Monday, January 7, 2008

'A new low in Irish life'


Over the weekend Bertie Ahern and Fianna Fail launched another attack on the Mahon Tribunal investigating the alleged receipt by him of large sums of money from property developer Owen O’Callaghan. This comes after the latest revelations that Ahern won’t have a tax-clearance certificate to give to the Standards in Public Office Commission next month; although the toothless nature of this anti-corruption measure is exposed by the fact that he only needs a statement acknowledging that ‘issues need to be resolved.’ It follows revelations that he is under investigation by the Revenue Commissioners. He stands accused by the opposition of ‘misleading’ the public and the Dail over previous explanations of his tax position. ‘Misleading’ means lying to you and me.

The majority of Irish people no longer believe Ahern’s ever increasingly bizarre explanations for the sums of money he received from close friends, and which act as an alibi for the allegations of corrupt receipt of money over planning matters. These are ‘close friends’ who he sometimes can’t remember and one of whom has denied ever being a friend, claiming he gave the money more or less under duress as a donation to the Fianna Fail Party. He supposedly received this money because he was hard up though he managed to have tens of thousands in savings at the time and was paid a fortune in everyone else’s terms as a politician. He held it in a safe in his constituency headquarters because he didn’t have a bank account all while he was Minister of Finance of the Irish State. As one wag put it – he was in charge of our taxes while he took out a loan when interest rates were very high at the same time as he had cash spare which he let it sit without earning interest!!

For years Ahern has acted the cowardly Lion in ‘The Wizard of Oz’, declaring his desire to get to the Tribunal as quickly as possible to put things right while out of sight doing everything he could to avoid having to face it.

Now Ahern has attacked the Tribunal for allowing leaks of his tax affairs marking, he says, a ‘new low in Irish life’, a statement so outrageously over the top and self interested that it will surely not pass without comment. He is now complaining he will not get the ‘same fair hearing’ as others and grumbled that ‘it’s highly unfair’ and ‘unjust.’

Of course if this is what it is the Tribunal should be halted and there is no doubt Ahern and Fianna Fail could do it (The Greens wouldn’t stand for it? Don’t make me laugh!) Ahern yesterday said the Tribunal was not ‘beyond question or reproach’ and was not a ‘sacred cow.’ The question is will they try?

Today’s ‘Irish Times’ has a debate about whether the Tribunals are good value for money. The ‘yes’ columnist points to the increased revenue taken by the tax authorities following the banking scandals. The ‘no’ answer points to the scandalous legal costs, with some senior counsel receiving €2,500 per day!, and points out that the political culture hasn’t changed. In support of this it could reasonably be pointed out that Ahern has just won the general election while a new controversy raged about his finances.

The point however isn’t how much the Tribunals cost. The point is that they have been created in order to protect the corrupt body politic in the South by seeming to involve action, but action which is so slow and open to challenge, so lacking in the capacity to reveal the truth or invoke punitive penalties on the guilty, and yes so expensive, that it will drag on until the verdicts no longer really matter. The public will have become wearier of the Tribunals than of the hidden corruption they are supposed to reveal.

Socialists should oppose the latest attempts by Fianna Fail to soften up the electorate for restrictions on the Tribunals but they should not support them either. When faced with the corrupt the first and elementary step is to make sure you stay clean yourself. The fact that the trade unions have been and still are partners with this crowd of crooks is the most scandalous fact of all, and it doesn’t take a Tribunal lasting ten years to see this. A Tribunal won't do anything about it either.

1 comment:

red said...

I think you're wrong about it not passing without comment. The Ahern affair is a good example of ideology defying reality. Fainna Fail can say black is white. The other parties are just as corrupt and ICTU so far up the FF backside you can't see their heels.

We have a parallel porcess of a 'no clothes' emperor in the North with Sinn Fein, but it is in everyones interest to pretend the party are socialist heros defending the natiuonalist workers