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Closure (jail door style) for Frank Dunlop

By Michael Brennan

Wednesday May 27 2009

FRANK Dunlop once had the ear of several Taoisigh and easy access to some of the most powerful public officials in the country.

But yesterday's 18-month jail sentence completes his public fall from grace, which began more than nine years ago when he admitted to bribing politicians in return for rezoning votes.

The Kilkenny-born lobbyist served under Taoiseach Jack Lynch as the government press secretary in 1977, went on a shirt-buying spree with the next Taoiseach Charles Haughey in Paris in 1980 and was appointed by former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds in 1992 to improve his personal image.

Reports at the time said that Dunlop was regarded "as one of the best image-makers in the business".

But he had another lucrative sideline, which was passing on huge sums of money from developers to councillors who were involved in rezoning decisions, and keeping a slice for himself.

Dunlop was so successful at it that he became involved in several of the most controversial rezonings in Dublin in the 1990s. It was one of his rare failures to get what he wanted that led to his most famous quote: "I have balls of iron and a spine of steel and if I don't make money here, I will make it somewhere else," he said.

Dunlop was in an ideal position to mediate between the worlds of politics and business, because he had worked in both. As well as his service as government press secretary, he later worked with the Department of Environment under John Boland and gained a detailed knowledge of the Irish planning process.

He left the civil service in 1986 and had a spell with the public relations firm Murray Consultants. Then he struck out on his own to establish his own firm, Frank Dunlop & Associates, in 1989.

He took up the "bagman role" that led to him pleading guilty to corruptly giving cash gifts to Fianna Fail councillors Tony Fox, Sean Gilbride and Colm McGrath and former senators Liam Cosgrave of Fine Gael and Don Lydon of Fianna Fail between May 4, 1992, and December 23, 1997.

But all of the five politicians have denied the money they were given by Dunlop were bribes.

Development

Dunlop was someone who was keen on acquiring money -- the Mahon Tribunal has heard how he sought to get shares in the Citywest development in Dublin in return for his dealings with the man he called "Mr Big", Fianna Fail TD Liam Lawlor.

He was involved with numerous property developers, most notably Cork-based Owen O'Callaghan, who paid him for his work on the Quarryvale project (later to become the Liffey Valley Shopping Centre) in Dublin.

But Mr O'Callaghan has always denied giving money to Dunlop to bribe politicians to secure the rezoning.

The Mahon Tribunal also heard evidence from Joe Moran of Manor Park Homes, who confirmed that he paid Dunlop £25,000 (€31,750) in fees to lobby for the rezoning of land he owned at Lissenhall in north Co Dublin during 1992.

Dunlop was quite capable of using dirty tricks to get what he wanted.

One Fine Gael councillor claimed she felt intimidated after he sent out a newsletter in 1993 claiming that she was in favour of building a "noxious sewage treatment plant" in her area. It was a total lie, but she was opposing a campaign by Dunlop's company to rezone greenbelt land for development in Baldoyle in North Dublin.

After he concluded his 126 days of evidence at the Mahon Tribunal, he publicly declared: "I regret nothing."

But his opinion may have changed yesterday after Judge Frank O'Donnell ignored his lawyer's pleas not to jail him.

- Michael Brennan

A rat in an anorak.


Joe Burke ("whiparound Joe") remembered smears from within a Fianna Fail dominated cabinet in 1992 that Mr Ahern was "a rat in an anorak" and was suitably appalled. He said he gave money "because Bertie Ahern is a good friend of mine for over 30 years".

The Taoiseach allegedly told Joe that he was accepting it on the basis that it was a loan, just as he supposedly told Dermot Carew, organiser of this second "goodwill loan", in September 2004.

He had said in response to another meaty collection (£22,500) the previous December, assuming it happened, that he regarded the money pressed upon him as debt-of-honour loans, which he was bound to repay.

But he never did repay them, not until the story broke in the newspapers.

What sort of fellow would not repay that money when he moves on from his lousy minister of finance job to become leader of Fianna Fail and then Taoiseach?

The lads all queued up in Dublin Castle this week to say that they had decided to give cash to Bertie because he was "too proud" to accept cheques. But a man can be too proud to accept cash too -- all the more so because it ought to be politically alarming for a man who is minister for finance.

could have Refused the cash:

Bertie not only could, but should, have refused cash. But, by his own account, he took it.

He supposedly took money from his friends while he had £50,000 savings, while he had an AIB loan to cover his legal bill, and while he had nearly £20,000 in the Irish Permanent Building Society.

He took more money from friends (one of whom owned neither house nor car) after further lodging £22,500 (from Friendly-Group One, we are told) and a claimed Stg£8,000 from vague Manchester sympathisers.

And he never told them of his riches. What kind of friend does that?

But, ach, sure he occasionally offered to pay it back, not that they would take it, they said. They didn't want it.

They should have, if they were truly his friends, so that they would save him the grief he is in now.

And here's a point -- if the lads would have refused repayment cheques, he could have given them cash, as they did to him.

But this is where cash is inconvenient -- unless Bertie got receipts for his repayments in cash, he wouldn't be able to prove in the future that they were the original source of huge lodgments. Much better not to repay your mates in case the story ever came out, and only then repay -- even if this type of reasoning would have you meeting yourself coming around a corner.

And that's already happened many times in evidence. (Senan Maloney Irish Independent)

The Ahern years- as they were.

By Eamonn Sweeney

Sunday April 27 2008

I could never warm to Bertie Ahern. Or maybe it would be more correct to say that I simply didn’t get him. The Taoiseach’s appeal, like that of the novels of Michael Ondaatje and the films of Arnold Schwarzenegger, seemed absolutely mysterious. The charisma, warmth and intelligence of the man, so obvious to the nation’s political journalists, just weren’t apparent to me. I had come to wonder if this was a fault in myself and if perhaps our emperor really was decked out in a resplendent suit of new clothes.

Today, I don’t feel so alone. Because, over the past year or so, a great many people’s feelings about Bertie Ahern have progressed from affection through ambivalence to outright antipathy. This is something Bertie brought upon himself. It resulted not from what the Mahon tribunal revealed about the Taoiseach but from what the man revealed about himself in response.

It took just a little bit of pressure for the mask to come off and reveal a Bertie very unlike the easy-going media cliche of yore. When the heat came on, the Taoiseach resorted to three main modes of address: the sneer, the snivel and the snarl.

The sneer has never been far from Bertie Ahern’s lips, but this tendency became more and more pronounced. His outrageous statement likening those who complained about the state of the Irish economy to the suicidally depressed was one example; another was his dismissal (”pub talk”) of the possibility of an amnesty for Irish illegal immigrants in the States. I wondered why the man had to be so mean. If he didn’t agree with Niall O’Dowd and his cohorts, fair enough, but was there any need to rub their noses in it? Apparently, there was.

The snarl got its big outing on the night of the general election count when he stormed into the RTE studios and decided to lambast the media for reporting on the financial irregularities revealed by the tribunal. A bigger man might have regarded the hour of victory as a time to be gracious, but Bertie behaved as though the electorate had not just voted him back into office but had voted the judiciary and the journalists out of their jobs.

Looking at it, you couldn’t help feeling that there must be worse to come in the tribunals if the Taoiseach still felt the need to be scoring points. Who knows what would have happened had he been contrite instead of confrontational? It was a moment when he could have come clean and survived. Instead, he behaved like a man spoiling for a fight when that was the very last thing he wanted.

