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It's 20 years since Phil Hogan leaked the Budget and had to resign

The unassuming politician, as we all know, immediately bowed out of public life and hasn’t been heard from since…

Note: First published on 15 October 2014 (the day after last year’s Budget).

WE’VE BECOME INURED to Budget leaks these days — by the time Michael Noonan rose to his feet yesterday afternoon, the headline details of his announcement had already appeared in print, on-air or online hours, days, and in some cases weeks in advance.

In the end, all that was really left for the veteran minister and his partner-in-finance Brendan Howlin to do was to cross the ‘t’s’ and dot the ‘i’s’ of the package.

It all used to be so different — as Independent TD Mattie McGrath opined in a statement to the nation’s newsrooms at lunchtime yesterday.

“Very disturbing,” is how the Tipperary politician described the state of affairs that “we are in a now in position where the leaking of confidential Budget information is treated as the norm and without consequence”.

In 1995, McGrath pointed out, Phil Hogan was forced to resign when he inadvertently leaked Budget data.

It was the “honourable thing to do” he continued…

“…regardless of his more recent performances.”

Mattie McGrath.

So what was the controversy that led to Hogan’s departure all those years ago?

Well, McGrath’s not far off in his take on the situation, but the whole affair seems more than a little quaint at almost two decades’ remove…

Opposition parties had been complaining for weeks in advance of the February Budget that the Rainbow Coalition government had already leaked more information than virtually any other administration.

More specifically, ‘sensitive market information’ was being revealed to the media as a result of inter-party competition between Fine Gael, Labour and Democratic Left.

It all came to a head when an advisor to Hogan, then a junior finance minister, faxed details of Minister Ruairí Quinn’s speech to newspapers four hours before the Labour politician rose to his feet.

RTÉ

RTÉ

Quinn, once the development came to light, said it was a “very serious” issue — but Fine Gael Taoiseach John Bruton, making an apology to the Dáil, insisted he wouldn’t be asking his deputy to resign.

Here comes Bertie…

The coalition then came under further pressure from Fianna Fáil leader Bertie Ahern, who threatened the next day to table a motion calling for Hogan’s resignation, unless the junior minister came into the Dáil to take questions.

In the end, the Kilkenny politician did the aforementioned ‘honourable thing’ — falling on his sword for the sake of the three-party coalition, and telling the chamber…

RTÉ

“I am proud to belong to Fine Gael. A party with the highest ideals and values of honesty and integrity, whose members have always put the country rather than the individual first.

To avoid any possibility of damaging a Government led by Taoiseach John Bruton – a man of the utmost decency and understanding qualities – I have tendered my resignation from Government and it has been accepted.

Hogan, as we’re all well aware, immediately bowed out entirely from the political scene, and hasn’t been heard from since.

No.

Wait…

Note: All screengrabs and good deal of the detail of the above via the RTÉ Budget Archives — well worth a look…

Read: Michael Noonan: No, the Budget wasn’t ‘a series of smart-alecky tricks’

Read: ‘I didn’t know you’d become a private investigator’: Enda denies leaking diamond ring story

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