“the Wild West of European finance”

In today’s Guardian, Terry Eagleton reviews Fintan O’Toole’s Ship of Fools – “As O’Toole points out, bribery, tax evasion and false evidence under oath have not simply gone unpunished; the very idea of penalising the culprits is viewed by the governing elite as unsporting or even unpatriotic.”

This is partly because Ireland, having in O’Toole’s words “imported” its modernity from elsewhere, is in some ways a country with a first-world economy and a third-world political system. Local, cronyist and clientelist politics still thrive. The state is widely seen as “a private network of mutual obligations” rather than an impersonal body. Palms are greased, backs scratched and old pals promoted, often without much sense that this is anything other than the natural thing to do. The discrepancy between formal and informal codes in the country, between official behaviour and nods and winks, bulks large. Stretching a point or turning a blind eye is rife, in ways that would scandalise many a German or American. What may be agreeable in personal terms can prove lethal in public ones. It is the kind of thing that can happen in a country where everyone seems to have been at school with everyone else.

Read the whole thing.