However, it was neither the sneer nor the snarl that defined Bertie’s final months in office, but the snivel, something at which he proved himself a virtuoso, rendering himself pathetic in a manner never approached by any previous Taoiseach.
The snivelling began with the infamous Brian Dobson interview. Bertie might have opted to tackle this in the manner of Roy Keane being quizzed by Tommy Gorman. Instead, he opted for the Princess-Diana- meets-Martin-Bashir approach. Generations yet unborn will cringe at the sight of a grown man attempting to give the impression that he’s on the verge of tears. The Taoiseach did everything except put his hand up to his eyes to check for moisture. This was how he was going to play it.

There was a precedent for this kind of ignoble tomfoolery. When Ray Burke first came under serious scrutiny for the way he did business, the Dublin North man turned on the waterworks in the Dail, bringing his dead father into it and bravely rebutting allegations nobody had ever made against him. The initial response from the political correspondents was that Burke had saved his political life with a masterly performance. They changed their minds when it became clear that the public reaction to this oratorical tour de force was that it would have made a dog laugh. The oul’ gra mo chroi shite didn’t save Ray Burke.

It didn’t save Bertie Ahern either. But the Dobson debacle set a pattern for the way in which the Taoiseach would defend himself against every allegation. He would, to be blunt about it, hide behind women. It wasn’t a particularly manly thing to do and it committed Bertie to the snivel rather than the sneer or the snarl, but presumably someone thought it was a tactical masterstroke.

Initially, the Taoiseach sheltered behind his wife and daughters. References to his marital difficulties almost seemed designed to give the impression that he had been going round with the begging bowl because his wife had skinned him in the separation settlement.
Perhaps it was an entirely accidental outcome, but this was the excuse hinted at by many of the Taoiseach’s backers in the media when it looked as though our hero might still spring free with one mighty bound.

It certainly won Bertie a lot of sympathy from the kind of self-pitying men obsessed with the cupidity of women who insist on getting a few quid to look after themselves and their children. One of the characteristics of these sorry souls is their persistent demand for gratitude from the recipients of their largesse. This could be called Look How Good I Am To You Syndrome. He mightn’t have meant it, but it was Bertie who made his separation the stuff of public gossip.

There were more women to hide behind. He made the suggestion that some of the money being called into question had been left to him by his dead mother. When it emerged that Celia Larkin had been given €30,000 of what were supposedly party funds to buy a house, Celia’s elderly aunts were deployed as human shields, with the suggestions that all these inquiries were making life unbearable for the old dears. Grainne Carruth was not the only person to be placed between Bertie and trouble as he acted like a B-movie burglar warning the coppers that if they come any close they would end up shooting the innocent woman in front of him.

The problem was that Grainne Carruth moved out of the firing line and, in doing so, gave the lawmen a clear shot at Big Bad Bert. This was not how that encounter was supposed to play out. I’d have a wild guess that Bertie may even have thought that the questioning of his former secretary would be to the tribunal’s detriment. Look at what they did, his supporters could say. They made a woman cry: finally, the tribunals have gone too far.
Let’s wind them up and not ask any more awkward questions.

Unfortunately, people tend to grow impatient with the Sniveller and his perpetual cry of, “Look what they’re after doing to me.” It wasn’t the tribunal people blamed for Grainne Carruth’s tears, but Bertie. Our hero had sheltered behind one woman too many.
There was a fascinating insight into how Bertie felt the scenario should have played out in an excellent interview by Aengus Fanning in this paper a few weeks back. You might have thought that divesting the burdens of office would have left Bertie free to move out of Sniveller mode. Not a bit of it. He caterwauled on about the fact that Ms Carruth is a mother of three, though why this information was in any way germane, nobody knows.
And he declared the questioning to have been particularly unforgivable because it took place on Holy Thursday . . .

It’s not the first time Bertie has brought religion into an argument, something which should give pause to those deluded liberals who believed that the fact of the Taoiseach being shacked up with his former secretary was some kind of bold gesture against the hegemony of the Catholic Church rather than a purely personal decision. Whether it was sanctioning a deal that allowed the Church to escape paying its fair share to the victims of institutional abuse or droning on about his connections to All Hallows, Bertie was never slow to wrap the papal flag around himself.

The most revealing part of the interview came when, after Bertie had banged on about how sorry he felt for Grainne Carruth, he was asked if he’d seen her since the ordeal. No, he said, I haven’t had the time. No? Really? Quelle surprise.

It’s interesting how few people have sought to portray the Taoiseach’s downfall in a tragic light. (Except for himself. Do you think all his ministers really did cry when they heard he was resigning? It sounds to me like someone’s been reading too many of his daughter’s books. Next, he’ll be telling us he cheered them up by bringing them shopping, cracking open a few bottles of lambrusco and singing I Will Survive while dancing around Mary Harney’s handbag.) It wasn’t tragedy but farce: the whole caper was far too cheap to be tragedy.

That cheapness was most evident in Bertie’s inability to depart the scene with any modicum of dignity. Even Charlie Haughey was able to summon up some form of gravitas when he had to fall on his sword. By contrast, Bertie snivelled as he went. You had the description of the tribunal as indulging in “low life stuff.” Better again, you had the unconscious comedy of the Taoiseach wittering on about the fact that Grainne Carruth was paid very little money. Well, old son, you were her boss. Perhaps if you hadn’t given Celia that thirty grand there might have been a few bob to pay Grainne Carruth. It’s just a thought.

There was more. He affected to find great significance in the fact that the act governing the conduct of tribunals was actually “a British law”. You almost expected him to suggest MI5 had put it on the statute books in the hope of snaring an as yet unborn Taoiseach.
This kind of childish anglophobia was bad enough coming from Bertie’s old mentor CJH, but coming from a man who probably owed his re-election to the big deal his followers made out of his House of Commons speech it was downright ungrateful.
The “British law”, he explained, came from a time when the little man couldn’t get justice in this country. Good old Bertie, leader of the country and still thinking of himself as a little man. Because when you’re a Sniveller, you’ll always see yourself as the underdog.
And you’ll reach for anything that might protect you from your pursuers. It’s not just that
famous suit that was yellow.

There were also complaints that Enda Kenny had been insufficiently gracious in wishing Bertie all the best in the future. Ungracious? Hang on a second and I’ll give you ungracious. Bertie only became leader of Fianna Fail because Albert Reynolds resigned after inadvertently misleading the Dail. In the light of his successor’s behaviour, it’s questionable whether Albert should have resigned at all. The Longford man had the unusual distinction for a Fianna Fail leader of having perhaps been too scrupulous.
Soon afterwards, Albert sought the Fianna Fail presidential nomination. Had he got it, he would have been elected to the office and given a just reward for a decent, if truncated, time as Taoiseach. Instead, Bertie and his allies shafted him and gave the nomination to Mary McAleese. Not a lot of grace there, and not a lot of gratitude. Bertie will hope he is treated a bit better by his own successor. He probably will be, because there’s no sign so far that Brian Cowen subscribes to the particular Dublin Fianna Fail model of politics whose most notable contemporary practitioners were Ray Burke in the North, the late Liam Lawlor in the West and Bertie Ahern in the centre. They were more than Charlie Haughey’s supporters, they were his disciples.

One positive aspect of the downfall is that we won’t be burdened further by the repetition of that Haughey quote about his factotum being “the most cunning and the most devious of them all”. It was always a stupid quote anyway, used as though it was to Bertie’s credit when the abiding lesson of the CJ era should have been that cunning and deviousness are qualities Irish politics has been disfigured by for too long.

In the end, it turned out not to be true. Confronted by the tribunal, Bertie was neither cunning nor devious enough. Instead, he looked sleazy, slippery, slimy and completely incompetent. Day after day, the news told us that the Taoiseach had endured a bad day at the tribunal as new inconsistencies emerged in evidence. It was all a bit like Whack A Mole, the game where the more you strike the titular animals on the head with a mallet, the quicker others pop up on different parts of the board. You almost wished Bertie would have just one good day, one day when a witness turned up to confirm that he had at least been telling the unvarnished truth about something.

