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May 2019
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2011 -11 Atonement

a column written by James for the Sligo Weekender

When our former Tánaiste and Minister for Health Mary Harney knowingly
spent ¬163,000 flying on board the Government jet to a health conference in
Arizona, she and her husband then spoiled themselves at the "Mii Amo
Enchantment Spa Resort" (a popular haunt for the Hollywood élite), commuted
daily to and from the conference 120 miles away in Phoenix (incurring added
limousine charges of ¬10,200, plus a separate van for luggage), as well as
spa-treatments, mini-bar, and beyond-extravagant meals. Was she aware it
was the tax-payer who was footing her bills? I think Yes.

After Mary flew from Dublin to Sligo, and was met by her chauffeur-driven
state Mercedes which also came from Dublin to shuttle her the final 14
miles to Manorhamilton in order `to open an Off-Licence', how did Mary
sleep that night?

How do people on the breadline, worried about day-to-day food bills, sleep
at night?

To say I am enraged at our previous administration would be a gross
understatement. Fintan O'Toole's edifying "Ship of Fools" recounts the
Celtic Tiger's drawn-out slaughter, and shows how the Irish boom years,
with all their potential for success, dissipated in our midst. Ken Foxe's
enlightening "Snouts in the Trough" ought to be digested by everyone, so we
never again tolerate such greedy excuses for humans gracing the corridors
of Leinster House. Why were countless politicians for decades allowed to
misuse millions by using and abusing the Government jet? And when that
luxury jet was unavailable, why fritter away further thousands on "First
Class" flights?

John O'Donoghue's gross extravagance was well-documented at the time -
trips to Aintree, Ascot, Paris and New York with his wife Kate Ann, limo
charges from Manchester to Ascot and back, hats for Kate Ann's race
meetings, sickeningly over-the-top hotel and meal bills, a special limo
costing almost ¬500 to ferry our Ceann Comhairle between terminals at
Heathrow (the rest of us walk and use travelators), excessive tips to
luggage porters - all paid for by you and me.

The voracious greed of Charlie Haughey and Bertie Ahern is merely a cube
from an Everest-sized iceberg. What of Ivor Callely's ludicrous travel
expenses, Noel Dempsey's over-use of the Government jet, Micheál Martin's
disproportionate hotel bills, Mary Hanafin taking her Mum Mona just for
company on international trips, to name but a select selection.

Yet, as Minister for Health, Mary Harney churns my stomach the most. What
of being pays ¬1500 on accommodation in an exclusive Spa Resort, over
hours limo ride from her government business, and then sleeps soundly
through the night, fully aware that at home, under her watch, people were
sleeping on trolleys in hospital corridors, hospital waiting lists got
longer, and retirement homes and cancer units were being shut down? Had you
Business Class, or dare I suggest "Economy" Mary (Perish the
thought!), couldn't you have utilised the ¬163,000 to upgrade and refurbish
St Brigid's Home in Crooksling, thus avoiding its recent closure? Or put
the ¬140,000 used for your Canadian trip towards a Cancer Unit in Sligo
General? The money we paid for all your beauty treatments I'm sure could
also have been employed more prudently, and with more positive, effective
and enduring results.

If Teresa Treacy, the 65 year-old Offaly lady, who refused to allow ESB
Electric Ireland access to her land was forced to spend two weeks in
Mountjoy this September, shouldn't Mary Harney, John O'Donoghue, David
Drumm and all the others who squandered nauseating amounts of our money
under our noses, be made to atone for their sins, financially, or
behind bars?

Sixty-five families were evicted from Priory Hall in Donaghmede, and may
have collectively flushed millions down the toilet, because of bad mortgage
advice and shoddy building procedures. Surely the banks, lenders, and the
developer/builder in question have a moral obligation to help, to bail them
out, to be made cough up for these mistakes? As I read of John and Kate Ann
O'Donoghue's $1200-a-night stays in New York's Waldorf Astoria, I thought
about the Priory Hall families with young babies, in limbo, living in hotel
rooms, with all their personal belongings in storage.

And where's Rody Molloy? The decent FÁS staff were dumbfounded, like the
rest of us, to learn of Rody's extravagant excesses, as head of an agency
committed to job promotion and training.

And I still can't understand why the Vatican Treasury is not forced to pawn
off some of its obscene opulence, in order to in some small way compensate
the thousands of abuse victims.

Ireland, the time has come for mass atonement&