, at 60km/h to 80 km/h an hour, without the risk of incurring penalty points. 

And that’s what we do. That’s why, when a number of regeneration schemes in Dublin appeared to collapse last week, there was no national outcry, no instant demand for solutions. The communities affected may be in terrible pain, but they’re invisible. 

I’m not interested in assigning blame for the collapse of the regeneration projects. They were set up on the basis of public/ private partnerships (PPPs) and it’s a central requirement of all such arrangements that there must be reward as well as risk for the private element of the partnership. 

If the financial risk appears to outweigh the reward, no private sector investment is capable of being sustained. 

We’re not going to do anyone a favour by driving a developer into a financial disaster. But if the PPP question had been about, say, completing the M50 or the new children’s hospital, or the building of a new port for Dublin, and it had been abandoned halfway through any of those projects, there would have been an enormous amount of pressure on the Government to come up with a solution.

In the case of these invisible communities, who cares? Dublin City Council wants to go ahead with regeneration, but it has been categorically told that unless it can raise the money themselves, the public purse is closed to it. 

In those communities, and others around Ireland where social and economic investment is desperately needed, children put up with hunger, bullying, violence and anxiety as part of their daily routine. 

THEY live in substandard houses and are exposed to the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. They have a variety of overlapping needs, ranging from the environment in which they live to difficult family relationships, poverty and poor health. The disadvantage that surrounds them in their neighbourhoods is the main trigger that hinders their development — and virtually guarantees a repeat of the cycle. 

There is an answer to all this and it lies in the investment that can contribute to early childhood development, better support for families and a renewed sense of neighbourhood. Those answers will never be delivered to invisible communities. 

Brian, by the way, is getting a lot of support right now. Those who are working with him, who see him as a bright, sparky, troubled child, don’t believe the damage done to him is irretrievable. 

It’ll be a long road, but there is every reason to believe Brian will make it. He’s working, and achieving, in school and he is building tentative friendships with kids who used to be afraid of him. 

No one can be certain he’ll be all right though because help arrived late in the day. That’s another of the consequences of invisible poverty, the drive-by kind

Wanton waste makes woeful want.

The Celtic tiger years were characterised by huge sums of money being poured down a black hole on wasteful and misbegotten projects. Here are ten of the best
Sunday, November 23, 2008  By Jennifer O’Connell
Ireland has had an exceptional few years.

We have enjoyed over a decade of rapid economic growth, social progress, infrastructural development and an improved standard of living.

What makes this all the more exceptional is that it was achieved without the help of brilliant leadership or particularly innovative policies.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said last week that history would prove Bertie Ahern to have been a ‘‘useless wastrel’’ who ‘‘squandered the wealth of a generation’’. You could be forgiven for dismissing this as just more populist rhetoric by the maverick multi-billionaire airline boss. But you may want to take a look at the evidence first.

In normal circumstances, the rule is: no top ten lists before the first weekend in December. But since the fairy lights on the Christmas tree on O’Connell Street have been ratcheting up the city council’s electricity bill for several weeks already, I find myself in an unusually festive mood. So here is my own personal Christmas top ten: the Lost Billions hitlist.

It could have been longer, but it’s still early days to quantify things like the eventual cost of the lack of planning of the Dublin commuter belt, the cost/ convictions ratio that will ultimately be delivered by the tribunals, and the long-term impact of the government’s continued support for the collapsing building industry. Other things, like the integrated ticketing system for Dublin transport, which is running four years and €20 million over budget, didn’t make the cut either. Maybe next year.

(This list is best enjoyed with a glass of mulled wine as you hum ‘‘Where did you go to, my lolly?” to the tune of the old Peter Sarstedt ballad. Actually, make mine a brandy.)

1. National Aquatic Centre
With a price tag of €62 million, it’s a drop in the deep end beside the proposed IR£550 million Bertie Bowl - and it did at least get built. But its labyrinthine catalogue of difficulties has made it a more fitting monument to Celtic tiger Ireland than its creators might ever have imagined. Seven months after it opened its doors, its roof blew off. But that was only the beginning of its troubles. It has been the subject of several prolonged court battles involving disputes over its lease, outstanding Vat payments, management issues and even its ownership.