Even those of us who were sceptical about the Manchester dig-out story couldn’t have imagined the bad turns the tribunal would take for the Taoiseach. Anyone who’d suggested back then that Bertie had probably sanctioned the handing over of party money so his girlfriend could buy a house would have been derided as the crudest kind of conspiracy theorist. When all this started out, no-one could have imagined that Bertie operated a private account in his constituency, imagined the amounts of money involved or how blatantly ridiculous some of his explanations would prove to be. And, let’s face it, there’s probably worse to come.

It was striking how, as time went by, the Taoiseach didn’t even bother giving explanations for the money that was being uncovered. Haughey, you felt sure, would have ducked and dived a bit better. He’d certainly have shown a bit more fight. Then again, for all his faults, Bertie’s old mentor was not a Sniveller.
The problem with Snivelling is that it puts you on the defensive. The “look at what these terrible people are doing to me” gambit only works as long as people feel sorry for you.
When the sympathy wears out, as it invariably does, noble suffering begins to look like self pity.

The worst thing for Bertie is that his behaviour is going to look a lot worse as we enter a recession. Because when everyone was riding high on the hog it was easier to blink an eye at politicians who put the paw out to developers and businessmen. It will be different when recession bites.
One of the articles of faith of the right-wing economic creed espoused by Bertie and his government is that people have to look after themselves and not expect others to bail them out. It is a noble thing, this code of sturdy self-reliance, and we were assured after the last election that members of “the Coping Classes” had kept Fianna Fail in power.
Which is an irony, because if there’s one thing Bertie is not, it’s a member of the Coping Classes. Whatever story you believe, one thing is indisputable. When Bertie ran into a few
financial problems he put the paw out and accepted donations left, right and centre. Some of these people were allegedly his friends and some of them were businessmen who simply liked giving their money away for no reason. Bertie took it all. Even when he had a great deal of money in the bank, he was still collecting the loot.
This runs counter to everything modern Ireland is supposed to be about. Because the Coping Classes are not a myth. They exist and their core belief is that you pay your own way and don’t look for favours. They deserve better than to be represented by politicians who have taken the exact opposite attitude for most of their careers, people who don’t pay their way if they can get someone else to do it. To this class Bertie belongs, to the political class that fastened their fangs into the necks of their victims and sucked for dear life. It was a miserable existence for a miserable bunch of bastards.

In reality, the taking of that money is itself a form of corruption. For all the talk of Bertie’s great empathy with the plain people of Ireland, he wasn’t one of them. Because if property prices keep going down and unemployment continues to rise, the plain people of Ireland will be on their own. There will be no one handing us big sums of cash. That’s how we live our lives. That it’s not how our Taoiseach lived his was his shame and his downfall.

He couldn’t fool us forever. The plain people of Ireland are not plain stupid.

As Bertie snivelled his way into imminent obscurity, he declared that his great regret was not to have built a national stadium. No, you heard him right. He’s not losing any sleep over the state of the health service, public transport or education, he’s miffed that he didn’t get to build a white elephant no one asked for and no one’s felt the lack of since.

It’s not surprising we don’t have a contemporary equivalent of Scrap Saturday. Bertie made satire redundant.

Goodbye Sniveller. And good riddance.

- Eamonn Sweeney

An old rant revisited

(taken from an www.ndymedia.ie article dated 2006.)
Bertie will have all of this week to try and dig himself out of the hole created by the Irish Times leak last week, which revealed confidential details from the Mahon tribunal about payments to politicians. The Taoiseach has now made several statements on the issue, each time evading the actual amounts given and instead attempting to deflect attention towards the leak itself as irresponsible journalism, or now describing the donations as loans. Apparently the money was given to him temporarily, by a close circle of 13 friends, to pay for his solicitors fees during his breakup with his wife Miriam in 1993. Reportedly in some cases the money wasnt (or hasnt yet been) paid back. The rumoured amount of the total donations/loans is anywhere between €50k and €100k, although the Taoiseach himself has said that it is nowhere near that amount.

Bertie has hands down refused to divulge the details of these donations during his tenure as the Minister for Finance, comparing them to communion money presents from his grannies. He maintains he has a right to privacy, and that all of his dealings have been 100% tax compliant. This is fair enough, and when pictures of him out on a date with a new potential partner appear in the gutter press, you cannot help but wish him some privacy in his personal life. Likewise with his marriage breakup - nobody needs to hear the ins and outs of a personal relationship and the runup to its dissolution. The money however, is a slightly different matter. As everyone knows being an elected representative comes with the duties of power. You are in a position to make decisions at a very local/parochial to a national level, which affect people you may not be at all acquainted with. These decisions can be very influential in many ways.

In an ideal world, an elected representative would take into account many factors independently when arriving at a decision from that power bequeathed on him/her. The wishes of the community (not just the majority), the impact on the environment, the benefits to society as a whole, and so on. Yet as we have seen time and time again, it simply does not work that way in reality. The brown envelope and the corporate funding seem so hard for politicians to refuse. In this particular case, it seems very, very strange that a man in Bertie Ahern's position, and wages - a TD with a high ranking minsterial position - would have to solicit loans from 13 (13!!) of his friends in order to pay solicitors fees for a separation. Stranger yet that after 13 years that some of these loans have never been paid back. Where can I get one of these loans please? My local rip-off bank doesnt seem to offer those long term options with 0% interest. On the few desperate occasions that I have had to borrow from friends, I usually pay the money back as soon as possible when my financial situation improves. I cant say that Bertie would approach paying back loans in the same way, but his financial situation/salary has definitely improved somewhat since 1993.

Even if everything is tax compliant, donations or loans to politicians stink. As taxpayers, all money being paid to politicians (whose salaries we bankroll, never forget) should be open and transparent. Government departments funded by the exchequer (which is funded by our taxes, never forget) must provide a detailed breakdown of where their spending is being done. Shouldnt all TDs bank accounts be publicly viewable? Why not? These people are being paid by us to govern the country in an independent and fair manner with our best interests at heart rather than their own, and we have the right to see if their decisions are being tipped by the scales of dodgy payments.

The whole episode shows how rotten Fianna Fail is to the very core. It is one of several issues to have cropped up in recent weeks which demonstrate how ideologically and morally bankrupt the party is. One of these was the dismissal of Dublin City Councillor Liam Kelly from the party whip on the council. Kelly was pictured at a party in an apartment in Blanchardstown on a grainy mobile phone camera with what appeared to be a rolled up banknote in his hand, and hoovering up a white powder on a table in front of him. He claimed he was being blackmailed for the pictures but never fully explained what he was doing in them. If he was doing cocaine or speed, does it really matter? He was at a party minding his own business, he's an adult and he has the right to decide what he wants to do with his own body, even if this involves putting a load of chemical shit into his nostril. Yet: Jim McDaid TD, a GP who claimed no less than six months ago that politics no longer held any interest for him, has changed his mind recently, and has decided to go for re-election up in Donegal. This man is a convicted drink driver, who was caught driving the wrong way up a dual carriageway in the pitch black of night after a corporate schmooze fest. He could have easily killed many people with his actions. Yet has he been expelled from Fianna Fail? Of course not. For all the bullshit about wanting to cut down on deaths on our roads, stripping McDaid of his party membership would have been a way to demonstrate to the public that drink-driving is simply not socially acceptable in any society - as would have been a similar move with GV Wright, who knocked down a nurse while driving over the limit. Yet this has not happened. It seems as if there is one law for drink drivers and another for recreational drug users.

