The Republic has to prove itself a worthy partner in relations with the north all over again

Fintan O’Toole’s crisp review of the vast sweep of Irish corruption exposed in the era of tribunals mainly speaks for itself.   As he shows, exposure alone does not lead inexorably to reform. Three questions: Can any Irish government and parliament, never mind one under such pressure of circumstances, summon up the massive political capital required to change the culture?  If not, can the outside onlooker be blamed for concluding that these people aren’t fit to govern themselves?  While the Celtic tiger roared, it might have seemed that the ends justified the means. Three years ago, it was becoming clear that the house was built on a rotten foundation of manipulating EU subsidies, unsustainable loans and personal corruption.  To adapt a phrase about the banks, Haughey was too  big to go down. But he was no exception: he set the standard of impunity.  

 With all their own glaring faults, could northern unionists and surreptitiously, a lot of nationalists, be blamed if they always want to keep this lot at a long arm’s length?  What a pity that the south has played so spectacularly to old northern unionist prejudices, but it must be faced. It’s a grim thought that if the south had been in its present predicament  in the decade after 1997, the Good Friday and St Andrew’s  Agreements might well not have been concluded due to southern political weakness. 

Today North-south relations particularly over moves towards economic and fiscal integration, can’t progress as if nothing has happened. The reach of Nama in the north is only one small reason why not.  The south has a vast amount to do to build confidence in itself and with its closest neighbours.

 From Fintan O’Toole

The question posed explicitly by O’Brien and Dunne this week was stunningly brazen but entirely apt: if all this is true, why am I not in jail?

THE BULLISH behaviour of Lowry, O’Brien and Dunne this week was that of men who know they have nothing to fear. We now know that, on the whole, exposure is not a mortal wound. It is just a passing fever

. Charles Haughey’s astonishing venality (he took in the equivalent of almost €50 million during his political career) was exposed by the McCracken and Moriarty tribunals. He was not prosecuted, either for evading tax on his vast secret income or for lying to the tribunals. Instead he was given a State funeral and hailed at his graveside by his successor Bertie Ahern as “a patriot to his fingertips

Michael Lowry has become a local hero. His ambitions to be taoiseach were derailed by the scandal, but his vote has substantially increased since he was first exposed. In 1992, when he was apparently untainted, he got 7,400 votes in North Tipperary. Last month he got 14,100 votes – almost twice as many.

Reformers like Eoin O’Malley doubt the new coalition’s capacity for reform. It’s early days. Perhaps he will be proved wrong.

The fact that no minister was appointed to drive the reform agenda might indicate a lack of commitment.

The proposals in the Labour-Fine Gael programme for government will affect the opportunity to scrutinise government, but without more radical changes in the separation of powers, the incentive for the government backbenchers to do anything is limited.

 

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  • Drumlins Rock

    So any promises coming from Dublin, either relating to roads or hospitals, or similar projects should be taken with a very large pinch of salt?

  • Connollyite

    The question posed explicitly by O’Brien and Dunne this week was stunningly brazen but entirely apt: if all this is true, why am I not in jail?-the question answers itself.the buisness class in the irish free state are criminal accomplices with the buisness class.that much is obvious.

    what’s new-

    Eoin MacNeill,Free State,No.28,Vol.1,August 29,1922.

    ‘Micheal Collins was,is,and is destined to be a national hero.By instinct,a sure and wise instinct,the nation hailed him its leader and champion.If they had known everything about him by knowledge that they thought about him by instinct,they would have given him the same place of honour.Men do not readily recognise the merit of those who are a generation younger than themselves.He was a country lad,and what we foolishly call education ended for him at 16.’

    Micheal Collins,the man and the myth.A brave soldier.A terrible politician.Haughey,Adams.Terrible soldiers.Worse politicans in the history of the island of ireland.Bertie,as he said himself,is a socialist,and the man who told economists predicting a downturn in the economy that they should hang themselves.

    As Micheal Collins said,and i mean this in a ‘political,non-
    violent way,that they know what we have for breakfest’,so
    people should know what they have for dinner and tea.’

  • JH

    Because Northern Unionist politicians are unacquainted with corruption? The DUP and Fianna Fáil were peas in a pod in that respect, I think they’d get along just fine. Haven’t the DUP been selling slivers of land for huge sums, abusing power to award business contracts and funding to their concubines, using their parliamentary expenses for very questionable purchases… Sounds familiar.