Now back in the news again because the former operator, Dublin Waterworld, is to sue the builder, Bam Contractors, for loss of earnings. Still keeping up? No? Well, you’re not alone - with the exception of Labour’s Joan Burton, neither is any of the Opposition, which is probably why the government hasn’t been called to account for such spectacular mismanagement of public money.

2. Electronic voting
The useless e-voting machines cost €51.3 million to develop - equivalent to a cervical cancer vaccine for every 12-year-old girl in the country for at least the next five years. And they are the gift that keeps on giving, at least for those paid to store them for the last four years. The average annual expenditure on storage from 2004 to 2007 was €637,000. However, now that they are safely ensconced in the army barracks (a move which resulted in a transportation bill of over €300,000), the cost should drop to a more palatable €260,000.

3. Decentralisation
Fine Gael’s Richard Bruton estimates that €27.5 million has so far been wasted on the scheme to relocate 11,000 civil servants, which has now been deferred for another three years. So it’s not just a waste of taxpayers’ money - it’s also a major headache for the several hundred civil servants who have already relocated as part of ‘‘advance parties’’ in the expectation that the rest of their office would follow, and will now probably have to turn around and head back to Dublin. How much is that going to cost in compensation?

4. PPARS payroll system
The electronic payments system for the HSE cost €150 million and was so revolutionary that only four people knew how to use it.

5. Bertie Ahern’s new Molesworth Street office
The bill for the three-week cleaning, furnishing and general tarting up of the ex-taoiseach’s office this summer was €220,000,or around €10,000 per day. No mean achievement for a man who prides himself on his appreciation of the simple things in life.

6. Helicoptergate
Of course, €18.7 million is peanuts compared to some of the more spectacular examples of squandering taxpayers’ money, but the sale of four Irish defence force helicopters to a US company for just €300,000, after which they were repaired and sold onto the Chilean navy for nearly €19 million, must rank among the most gobsmackingly stupid wastes of public finances.

The government claims that it made more economic sense to sell on rather than repair the helicopters, which were totally unsuitable for troop transport, but military analysts question why they were bought at all if they really are little more than airborne limousines. Still, at least they made more for the state than the retired Nissan army jeeps - which were sold for 1 cent each.

7. Pulse
The €61 million Pulse computer system was launched on unsuspecting gardai in 1999. Six years later, many members of the force had become so frustrated with constant breakdowns in the system that they’d resorted to using pencil and paper.

8. Luas
The shiny, thrusting, testosterone-fuelled symbol of an Ireland in the throes of a midlife crisis was originally projected to cost €288 million, but the final budget came in at closer to €800 million. Work only started in earnest around the date it was supposed to open, and in the end, the small matter of bringing the green line across the Liffey to meet the red line never happened.

9. Residential Institutions Redress Board
An expensive deal struck behind closed doors between the state and the religious orders in 2002 decided that we, the taxpayers, would pay all but €128millionof compensation claims by victims of clerical abuse. The government claimed it believed those claims would not be more than €250 million.

They now seem set to top €1.1 billion. You might think the Church had got off lightly, but it was revealed earlier this year that it has been slow to deliver on its part of the deal - it still owes us almost €36million in property, the value of which is falling by the day.

10. Ballymun Regeneration Project
It’s a worthwhile project for an area in dire need of regeneration, but at €942 million - around €500 million over budget - and at least six years behind schedule, someone wasn’t doing their sums.

As you contemplate the roughly €3.2 billion sized hole these projects have left us in our public finances and what they delivered - a disjointed rail system in Dublin, a leaking swimming pool in Dublin, the partial regeneration of Ballymun in Dublin, and quite a few expensive computer programmes - ask yourself this: who has been held accountable?

Who has been fired? Then remember who gave these people their jobs in the first place, and who can take them away.

