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Speech by Fine Gael Deputy Brendan McGahon regarding the Resignation of Albert Reynolds

Dáil Éireann - Volume 447 - 22 November, 1994
Adjournment of Dáil: Motion. The Taoiseach Albert Reynolds

The Taoiseach: I move: “That the Dáil adjourn until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 30 November 1994”.

In tendering to the President last week my resignation as Taoiseach and the resignation of the Government, I decided not to seek a dissolution of the Dáil, as would have been normal in the past. It was my view then, and it remains my view, that it would not be in the national interest to have prolonged uncertainty and instability, until a new Administration could be formed after a general election in two or three months' time. I also believe the present Dáil provides an ample basis for the formation of a new Government.


Mr. McGahon: I welcome this opportunity — which may be my last — to speak in this House and unburden myself of some of my impressions of the political world. For many years I could not understand the reluctance of people to cast their vote, having visited countries in which there was not a democracy and people were not allowed to vote. Until recently I had strong views in that regard. I felt it was not too much to ask people to give five minutes of their time every few years to vote for their country. I also believed that people who did not vote should lose the franchise or, as is the case in Australia, have the vote taken from them. Two or three weeks ago, like other Deputies, I canvassed in Cork. The extent of the wrath of its people about the political set-up made a deep impression on me. I am beginning to understand the jaundiced eye with which the public view us. The events of the past week contributed to that public perception of politicians, and that is regrettable.

The calm atmosphere in the House tonight contrasts with the unbelievable scenes we witnessed here last week, scenes unprecedented in the history of the State. It was difficult to get inside the door with the scrum of hacks and television media on the plinth outside the House; it was even more difficult to get out. They were chronicling the most bizarre story that ever unfolded in this  House. As a rather independent-minded Deputy I was saddened to see the public humiliation of a man I always found to be nice and friendly. I got no pleasure from his public humiliation, nor did I get pleasure from seeing his predecessor publicly defrocked in office. It is always sad to witness the death of a political fox.

The circumstances surrounding the recent events were unfortunate. The Taoiseach took the right course in resigning, but it is regrettable it was necessary. Like most Deputies, I came into this House as a political optimist, but after 12 years I am preparing to exit the scene as a total cynic about political life. I echo the sentiments of everybody on this side who voiced their cynicism and frustration at the method of Dáil questioning.

I have enjoyed a very warm friendship with the Ceann Comhairle. In 12 years, certainly in the past seven during which he has presided here, he has never had to take me to task. I do not blame him for the system he inherited. On some occasions he would need to be a lion tamer to maintain order in this House. The system has deteriorated. While I will not go so far as to say that lies are told here, certainly concealment or distortion of the facts are evident in replies to parliamentary questions. I am not saying that the party in Government invented that practice, rather it has evolved over the years because of bureaucracy and the influence and involvement of civil servants. Certainly it is a cause of frustration for Members. Question Time and the Order of Business are a nonsense. The Ceann Comhairle has my sympathy in trying to maintain order in what is at times a circus.

I am preparing to leave this House a total cynic about political life, the rhetoric and the bull, to which Deputy Deasy referred. It is very difficult for the public to decipher the coded political speech — and this involves all parties — which, for the most part, is ambivalent.

I congratulate the Taoiseach on at least one issue, that is peace, and I say that as a cynic about the North of Ireland. I have no doubt I would be [601] joined in that sentiment by the Kerr family; one need not talk to them about peace and the hypocrisy of the IRA. The final tale has not been told about this so-called peace process. Will the incoming Taoiseach, whoever that may be, demand of Mr. Gerry Adams the return of the £130,000 stolen in the Newry post office robbery? On one occasion in this House I described Mr. Adams — I repeat it this evening — as the Irish Dr. Mengele, the Irish angel of death, in that he has been guilty, by association, of the deaths of hundreds of fellow Irish men and women. He is engaged in the greatest hoax of the 20th century. I hope I will be proved wrong.

I should like to pay tribute to the Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, for his part in bringing about this temporary cessation of violence in the North. People have not been killed, with the exception of the late Mr. Frank Kerr, who fell victim to the Mafia that is the IRA, since the announcement. Nonetheless Deputy Reynolds deserves unstinting praise for what he did in that respect. However, he misled the House and took the right course in tendering his resignation.