  • Connollyite

    Michael Lowry has become a local hero. His ambitions to be taoiseach were derailed by the scandal, but his vote has substantially increased since he was first exposed. In 1992, when he was apparently untainted, he got 7,400 votes in North Tipperary. Last month he got 14,100 votes – almost twice as many.

    . Charles Haughey’s astonishing venality (he took in the equivalent of almost €50 million during his political career) was exposed by the McCracken and Moriarty tribunals. He was not prosecuted, either for evading tax on his vast secret income or for lying to the tribunals. Instead he was given a State funeral and hailed at his graveside by his successor Bertie Ahern as “a patriot to his fingertips

    …another way of saying that the more votes you get,the greater the crime you’ve committed….

    …a friend of mine,a homeless drug-addict spent 4 weeks in prison for trespassing…3 days in prison 4 beggin…and 6 weeks in prison for shouting at a judge….free-state justice
    ….=JUST US(poor people).

  • Guevaras Ghost

    the gerrymander, discrimination,the expenses scandals. Thinking that the unionists could teach their southern counterparts a few things.

  • Brian Walker

    Glaring faults of unionists conceded above, is there just in a hint here of commenters in denial?

  • SK

    “With all their own glaring faults, could northern unionists and surreptitiously, a lot of nationalists, be blamed if they always want to keep this lot at a long arm’s length?”

    “This lot”.

    Frankly it’s impressive that unionists can maintain such a smug sense of superiority in spite of their own statelet’s somewhat, er, checkered history. Good for them.

  • between the bridges

    ‘the gerrymander, discrimination,the expenses scandals. Thinking that the unionists could teach their southern counterparts a few things.’

    ‘Frankly it’s impressive that unionists can maintain such a smug sense of superiority in spite of their own statelet’s somewhat, er, checkered history. Good for them.’

    and ‘we’ are told to stop living in the past….lmao

  • iluvni

    “What a pity that the south has played so spectacularly to old northern unionist prejudices, but it must be faced.”

    Those damned Unionists forcing the south to prove them right all along….

  • SK

    “and ‘we’ are told to stop living in the past….lmao”

    As a southerner, I found the premise of this article to be ridiculously, unjustifiably, pompous. Don’t get me wrong, I would be the first one to acknowledge that neither side of this border is perfect.

    But the idea that we have to somehow prove ourselves “worthy” of being a partner to the north? Does unionist self-flattery know no bounds?

  • between the bridges

    does nationalist self pity know no limits? oh the oppression!

    having worked with councils on both sides of the painted line i know which side to use a brown envelope and which side to use the funny handshake…

  • SK

    “does nationalist self pity know no limits? oh the oppression!”

    Self-pity? Nah. Mild bemusement maybe.

    How should us mere mexicans prove ourselves worthy of that utopia up the road?

    “having worked with councils on both sides of the painted line i know which side to use a brown envelope and which side to use the funny handshake…”

    We’re all in the gutter, so let’s none of us wax lyrical about the “worthiness” of the other side.

  • andnowwhat

    Lord above……as I keep saying, if it were not for the fact that our local journos are up the proverbial arses of local politicians, we could show the southern ones a lesson or two in corruption.

    We have a massive swathe of designated land developed against all regulation (including a development that was refused permission, suddenly got permission and then the land proved unsuitable when properties suffered from sudsidance), we have a minister giving jobs to muckers and unsuitable candidates and goodness knows what else.

    As for the historical corruption, that others have pointed out, we are well up there.

  • between the bridges

    How should us mere mexicans prove ourselves worthy of that utopia up the road?……..
    .drink more buckie!,
    imho theres not much difference in the politicos ether side of the Rio Grande favors for money or advantage for their ‘own side’…power corrupts and all that

  • otto

    The article wasn’t written by a northerner, let alone a unionist.

    Deal with it however you like but turning on prods to make yourselves feel better just proves Fintan’s point.

  • Zig70

    “having worked with councils on both sides of the painted line i know which side to use a brown envelope and which side to use the funny handshake…”
    Am I reading it wrong? One side takes payment for favours, the other is happy to have their knuckle felt? Ready’s every time for me.
    On topic, the analogy for me is the SF skeletons in the closet(or bog), fairly irrelevant for the votes.