But what Liam Kelly was doing was illegal, I hear you say, and it finances criminal gangs who are killing innocent people. The last time I checked drink driving was also illegal, but lets move on. Michael McDowell (PDs, nothing to distinguish them from FF) in particular has been very vocal on this. He has strongly spoken out against middle class users of recreational drugs washing their hands of the killings and turf wars that erupt between rival drug dealers. He wants people to stop snorting cocaine because it ultimately finances the purchasing of weapons and the killing of human beings. There is a longer argument here about drug use and personal choice, which I wont get into, but McDowell ultimately believes that it is in the power of the people to stop the level of violence in our communities. Yet at the same time, McDowell and his cohorts have it in their power to stop innocent people being killed by the guns and machines of death being transported through Shannon on a daily basis by the US Military. Yet they choose not to. How do they expect the middle classes to give up their fix of coke or yokes to stop violence which is not immediately visible in their sphere of existense, when Fianna Fail refuse to give up their fix of money floating Shannon airport from the US treasury? If politicians are meant to lead by example then they are not doing it in this case.

You may also recall Dermot Ahern (FF) accepting assurances from Condi Rice on her visit her that the US was not transporting suspect to secret detention camps because it didnt have any. This assurance was enough for him not to have US Military warplanes inspected. The Council of Europe report on this network was rubbished at the time by politicians here in the Republic. Since then George W Bush himself has admitted that these secret detention camps do exist. So will FF authorise inspections of the planes any time soon? Dont hold your breath.

Another recent example of Fianna Fail's left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing was Noel Ahern's call to tax property investors "out of existence". This was appealing to lower middle class voters who have found themselves priced out of the home market in the last five to ten years. Many housing units in Dublin have been bought by speculators who rent them out or simply leave them empty and let the price go up for a sale in a year or two. Apart from the nonsense politicking of calling for something and not actually doing it when you can, it was actually Fianna Fail who watered down the Part V judgement which facilitated local councils taking up to 20% of private housing developments for social, shared ownership and affordable housing. This meant that instead of vital housing units coming on stream for those on lower incomes, local councils (many controlled by FF) were able to take cash payments from the developers instead. Also the 10,000 affordable homes financed via central funding rather than local councils, which was trumpeted by Bertie himself a few years ago, never materialised. The unions were supposedly instrumental in negotiating this previously, yet there was no mention of the complete lack of social housing being built during the last round of cosy partnership talks, which of course were given the green light by the membership after the leadership instructed them to do so.

So what does all this mean? In the end - NOTHING. You would think that people would learn from obvious corruption and hypocrisy, so blatant and glaring as the sun on a cloudless day. Yet, people will vote for Fianna Fail at the next election. In their thousands. Jim McDaid will probably top the poll in his constituency, as will Bertie. It is not limited to Fianna Fail either. Ex-FG man Michael Lowry, whose house was paid for by Ben Dunne, topped the poll in Tipperary last time round. His greed was exposed, but the Irish public are stupid enough to reward it. Take your pick anywhere in the country where you think there is a groundswell of opposition against the current political system. Its an illusion. The people will happily vote for the parties that have been shown not to have their slightest interest at heart. As they will time and time again... what can I say? We get what we deserve

Cream of Gene..

By Gene Kerrigan

Sunday April 20 2008

About 10 days ago, I got a letter from former Ombudsman Michael Mills. His remarks were typically upbeat and encouraging. Though long retired, his fascination with the political hurly-burly (and his anger at the corruption therein) was undiminished. And that passion stayed with him to the end. Two days after the note arrived, Michael died at the age of 80.

On the day after his death, the notorious DCC/Fyffes case limped towards its farcical conclusion. Its outcome says something about how the politicians regard public servants -- such as Michael Mills -- who seek to protect the individual from powerful forces.

When I got into the journalism business, Mills was a fixture, as political correspondent for the Irish Press, and as a regular commentator on television. He did his job with the depth of detailed knowledge and the even-handedness required of political correspondents. Occasionally, he failed to hide his irritation at the more devious or daft conduct on display.

Later, as the State's first Ombudsman, he revelled in bringing some clout to the aid of individuals suffering injustice. He turned out to be an exemplary public servant.

On returning to power, Charlie Haughey decided that Mills was a nuisance and he tried to get rid of him. If Charlie had to have an Ombudsman, he wanted a pliable one. Mills successfully resisted. His successors, Kevin Murphy and Emily O'Reilly, maintained the independence of the office.

These days, our role models are the Flash Harrys who master the sharp deal and the fast buck. Whether in academia, politics or the media, the hills are alive with obsequious flattery of the successful dealmakers, no matter what the content of the deal. (Just listen to the fawning on Morning Ireland, where the pursuit of profit separated from any social function is reported daily in various tones of awe.)

In a world where greed is worshipped, the notion that public servants should regulate large forces, for the protection of the individual, is sneered at. But today we need more than ever such outfits as the Ombudsman, the Labour Inspectorate, the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement.

Which brings us back to the DCC/Fyffes scandal, so quickly swept under the carpet last week.

The facts are simple. Fyffes imports fruit. In February 2000, entrepreneur Jim Flavin of DCC sold 31 million Fyffes shares for £106m, making a profit of about £80m.

Shortly afterwards, Fyffes released information showing that the profits outlook was iffy. The share price plummeted. Flavin, in his role as a director of Fyffes, had known of the bad news before it was made public. By selling when he did, he made millions.

DCC and Fyffes got into a legal battle over the money.

In his Supreme Court judgement, Judge Fennelly said that the case involved "a limited body of comparatively simple facts . . . upon which common-sense judgments and opinions can be formed".

Yet, the case lasted 88 days in the High Court and several days in the Supreme Court. The written judgements totalled hundreds of pages and involved a great deal of legal research and consideration by a number of judges. In the Supreme Court, Judge Fennelly concluded it wasn't complexity that dragged out the trial but, "the large amounts of money at stake and the depth of the respective corporate pockets".

In short -- the courts are clogged, the cases involving serious matters are delayed, but a shower of rich brawlers had the intense attention of the courts for months on end, while they squabbled over their share-out.

And the outcome?

DCC won in the High Court and lost on appeal to the Supreme Court last July. DCC's activities were deemed insider trading. In his written judgement, Judge Fennelly noted that using inside information is "a fraud on the market", and anyone who commits such a fraud "commits a crime". Other judges concurred.

Now, we don't know who, if anyone, committed a crime. That's for due process to determine. But, after exhaustive study of the facts, Supreme Court judges reckon a very serious crime was committed, involving tens of millions of pounds. What's happened about that?

Nothing. No police raids, no arrests, no questioning, no searches, no freezing of bank accounts -- nothing. Where were the police over these past nine months? Well, last week the cops were busy raiding a "shebeen" in Limerick, over and over, in case someone was selling unlicensed drink. Where was CAB? Perhaps making another TV series boasting of its prowess.

Last Monday it was announced that DCC and Flavin would cough up €40m or so to Fyffes and others. End of story. Senior judges believe a serious crime was committed, but there are no consequences. It seems that there are indeed untouchables amongst us.

Did the media take the State's failure seriously? Well, RTE comprehensively kicked hell out of Aer Lingus for failing to honour contracts it made in error -- we can't have slipshod business practices, can we? But, the DCC scandal -- oh, well, move on.

Enter public servant Paul Appleby, of the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE). Appleby's job is to police corporate Ireland. If the criminal authorities aren't bothered about enforcing the law, at least Mr Appleby can ensure that wrongdoers are removed from the corporate pitch. So, he must now decide if he should take a lengthy and very expensive court case, to resolve the DCC scandal. But, as Judge Fennelly noted, these people have "deep pockets".

Appleby's outfit, the ODCE, has a minuscule budget. It saves honest companies millions and retrieves more millions from the pockets of shady characters. Last year Appleby sought a significant staff increase (staff shortages mean cases must be dropped). In the Dail, Bertie Ahern grew tetchy and said he could "wait a few more years".

