Michael McDowell can count?

Ranelagh Arts fest. Senate Debate, Sandford Park school. Ruairi Quinn, Michael McDowell, Eoghan Murphy TD, Noel Whelan. Chair: Dan O’Brien, Irish Times. Photo: Michael Foley.

Fintan O’Toole may not be my favourite journalist but he does write well and in a piece in the Irish Times he rips into a fellow-columnist, one Michael McDowell. 

McDowell, you probably know, prides himself on his knowledge of things economical. In a TV discussion with Gerry Adams a considerable number of years ago, he declared Gerry A. to be an economic illiterate. If you hunt up the discussion on youtube.com you might find that Gerry A was nearer the mark than Michael McD.  But back to this Fintan O’Toole article headed ‘Spare us the scare stories about public spending.’

O’Toole begins by remembering April 2005, when the then Minister for Justice, one Michael McDowell, talked about ‘value for money’.  He was referring to 150 acres of land he’d bought on behalf of the state, the land being located between Dublin and Meath. Using the state’s cheque-book, Michael had bought this 150 acres for €30 million, which works out at €200,000 an acre. A farm four miles away had been sold for €26,000 an acre. 

Fintan then adds up the extras for the state: lawyers, banking fees, technical fees, the laying of 4.8 km of watermains and connections, and several other related expenses. Adding it all up, Fintan figures that by 2015, Michael’s patch of land  had cost the Irish taxpayer €50.63 million.  The Valuation Office at  the time figured that the land was actually worth €2.4 million. 

But Michael continues to give financial advice today: “The enormous hole in the public finances cannot simply be wished away by borrowing billions.” And as for PPE for health workers, “We can’t afford to spend €1 billion a year on single-use PPE”.

Isn’t it lucky that Michael was using public money and not his own on that 150 acres? Lucky for Michael, that is, not so lucky for tax-payers. 

I wonderif there is a record somewhere of Gerry Adams having wasted millions of public money? And then, with a neck of triple brass, turning round and saying we can’t afford protective gear for those at the battle-front in hospitals and care homes.

Probably best to shut your ears to what some politicians (or, in Michael’s case, failed politicians) have to say, and watch what they do. 

Michael, you’re an economic troglodyte. 

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