Tuesday December 23 2008
Thus, the emblem of all that's corrupt in Robert Towne's dazzling screenplay for Polanski's greatest film. But with all its depravity and complexity, not even 'Chinatown' could begin to explain the latest grotesque revelations about our banking system; and Christ help us, with more to come.
After all, we've had nearly two decades of tribunals, costing the taxpayer hundreds of millions of euro, and I really thought that they had created a culture of obedience and conformity. Why on earth did I think that?
For God's sake, look at the results. At least one hundred barristers turned into millionaires, and just two people jailed: and they had to really work at it, studiously perjuring themselves, until they were blue in the face. And not one culprit was even remotely impoverished as a consequence of the tribunals' revelations. As for Charlie Haughey, the worst of the lot, he got a permanent Stay Out of Jail Card, followed by a lavish state funeral.
He was central to the most morally deforming event in Irish history since the Civil War: the creation of the Provisional IRA by elements of Fianna Fail.
The same party in more recent times has presided over much of the subsequent and moral despoliation which has, once again, returned us to the condition of the 1980s: a wretched client-state, dependent on outsiders to save the vessel of our quasi-sovereignty, after we ourselves had holed it.
Why were we so naive? It was pathetic, stupid, unworldly, to think so well of this State, or its people. After all, who is the first TD elected in Co Mayo, but the crook, Beverley Flynn, now back in Fianna Fail? Who is the first TD home in Tipperary, but the crook, Michael Lowry, upon whom this Government now depends? Who was the first TD to be elected in Dublin North for decades but Charles Haughey, National Corrupter-in-Chief, co-founder of the Provisional IRA, and Prime Begetter of the GUBU culture which dominated this State for decades? And as the State lurches towards one of the greatest crises in its history, our political classes are vanishing on a 40-day holiday.
Nor is it a question merely of politicians. For whose voice, pray, was it on RTE Radio, daily denouncing Sean FitzPatrick for Taking What Was Not His? None other than Pat Kenny. And this is the fine fellow whose legal counsel declared in court last April that he, Kenny, had been (though these words are mine, not counsel's) Taking What Was Not His, by claiming property to which he wasn't financially entitled by Adverse Possession: that is, by covertly (though legally) squatting on land in Killiney, worth some two million euro.
This admission did not result in the instant termination of his career with RTE: no, quite the reverse. For Kenny was allowed to continue presenting his radio programmes even after his court case had started.
No other public broadcasting service in Europe would have allowed such a travesty, or retained the services of a senior radio or television presenter/interviewer who had planned such a grubby acquisition.
"Not illegal" is not a defence for a man who must question politicians about their shady dealings, and must be above all reproach. Can you imagine a Dimbleby contemplating such a sly deed, or his counsel making such an admission? Can you imagine the BBC then keeping his services?
And what of our many other scandals? What indeed! FAS today and gone tomorrow, in the rising and falling tides of disclosure and amnesia: for what is revealed by Moriarty or Mahon or the media one day, then briefly festers upon the Sandymount Strand of national consciousness, stinking out the capital for a day or so, before being erased by the tides of time and of fresh revelation.
Middle-aged journalists who arrived young and callow at their trade have since acquired paunches and bald pates covering the tribunals, and the slurry being daily deposited on this Sandymount. And still the dawn tides bring fresh detritus ashore, as if from an inexhaustibly corrupted sea. As it was, so is it still, and ever more shall be so.
And why not? For as a society, we cherish crack over decency, charm over probity, cuteness over intelligence, wit over honesty and charisma over integrity. The all-singing, all-dancing, wisecracking Irishman of public life is often enough the apex of an entire pyramid of scheming, calculating, self-promoting, lying charlatans, with their compliant, time-serving state-appointed stooges further down the foodchain.
Right next to Sandymount, and alongside the banking sector of Dublin 4, which has been the source of so much recent filth, is Ringsend, a truly apposite place name to remind us how we have been buggered, sodomised and violated by those priapic, hearty alpha-males of Irish commerce and banking, with their loud gymnasium laughs and their large, glossy cars, all aided by their obliging serfs in the secretariats of government and finance. But the real and irredeemable heart of this corruption is defined by yet another city district, one which lies between Ringsend and Sandymount, and which really sums up the entire State.
Forget it, Jake. It's Irishtown.