  • Erasmus

    Geoff Martin (former editor of the unionist-leaning Belfast Newsletter) :
    ”Certainly there is sleaze in Northern Ireland : it’s just that not much of it has as yet been uncovered and those who benefit from it have yet to be exposed.I don’t know for sure ,but I’d be pretty confident that if I was a dodgy politician ,a corrupt businessman or a rip-off merchant,I’d stand much less chance of being rumbled by an investigative journalist in Northern Ireland than in many other
    places in the World’

  • aquifer

    We have the same electoral system and many local politicians too close to developer interests. How would we ever know if MLAs have been corrupted?

    Moriarty made many sound recommendation, including transparency in governmentand in political funding and state funding for polticial parties, to try to ensure than politicians represent the public and not the private interest.

  • Erasmus

    Incidentally the ROI emerges somewhat better than the UK in the latest ‘world corruption index’ tables.
    Perhaps the high media profile of such matters of in the south counterintuitively establishes the opposite of what appears on first site: it is the feature of a healthy society cleaning out its Aegean stables.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/oct/26/corruption-index-2010-transparency-international#data

  • Henry94

    The stables need cleaning in any case. The outcome of the tribunal was very unsatisfactory. It’s conclusions were enough to confirm in the public mind what had happened but no legal sanction was available.

    The people condemned in the report are all over the airwaves blustering away in their complete rejection of the findings and the reality is that their opinions carry as much legal standing as the tribunal’s

    The key decision for the government is what laws to bring in so the Gardai and the real courts can be effective against corruption. The main point to nail down is that taking money is corrupt by definition and all the waffle about political donations or joint investments is irrelevant.

    As for impressing the north if it’s by-product of what needs to be done then well and good but support for relations and cooperation with the south will probably continue to be based on the nationalist /unionist divide with the British leaning on the unionists to stay involved. In that sense the point of the thread is fanciful.

  • Republic of Connaught

    This is a very strange topic, Mr Walker. Have you had a tiff with some nationalist friend?

    “can the outside onlooker be blamed for concluding that these people aren’t fit to govern themselves”

    “What a pity that the south has played so spectacularly to old northern unionist prejudices”

    Firstly,the Unionists of the north of Ireland are hardly the people to set themselves up as political moral paradigms to be passing judgement on any other state, near or far. Only last week we see Unionists political enemies conspiring to stop a Fenian becoming first minister. Which is essentially what the “moderate Unionist” David McNarry said on the Nolan show.

    Politcs in the north of Ireland, orchestrated by northern Unionists, was for decades a disgrace to any democratic western state. The gerrmandering that went on in Derry alone is a worse crime against citizens than anything corrupt men like Michael Lowry did to line their pockets. Tell me, what specific Unionist politicians were ever named or held to account for the gerrymandering in a tribunal? Please do tell.

    “What a pity” then that the Protestant Gerrmandering played into the predjudices of nationalist Ireland’s view that Northern Unionists were, as was suspected, innately anti-democratic and sectarian.

    Sounds overtly biased to suit a certain agenda, does it not, Mr Walker? No less than your own strange piece.

    The fact millions is spent to uncover the truth in these tribunals should be something to be applauded in Ireland. Because other countries no doubt have the same political scandals between businessmen and politicians, but don’t pay millions for the tribunals to uncover it.

  • aquifer

    Corrupt cronyism cuts right across the idea of a republic of equals, and you have to suspect that northern protestants would be kept out of the loop altogether.

    Brian Walker has a good point.

    There is no prospect of a United Ireland until this is sorted, staying with British public administration, even at one remove, is a much better bet for anyone who justs wants the same chance as anyone else. Here this is even written into legislation, for goodness sake.

    We need more transparentcy though, there may already be little sectarian gangs looting the company store.

    Despite their avowed multi-faith and conservative values, the masons may also qualify as one, ex IRA obviously, the knights of columbanus pre-qualify as far as I know.

  • Greenflag

    ‘exposure alone does not lead inexorably to reform.’

    ‘That can be said not only about Ireland but probably about most of the western democracies right now bar perhaps the Scandinavians .

    Despite the jailing of several Wall St executives and despite the very public hearings of how Goldman Sachs ‘creamed’ their clients by selling them worthless investments and despite the fact that many of the US banks have been fined hundreds of millions for ‘breaking ‘ the law not forgetting Swiss Bank UBS – there has been virtually zero reform in the USA financial services sector . The banks which were at one time considered too big to fail are now even bigger and fewer and the ‘politicians ‘ have caved in to ‘big money’ in terms of reforms . As the French Finance Minister put it -many of these banks just want to go back to the good old days of 2006 and ‘pretend ‘ the last 4 years never happened .

