Coming on the heels of Damien English’s resignation over a recent property scandal, his fellow Fine Gael TD, Paschal Donohoe, has found himself in similar controversy over his failure to declare election-season financial expenses. The prolific trend among Irish politicians of omitting information that may be pertinent to potential political biases is a permanent issue with Irish politicians, with last year, in Fianna Fail, property scandals involving Stephen Donnelly and Robert Troy.
Paschal Donohoe, a Star Wars fan from the constituency of Dublin Central, was appointed Minister for Finance in 2017, and reappointed to the position following the 2020 General Election. Varadkar’s recent cabinet shuffle has seen Donohoe relegated to the position of Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.
Despite his new ministerial responsibilities, Donohoe is now facing a PR scandal over his failure to detail the full extent of his postering expenses during his 2016 election campaign. Though paid for by Michael Stone, the payments of approximately €1,100 for poster hanging and removal were effectively personal donations to Donohoe’s campaign.
Former Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy, later appointed Stone to the Land Development Agency. While Donohoe insists he did not recommend Stone for this position, he can only be taken for his word which so far seems unreliable.
Donohoe has since apologised for his mistake, and in comment over Damien English’s recent resignation, has stated that he will not be stepping down from his role. It remains to be seen, however, the extent to which Donohoe’s political career may be further damaged. Should government ministers continue to face scandals over their neglect to declare their finances, Sinn Fein’s vote-share stands to benefit significantly.
It should be noted that while Sinn Féin has criticised Donohoe’s negligence, they themselves have engaged in similar practices to the Fine Gael scandals. Financial expenses amounting to €7,000 were omitted from Sinn Féin’s list of expenditures during the 2020 General Election, having only been amended in January of 2022. The money was used to fund a polling data project measuring youth support for Sinn Fein, from a supposed third-party institution.
Both the ethics and competencies of Irish politicians are put under question by a consistent failure to adhere to the most basic rule: report what you spend. While the inability to commit to this rule is an indictment against Irish politicians’ moral character, it is unsurprising given the known selfishness and rampant careerism which motivates them.
Simultaneously, one must stand back from the characters involved in politics and consider the validity of a political scandal. Sinn Féin’s aforementioned poll is a case of a political party trying to manufacture legitimacy for itself through third-party institutions, and is therefore of concern to those who want to see a political system founded upon truth.
Who really cares if Minister Donohoe neglected to declare €1,100 for a postering campaign, or even if he used his influence to have his mate put on a state board? The perpetual state of scandal in Dail Eireann is certainly an indicator of the “quality” of Irish politicians, but there are more existential issues threatening Irish society, namely, the state’s de facto open-borders policy.
The mentality of Irish politicians may be likened to a monetary rendition of Pascal’s wager: If you hide your property portfolio and omit financial declarations from your election campaign, you can only stand to gain more than you would lose should you get caught.
It’s only January and two Fine Gael scandals involving government ministers have caused significant controversy. Knowing what Irish politicians are like, there can only be more to come.