I am not a great Roman Catholic or a regular Mass goer, but I view with great concern the increasing hostility to the Catholic Church here. Evidence of that hostility was represented in the appalling rumour that circulated last week, that his Eminence,  Cardinal Cahal Daly was involved in the Fr. Fr. Brendan Smyth affair. Any journalist or politician involved in that rumour should hang his or her head in shame. Talk about climbing on the popular bandwagon; it is my belief that the nation, certainly the political element of it, owes the Catholic Church an apology. Even as a lapsed Catholic. I contend the lurid press stories and the continuous bombardment of the Catholic Church here have gone over the top. It should be remembered that the Church has made a tremendous contribution to this evolving nation, a mere 70 years old. If a relatively small number of priests or bishops step out of line, are guilty of moral misconduct, does that mean we should brand the entire congregation with some of the sins or indiscretions of their fellow churchmen? I do not think we should because, in a human sense, churchmen are no different from, say, politicians or journalists, the sanctimonious people who pontificate and tell us how this country should be run in the Sunday papers. The same degree of frailty of human nature is evident in the political or journalistic world, indeed to a higher degree than that represented by the indiscretions of a few members of the Catholic Church, or any church.

The events of last week certainly were not an advertisement for political life or the political world. I view the future with great concern since so many people, particularly the young, are sceptical of politicians, believing we are all involved in wrongdoings, misdemeanours, or all receiving brown packets. There is a case for some type of course at primary level designed to teach young people that politics is necessary since so many people grow up believing that politicians and the political system are there to penalise them, which is an ignorance of the true position. The good work undertaken by so many politicians on behalf of this very young nation is at risk. Future generations will see a continuing decline in the numbers who cast their votes for democracy. I am concerned about that and steps should be taken to balance that public perception. I deplore the involvement of the media, print and visual, in effect setting the agenda for political discussions, who churn out articles daily creating a frenetic atmosphere such as was witnessed here last week.

Deputy Deasy referred to information leaks. Sadly such leaks are a fact of life and have become as prevalent here as they are in the Everton defence, for various reasons, because of different human failures, perhaps because a person who was not promoted leaked a sensitive document to another party. It happens all the time; it happened when we were in Government and will continue until somebody is caught and held up as an example. Leaks should not be tolerated in higher Civil Service circles [603] or within any division of the Civil Service. Of course the jealousy always evident in political parties will ensure that politicians will rat on others if they can get a hitch up the ladder.

Having expressed my dismay at what happened last week, we should now look to the future and I echo Deputy Deasy's call for a general election. As one who has considered retirement it would suit me if this Dáil struggled on for another two years. However, the interests of the political world will be best served by a general election. We need a cleanout. If the political world is to have any credibility in future following the tragic and bizarre events of last week, the nation needs a general election.

Having expressed a certain amount of regret that a man I liked was publicly humiliated and who took the only course of action apposite, I wish to put some questions to the Labour Party, a party that sat here last week, certainly last Wednesday and Thursday, and sang dumb — I was going to ask the Ceann Comhairle if they were dummies. I should like to ask Deputy Spring, who is cast in the role of “Mr. Righteous” if he has been totally clean in unfolding his story. When did he hear about this? Was he told by Sir Patrick Mayhew on the morning or afternoon of Friday? Did he wait to spring a trap for a man that he has publicly criticised severely over the years? Was it an act of desperation born of the terrible rejection of the Labour Party in Cork where their candidate was a young woman, whose father tragically lost a courageous fight for life only four months earlier, lost 6,000 votes in just two years? Did Deputy Spring get the message of how the wind was blowing on Friday and was this a carefully staged plot to resuscitate the Labour Party? Given the image created for itself by the Labour Party in  the last two years, I believe the circumstances of how information about the Duggan case was made available to Deputy Spring should be told. Was it mere chance that Deputy Spring happened to go to the newly appointed Attorney General or was he acting on a tip? Deputy Spring has in recent years made his name by acting on leaks and tip-offs. I want answers to those questions and I want to know what Labour's intentions are for the future.

Having paid lip-service to the need for a general election, are we now to be treated to another pantomime such as that indulged in two years ago in which the Labour Party will hold the country to ransom and waste up to six weeks talking to people and posturing? I understand that posturing is part and parcel of the political world, given the number of naive people. Excuse the language, a Cheann Comhairle, but are they going to shit or get off the pot? Will they tell the people what they will do, having engaged in the little ritual of posturing and the fan dance? As a Fine Gael Deputy I would be unhappy if they were to make advances to my party but, given the hypocrisy of the political world, will they go back to the party that Mr. Spring identified as a cancer in Irish society? Will he pull back the bedclothes and get into bed with some other Taoiseach? Will he get into bed with the party he described as a cancer in Irish society or, indeed, has the Labour Party caught that cancer?

If Deputy Reynolds was guilty of any wrongdoing or misdemeanour, were all the other members of the Fianna Fáil Party not equally guilty? Can “Mr. Righteous”, that great crusader of justice and open-mindedness in Government, get into bed with what remains of the Cabinet of Albert Reynolds? I echo Deputy Deasy's call for a general election to let the people decide.

The Dáil adjourned at 7 p.m. until 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday, 30 November 1994.