Michael McDowell - never explain, never apologise

I don’t know whether any other Pinsters happened to catch Marian Finucane’s interview with Michael McDowell on Saturday. I did and it was a salutary reminder of the sheer arrogance of the PD/FF governments during the Celtic bubble. McDowell brassnecked his way through the entire interview, refusing to acknowledge that he played any role in bankrupting the country (just blaming the opposition) and certainly refusing to apologise.

The interview contained the following gems:

  • when asked why the FF/PD government allowed public spending to run out of control he claimed that people had been complaining about Charlie McCreevy’s ‘dirty dozen’ cuts to social welfare. These were of course in 1992 - ten years before McDowell and his pals started to ramp up public spending so radically.
  • when asked why the FF/PD governments undermined the tax base, he claimed ‘we were running surpluses consistently’ - yeah right funded by windfall property taxes, not sustainable surpluses.
  • when asked why so much money was wasted on the purchase of the Thornton Hall site, he claimed this was because another site they had planned to buy fell through and they needed to secure an alternative quickly.

As usual Finucane didn’t interrogate him on his ridiculous claims, which I find annoying in some ways, but by not constantly interrupting him she did give him the opportunity to spin enough rope to hang himself.

I did hear this. I’m not going to defend the 2002 to 2007 FF/PD shambles of a goverment, but he had a point that Rabbitte and Kenny wanted to spend as much if not more in May 2007, and a lot of the overspend today is overspend since 2006/7.

If ireland could cut it’s spending to 2001/2002 levels things wouldn’t be too bad at all. But no, that will upset too many cosy little apple carts. And that’s the reality of the ‘crisis’.

McDowell certainly was guilty of propping up the great socialist Ahern in 2005/2006 and not pulling the plug in 04 or 05 as should have been done. The PDs got votes in 2002 to keep a check on FF, and to be financially prudent. Once the pork barrell really ramped up in 2004 onwards, mainly in the name of maintaining insane property prices, McDowell and the PDs didn’t practice what they preached. As a result the electorate made them extinct.

One new thing I heard him say yesterday was that Harney and himself had a conversation in 2003 to the effect that the PDs were toast. Harney believed the PDs should merge with FG. Why they knew the game was up 12 months on from gaining 8 seats in May 2002 suggests that they were without influence that early on in the coalition, this thing was already way out of control, and they spent 5 years (03-08)saving face, and covering their ass. That’s more of an indicment of McDowell and the PDs than anything else. A real stateman/political party would have walked, and done the country some service.

Namascama, there are three key reasons why this country is in the state it is in:

  1. public spending grew too large
  2. taxes particularly income taxes and capital taxes were cut too much, and
  3. the government failed to regulate the banks.
    The PD philosophy of low taxes, small government and get out of the way of the private sector certainly contributed to 2 and 3 in my opinion. FFs’s philosophy of a bit of jam for everyone was the key driver of 1 and together their joint philosophies were a disaster.

People way have voted for the PDs to keep FF ‘honest’ as you mention, but the existence of the PDs is a central reason why FF were in government for far too long in my view. The PDs took away a section of votes from the right flank of FG and this stopped FG from gaining enough seats to form at least a coalition government. Equally the absence of the PDs at the last election is a key reason why FG gained so many seats.

In relation to McDowell’s criticism of the opposition - this is a fair enough political point - but it still doesn’t explain why McDowell say back and let taxes be cut to unsustainably low levels. McDowell was in government for most of the Celtic tiger period. Rabbite was not.

Well remembered. That point shatter’s McDowell’s argument.

Except … I thought Bertie Ahern was minister for finance in 1992, and the dirty dozen was around 2002.

I used to believe this myself, but I’m yet to see the right hand flank of FG exert it’s influence, and make any difference to what went before. Look at the exchequer returns on Friday evening, spending still up at horrendous levels nearly two years since Clowen and co. were fucked out. Levels that were not sustainable during most of the 97-07 decade of splurge, but which we have been conditioned to believe are necessary.

I’ve said it before, there is a clear vacuum on the right in Irish politics. The left is overcrowded. McDowell and the PDs along with a good chunk of FF, were elected in 1997 and 2002 to be fiscally conservative. They failed to implement these policies, and faced extinction from the silent majority of voters. FG picked up this vote in 2007 and more so in 2011. At the rate they are going they face a similar extinction in the locals in 2014, and the GE of 2016 unless things change rapidly.

Even though the main parties in opposition were a joke, it is not a defense.
McDowell and the PDs pretended to be Fiddle Fáil’s conscience but they were far from it.
Together they were a symbiotic incompetent negligent government.

The Left is not over-crowded in Irish politics.
Most parties are center right populist with a low commitment to the transparency needed to fight corruption.

We wouldn’t recognize centre-right if it bit us on the arse. We are so left-leaning it is unreal. FG prob slightly left of centre as a whole

You are mistaking populist for left-leaning.
I would expect a proper left-leaning government to take on the legal profession cartel and
to emphasis income-tax and corporate tax increases over charges.
A left wing government would not tolerate the likes of Richie Boucher running one of our banks.

You might not agree but this is a good assessment:

Correct, Sorehead, Bertie was finance minister in 1992, but McCreevy was social welfare minister and it was in this capacity he implemented the dirty dozen cuts. See:

I stand corrected but clearly what McDowell was referring to was the budget of 2003. The 1992 cuts are irrelevant in the context of the bubble - and for most of us are forgotten. The media in 2003 were for their own amusement echoing earlier headlines with complaints about the “savage sixteen” cuts. So McDowell should have said for accuracy “savage sixteen” instead of “dirty dozen” but it doesn’t mean he didn’t have a point.

