In a time where lies and spin and half-truths are the fuel that fires Irish public life, let’s do what they won’t and call a spade a spade.
There is absolutley no way Michelle Mulherin is telling the truth about her phone calls to Kenya.
And the fingerprints of the media advisers and spin doctors employed by modern politicians are all over her car-crash interview with Seán O’Rourke.
She doesn’t know what they cost, and she doesn’t say who they were to. No names, no subjects, just wooly legalese.
Instead of saying she was calling a man she loved or was in a relationship with, she says they “pertained to a third party who had been maligned and defamed in a newspaper because of association with me and potential legal action arising therefrom.”
No names mentioned, just a conveniently sly little dig at the media for revealing her actions – which, of course, are in the public interest.
The transcript is one thing, but do yourself a favour and listen to the interview. Like Fildema Healy-Eames, Michelle speaking English would remind you of a child running down a hill that is far to steep for it – at any point she can lose control and come crashing down in a heap.
Michelle is fine when sticking to the script her handlers give her – “because of association with me and potential legal action arising therefrom” - but as soon as she has to think on her feet, she promptly inserts both of them into her mouth.
And carries on regardless.
I’ve written to the Ceann Comhairle and I’ve asked them to investigate it. You know the Ceann Comhairle is chair of the oireachtas commission which runs the houses of parliament which looks after the day-to-day affairs of what happens in Leinster House and I’m asking him to look into it. And basically I’m open to whatever he has to say about it. And, basically, the commission which is the committee that he sits with, who then deliberates on these issues in relation to the propriety of any phonecalls I made. At this point, until that clarification is given, I mean in fairness the phonecalls listed there to all over the world, I’d say as there has been every year, and that’s the nature, we’re a parliament, we’re international and I’d like to get more information.
The truth is that Mulherin knows the “third party” very well. In 2012 the Irish Daily Mail printed pictures of her with her arms around the man in question.
What Michelle is essentially doing in the interview is trying to distance herself from the man in question, and paint him as a constituent like any other that she is trying to assist with a legal issue, as that would be correct use of a Kildare Street telephone.
And not, say, as her “partner” (which is how the Mail described him, with no seeming objection from Mulherin), who one could assume might be on the receiving end of her personal phone calls.
Which the Irish taxpayer naturally feels he or she shouldn’t have to foot the bill for.
Then comes the smokescreen – you can almost hear her begin reading from the script again, as all of a sudden it’s in understandable English.
The issue is, of course, confidentiality – how can our beloved public representative take or make calls to the public, or indeed to journalists, if it might be revealed in the paper?!
It’s very simple. It’s called “accountability,” Michelle.
Under freedom of information legislation, people are entitled to find out what calls are being made at their expense.
And talented, resourceful journalists like those in RTE and the Sunday Times can use that information to find stuff out and draw conclusions.
It’s what we do.
And contrary to popular belief, the Irish people are entitled to know what you do with their money.
Of course, no-one has talked about the content of Michelle’s calls, apart from Michelle herself.
The most interesting part of the O’Rourke interview is also the most fleeting. Seán implies that Mulherin was contacted for comment by journalists. Her response is that she has never been contacted by anyone in the Oireachtas, and moves quickly back ot the “confidentiality” issue. Twice.
By now, the stench of spin-doctoring is by now unbearable.
Luckily, the bottom of the hill catches up with Mulherin and it all comes crashing down, as Seán calls her out on her spurious “third party” spin.
The recipient is eventually revealed to be Danson Kole – the man revealed as Mulherin’s “partner” by the Irish Daily Mail two years ago.
Her defence? Confidentiality.
And the upshot of all this?
Personally, I don’t want her to refund the money.
Politicians – even Fine Gael politicians – are human. They have private lives and love lives and partners, and if they are going to be asked to spend most of their lives in Leinster House then they should be entitled to call their partners, even if they happen be in Kenya.
But I’d like to see her tell the truth, instead of reading her script on radio and hoping it all goes away.
I’d like to see her say “this man in Kenya is important to me, so I called him, and I’m not one bit sorry,” instead of reducing him to a “third party.”
And I’d like to see her apologise to the resourceful journalists who highlighted her misuse of taxpayer’s money.
There are a lot of things that are confidential in politics, Michelle. The problem for most politicians is that you don’t get to pick and choose what they are.