Miriam Lord: A very civil war breaks out over election expenses as parties realise truce is in everyone’s best interests

Paschal undergoes an intensive course of donation regression therapy


Following months of debate and soul searching, Germany finally indicated this week that it will send its battle tanks to the Ukrainian frontlines. Chancellor Olaf Scholz formally announced the move on Wednesday in a speech to the German parliament.

Experts on international affairs have been speculating on the reasons behind this decision to finally supply the military hardware long sought by Kyiv and approve requests by other countries to do the same, unleashing a coalition of high-spec tanks for the war-torn country.

It’s quite simple, really.

Berlin had been carefully watching the unfolding Paschal Donohoe election expenses affair as it built to its bloodless climax in Leinster House on Tuesday.


And observed that at the first threat to the strategically important Minister for Public Expenditure, Fine Gael dispatched its tanks to defend their vulnerable poster-boy and pepper the enemy with counter-accusations of multiple expenses-related atrocities.

But while they partially repelled the Opposition forces, it was not enough and the fighting and sniping continued for nearly a week.

In the interim, Paschal underwent an intensive course of donation regression therapy with the help of a businessman friend.

He emerged chastened and contrite and clear in his recollection that the reason why he got postering figures wrong on his declaration forms was because he never knew about some instances of it and had completely forgotten that other people were to blame for the rest.

Following the successful memory rehabilitation programme, Government generals assembled a FF/FG battle-tank coalition, confident they now had sufficient firepower to save their hero from a rampantly bellicose Sinn Féin hell-bent on ministerial destruction.

It appears to have worked.

Germany, naturally, took note, and the chancellor made his historic announcement on Wednesday.

Joe Biden had his eye on the Leinster House tanks too and followed suit.

Having laid the groundwork with barrages of heavy hints over the weekend, the counteroffensive started on Tuesday morning with the rolling out of big gun, businessman Micheal Stone, who went on the record to say he supplied six men and a van to put up and take down some of Paschal’s posters in 2020, contrary to earlier assertions by the Minister.

He was very apologetic, explaining Paschal had relied on wrong information which he mistakenly gave him.

The millionaire reckoned the postering support he provided cost him about €1,400 and he “deeply regrets” any embarrassment caused by his forgetfulness over “what I thought was modest help for a hardworking honest politician”.

When the time came for Donohoe’s second statement to the Dáil, the Coalition battle tanks were in position around him, gun turrets trained on the other side. There were noisy skirmishes, but no battle royale in the chamber.

The main Opposition forces, unappeased and still angry, rolled back to assess the situation. They insist there are still glaring inconsistencies in Paschal’s account of his postering pick-me-up, but is it worth another push?

On Tuesday evening, as the warring sides dispersed and senior Ministers left the frontlines, Fianna Fáil’s Norma Foley turned to the briefly embattled Minister and raised a congratulatory clenched fist.

So what next?

Coalition TDs waited for Leaders’ Questions at midday on Wednesday, wondering if the loudest and most vociferous voices raising hell the evening before about the minutiae of Donohoe’s sketchily remembered election expenses were up for another onslaught.

Mary Lou McDonald’s opening contribution quickly became a case of All Quiet on the Sinn Féin front. It was a Donohoe free zone.

She didn’t mention the war.

Instead, an uncharacteristically subdued Mary Lou returned to the cost of living crisis. No stranger to getting stuck into taoisigh on this ever-pressing issue, she laid out in stark terms the difficulties people face in their day-to-day lives as they struggle to cope with rising food and energy bills and increasing rent and mortgage costs.

She noted that the Government will be meeting in the coming weeks to discuss further cost of living supports as the existing measures are eased out.

There wasn’t one mention of cosy cartels or old boys networks, or the relationship between big business and TweedleGael and TweedleFáil or how Leo Varadkar and his ilk “just don’t get it”.

Instead, could he provide households with the certainty they need in these uncertain times and what specific details are in his support plan? Will existing protections be continued and extra options considered to help mortgage holders?

The Taoiseach thanked her and said he had to agree with her assessment of the situation. “A lot of people, families and businesses are struggling with the cost of living . . . The Government is here to help and wants to help.”

And to nobody’s surprise he proceeded to outline all the great works they have wrought so far and what how they want to ensure there will be no “cliff edge” for people when the current measures expire at the end of next month.

But people are still in difficulty, “notwithstanding the measures the Government has taken” responded Mary Lou, thanking Leo for his reply and acknowledging that the protections already introduced were “of course” welcomed by everyone.

“All help is good help when you are under pressure.”

But what people really need now is that sense of certainty so they can plan ahead. How is the Taoiseach going to prevent that financial cliff edge when the current cost of living supports run out?

“They need to see the shape of the plan.”

Leo thanked his sparring partner for her contribution. “Those are very fair and those are very legitimate questions to ask.”

She didn’t roll her eyes or make a cutting remark.

Unfortunately he isn’t yet in a position yet to give her the answers she seeks as the Government hasn’t made its decisions on the support measures. But rest assured, “people will have certainly long before the end of February comes”.

Was there something in the water?

“All help is good help.”

“Fair and legitimate questions.”

Thank you. No, thank you.

After you, Mary Lou. No, after you, Leo.

Never mind Operation Protect Paschal and the ferocious form-filling war raging around him the night before and Sinn Féin’s enthusiastic prosecution of it. Never mind Leo sitting next to his Minister and looking daggers at the Opposition. Never mind the escalating tit-for-tat claims about dodgy declarations and erroneous expenses claims.

Graciousness abounded. Courtesy ricocheted off the walls. A very civil war had just broken out.

Along with a story in that morning’s Indo about Sinn Féin disremembering to pay and declare for the hire of a prestigious venue for a big campaign event during the 2016 election. It was in the Royal Hibernian Academy (RIA) in Dublin’s Dawson Street and the line-up included Mary Lou, Tuesday night’s chief inquisitor, Pearse Doherty and a magnificent hologram of former president Gerry Adams as he, of course, was never in the RIA. Maybe the fundraising spotlight is beginning to burn and a truce might be in everyone’s best interests?