And so the Ivor Callely controversy drags on and on and on, each twist and turn eroding confidence in the political system just that bit more.

Senator Callely has now resigned from the Fianna Fáil party, a decision that his colleagues have greeted with some relief. The sense of contamination by association was so great that, had he not jumped, he would surely have been pushed.

But as if to ensure that nobody could imply that old-fashioned honour motivated his resignation, the Seanad nominee of Bertie Ahern immediately took issue with his old party for observing censure procedures he perceives as "unfair".

He did the same thing in disputing the grounds for his 20-day Seanad suspension for misrepresenting his Cork holiday home as his primary home for the purpose of making over €81,000 in travel expenses.

It is a mystery to most people as to why he feels he has to whinge about his treatment. If he is so convinced of his innocence, can he not just give straight answers to the straight questions about why he used mobile phone receipts from a defunct company to claim €2,900 for four car kits in 2007, and why he failed to declare ownership of seven houses in his declaration of members' interests?

The hearings into these matters will take place over the next fortnight as the groundwork of "due process" is laid. But Callely's ever-stranger responses are making his colleagues very uncomfortable. A queue of righteous senators, TDs and even ministers has formed to call for his resignation, including Green party leader John Gormley and the deputy leader of the Seanad, Dan Boyle. They've been joined by a host of Fianna Fáil stalwarts including defence minister Tony Killeen, junior minister Seán Haughey, and the party's barometer of fair play and ethical standards, Mary O'Rourke.

While many of those who are calling for Callely to resign his seat are motivated by displeasure at the way he is bringing politics into disrepute, equal numbers of them wish he'd just go away because his actions are shining a very bright light on the expenses system within the Dáil and Seanad.

The new system may have been introduced only last February (to the disgust of many TDs and senators) but it still provides extremely generous allowances to the political elite. Very few would want it brought up again that senators earn over €71,000 for sitting for less than a third of a year and that, in the three years between 2005 and 2008, they were paid €27m in expenses and salaries. Because they're worth it.

At the same time, calls by Fine Gael for the Taoiseach to intervene and somehow persuade Ivor Callely to resign because he got his seat as a taoiseach's nominee are ridiculous. They play to the gallery, but don't address the real need for wholesale reform of the Seanad to widen its franchise. Nor do they touch on the need for cutbacks in the unvouched expenses entitlements within the Oireachtas to go even further.

As Fine Gael well knows, the Taoiseach cannot intervene in that process without being seen to interfere with the fundamentals of our democratic system itself. Were he to insist on Callely's resignation, there would be a perfectly justifiable outcry at such an unconstitutional move.

Callely has shown no respect either to the public or to the parliament through which he serves the people. Of course he should resign his Seanad seat. Unfortunately, as we saw with John O'Donoghue, it takes time for the "honour" penny to drop, especially among a group of people with so inflated a sense of entitlement as our political class still has, even in these gloomy times. And even when the inevitable happens, unfortunately it is accepted with no insight and no resetting of the moral compass.

Last week, the day before Ivor Callely resigned, this country buried one of the finest senators in our history. Professor Jim Dooge epitomised all that is right about our political system. In a rare use of the Seanad's potential, he was appointed minister for foreign affairs during Garret FitzGerald's shortlived 1981-82 government. He proved himself a peacemaker, a visionary European and a statesman.

In his eulogy, Maurice Manning, another former senator, listed Dooge's many achievements. "Jim was a rare phenomenon in Irish life, a public intellectual whose life was devoted without posture to the public service," he said.

We can only hope that Ivor Callely is the last of a generation who view public service as a road to personal gain, and that a younger generation aspiring to public service will look to Dooge's example instead.

Killarney road crash:

lessons to be learnt

The scale of the Killarney road tragedy, just a month after the deaths of eight young men in Donegal, has left the country numb. The sadness of the families over losing young people with so much bright energy and potential is searing.

Fr Kevin McNamara, the parish priest who gave the last rites, put it clearly: "All in young clothes, all in tracksuits, what can you say; life gone on a beautiful day here in Killarney and the shadow of that death is painful."

Yesterday, the funerals of David and Kevin Breen and Brian Coffey took place. Áine Riordan was buried on Friday. The finality of it all, now that the formalities are over, will be terrible for their families to endure.

Friends, neighbours and the local community have shown great solidarity and support. The whole country joins with them.

This was the last week of the summer holidays. Normal life resumes for students from tomorrow. It was Rose week in Kerry. It was natural that young people would want to be out and about, meeting up together. Every family with teenagers understands that fully.

The garda investigations into the crash are continuing and, as the full facts emerge, we'll be clearer about the lessons that need to be learnt. A lot is already being done, in schools and through advertising campaigns, to encourage young people to drive responsibly. Perhaps a more structured approach is needed – maybe a compulsory course for all school students in Transition Year.

Meanwhile, the work of the gardaí, the rescue services and the local youth support services and clergy has been professional, sensitive, caring, admirable.

It is in all drivers' hands – younger and older – to make sure that their skills and strength of character are not called on again too soon.

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