Garret fails to account for era of political corruption

 In part 2 of his musings on civic morality in the Republic, Garret FitzGerald tackles the question of why the lack of it only became fatal in recent decades in a most tortuous and evasive piece of prose. The old warriors of the independence era at least had personal integrity in common, he says.  When they were about to pass on, the Fianna Failers among them chose Garret and other political opponents to confide  their death bed fears.  

when in the mid-1980s Seán MacEntee was dying, he asked to see me, in part so as to confide his deep concern for the future of the State because of what was happening within his party, Fianna Fáil.

Unhappily, because of the widespread lack of a tradition of civic responsibility or sense of civic morality – for which I fear the Catholic Church must bear some of the blame – the disappearance of the last of the revolutionary generation from government in the 1960s removed what turned out to have been the only barrier to the spread of a socially defective value system at the hitherto notably honest area of our national politics.

The name “Haughey” is studiously avoided. He evens pulls his softest punch.  

…it should, in fairness be added that the number of national politicians who engaged in personal corruption for their own financial benefit has in fact been very small – few enough to be counted on the fingers of two hands..

The veteran statesman, once dubbed only slightly ironically as Garret the Good, ducks any analysis of what went wrong and fails even to refer directly to his own era. Why is this? Was he forever traumatised at the start of his sparring relationship with  Haughey for the crafty attack mounted on him for pointing out Haughey’s “ flawed pedigree?   Haughey’s handlers deliberately chose to misunderstand this as a reference to the sainted parents, whereas of course it was about Haughey’s mafia behaviour, including the charge of gun running to the north for which he was acquitted.   Even now Garret holds his nose at corruption, when he should be giving it a vigorous blow.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London