By Mick Barry TD
The “Paschal’s posters” controversy provides a useful glimpse into the web of connections between the capitalist parties and big business in this country.
Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe benefitted significantly from corporate donations in the form of services rendered by businessman Michael Stone in both the 2016 and 2020 General Elections.
Value of services
The services rendered came in the form of the use of a van and poster teams which criss-crossed the Dublin Central constituency to put up posters for the Fine Gael candidate. The value of the work performed may have been worth considerably more than has been declared.
The figures produced by the two men come within the election spending and donations guidelines, apart from one breach. However, the “official” figures only add up if you believe that the poster teams employed were paid peanuts or else were the slowest postering teams in the history of the state and were paid on a per poster basis.
Michael Stone is not a minor operator in the Irish business world. His company (“The Design Company”) employs 1,250 people, serves markets both home and abroad and has won various state contracts down the years.
Stone was appointed to the 5-person Land Development Agency (LDA) board by Fine Gael Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy in 2019.
Instead of pursuing an agggressive policy of building public houses on public land the LDA has tended to steer a course towards a policy of land privatisation. This policy has benefitted developers while working-class people at the sharp end of the housing crisis have massively lost out.
What is the connection?
There doesn’t have to be a “direct connection” between all this and the events of 2016 and 2020. In scenarios such as this the various forces know and trust each other to generally do “the right thing”. Their class interests are aligned. It’s how the capitalist system works.
When scandal swirled around Robert Troy and Damien English Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael were prepared to see them fall on their swords. But they circled the wagons around Donohoe — he was “too big to fail” and they realised that a resignation here could destabilise the Government.
They will be hoping hard that nothing else comes out in the wash now and that any potential SIPO investigation might only end up with a slap on the wrist. Either way, Donohoe has been damaged by the events and the Government is somewhat tarnished too.
Socialists can draw out important lessons from the controversy as to how the system works and will be campaigning strongly now as the issues of housing, health and cost of living come more sharply to the fore.