Now, the ODCE is an industrious and efficient body. It had the previous year spent just €2.9m of its tiny €4.5m budget, and had handed back €1.6m. It needed government approval to use that money to hire the needed staff -- and Bertie didn't approve.

Charlie Haughey was crude. These days, our politicians wouldn't blatantly try to eject the likes of Michael Mills, they subtly undermine them.

There aren't enough labour inspectors, so bent companies use immigrants as virtual slaves. In theory, criminals can't get taxi licences -- but five years after that law was passed, the Taxi Regulator doesn't have the resources to vet taxi drivers -- so the guy who drives your daughter home from the disco next week may well be a convicted rapist.

We could count Michael Mills, along with other public servants of his stripe, on our side. It's not exactly radical -- just a simple matter of rules, laws, fairness and decency.

What's staggering is how many who claim to be on our side plainly are not. The police stand idly by after the Supreme Court notes a massive crime. Too much of the media simpers in the presence of wealth. Politicians regularly welcome to the Galway Tent, and accept party donations from, a man the ODCE was seeking to have banned as a director -- while the same politicians decline to back the ODCE's request for sufficient staff to do its work.

If Brian Cowen wanted to demonstrate that as Taoiseach he will strike a different note, one easy route would be to immediately ensure that enforcement agencies and regulators have all the powers, staff and resources they need.

All he has to fear is the undying enmity of the untouchables, and their resolve to never again donate a penny to his party. But, of course, that wouldn't stop a tough guy like Brian, would it?

2005..The "New Fianna Fail"They have not gone away you know.!Just re-invented themselves.!

We can therefore understand their silence in the face of corruption in the business world. People in glasshouses..
Politicians strangely silent on Flavin case ruling
05 August 2007  By Vincent Browne
The business establishment is standing by Jim Flavin of DCC, who was found by the Supreme Court ten days ago to have been engaged in insider trading on the stock exchange, conduct which prompted one of the Supreme Court judges to use the word ‘‘crime’’ in connection with the practice.

And, indeed, insider trading is a criminal offence for it is the same as theft - large-scale theft - albeit that the Supreme Court was ruling on a civil action rather than a criminal case.

Flavin was involved in the most spectacular business scandal of the modern era. In addition, several accountancy and legal firms have grave questions to answer in relation to their participation .This would apply particularly to those firms that had full knowledge of what was going on and failed to call a halt or even blow a whistle.

There must also be questions about the so-called regulatory authorities, the Stock Exchange, the Garda Siochana, the offices of the Director of Public Prosecutions and of the Director of Corporate Enforcement.

These did not need the Supreme Court to tell them something very wrong had happened.

It was blindingly obvious at the time to anyone who cared to look. DCC, which had a director on the board of Fyffes, Flavin, who had direct access to confidential insider information, sold its Fyffes shares in February 2000.

A few weeks later, the share price plummeted when the market as a whole became aware of information that Fyffes’directors had known at the time of the DCC share sale.

Isn’t there something very curious in the fact that, since the judgment of the Supreme Court on July 27, there has not been a single critical comment on this outrageous scandal from any political figure, not from Minister for Justice Brian Lenihan, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Micheal Martin, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, not from anybody on the opposition benches, in the Greens or from the party that championed ethical standards, the Progressive Democrats.

I wrote last week on the background to this scandal, that Fyffes had announced record profits for the previous financial year in early December 1999 and the share price started to rise.

Shortly afterwards, internal documents showed that the company performance in the financial year beginning November 1,1999waswayoff projections and performance the previous year.

Later documents showed this poor performance continuing into December 1999. It was clear that the new financial year was going to show deteriorated trading and profitability performance compared with previous years.

There would seem to have been an obligation on the company to disclose the state of play to investors and would-be investors (ie the market), but instead the company went on what it called a ‘‘roadshow’’, telling would-be investors everything was fine and prospects were rosy.

A few weeks after the second dismal report on trading performance was made available to directors, one of them, DCC’s Flavin, initiated the sale of the DCC shareholding in Fyffes at a profit of more than €80 million. In so doing, he was egged on by other directors of Fyffes, including the then chairman.

On March 24, 2000, Fyffes issued a profit warning, essentially disclosing the very same information that the two internal documents had revealed about trading performance in November and December 1999.

Immediately the shares fell. Flavin had sold the DCC shares in Fyffes at €3.42 on average, but six weeks after the sale, following the profit warning, the shares were trading at €2.62 and by the end of April 2000 they were at €1.85.

Those who bought DCC’s shares at €3.42 in February had lost almost half their investment by the end of April.

Now the elders of the Irish business world are standing by Jim Flavin and nobody is pointing any fingers or saying there was anything amiss.

These elders include Maurice Keane, former head of the Bank of Ireland; Michael Buckley, former head of AIB; Bernard Somers, former director of the Central Bank; and Tony Barry, former head of CRH. All co-directors, with Flavin, of DCC.

A feature of the case which has been overlooked is a decision of the High Court to disregard Flavin’s claim that he was not the one who sold the shares on behalf of DCC. The High Court found this wasn’t so.

In other words, the High Court did not believe Flavin and, interestingly, this aspect of the case was not appealed to the Supreme Court; DCC didn’t think it worthwhile to attempt to vindicate the good name of its own executive chairman.

There is lots and lots of evidence that what happened in the Fyffes case is by no means unique. Again and again we see curious flurries of share transactions immediately before announcements of takeovers or mergers, for instance. This often involves hundreds of millions of euro.

And nothing at all is done about it. No enquiries, no prosecutions, no convictions, no jail terms. The whole bloody system stinks.
(Copyright.The Sunday Business Post).

a summary of decades of corruption in Fianna Fail.


Speech by Bernard Allen TD Fine Gael Spokesperson on Environment & Local Government, on the Third Interim Report of the Flood Tribunal, now called Mahon Tribunal in Dáil Éireann

Firstly I would like to thank Justice Flood for his tireless work in bringing to light a litany of corruption that has been a black mark against politics for twenty or more years.  It must also be noted that Justice Flood and the Tribunal legal team had to work in the face of stubborn refusals to co-operate with the Tribunal of Inquiry from the central people in the investigations.

Cutting through the golden circle of bribe givers and bribe takers this instance was not an easy task and we must all be grateful that Justice Flood with the help of his team was able to do that. He has exposed what has turned out to be a culture of corruption in certain quarters through the eighties and quite possibly beyond.  We must determine how deep this went now because the danger is that if this type of behaviour  is tolerated and left unpunished there is little reason why it could not go on regardless.

George Redmond received corrupt payments for using his official position to decide on a lower level of service charges and levies being charged on Forrest Road Lands.  The amount paid was 50% of what would have been payable had Redmond not intervened.  A mere 10% of the savings which was what Redmond has demanded netted him payments of over £12,000.  These payments were made by Joseph Murphy Jnr.  This is a flagrant abuse by a very important public official and while one incident doesn’t make a culture of corruption it does point to the possibility.  This is not a victimless crime.  We, the people, have to live in the areas poorly planned and make up the short falls in taxes.  The tribunal has decided that Redmond received `£15,000 from Joseph Murphy Jnr as compensation for not giving him the consultancy job.  This raises a question, for what did Joseph Murphy Jnr feel the need to compensate George Redmond.  What did he owe him for?

Further payments of between £16,000 and £20,000 were made by Michael Bailey to Mr Redmond which the Tribunal decided were corrupt.  No specific instance was used but the Tribunal decided that these payments were made to influence George Redmond in his official capacity.  The corrupt payments are shocking enough, but what is equally shocking is the fact that the Tribunal found that George Redmond, Joseph Murphy Jnr., Michael Bailey and Frank Reynolds hindered and obstructed the tribunal by various means.  Not alone have Redmond, Bailey and Murphy done wrong, but they are continuing to cover-up their wrong doing.  This begs the question, what would the tribunal have uncovered had these men cooperated with the Tribunal?