Now a profile of how rich Fianna Fail have made one pay-no-tax property speculator.

Mr McNamaraMcNamara updates banks on his financial position
Sunday, October 26, 2008  By Ian Kehoe
Property developer Bernard McNamara has written to a number of his lender banks in light of the ongoing downturn in the property market.

The letters, known in the banking industry as framework documents, provide an update on the developers financial position.

The letters, sent late last week by McNamaras finance director, are being seen as a statement of McNamaras commitment to work through the difficult trading environment, and are expected to lead to discussions with banks about his borrowings.

McNamara has banking relationships with several lenders, including AIB, Bank of Ireland, Anglo Irish Bank and Bank of Scotland (Ireland). While the exact extent of his total borrowings is not known, it stretches into the hundreds of millions of euro.

McNamara has been involved in several of the biggest development site purchases of the property boom, and has also won several major construction contracts. The letters may trigger discussions between the Clare businessman and his banks about future funding.

Banking sources said framework documents were becoming increasingly commonplace in the current climate.

McNamara acquired the Burlington Hotel in Dublin 2006 for 288 million  Euro development as part of a joint venture with Bank of Scotland (Ireland). He also bought the nearby Allianz building for more than 100 million Euros. In May, he received planning permission for a 1 billion Euro development on the site.(Sunday Business Post)

Public scam-Private Profit, schemes.

If the Fianna Fail connected coterie of developers-like Mr McNamara -who have been constructing jerry built apartments for the past decade, feel badly done by when they are obliged by the Green Party to build decent sized habitations, properly insulated etc. it stretches the boundary of credulity that the reformed plans will make them “unviable”.
The so-called PPS schemes (public private partnership) deals, to which Fianna Fail are so addicted, because they postpone (for ever) their having to use the peoples taxes to provide services and infrastructure-will- in the years to come- prove the greatest disaster that they ever inflicted on the irish people.
Essentially the speculators will now own the nations “family silver”. They will “rent” back to us taxpayers, our schools ,our toll roads, our public buildings, our private health service, ad infinitum. Meanwhile Fianna Fail will enrich themselves, their farmers and their obscenely wealthy developers,with the current tax take, and generations unborn will still be picking up the tab.
Even opportunistic Australian banks are queuing up to get in on the scam.
Unbelievable. I will not be around when all the postponed shit hits the fan-index linked pensions etc, but God help my children’s children-unless of course they own a farm or have a secure public service job.!
“Ireland” has effectively been pawn-brooked by that little trickster Ahern, and no doubt his successor will continue his rotten work.

Goodbye Sniveller.!

By Eamonn Sweeney

Sunday Independent April 27 2008

I could never warm to Bertie Ahern. Or maybe it would be more correct to say that I simply didn't get him. The Taoiseach's appeal, like that of the novels of Michael Ondaatje and the films of Arnold Schwarzenegger, seemed absolutely mysterious. The charisma, warmth and intelligence of the man, so obvious to the nation's political journalists, just weren't apparent to me. I had come to wonder if this was a fault in myself and if perhaps our emperor really was decked out in a resplendent suit of new clothes.

Today, I don't feel so alone. Because, over the past year or so, a great many people's feelings about Bertie Ahern have progressed from affection through ambivalence to outright antipathy. This is something Bertie brought upon himself. It resulted not from what the Mahon tribunal revealed about the Taoiseach but from what the man revealed about himself in response.

It took just a little bit of pressure for the mask to come off and reveal a Bertie very unlike the easy-going media cliche of yore. When the heat came on, the Taoiseach resorted to three main modes of address: the sneer, the snivel and the snarl.

The sneer has never been far from Bertie Ahern's lips, but this tendency became more and more pronounced. His outrageous statement likening those who complained about the state of the Irish economy to the suicidally depressed was one example; another was his dismissal ("pub talk") of the possibility of an amnesty for Irish illegal immigrants in the States. I wondered why the man had to be so mean. If he didn't agree with Niall O'Dowdand his cohorts, fair enough, but was there any need to rub their noses in it? Apparently, there was.

