Enda Kenny and his wife sign a girder at the World Trade Center (Photo: James Higgins)

In the supposed year of the Gathering, and with the country’s coffers still struggling, our politicians would  have been be better off welcoming the world to Ireland, rather than jetting away for St Patrick’s Day.

But as the world turned green to celebrate St Patrick’s Day, the swanky five-star hotels and exotic locations in which many of the Government’s Ministers were raising a toast to St Patrick were be enough to make the rest of us green with envy.

While our politicians larged it up abroad on March 17 this year, more than any other, the spectacle is even more ironic.

The country is broke and we are all paying the price. Nonetheless, Leinster House, where parliament resides was almost empty.

Property tax, water charges, pay cuts — everyone has to feel the pain. But the Government still felt the need to scarper.

Yes, of course, they are going forth to tell the world that Ireland is still open for business. The platitudes glided off their tongues.

They told anyone who would listen how Ireland is the best little country around. But in an era of belt tightening, surely the best place for our politicians was to be by our sides weathering the storm we are all facing.

However, when it comes to those in power, it always appears to be a case of — ‘Do as I say and not as I do.’

In the year of the Gathering we have all been asked to mobilize the Diaspora to entice them to come home and embrace Ireland, while helping to boost the local economy.

So, given the year that is in it, surely it would have made sense for the Irish Government to invite dignitaries from around the world to join them in Ireland to celebrate St Patrick’s Day?

But this is not the way the ruling classes do business in Ireland.

Remember — ‘Do as I say and not as I do.’

This philosophy was underlined beautifully by Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan this week. The independent TD loves to fight corruption, except when he is looking in the mirror.

He had the chutzpah to lambast “a cohort of Gardaí” who he has accused of asking people if they want their penalty points cancelled, while at the same time begrudgingly admitting that he had points wiped off his license — twice.

Not only has he previously denied having points quashed, but he has also been merciless in his criticism of the ‘nod and a wink’ culture that permeates the country, which he now admits to benefiting from himself.

Again, as far as Mr Ming is concerned it is a case of — ‘Do as I say and not as I do.’

While the past few years have been painful, Ireland has received its biggest wake up call since the formation of the State. Our sharp economic shock is something that has forced us to get our house in order, no matter how painful it has been.

But now it is time for our Government ministers and even Ming, to take a long look in the mirror, because if they expect us to continue to ‘put our shoulders to the wheel,’ we should expect them  to be standing solid right beside us.

However, it seems some politicians love to dish out advice as it compensates them for their ability to set a bad example.

* Paul Allen is Managing Director of Paul Allen and Associates PR, www.prireland.com.