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Profile: The ex-Fianna Fáil minister in court over expenses is no stranger to controversy

In 1995, he said ‘Babe’ should be banned because it might hinder ham sales.

Babe --- harmful to ham sales?

NED O’KEEFFE WAS one of a raft of veteran Fianna Fáil politicians to bow out of the political arena at the 2011 General Election.

Of course, the writing was on the wall for the Soldiers of Destiny at that stage, in the wake of the economic crash.

Apparently attempting to distance himself from what was, by then, a toxic party brand as he canvassed on behalf of his son, the Mitchelstown-born politician made the front-pages with a series of controversial comments in the run up to that year’s 25 February ballot.

He raised quite a few eyebrows by suggesting, in an interview with the Evening Echo, that there had been too few businessmen and “too many intellectuals” the last Fianna Fáil-led coalition Cabinet.

While he also added to the general sense of post-Celtic Tiger gloom by suggesting that there was a “real possibility” of a military coup happening.

“Our political system is going to fail further,” O’Keeffe insisted.

“The two Brians [Cowen and Lenihan] have made a right mess of the country and I see the real possibility of an army coup.

People thought I was mad with all the things I have predicted through the years, but I foresaw the economy collapsing due to lax regulation on building housing estates and unwanted shopping centres.

In his last address to the Dáil as a TD the previous month, the Corkman had claimed that that Fianna Fail had become the “party of the racehorse owner”.

Ned O'Keeffe, pressing the flesh in 2011. Source: PA Archive/Press Association Images

Backbench veteran

First elected to the Dáil in 1982, O’Keeffe represented Cork East for almost 30 years before deciding to resign, on the basis of age.

He filled a number of Fianna Fáil front-bench positions during his long career, but had only a brief period in a ministerial role — serving as junior minister at the Department of Agriculture between 1997 and 2001.

He was forced to resign after it emerged he had failed to disclose an interest in the sector.

In 1995, the TD earned ridicule when he called for the film ‘Babe’ to be banned because it could harm ham sales.

And in 2007, he resigned from the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party in a row over Mary Harney’s performance as Minister for Health — before being allowed back into the fold, within the space of just a few months.

The outspoken former TD last hit the headlines when he was questioned by Gardaí on suspicion of falsely claiming for phone expenses in 2012.

While yesterday, following a two-year investigation by the Garda fraud squad, he was handed a seven-month suspended sentence for using fake invoices to claim expenses totaling over €3,700, between 2002 and 2009.

O’Keeffe was also fined €3,500.

First published 1 December

Ned O’Keeffe: There were “too many intellectuals” in government

Read: Former FF TD Ned O’Keeffe arrested


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