    The fact that hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in London yesterday and some 6,000 in Belfast is an indication that the neo con recovery in the UK is far from certain and that the British people are NOT prepared to accept Thatcherism .Interesting that no slugger blogger started a thread on that ‘event’ .

    Nobody disagrees that the Republic has to get it’s house in order . The first sign of that will be when we see the new Justice Minister not defending the courts but sending all of the biggest financial criminals and their politcal cronies in this country behind bars and extraditing those who have fled the country back here for trial .

    As for proving itself to NI -I doubt if anybody in the Republic bar O’Toole even thinks along those lines . What is there to prove to a province /state /region etc which is 77% dependent on the public sector for it’s economy and which can only be held together by an annual 7 billion pound subvention and a ‘parliamentary’ system that doesn’t even have an opposition ?

    And on that last note the Republic is in similar straits.Early indications are that we’ll have no opposition bar SF and a few disconnected ‘socialists ‘ and ‘independents’ any of whom will be trundled in quiescence by the 113 votes of FG and Labour .

    All that’s left now is street protest and burning the bondholders -speed the day .

  • Brian Walker

    Some amazingly defensive stuff here. If it came from a unionist would that automatically invalidate it? A few clean concessions of institutionalised wrongdoing at State level in the south are appropriate even in Slugger.

    I don’t claim superior northern virtue nor needless to say do I speak for unionists. Northerners lack the stuff to be so corrupt and rackets however stubborn and nasty don’t compare to such practices at State level in the Republic.

    At least in the north they know that such behaviour is supposed to be wrong. Protective legislation exists at devolved and UK national level. As we see above at least the north has the “other side” to blow the whistle – maybe one of the few benefits of a communally divided system . The Republic lags well behind although is now pledging to catch up.

    Even now it’s worrying that some in the south seem inured to corruption and don’t even understand why such practices are wrong – note Lowry’s first preferences.

    I admit I was a bit provocative in asking if they were fit to govern themselves. But partnership does require some moral authority and this needs to be reasserted in the south. If you don’t know that, the best of them certainly do.

  • Greenflag

    ‘I admit I was a bit provocative in asking if they were fit to govern themselves. ‘

    You were a bit but it’s not an unreasonable question to ask given what we know of ‘recent ‘ events . Despite reading tomes on the subject of this ‘economic ‘ meltdown both Ireland’s and elsewhere I’m still in the dark as to why the Irish government felt compelled to guarantee all the bondholders when they were advised not to by Merill Lynch. We may have to wait till post 2013 to find out the truth if then ?

    Minister Shatter’s comment re criticism of the Moriarty Tribunal as being an ‘attack’ on the courts moral authority is telling. The Courts are the last remaining ‘institution’ in the Republic which have so far escaped the charge of corruption . The previous government , the previous opposition , FF , the RC Church , all stand in the public dock as being corrupt and in need of major reform -whether it’ll make any difference to their future long term prospects is another matter.

    ‘Northerners lack the stuff to be so corrupt and rackets however stubborn and nasty don’t compare to such practices at State level in the Republic.’

    Northerners just lacked the ‘money ‘ . As it was their rackets and corrupt practices cost lives whereas their ‘moral ‘ equivalents in the Republic cost the taxpayer and the country . Being part of the UK polity simply prevented the North’s leading politicians (or will prevent them ) from political annihalation come May’s Assembly elections. But it won’t prevent NI property owners from the drop in property values .

    The stuff you refer to I have to presume means the ‘money ‘ the loot , public trough ‘ etc etc . Nobody in the Republic was complaining about the excessive greed and stupid property development when the gravy train was spilling dosh all over the place. Party poopers were not popular .

    I will assume that had the gravy train been spilling more largesse across the border than it did -complaints would have been few if non existent .

    If the Irish don’t learn quickly from the experience of the last 7 years of profligate and often blind governance then the question as to fitness for self governance could be asked . As it is ‘fitness ‘ for self governance is a question that can equally be asked of countries with a longer history of self governance such as the USA , UK, Spain , Greece , Portugal , and without wishing to stretch the point Haiti and the even the Vatican 🙁

    Holier than thou doesn’t cut it unless one is a Scandinavian and they are the least holy and most atheistic of all Europeans. 😉 Perhaps we can learn from them . I believe Denmark has never had a property bubble due mainly to legislative acts instituted decades ago !