The snarl got its big outing on the night of the general election count when he stormed into the RTE studios and decided to lambast the media for reporting on the financial irregularities revealed by the tribunal. A bigger man might have regarded the hour of victory as a time to be gracious, but Bertie behaved as though the electorate had not just voted him back into office but had voted the judiciary and the journalists out of their jobs. Looking at it, you couldn't help feeling that there must be worse to come in the tribunals if the Taoiseach still felt the need to be scoring points. Who knows what would have happened had he been contrite instead of confrontational? It was a moment when he could have come clean and survived. Instead, he behaved like a man spoiling for a fight when that was the very last thing he wanted.

However, it was neither the sneer nor the snarl that defined Bertie's final months in office, but the snivel, something at which he proved himself a virtuoso, rendering himself pathetic in a manner never approached by any previous Taoiseach.

The snivelling began with the infamous Brian Dobson interview. Bertie might have opted to tackle this in the manner of Roy Keane being quizzed by Tommy Gorman. Instead, he opted for the Princess-Diana- meets-Martin-Bashir approach. Generations yet unborn will cringe at the sight of a grown man attempting to give the impression that he's on the verge of tears. The Taoiseach did everything except put his hand up to his eyes to check for moisture. This was how he was going to play it.

There was a precedent for this kind of ignoble tomfoolery. When Ray Burke first came under serious scrutiny for the way he did business, the Dublin North man turned on the waterworks in the Dail, bringing his dead father into it and bravely rebutting allegations nobody had ever made against him. The initial response from the political correspondents was that Burke had saved his political life with a masterly performance. They changed their minds when it became clear that the public reaction to this oratorical tour de force was that it would have made a dog laugh. The oul' gra mo chroi shite didn't save Ray Burke.

It didn't save Bertie Ahern either. But the Dobson debacle set a pattern for the way in which the Taoiseach would defend himself against every allegation. He would, to be blunt about it, hide behind women. It wasn't a particularly manly thing to do and it committed Bertie to the snivel rather than the sneer or the snarl, but presumably someone thought it was a tactical masterstroke.

Initially, the Taoiseach sheltered behind his wife and daughters. References to his marital difficulties almost seemed designed to give the impression that he had been going round with the begging bowl because his wife had skinned him in the separation settlement. Perhaps it was an entirely accidental outcome, but this was the excuse hinted at by many of the Taoiseach's backers in the media when it looked as though our hero might still spring free with one mighty bound.

It certainly won Bertie a lot of sympathy from the kind of self-pitying men obsessed with the cupidity of women who insist on getting a few quid to look after themselves and their children. One of the characteristics of these sorry souls is their persistent demand for gratitude from the recipients of their largesse. This could be called Look How Good I Am To You Syndrome. He mightn't have meant it, but it was Bertie who made his separation the stuff of public gossip.

There were more women to hide behind. He made the suggestion that some of the money being called into question had been left to him by his dead mother. When it emerged thatCelia Larkin had been given €30,000 of what were supposedly party funds to buy a house, Celia's elderly aunts were deployed as human shields, with the suggestions that all these inquiries were making life unbearable for the old dears. Grainne Carruth was not the only person to be placed between Bertie and trouble as he acted like a B-movie burglar warning the coppers that if they come any close they would end up shooting the innocent woman in front of him.

The problem was that Grainne Carruth moved out of the firing line and, in doing so, gave the lawmen a clear shot at Big Bad Bert. This was not how that encounter was supposed to play out. I'd have a wild guess that Bertie may even have thought that the questioning of his former secretary would be to the tribunal's detriment. Look at what they did, his supporters could say. They made a woman cry: finally, the tribunals have gone too far. Let's wind them up and not ask any more awkward questions.

Unfortunately, people tend to grow impatient with the Sniveller and his perpetual cry of, "Look what they're after doing to me." It wasn't the tribunal people blamed for Grainne Carruth's tears, but Bertie. Our hero had sheltered behind one woman too many.

