Quick note on Harneygate

As much as I dislike Mary Harney - and boy, do I dislike her - I'm finding myself fairly disgusted with the calls for her step down for getting her hair done on the public purse.

It's not that I think the expenditure was justified. But I can't recall anyone saying that Bertie should step down when it was revealed that more than the average industrial wage was being spent on his make-up. People said it was excessive, certainly. But his position wasn't held to be "untenable" because of it.

You can't separate this hullaballoo from gender issues. Women in the public eye are relentlessly judged for their appearance, Harney more than many others. There is a really nasty undertone to some of the comments being made in the blogosphere about this. Women who consider standing for election know full well they'll be subject to the same excruciating level of scrutiny for their hair, their clothes, their weight. Don't think for a moment this isn't a contributing factor to the under-participation of women in politics.

Harney should resign, of course. But I've always said that. She should resign because of the millions of taxpayer euros she's giving away to developers at the expense of the public healthcare system. That's the important issue, not the fact that she - like the Taoiseach and all male office holders - has an excessive personal appearance budget.
My head's buried pretty deeply in textbooks these days, but I did think this item was worth drawing attention to:

Alistair Darling will make a high-risk bid to lead Britain out of recession tomorrow, when he is expected to cut VAT and entice the British people to go on a pre-Christmas spending spree.
The cut is expected to see the rate drop from its current level of 17.5 per cent

Meanwhile, of course, down here in the Free State, VAT is set to go up from 21 to 21.5% as of Monday week.

Should do wonders for the "don't shop in Newry" campaign, huh?

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