Corruption Culture – The only crime is getting caught

Dan Boyle argues that the revelations in the recent RTE Investigates programme into corruption at council level are just another nod to a long standing culture that is defensive and unwilling to see the obvious reality.

Early during the life of what was then the Flood Tribunal, evidence was given that implicated Frank Dunlop as a bagman for the noted Cork businessman, Owen O’Callaghan. Whether this was done knowingly or unknowingly remains a matter of contention between the two men.

The money existed to bring about a favourable conclusion in zoning and planning for Mr. O’Callaghan’s company, particularly for its proposed development of a shopping centre at Liffey Valley in west Dublin. In Cork a tendering process made Mr. O’Callaghan the preferred bidder (without having made the highest bid) for a shopping centre to be built at Mahon. At a subsequent City Council meeting I asked the question, that given the evidence presented at the Flood Tribunal, it should not be asked if any member of the Cork council had received payments from a Frank Dunlop like figure.

The asking of the question created uproar. How dare I impugn the collective integrity of my fellow councillors. The most apoplectic sounds came from the Fine Gael benches. The party (falsely in my view) had/has electorally traded on being morally pure. Their affront was the greatest. A vote of censure was proposed against me which succeeded by thirty votes to one, my own integrity saving vote of course.

Sadly little has changed since then, in that the instinct of the traditional political system is to defend its collective honour, rather than admit that corruption exists in any form, needing to be quashed.

The Flood/Mahon tribunal has been much maligned. It was probably structured not to achieved its hoped for goals. It went on far too long. It sustained many in the legal profession in a manner they should never been accustomed.

And yet people did go to prison. For the first time members of the Dáil, including a former government minister. More money was collected in taxes and fines than it cost to establish the tribunal. If latter legal machinations now mean that most involved can clutch a badge of innocence to their breasts, it was still a very worthwhile exercise.

Fine Gael seems to have developed a collective amnesia, that the tribunal report showed its public representatives were as much to the fore as Fianna Fáil’s, in practicing graft. If Fine Gael could pretend that Flood/Mahon was Fianna Fáil’s problem, they certainly couldn’t have been as blasé about the Moriarty Tribunal which followed. But they have been. This government’s indifference to the publishing of the findings of the tribunal’s report has been stunning in its audacity.

Moriarty has almost exclusively been Fine Gael’s baby. The awarding of the State’s second mobile phone licence, was found to have been made by a Fine Gael minister in a Fine Gael led government, after improper payments were made on behalf of the successful bidder.

This bidder, well known to us all, has shown himself to be quite fond of our legal system. In seeking to threaten those who quote from the report of the tribunal, he has been strangely shy to take on the Tribunal itself in court.

The government’s indifference to Moriarty, has meant that no prosecution has yet follow. It has meant that individuals, shown to have made improper payments, have remained free to conduct and profit from continued business with the State. Could this happen in any other State that claims to have high standards of political ethics?

This is the culture that all too sadly persists in our political system. It allowed RTE Investigates this week to expose the shallow graft of some, but still too many, in our local government system. These now pilloried pillars of our community have done what they’ve done because they could. Because in relation to corruption in Irish politics the only crime is getting caught. Our institutions will continue to be reactive rather than proactive in identifying and dealing with corruption. Because anything other than that would change the very nature of our politics, and we can’t be having that.

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  • chrisjones2

    Sensible investors North and South should flock to companies manufacturing brown envelopes

  • Kevin Breslin

    Here’s one, I’m not saying anything else on this until they pay me

    Afterall what’s in it for me?

  • Robin Keogh

    Last night’s RTE programme was disappointing but sadly
    unsurprising and no shock that Fianna Fail and Fine Gael councillors are in the
    thick of it.

    Only last week an official (non party affiliated as far as I
    know)at Wicklow Circuit Court was found guilty of corruption. Allegations
    around corruption in planning against officials and elected representatives
    have been hanging like a dark cloud over County Wicklow for some time. In line
    with recommendations contained within the Mahon report, Sinn Fein have been
    pressing the government for a full investigation and the appointment of a
    planning regulator. Despite promises from government to implement these recommendations
    nothing has been done. As far back as May of last year, Mary Lou McDonald and
    Brian Stanley spoke in the Dail highlighting serious allegations in relation to
    planning matters in County Wicklow and further afield.

    Assuming neither the Labour Party nor Fine Gael have
    anything to hide, it beggars belief that these parties are refusing to get on
    with a process of investigation. Given the level of concern over alleged
    planning irregularities and given the fact that the government has committed to
    a full investigation; it is somewhat confusing that there has been no movement to
    date. What is being offered by the government is a pathetic lifeless and flimsy
    replacement to the standards in public office team which has little or no
    independence. The government parties have learnt nothing from the battery of
    scandals and investigations that have occurred over recent years.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    As one of my old English teachers from the early 1960s used to say at the end of one of his very un-PC forays into humour…..

    “But actually, boys, there are poor people who are genuinely suffering from this affliction…..”

  • Tochais Siorai

    Nice timing for your lot as all those awkward questions about Pearse Mc Auley fade into the background for a while.

  • Robin Keogh

    Over the last ten years or so there have been thousands of so-called ‘awkward’ questions. They fade and come back, fade and come back, fade and come back. To be honest we are used to it at this stage and expect it on a weekly basis. Nothing awkward about them anymore to be honest, just par for the course. Same accusations, same questions, same answers. So while the public fall asleep with the boredom of it all and look around to see who is asking real relevent questions such as how to solve the hosuing crisis, what to do about hospital trolleys and waiting lists, how to get our young emmigrants back, how to create jobs and stimulate investment etc. us shinners are out trying to find those answers and work for the good of our communities. I know it is easier to believe that we are all mass murdering, brain washed, obedient stooges; it satifies a need to explain away the rise of modern Sinn Fein to where it is now. Half a Million voters and growing.

  • Tim Nelligan

    Great article. Thanks Slugger.

    Although “Graft” means a type of political corruption for personal gain, the word also has the definition and connotation of “hard work”; therefore, I suggest Dan use the word “Grift” as a replacement in this context. Fraudsters, cheaters and swindlers should not be confused with hard-working people.

  • aquifer

    And we are handing town planning over to our councillors . . .
    We need a corruption hotline and maybe some sort of amnesty. e.g. For those who paid a bribe to a councillor and got nothing out of it because the DOE still did their job.

  • Greenflag 2

    Of course its not just Ireland either North or South . For a true explanation of ‘Grifting ‘ I recommend this writer


    The financial crisis of 2008/2009 has’nt really gone away !

  • Hugh Davison

    There’s another thread about Pearse McAuley. Go away.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Thank you for the information. My point is however, imho, valid as the programme was a godsend for a party struggling with what is a difficult news story for them.

    Anyway, to address your second point, if the site editor or even the writer of the piece tells me to go away, then fair enough. You, Hugh, on the other hand have been blessing us with your wisdom here for a glorified wet weekend. Who the f**k do you think you are to tell anyone to go away?

  • Hugh Davison

    Touchy, much?
    Your comment doesn’t actually have anything to do with the original post. More a case of: let’s bash the shinners again.