There was a fascinating insight into how Bertie felt the scenario should have played out in an excellent interview by Aengus Fanning in this paper a few weeks back. You might have thought that divesting the burdens of office would have left Bertie free to move out of Sniveller mode. Not a bit of it. He caterwauled on about the fact that Ms Carruth is a mother of three, though why this information was in any way germane, nobody knows. And he declared the questioning to have been particularly unforgivable because it took place on Holy Thursday . . .

It's not the first time Bertie has brought religion into an argument, something which should give pause to those deluded liberals who believed that the fact of the Taoiseach being shacked up with his former secretary was some kind of bold gesture against the hegemony of the Catholic Church rather than a purely personal decision. Whether it was sanctioning a deal that allowed the Church to escape paying its fair share to the victims of institutional abuse or droning on about his connections to All Hallows, Bertie was never slow to wrap the papal flag around himself.

The most revealing part of the interview came when, after Bertie had banged on about how sorry he felt for Grainne Carruth, he was asked if he'd seen her since the ordeal. No, he said, I haven't had the time. No? Really? Quelle surprise.

It's interesting how few people have sought to portray the Taoiseach's downfall in a tragic light. (Except for himself. Do you think all his ministers really did cry when they heard he was resigning? It sounds to me like someone's been reading too many of his daughter's books. Next, he'll be telling us he cheered them up by bringing them shopping, cracking open a few bottles of lambrusco and singing I Will Survive while dancing around Mary Harney's handbag.) It wasn't tragedy but farce: the whole caper was far too cheap to be tragedy.

That cheapness was most evident in Bertie's inability to depart the scene with any modicum of dignity. Even Charlie Haughey was able to summon up some form of gravitas when he had to fall on his sword. By contrast, Bertie snivelled as he went. You had the description of the tribunal as indulging in "low life stuff." Better again, you had the unconscious comedy of the Taoiseach wittering on about the fact that Grainne Carruth was paid very little money. Well, old son, you were her boss. Perhaps if you hadn't given Celia that thirty grand there might have been a few bob to pay Grainne Carruth. It's just a thought.

There was more. He affected to find great significance in the fact that the act governing the conduct of tribunals was actually "a British law". You almost expected him to suggest MI5had put it on the statute books in the hope of snaring an as yet unborn Taoiseach. This kind of childish anglophobia was bad enough coming from Bertie's old mentor CJH, but coming from a man who probably owed his re-election to the big deal his followers made out of his House of Commons speech it was downright ungrateful.

The "British law", he explained, came from a time when the little man couldn't get justice in this country. Good old Bertie, leader of the country and still thinking of himself as a little man. Because when you're a Sniveller, you'll always see yourself as the underdog. And you'll reach for anything that might protect you from your pursuers. It's not just that famous suit that was yellow.

There were also complaints that Enda Kenny had been insufficiently gracious in wishing Bertie all the best in the future. Ungracious? Hang on a second and I'll give you ungracious. Bertie only became leader of Fianna Fail because Albert Reynolds resigned after inadvertently misleading the Dail. In the light of his successor's behaviour, it's questionable whether Albert should have resigned at all. The Longford man had the unusual distinction for a Fianna Fail leader of having perhaps been too scrupulous.

Soon afterwards, Albert sought the Fianna Fail presidential nomination. Had he got it, he would have been elected to the office and given a just reward for a decent, if truncated, time as Taoiseach. Instead, Bertie and his allies shafted him and gave the nomination toMary McAleese. Not a lot of grace there, and not a lot of gratitude. Bertie will hope he is treated a bit better by his own successor. He probably will be, because there's no sign so far that Brian Cowen subscribes to the particular Dublin Fianna Fail model of politics whose most notable contemporary practitioners were Ray Burke in the North, the late Liam Lawlor in the West and Bertie Ahern in the centre. They were more than Charlie Haughey's supporters, they were his disciples.