The can of worms is still fairly sealed; we have one person in jail for his behaviour.  What we need to see now is some kind of sanction against those who hinder, obstruct or fail to cooperate with the Tribunal.  We have heard the Ray Burke module and how several individuals failed to cooperate with the Tribunal then also.  We need to see action being taken to let people who are thinking of not fully cooperating with the tribunals that they will face punishment for such action.  If not legal punishment, then political and social ostracisation.  This is about protecting the heart of politics, the civil service and society in general and no longer should we tolerate the actions, past or present of the so-called loveable rogues.  This glamourisation that certain quarters of Fianna Fail have put on the actions in particular of former Fianna Fail Taoiseach Charles Haughey must stop.  People need to realise the damage to good planning and development corruption has done and can potentially do if left to flourish in dark corners with brown paper bags or whatever the modern day equivalent is.

We as politicians must send out a message to the people of Ireland that this type of behaviour is not only unacceptable, but more importantly, cannot happen again.  So I ask the question, can it?  Are there enough checks and balances in political life and for decision makers specifically?  Are Ministers who don’t give full answers to questions about their decisions sanctioned and exposed?  Are people told on what basis the decisions of the day are made, even after five years?  Are TDs who cheat on their taxes expelled from their political parties?  Is major legislation debated at length to a point where the public are aware of the main points and the opposition feel that while possibly not agreeing, that they too have had their say?  Does the Taoiseach give straight answers to straight questions?  Unfortunately no to all of the above.

The present Government tries to tell everyone that the tribunals are in the past and that the occurrences being inquired into couldn’t possibly happen today.  The Freedom of Information Act was enacted around the time when the revelations around Ray Burke were tearing a hole in the credibility of politics in this country.  Everyone welcomed the transparency and accountability that the act would bring to Irish politics.  It looked like we had learned the lessons of the past as all parties supported its introduction.  What has happened since is nothing short of a national disgrace. The Freedom of Information act has been crippled and the sponsoring Ministers for the amending legislation feared the backlash so much that they ran away to Cheltenham for its passage through the Dáil.

Content that the Government’s charade of being open had served its purpose to pacify a very angry electorate, the Amendment was put through after the 2002 General Election.  The accountability of this Government in the Dáil or anywhere else is at an all time low.  The Government’s position on so many issues has been fudged to ensure that for decisions made, no one has to take much responsibility, from reductions in CE schemes to rip-off Ireland and transport gridlock to housing this Government’s policies are ambiguous at best hypocritical at worst.  For example, on the one hand we had a Minister for Enterprise and Employment promising to tackle spiralling prices and on the other we had the Minister for Finance piling on the stealth taxes which dominated the inflation figure of 2003.

The drip-feed of supposedly secret documents from the Mahon tribunal’s next module points to a concerted effort to minimise the impact of the tribunal itself.  It seems likely that certain interests are hoping that the public will suffer tribunal fatigue long before damaging evidence is heard.  Every week a little bit more.

The tribunals of inquiry were set up by the Oireachtas on behalf of the people to find out what was going on in the 1980s.  One lesson the tribunals should have taught us is that a veil of secrecy and the brown envelope can go hand in hand and that if decision-makers must give comprehensive account for their decision, then brown envelopes become much less influential.  Guillotining legislation, Ministers who do not answer questions and a Taoiseach that will not answer straight questions is not good enough and the Flood Tribunal should have taught us that.

I want to finish by thanking Justice Flood for his major contribution to Irish political life and say this to the Government.  You can run, but you will not be allowed to hide

Sweetheart deals,October 2005,Business as usual.

MARINE Minister Pat 'the Cope' Gallagher has been ordered to appear before a Dail committee.

The minister has been asked to respond to the controversial awarding of a bid to build a new national conference centre in Dublin's docklands area.

Following a heated exchange yesterday between members of the Oireachtas Committee for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources and Dublin Port CEO Enda Connellan, Committee chairman Noel O'Flynn said he was not satisfied with the answers he had received from the chief executive and ordered the minister responsible to respond himself at the next committee meeting.

"There are many questions left unanswered. To satisfy itself, the committee needs to access all relevant documentation," he said.

Labour TD Tommy Broughan and Green Party TD Eamon Ryan grilled the head of the semi-State body over the project, stating they were astonished that the bid to turn over 32 acres of prime city centre land to the Anna Livia Consortium headed by Bennett Construction was done without inviting bids from rival developers first.

"This smells of a sweetheart deal," Mr Broughan told Mr Connellan when he questioned him on why the Code of Practice on the Governance of State Bodies was not followed. Under the Code, any contract valued at more than €70,000 should be put out to public tender.

"You didn't follow the Code of Practice and it was wrong of you to pursue this without going to tender," he charged. "It is a very unusual deal. How can you say you have the best deal if you only have one bidder?," Mr Ryan asked the CEO.

Dublin Port intends to re-develop the parcel of land located east of The Point Depot into a national conference centre.

Collins is the name- and Collins is the man!

Down Sarsfield country the Director of Public Prosecutions has ruled that Fianna Fail (Limerick) TD Michael Collins must face trial before the Circuit Criminal Court on charges he cheated on his taxes.

The former Fianna Fail TD appeared on remand before Newcastlewest District Court in Limerick in 2006 on two charges of having cheated on his taxes.

Mr Collins of White Oaks, Red House Hill, Patrickswell, Limerick has been an independent deputy for almost four years since resigning the FF parliamentary whip when his skullduggery first came to light. 

After his appearance, he smiled at several acquaintances in the court before being driven away by a family member.

The Limerick West TD is charged with cheating the Collector General between May 2 and May 31, 2002, by obtaining a tax clearance certificate after falsely claiming he was in compliance with his tax obligations at the time.

A second charge alleges Mr Collins, over the same dates and with the intent to defraud, also falsely presented, in an application to the Collector General, that he was in compliance with all his tax obligations. The charges are levelled under the Criminal Justice Act and the Tax Consolidation Act. He faces a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment if convicted.

Mr Collins initially appeared before Bruff District Court last week.

The court heard that on the instructions of the DPP, the matter would now be dealt with by trial.

An application was made for the case to be adjourned until September 28 to allow the State to complete the book of evidence. Judge Mary O'Halloran granted the application.

The two charges arose following a three-year investigation into allegations that Mr Collins had undeclared tax liabilities at the time he applied to the Collector General for a tax clearance certificate. This followed the revelation that Mr Collins had a bogus non-resident account.

A separate investigation by the Standards in Public Office Commission cannot be concluded until after the criminal proceedings are fully resolved.

Mr Collins has already indicated his intention to retire at next summer's general election,thereby avoiding a somewhat embarrasing re-election campaign for Fianna Fail. 

The Limerick West seat has been in the Collins family for over 60 years.We do not know how many years his off shore account was operational.

Only Revenue know all the facts-at last.!

One of his children are expected to take up the reins for Fianna Fail ,due to the political vacuum created by the retirement of this particular "stroker of destiny" ..

Invitation to lunch with Berties boys,5000Euros, "no favours expected"

Squeezing election fund donations from the golden circle...

"how is it that Fianna Fail can persuade savvy rich people to hand over €5,000 for dinner with their ministers.? There has to be more to it. The obvious inducements can hardly apply. So what could it be? Can’t think.
Unless . . .
Unless there was an understanding it would be worth their while. Of course that is the reason. They believe that by enduring a dinner with one of these geezers - plus the payment of €5,000 - they will get some advantage. These, by definition, are not stupid people.