There was heavy criticism of McCreevy trying awkwardly to reign in spending. The response to this resulted in Ahern selecting a worst of all worlds economic policy by starting to listen to people like Father Sean Healy.

independent.ie/national-news … 91053.html

Cowen attacks McDowell proposals on stamp duty
By Finfacts Team
Sep 19, 2006


There’s no “swing to the left” in Ireland IMO

The party of easy answers, FF, have failed to deliver easy “solutions” so people are moving onto the next bunch peddling easy answers

Edit: or what DM18 said

before the 2002 election the government spent like crazy to win the election and they said that there would be, “no cutbacks, planned, secret or otherwise”

of course after the election there were cutbacks and the mongs went mental ringing up joe duffy

thats why McCreevy went to europe, which was a nice move for him, because he got more money and he has escaped his share of the blame for our present problems

I met McDowell in the justice department back in 2005 and formed the impression then that he was very much a Jim Hacker type buffoon, the civil service had him house trained. He did not have any power and the matter in question had to be run by the cabinet. I was also a fly on the wall in a meeting with a MNC when Harney was enterprise minister, she was way out of her depth, they got what they wanted and she got good publicity out of it (which is all a politician wants). I reckon when she went to the health department, the vested interests there stonewalled her, she did not have the will to fight and just resigned herself to collecting the perks that came with the job. So the PDs earnestly wanted change but were not competent enough to be able to effect much beyond tinkering at the edges, the permanent government that are the senior civil servants create such an inertial mass that change is resisted. I suspect the Greens found this out also and the current FG and Labour government is finding this out as well, the civil service re entrenched and working against them, especially in the major departments like Health, Welfare and Justice.

It is also not true that the government reduced taxes during the period otherwise they would be bringing in less revenue, what they did was optimise the boom and followed the money so they could collect even more revenue. The high tax and borrow policies of the 1970s though 1980s did not work then and more or less left the country in a situation of managed economic decline with the IMF hovering on the sidelines in the mid 80s. After many years of this they were finally left with no option but to bring the budget deficits under control, they nearly blew it in 1992 with the ERM crisis, but all the incompetents in the finance department and its subsidiary the central bank got promoted and when they fucked up a second time, were able to sail into sunset with their pensions intact.

The PDs originated because of corruption in government, they did have some success early on with reducing taxation and cutting schemes like the export credit insurance which would have had the taxpayer on the hook for Larry Goodmans losses. The PDs quickly ran out of ideas and were subsumed by the system and that killed them off, just like the Greens a few years later.

The issue for any smaller party joining a coalition with the establishment parties like FF & FG is that they are wedded to maintaining the status quo, there is no support for rocking the boat and politicians who desire change find themselves with the choice of either accepting the lucrative compensation offers that go with the system and forgetting about change, or finding themselves isolated and still not being able to change the system. Older readers than I will probably recognise this situation in the career of Noel Browne.

McDowell is a typically barrister - a sole trader who works on his own highly technical problems - who argues points, gets to grips with details but who never has to concern himself with details of delivery or implementation and who never has to suffer if he gets the solution wrong: he generally gets paid anyway and can walk away and move to the next problem. The problem is solved when the technical point is addressed.

In this respect he was just like Lenihan.

He has always fancied himself as a politician and he really wants a national role. He has a slightly messianic view of his old destiny. He has been trying to reinvent himself. Witness his involvement in the recent report on the future of the Seandad.

He loves a good soundbite and will substitute a good phrase for real action or substance. He loves to express his opinion on topics that are not relevant to his core role. When he was Minister for Justice, it sometimes felt he was Minister for Everything Else.

He is highly personable and good fun. But he is not a team player.

I remember attending one of his victory parties - not as a supporter but as a guest - when he stood on a table and promised to his cheering supporters that he would sort out Gardai. That went really well.

Remember his other comments and actions. Calling a gangland killing in 2004 as the last sting of a dying wasp when there have been well over 100 such killings since then meant that he reallocated Garda resource elsewhere and allowed gangland killings to continue for years contributing to their growth in strength.

The Thornton Hall was an unforgivable waste of money. I recall being at a dinner party and betting a senior Department of Justice civil servant €1,000 that Thornton Hall would never be built. He blustered and gave lots of reasons justifying the decision.

McDowell’s pronouncements on residential stamp duty caused a tumbling property market to stagnate further.

He tacitly let McCreevey and Ahern commit the evils of overheating the property market, narrow the tax base and increase public spending. He tolerated this as a price for staying in power and being able to play his self-appointed national role.

He recent media appearances are part of a campaign to rehabilitate himself and test the water prior to an attempt to re-enter national politics. You have been warned.

I think we should have a constitutional amendment to stop barristers and solicitors from being TDs.

I love watching McDowell these days! He’s part of a caste of people who seem to think they are born to rule. It is funny to watch him failing to come to terms with his irrelevancy, and ignore his own role in the mess.

I’m no PD fan, but if we had followed their right wing, free market, economic policies to the letter, then surely would have no bank guarantee and bailout in 2008?

thats a very big IF

the average PD voter/member does not really believe in free markets

barristers, solicitors, consultants, IBEC ect are all just economic rent seekers when they claim to be pro business/free markets what they really mean is they want to extract more rent from the economy

since banks are the ultimate rent seekers my bet is we would have had a guarantee and a bailout

Actually, what you both said. An immature electorate for sure. “Tax anyone richer than me; spend it on me”.

The party of bank deregulation? I seriously doubt that. Far too close to banking wealth to not want to preserve it.