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Scoop Column: Never mind the boxer shorts…

So this is Ireland … an occasional column by Stefan Wolf

Never mind the boxer shorts – here come Charlie’s designer shirts!

Not enough that Ireland’s business elite stands accused of dodging hundreds of millions worth of punts in taxes, the country’s colourful former leader Charles Haughey has been exposed as a wasteful and vain shopaholic.

Former Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Charles J. Haughey remains popular among a large section of Irish society which is as passionate about the man as Rob’s Mob was about New Zealand’s former leader. The bigoted masses in support of the man swear the ‘Celtic Tiger’ economic boom is a direct result of Charlie’s visionary leadership.

Enter the Moriarty Tribunal, set up to investigate Charlie’s financial affairs. Slowly but surely Charlie is cut down to size by revelations about his indiscriminate spending, nepotism and general looseness in matters financial whilst in office. Charlie, desperate to protect his reputation, has accumulated a staggering half million pounds in legal fees trying to stop the Tribunal – and, dear oh dear, has just had his application for legal aid turned down.

The Tribunal itself, meanwhile, continues to dish out the dirt on Charlie and the nation has been amazed to learn that ‘Monsieur le Premier’ spent £16,000 on shirts in one fruitful shopping session at exclusive Paris shirtmaker Charvet. Makes your average boxer short bill look kind of ordinary, doesn’t it. The biggest difference between an ordinary shirt and a £240 Charvet is the number of stitches – 20 to an inch, in fact, compared to a mere 12 for your common business shirt, plus of course however many stitches it takes for the discreet CJH monogram.

Not that any of this really matters now that the cat, or at least its tail, has been let out of the bag in relation to 120 prominent business people and `pillars of society’ who have apparently enjoyed clandestine tax holidays under the Cayman Islands sun for the past fifteen years or so. The Irish taxman may be owed up to £1 billion in taxes and fines, according to some estimates. One name on the so-called Ansbacher list is that of Tony O’Reilly, who has been quick to point out that his resident status means Irish tax laws do not apply to him. Naturally the ordinary Irish taxpayer, who is handing up to 46 percent of his earnings over to the revenue commissioner, is somewhat upset that a select group of mega-rich business people consider(ed) themselves above the law. Politicians of all persuasions, meanwhile, have been quick to jump on the bandwagon and demand full disclosure of the facts – which are awaited with baited breath by the country’s hungry media, Joe Bloggs aka Sean Kelly and, with probably just a touch of trepidation, said 120 business people.

On a sportier note, the sweet feeling of success in the wake of the All Black triumph over England was slightly soured by Ireland’s sad, bad performance against the Aussies. Yes, the locals would have liked to trip up John Eales and Co but on Sunday’s performance, Keith Wood’s four-try burst against the USA may remain the highlight for Ireland in this year’s World Cup.


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