They know that having the inside track with a minister matters.

A few excruciating hours - along with the €5,000 - is a small price to pay.

To put it at its least, many of them believe that, were they to refuse an invitation to attend one of these gigs and pay more than the €5,000, in tight calls affecting their financial and personal interests, the chances are that the decision might not go in their favour.

For 40 years now (since the days of TACA),we have known how this practice is corrupt.

Yet it goes on. Fianna Fail is not the only party to get up to this. Fine Gael tried it a few years ago - without much success, let it be said.

Labour in government tried it also - remember invitations being sent out for a lunch with Ruairi Quinn, then Minister for Finance, on the payment of a hefty sum?

But even if we were to believe that no favour was returned for such donations, it would still be corrupt.

A political system that depends for its funding on private finance is necessarily going to be biased in favour of those with disposable private finance to fund political parties. This is blindingly obvious.

The only way the system can be cleaned up is, not by making it more transparent and limiting the amounts of donations that can be contributed, but by ending it altogether.

Ban all private finance from the political system, including the private financing of political candidates themselves.

The political system should be financed on the basis of equality, with all parties receiving funding on the basis of fair criteria and all candidates being funded equally in an election - that is candidates who secure the endorsement of, say, 1 per cent of the electorate in any constituency.

The funding should come exclusively from the state.

The only argument advanced against this is that people would not countenance public money being spent on political parties.

But the electorate already countenances public money being spent on political parties and politicians and, if it were explained that the additional funding was the price for a fair electoral system, they would endorse that.

All the more so since the latest Fianna Fail fund-raising stunt is so obviously outrageous.

The only reason more is not made of this is because the opposition parties are so hopelessly compromised.

                                              (an article by Vincent Browne)

The legacy of Ray Burke.

As a result of Burke’s corruption hundreds of families live in overpriced housing in an area bereft of any infrastructure, facilities or proper finishing of their estates, thanks to poor rezoning decisions and the free march of speculators and developers.

The great-unanswered question of course is why despite warnings from people in his own party including Albert Reynolds did Bertie Ahern appoint Ray Burke to the cabinet in 1997 given the serious questions about his past political funding. What is also very clear is that despite previous assertions to the contrary, Ahern did very little to get to the truth of Burke’s corrupt activities. It is incredible that despite being "up every tree" in North Dublin that Ahern could not find a single thing to indicate that Burke was corrupt.

Fianna Fail are attempting to distance themselves from Burke as they did with Haughey, Lawlor and others but it just doesn’t wash. What Flood and other tribunal reports indicate clearly is that far from having one or two bad apples, corruption was rife in Fianna Fail at least from the mid 70’s until the 1990’s

 

The fight against corruption continues.

Streaming video from RTE has the news on the CAB and their efforts to recoup corrupt assets. Copy and paste into your browser. Download Realplayer for free first if you dont have it already.

http://switchboard.real.com/player/email.html?PV=6.0.12&&title=Nine%20News&link=http%3A%2F%2Fdynamic.rte.ie%2Fav%2F228%2D2160631.smil

Corruption.Buying the electorate(enough to get re-elected!)

Corruption does have victims

September 29th, 2002 , Topics: Uncategorized

The moll, all legs, stilettos and big hair, got out of the Ferrari and demanded a Harvey Wallbanger. The gangster was more subdued, but the mobile hitched to the belt of his Armanis did give him away. “Mr McWilliams, I would like a word,” he said in halting English with a heavy Bulgarian accent. Across the beach, beyond the 1960s style beach tents, the Black Sea stretched for miles. “One million dollars.” He didn’t repeat himself and knocked back his beer.

The blonde at this stage was getting giddy and I was nervous, having just been part of a team that had bought a beach resort for a western bank. Now the local hoodlum, who also happened to be an official in the region (Varna, one of Bulgaria’s finest tourist stretches) was looking for his cut. Corruption is everywhere there. When you come up against it, the first reaction is one of incredulity, followed by anger and resignation.

In our case, it was quickly established that this character was only a small time bluffer who could be seen off quite easily but I have no doubt that somewhere in the legitimate purchase price of the resort was more than a few Bulgarian levs for the local hardchaws.

International corruption indices show that, the poorer the country, the more likely it is to be corrupt. The evidence also reveals that the corruption itself makes countries poor because the dodgy characters drive out the straight businessmen and ultimately, investment and entrepreneurship suffer. The root cause of corruption lies in the delegation of power. Corruption will emerge in any country where the culture allows it, where local councillors or civil servants shrug their shoulders and turn a blind eye. In short, corruption is about bad government. The more licences and regulations, the more likely there is to be corruption. Incentives and opportunities for corruption depend on the size of the rents or the personal profit that the public official can derive from the stroke. Corruption therefore, occurs at those points where political, bureaucratic and economic interests coincide.

A quick trawl around the world indicates that there are three major forms of corruption. There is legislative corruption when politicians betray the electorate by selling their votes to pressure groups; administrative corruption when public officials take payoffs to allow someone to secure a procurement contract or to gain immunity for tax dodging. And there is the blatant Irish-style corruption where a government minister simply trousers the loot in return for a licence or planning permission. Opportunities for misdemeanour exist at every level, from grand corruption in the highest public office, to petty corruption at the lowest rung on the ladder. Our tribunals have thrown up all manner of dodgy dealings from the trivial to the monumental, but at every stage the public suffers.

In the heat of this week’s revelations, it is often forgotten that corruption is not a victimless crime. There are serious costs to an economy and we are all victims. Corrupt politicians are robbing us, plain and simple. The knock-on cost to the economy can be enormous. It is highly likely that emigration and taxes in the 1980s would have been lower, with wages higher and growth more robust had corruption not prevailed.

In addition, it is now also clear that among the social costs of corruption are soulless estates devoid of infrastructure in west and north Dublin. Citizens in socially-deprived areas are the victims and many are still living with the consequences of backhanders. By extension, it is highly likely that car insurance premiums, inflated as a result of joyriding, are related to corruption, as is the public bill for Garda and prison officers’ overtime. We could go on, but the point is simple — corruption has victims.

International evidence also shows a direct correlation between corruption and economic underperformance. A study of developing countries in 1997 (by the World Bank) found that if Egypt were to improve its corruption score from 4 out of 10 to 6 (where 0 means total corruption and 10 means none at all), the rate of investment would increase by 3 per cent and the growth rate would increase by 0.5 per cent. Another study (by the OECD) shows that a worsening of Singapore’s perfect score of 10 to that of Mexico’s 3.25 would have the same negative effect on the economy as raising the tax rate by 21 percentage points.

Corruption also tilts public spending towards projects that make it easier to collect on bribes at the expense of priority programmes. Hence the proliferation of “white elephant” projects in developing countries. Crucially, corruption can lower the quality of public goods and services and even threaten safety. The collapse of buildings in Seoul and the recent earthquakes fatalities in Turkey were partially blamed on substandard contracts and shabby construction.

Corruption also erodes the rule of law. If our politicians are not seen to be clean, then the rest of us will have a perceived reason to defraud the state as well. Thus, generalised tax evasion will thrive. More money will have to be extracted from areas of the tax system where corruption is not possible — such as PAYE workers — to pay for the services that everyone (the corrupt and the non-corrupt) benefit from. Corruption fuels the black market. And in the international context, it distorts programmes to combat poverty, undermining international aid and reconstruction programmes.