One positive aspect of the downfall is that we won't be burdened further by the repetition of that Haughey quote about his factotum being "the most cunning and the most devious of them all". It was always a stupid quote anyway, used as though it was to Bertie's credit when the abiding lesson of the CJ era should have been that cunning and deviousness are qualities Irish politics has been disfigured by for too long.

In the end, it turned out not to be true. Confronted by the tribunal, Bertie was neither cunning nor devious enough. Instead, he looked sleazy, slippery, slimy and completely incompetent. Day after day, the news told us that the Taoiseach had endured a bad day at the tribunal as new inconsistencies emerged in evidence. It was all a bit like Whack A Mole, the game where the more you strike the titular animals on the head with a mallet, the quicker others pop up on different parts of the board. You almost wished Bertie would have just one good day, one day when a witness turned up to confirm that he had at least been telling the unvarnished truth about something.

Even those of us who were sceptical about the Manchester dig-out story couldn't have imagined the bad turns the tribunal would take for the Taoiseach. Anyone who'd suggested back then that Bertie had probably sanctioned the handing over of party money so his girlfriend could buy a house would have been derided as the crudest kind of conspiracy theorist. When all this started out, no-one could have imagined that Bertie operated a private account in his constituency, imagined the amounts of money involved or how blatantly ridiculous some of his explanations would prove to be. And, let's face it, there's probably worse to come.

It was striking how, as time went by, the Taoiseach didn't even bother giving explanations for the money that was being uncovered. Haughey, you felt sure, would have ducked and dived a bit better. He'd certainly have shown a bit more fight. Then again, for all his faults, Bertie's old mentor was not a Sniveller.

The problem with Snivelling is that it puts you on the defensive. The "look at what these terrible people are doing to me" gambit only works as long as people feel sorry for you. When the sympathy wears out, as it invariably does, noble suffering begins to look like self pity.

The worst thing for Bertie is that his behaviour is going to look a lot worse as we enter a recession. Because when everyone was riding high on the hog it was easier to blink an eye at politicians who put the paw out to developers and businessmen. It will be different when recession bites.

One of the articles of faith of the right-wing economic creed espoused by Bertie and his government is that people have to look after themselves and not expect others to bail them out. It is a noble thing, this code of sturdy self-reliance, and we were assured after the last election that members of "the Coping Classes" had kept Fianna Fail in power.

Which is an irony, because if there's one thing Bertie is not, it's a member of the Coping Classes. Whatever story you believe, one thing is indisputable. When Bertie ran into a few financial problems he put the paw out and accepted donations left, right and centre. Some of these people were allegedly his friends and some of them were businessmen who simply liked giving their money away for no reason. Bertie took it all. Even when he had a great deal of money in the bank, he was still collecting the loot.

This runs counter to everything modern Ireland is supposed to be about. Because the Coping Classes are not a myth. They exist and their core belief is that you pay your own way and don't look for favours. They deserve better than to be represented by politicians who have taken the exact opposite attitude for most of their careers, people who don't pay their way if they can get someone else to do it. To this class Bertie belongs, to the political class that fastened their fangs into the necks of their victims and sucked for dear life. It was a miserable existence for a miserable bunch of bastards.

In reality, the taking of that money is itself a form of corruption. For all the talk of Bertie's great empathy with the plain people of Ireland, he wasn't one of them. Because if property prices keep going down and unemployment continues to rise, the plain people of Ireland will be on their own. There will be no one handing us big sums of cash. That's how we live our lives. That it's not how our Taoiseach lived his was his shame and his downfall. He couldn't fool us forever. The plain people of Ireland are not plain stupid.

As Bertie snivelled his way into imminent obscurity, he declared that his great regret was not to have built a national stadium. No, you heard him right. He's not losing any sleep over the state of the health service, public transport or education, he's miffed that he didn't get to build a white elephant no one asked for and no one's felt the lack of since. It's not surprising we don't have a contemporary equivalent of Scrap Saturday. Bertie made satire redundant.

Goodbye Sniveller. And good riddance.

- Eamonn Sweeney