    German landlords are strictly controlled both in terms of rental prices and protections for tenants which simply don’t exist in the UK or Ireland or the USA .

    Another reason why ‘property ownership ‘ is not the be all and end for Germans and French etc.

  • Republic of Connaught

    If it’s defensive, Mr Walker, it’s because the ordinary citizen of the South is already sickened enough with these vile corrupt politicians without having to come on here and read that the Republic has to earn some kind of respect from the lofty northerners. Don’t forget the six county jurisdiction is still riddled with sectarianism; a social cancer the same ‘moral’ northern politicians lustily exploit.

    The tribunals down here expose the corruption which says positive things about the overall transparency of the 26 county state. Change is essential in the mentality of the politicians, but I still believe if other countries spent as much money in exposing politicians relationships with big business then Ireland wouldn’t be near the top of the tree.

  • ayeYerMa

    Republic of Connaught said “Only last week we see Unionists political enemies conspiring to stop a Fenian becoming first minister.”.

    You have to laugh when you see some on here only looking at politics here through their pathetic little prism of disingenuous sectarian parochialism.

    Would anyone blink an eye if the “political enemies” of the Labour Party and Lib Dems were to campaign against the Conervatives from getting power? Or as in the recent southern election, Fina Gael and Labour campaigning to prevent Fianna Fail gaining power? Or for that matter, ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD wanting to prevent a CONVICTED TERRORIST from being the first and foremost representation of the place?

    Only in Northern Ireland are our politicians not allowed to “politic”, but instead must, according to some, only be judged within a twisted non-democratic sectarian mindset; a mindset that is festered further by the rotten quagmire of a system with “community designation” at its heart.

    The issue is one of hypocrisy. Those in the south are every bit as responsible for the “troubles” as those in the north. Yet the southerners are happy to have their own “homeland” that is practically 100% (in your words) “fenian”. Would those in the south like to effectively give up their own homeland (as Unionists in NI have effectively and generously done) by giving a veto over everything to a minority who for years refused to integrate with their state? You bet they bloody wouldn’t! The Republic will NEVER be a worthy partner because the Republic will refuse to be suckered into playing by the same rules as Unionists in NI have been. (compare also the likes of FF/FG refusing to contemplate government with terrorism-linked Sinn Fein, but insisting NI Unionists must do so – DOUBLE STANDARDS).

  • SK

    “Would anyone blink an eye if the “political enemies” of the Labour Party and Lib Dems were to campaign against the Conervatives from getting power? ”

    In fairness, when Gordon Brown lost the election, he didn’t respond by screaming “I don’t care what the results say, I’m staying in number 10 anyway! “- which is essentially the unionist attitude to the First Minister post.

    For unionists to assert that the Assembly rules only apply when it suits them is not normal politics.

    “Would those in the south like to effectively give up their own homeland (as Unionists in NI have effectively and generously done)”

    It sounds as if you’re implying that Northern Ireland is Protestant property, and that you’re all being tremendously generous by simply letting ‘themmuns’ hang around. How does one even respond to such a backwards argument?

  • Republic of Connaught

    ayeyerema,

    If Sinn Fein were the 2nd biggest party in the South as they are in the north then southern parties would have no option, like Unionists, but to play ball. The IRA are not blowing places up anymore so Sinn Fein are entitled to their democratic mandate like any other party. Unionism isn’t giving them anything. And the nationalists in the north are nearly half the population, hardly some irritating little minority! If nearly half the population of the South was Protestant/Unionist then it would be a very different state.

    As for the DUP/UUP link up to prevent McGuinness being first minister, David McNarry’s crazy outburst revealed the mindset behind it. The majority of NI is Unionist/Protestant so in his eyes the first minister should ALWAYS be Unionist/Protestant. Listen to the podcast and his message is clear if not embarrassing to be attacking the more forward thinking members of his own party like Basil McCrea who were against the link up. No Catholic as first minister of NI was McNarry’s clear message. That’s not merely politicking and any attempt to portray it as such is disingenuous.

  • Aontachtach

    McNarry is a moron. End of story. I’m not a fan of McGuiness or any ex terrorist turned politician but if he stands for election he is entitled to become First Minister. Mind you, his sectarian rant about McGimpsey puts him on a par with McNarry in the nastiness stakes.

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