In Ireland, we appear to have a strange dichotomy. Most of the international evidence points to the effect of corruption on international investment. In many developing countries the civil service is corrupt and this militates against international investment. In Ireland, the situation appears to be different. The civil service here is by and large clean, smart and very efficient. In fact, many multinationals indicate that the quality of the civil service is one of the positive reasons to chose Ireland over other destinations. Irish corruption exists in the domestic, closed sector of the economy — in construction, planning and government licences. In short, when it comes to backhanders and dodgy envelopes, we are content to leave the foreigners alone, as long as we can rob each other.

Yet the perception of corruption in Ireland is having an effect on investors. Transparency International, the agency that ranks nations according to corruption, reveals that this year Ireland has slipped well down the index. Today in Europe, only Greece, Italy and Portugal are seen as being more corrupt than Ireland. This is a result of the revelations at the various tribunals. Far from this being a cleansing experience, as many would see it, the era of the tribunal is alerting foreigners to a lack of compliance at the highest levels of Irish society, and, according to the international evidence, this scares them.

Arguably more important than the absolute ranking is the direction in which Ireland is moving. Ireland used to be regarded as the 8th least corrupt country in the world; we are now 23rd. This slip has been all the more dramatic because countries with similar income levels have all risen in the ranking.

Ireland is now the only developed country in the world where international investors believe that corruption is getting worse. If we continue on this route, by 2005 we will be down there with the likes of Bulgaria and Romania.

Given the huge competitive pressures we are facing, the rise in the euro, the increase in our wages and the huge efforts the IDA is making to steer the economy onto a higher growth path, we should expect more from the ruling party than obfuscation, cute hoorism and denial.

Corruption hurts all of us. It is not a victimless crime and it is time our people woke up to this. 

              (From an article 2002 by david McWilliams) 

Fianna Fail the chamelion entity.All things to all men.

All things to all men

24 December 2006  By Pat Leahy
Every Fianna Fail sinew was strained last week to cast the Moriarty Report as a matter purely of historical interest.

The line set by the Taoiseach was that that was all in the past, and the past was a different country. They did things differently there. By God, they sure did.

Fianna Fail backbenchers were told to zip it. Don’t give the news cycle a ‘‘Fianna Fail reacts’’ phase. Let the journos hack their way through the report and keep your mouth shut. If pressed on specifics, the only thing we say is the old reliable - ‘‘Our legal advisers are examining the report.”

Otherwise, it’s the Bertie line: sure that’s all in the past. And didn’t we set up the tribunal?
Anyone who spoke off the record pointed to the current Taoiseach’s condemnation of Haughey’s behaviour, and it is true that Bertie Ahern has been unambiguous in his rejection of Haughey’s conduct over 30 years of what we now know to have been a combination of demanding money with menaces, shameless begging and outright thievery from the state, the party and his sick friend.

Trouble is, Ahern has been equally unambiguous - most eloquently at Haughey’s grave - in claiming Haughey as one of their own. Boss, friend, leader, Fianna Failer.

What’s clear, from the sections of the report that concern Fianna Fail’s own operations, is that Haughey was able to behave as he did because the party effectively operated a ‘‘don’t ask, don’t tell’’ policy with regard to the leader’s finances, fundraising and spending.

To anyone who knows the internal workings and culture of the party nowadays, it’s clear that, in some respects, that policy is still in operation. Did anyone in the party seriously question the Taoiseach’s account of his financial past when it exploded into public view three months ago? How many questions have been asked about the fundraising of Des Richardson?

But for anyone with an election on their mind - and that’s everyone in every party - the important question arising out of last week’s report is: how will it affect our politics in the future?

On past experience, Moriarty will have little effect on our politics, at least in terms of our electoral politics, for two reasons.

First, Bertie Ahern has largely convinced the public that all that was then, and this is now. He has done this principally in two ways - by enacting a raft of ethics legislation and rules governing the collecting and spending of political donations.

Never mind that it’s at least arguable that the entire ethics and political funding legal architecture serves to afford no more than a veneer of accountability and disclosability. This also leaves the back door open for the political advantages of money to buy influence.

The laws are there and Ahern can claim credit for many (though not all, as he often claims) of them. Moreover, he can use them as a deflector shield when confronted by the sometimes murky recent past of his party.

The second reason why Ahern has managed largely to neutralise the political downside of the age of tribunals is that he is, manifestly and conspicuously, as different from Haughey in the way he chooses to live his life as it is possible to be.

He is very well paid and will be enormously well-pensioned.

Presumably, given the nature of life as Taoiseach and the limited time it affords for spending on leisure time and pursuits, he is in the happy position of enjoying an enormous credit balance - now that he has a bank account. But despite this, Ahern has lived a modest and frugal life. So, contrary to their political similarities, he is almost the anti-Haughey. This was also key to his great escape in October.

Largely for these reasons, the public has repeatedly shown that it does not much care to let the tribunal revelations influence its vote. In the two elections since the corruption of Haughey and others was made known to the public, they have chosen to elect a Fianna Fail-led government.

In the second of those elections, after five full years of revelations about mostly Fianna Fail politicians of all grades, the public voted for them in greater numbers than at any time since 1989.

Political sources in all parties say that voters don’t appear to care that much about the corruption that ten years of tribunals have revealed.

At least, they don’t seem to care about it in such away that would lead them to punish Fianna Fail at the ballot box – much to the exasperated bemusement, and sometimes irritation, of the opposition.

Exit polls after the 1997 elections showed that just 6 per cent of voters cited ‘honesty’ as influencing their vote. In 2002, this figure had risen to 18 per cent - considerably larger but still well behind health, crime and managing the economy.

Another poll, in 2002, cited ‘honesty and integrity’ as influencing the vote of just 13 per cent of voters - compared to 70 per cent who said the health services influenced their vote, and 23 per cent who cited education.

Another way of looking at this was that the opposition’s attempts throughout the 2002 campaign to make ethics in politics an issue in the election simply failed to catch on with voters.

Could this change? Well, anything can change in politics.

But on the evidence of the last two elections, and watching opinion polls in the lifetime of this government, it doesn’t seem terribly likely.

That’s not to say that there aren’t political dangers for the Taoiseach and his party in last week’s report. The sheer volume of information in it will provide further avenues for inquiry by the opposition and media alike, and there is always a fear in Fianna Fail that something awful for them could break at any time.

Will the party seek to recover money from the Haughey estate? Will any of the witnesses - many of whom have been criticised by the report - change their stories?

Remember Sean Doherty, who changed his story a decade on and brought down a taoiseach. Might any of the documents that the tribunal has been unable to recover find their way into the public domain?

Bertie Ahern’s account of events has been accepted by the tribunal, and he has not been subjected to any damaging criticism. He says he didn’t know of Haughey’s thieving, and he signed blank cheques for administrative expedience.

That is fair enough, even if he’s chancing his arm when he says - as he did last week - that everybody in the country was signing blank cheques (don’t forget, this was a time when he says he had no bank account himself).

But all it takes for a whole heap of trouble to start is one credible witness to come forward, or one piece of evidence that says - Bertie knew.

There’s another factor.

Those in the media who were around to cover the Haughey years have good reason to feel that they didn’t do at least one part of their job as well as they should.

They may well feel they should make amends by scrutinising Ahern more closely.

And there are questions that present themselves about Ahern’s own financial past.

Certainly, a number of his own supporters - some of them in very senior positions - don’t believe he told the whole truth about his finances.

The media and the opposition have shied away from any further questioning about his finances since the October controversy, but they may not stay away. And if he’s shown to have misled anyone, then he’s in trouble.

We’re also heading into what will be the most expensive election campaign in Irish history.

Money talks in politics. Academic studies confirm what all politicians and political operatives know from experience - spending more money gives candidates and parties a significant advantage over their rivals.

For the next six months, money will be washing around our political system, not just for Fianna Fail, but for other parties too. Monitoring the relationship between money and politics, and money and politicians, might be the best reaction to the efforts and findings of Moriarty