One rule for Ray Burke and another for Mick Wallace?

Seven days ago, Elaine Byrne finally got the review her important book on the history of political corruption in Ireland really deserved in the Irish Times by Fintan O’Toole. In that review he notes.

…impunity is not just legal but can also be moral, social and political. Kohl, the man who unified Germany, was destroyed, humiliated and ostracised. Here no great shame is attached to adverse findings from a tribunal. The two central figures in the grim story of the second mobile-phone licence, Denis O’Brien and Michael Lowry, are thriving. Lowry increased his vote in the last election; O’Brien has his photograph taken with the Taoiseach and is becoming the most dominant media owner in the history of the State.

The initial indulgence of Mick Wallace by the Dail’s technical group (the Irish legislature’s very own rainbow alliance) is a good example of that principle of impunity at play. Stephen Collins:

It should not be forgotten that former TD and minister Ray Burke, who resigned his cabinet post and his Dáil seat in 1997 when the media exposed details of “donations” he had received from business, was actually sentenced to six months in jail for filing a false tax return.

Even more to the point, businessman Paul Begley was given six years in jail earlier this year for failing to pay VAT of €1.6 million on imported garlic.

The way in which Wallace appears to be facing no sanction of any kind represents a glaring discrepancy between the treatment of a member of the Dáil and that of an ordinary citizen.

The Wexford TD insists he did not have a lavish lifestyle and that this should be a mitigating factor in the reaction to his tax problems.

The lifestyle argument is one that was frequently put forward on behalf of former taoiseach Bertie Ahern when questions arose about his personal finances. Ultimately Ahern’s lifestyle was found to be irrelevant to the questions at issue and the planning tribunal drew its own conclusions.

The public will now await with interest to see what sanction, if any, will apply to Wallace. Those who are normally the first to demand high standards appear to have abandoned them when the finger is pointing at one of their friends.

It is not only Mick Wallace whose credibility has been undermined by this sorry episode.


Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • Mark

    One of this morning’s newspapers led with the headline “Wallace and Vomit” and that sums up the mood of the country. Who does this guy think he is?

    He claimed pre election that he would campaign on a platform of truth and honesty and then he lies to the taxman and evades paying tax / VAT .

    But because he’s mad Mick with the hair and pink shirt, he thinks he should be treated differently. If your man with the garlic gets 6 years for the same offence ……

    Wallace is no different and should be treated the same way. Someone needs to put manners on these cowboys .

  • Exactly.
    And with Michael Lowry in mind…I note the RTE news interviews in New Ross…..where the local population seemed to think that everybody did it anyway. A general acceptance. As one man said he didnt take any money from anyone.
    Of course all over the world there is an attitude about frauding the Inland Revenue and an attitide about frauding Unemployment Benefit which is different.
    But really we are talking about a country where one small bank in County Clare had mostly deposits from customers in Britain (allegedly non resident).
    We are talking of a country where a general tax amnesty was agreed some fifteen years ago. Thus a climate, already existing was given respectability.
    It would be interesting to see just how many people in Irish public life availed of that amnesty….politicians, bankers, business people, broadcasters, journalists, sports stars, hospital consultants, accountants, solicitors,……..a service to the nation for a whistleblower.

    But it seems wrong that anyone unwilling or unable to pay their tax liability or “settlement”…… a “liability” and “settlement” are not always the same…..should be in a position to legislate the tax position of others.
    But ultimately these choices lie with voters. An Dáil might be able to embarras Mr Wallace, even censure him…..but the voters of Wexford properly are the only people to decide who represents them in An Dáil.
    Indeed it would be a bad(?) precedent if parliamentary committees over-ruled the choice of voters.

    Ray Burke and Mick Wallace.
    Well if you get a reputation for getting up early, you can lie in bed all day.
    Ray Burke was a politician. He wasa Fianna Fáil politician.
    Worse….he looked like a Fianna Fáil politician and was unpopular in the media who knew the rumours about him anyway.
    Mick Wallace is not (more or less) a politician. He is not a Fianna Fáil politician.
    And better still doesnt look like either.
    And he is popular.
    Thats the difference.

  • wild turkey

    “Well if you get a reputation for getting up early, you can lie in bed all day.” — FJH

    “Give a man a reputation as an early riser and he can sleep ’til noon.” ― Mark Twain

    Wallace may not look or appear to be a politician, but he sure as shit behaves like one. FJH, “ultimately these choices lie voters”. (grimace) but can voters make an informed decision when they are lied to in an election campaign?

    Fine minds do think alike.

  • Clearly in February 2011, the voters must have known about Michael Lowry and judged him fit to represent them.
    There would appear to be many politicians in the north who have a chequred past but are chosen by voters. We surely cannot have a situation where other members of a Parliament decide who is allowed to sit on its benches.
    Thats the voters choice.