An executive dilemma

I watched Micheal Martin last night on Vincent (TV3). At the time I was figuring out my own plans for Saturday (when the Lisbon count will take place). I love being at count centres in any election there is a great buzz and it’s a bit like All Ireland day for the politically inclined.

Funny enough I feel differently about the polling day itself. A friend asked me this morning would I be taking tomorrow off (to be around for the voting). I remember being asked the same on GE day. It had never really ocurred to me. I mean, what would you do? Hang around polling centres trying haggling people for an extra vote? Shuffle around outside and talk about turnout? I’ve done the latter at times and it’s not terribly exciting. I’ll confess to being a bundle of nerves outside the polling station as polls ended on 5th June but that time it was personal.

I actually find polling day itself a little depressing sometimes. One almost feels embarrassed for haraunging the people over the preceding weeks and maybe for caring so much. Judgment day has arrived. And I do feel people should be allowed make up their own minds at that stage. The media moratorium is a good thing and it’s a bit of a calm before the storm for those who will be at the count centre watching the boxes spill open at 8am the following day. Too late to influence anything at that stage of course but still a hive of frenetic activity.

This Saturday, I believe the Kildare Count is on at Punchestown whilst the Dublin one is at Citywest just up the road. Am tempted to flit between the two for the morning although if I end up tallying I’ll need to stay at my post for the duration. Bound to be bit of buzz about the Dublin count with all the big players and probably media outlets there but be very keen to see how my own areas voted as well. A political dilemma. Anyway whilst I was thinking about what do it I spotted Micheal Martin again as he popped up on the TV screen. As Minister for Foreign Affairs he has more or less ran the campaign from the government side. He’ll want to return home to Cork on Friday to vote of course and presumably he’ll want to stay the night with his wife and children whom he probably hasn’t seen much of lately. However he may very well wish or even need to be back at the count centre in Dublin first thing Saturday morning. Given the recent exposé of our Ceann Comhairles travel penchant, and of course more pressingly the state of our national finances, it got me thinking about what his travel arrangements would be. Whilst In between glancing at Vincent and Micheal on the TV I was reading a book about UK Labour and just at the part where (Gordon) Brown was flying back from Edinburgh on the day of election in order to join the London victory party so such things were on my mind.

I suppose the default option would be travel via Ministerial Merc from Cork to Dublin early Saturday morning, to arrive by 8am. Probably want be on the road by 5.30 at the latest but it’s doable. I’m not sure whether the government jet would be an option, probably a very costly one, but it would save time and allow the Minister arrive refreshed and ready for duty and in good time for a full day ahead. A potential compromise may be to grab a Ryanair (or other internal) flight – whilst this would address the time factor, the transfer from Dublin airport back to CityWest has to be included which would add at least an hour with checkout etc, and also its not a great environment for work or relaxation on route. The government jet or chauffer options could go to Weston aerodrome or CityWest direct respectively. I think the possibilities are interesting in the context of the debate on what are reasonable expenses. We want our Ministers to turn up for duty, on time, fresh and ready to do their jobs. At the same time we want them to do it in a manner that is as cost efficient and value for money as possible. It should be noted that I have no idea what the Minister’s plans are for the night in question, he could be sleeping outside CityWest in a tent for all I know, and I certainly don’t purport to speak for him or his arrangements. Maybe I think about these things too much 🙂

3 Replies to “An executive dilemma”

  1. Longman Oz

    Sorry, James, but I consider your point on travel to be utter rot! 🙂

    Quite honestly, many business travellers have similar sorts of days to endure on a regular basis and get on with them without complaint. The tone of your piece, quite frankly, brings the term “treated like royalty” to mind!

    P.S. Why does the Minister need to be there at 8am in the first place, i.e. where is his “value added” as the head of the Department of Foreign Affairs by being at a count centre at that time of the morning?

  2. James Lawless Post author

    Indeed. Maybe it’s not a great example 😐

    I tend to ‘sweat the small stuff’ myself in terms of logistics and the dilemma is as much mine which count centre to attend as the Minister’s choice of transport. I would say there may have been a time when the government jet would have been considered a valid option although I don’t think so now. Although we did see our friend from Waterford riding the Valkyries earlier this year on a similar journey. Not that there seemed much justification for it then, I should hastily add.

    I was reading about Gordon Brown travelling from Edinburgh to London on the 2001 general election results day and I was reflecting on it at same time as I was somewhat surprised he chose to be in London rather than his home base, particularly given his deep local identity. And as is my wont, I got to wondering how he travelled and whether it was by commercial or military jet and at whose expense etc. Which kind of led me onto the theme.

    In the recent talk on our Kerry friend’s expenses there was one example of a hotel stay he incurred on Irish soil before catching a flight. But it turned out the alternative was a 200 mile journey before catching a redeye and I thought it wasn’t unreasonable for him to have bedded down locally beforehand.

    I rarely talk about my ‘day job’ here as I try keep personal and professional separate, but I have had work days start at 5am into a taxi and home at 9 that evening having been abroad and back in between and am aware that would be common place in most the buiness world. My work travel policy has always been public transport by default, always been vouched, and in recent times the journey must be approved in advance and only if absolutely necessary.

    Why the Minister in this case would have to be there so early, I’m not sure either! Maybe I am just becoming paranoid with all the talk of Cóir and the Afghan elections going on over here

    In all, it’s not an expense defence, it’s not an argument, its just some musings.. like Eminem says hey America I’m just playing


  3. Longman Oz

    That’s fair enough. I am also speaking from similar experience of making such journeys. You learn coping strategies along the way and it does become second nature after a bit.

    My general view on expenses claimed from the public purse is that they should always be reasonably incurred and vouched for. The former should then be based along clear and sensible guidelines that are publicly available. All approved expense claims should then be published in the same manner.

    Speaking, in a way, of mixing personal and private, I think that one of the things that gets me is the proverbial Minister flying to or from the opening of a pub / club house / shopping centre down the country, with the ministerial car following by road. What any of this has to do with the business of running the country is beyond me.

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