00:00 Saturday 11 June 2011  Written by Archon

No political corruption in Ireland!

THERE is no political corruption in Ireland. No bribery, no kickbacks, no cronyism, no nepotism, no patronage, no graft, no lying, no cheating, and no improper influencing of political decisions.

In fact there is nothing to tarnish our disposition towards political piety except, possibly, a long established consensus that what is good for the politico is good for the country. We can do nothing about that as it is a principle thoroughly implanted in the national consciousness by outstanding leaders such as Garret the Good, Spring the Good, Bertie the Good, Biffo the Good and now Enda and Eamon the Good.

Indeed, Éire should consider itself lucky to possess a coalition of conservative parties with such a concurrence of interest because in these dark times the precept that what is good for the politico is good for the country guarantees that as many friends as possible of the parties in power can enjoy personal advantage.

That was the case during Fianna Fáil administrations, and there is no reason to think the new Fine Gael-Labour coalition will be any different. Éire, after all, has long been the envy of places like the Congo, Venezuela and Haiti.

Of course, some misguided people allege the existence of buckets of corruption but, in fact, decades of tribunals and investigations have come up with nothing, absolutely nothing.

Silence is golden

Even the recent Moriarty Tribunal, which was riddled with appalling accusations of unsavoury connections between Big Business and Fine Gael, ended not with arrests, convictions or demands for restitution, but silence.

Once it became clear that the legislators didn't care about the Tribunal's conclusions, public opinion moved quickly to acknowledge that the Good Mr Michael Lowry, the Good Mr Denis O'Brien and the Good Mr Ben Dunne had been innocent victims of a monstrous conspiracy, which was what they had been saying all along.

Within a week of the Tribunal's revelations of secret payments to politicians, the country moved on. A new coalition was in town and it wasn't interested in silly tribunals and that sort of thing.

Real politics were what mattered, such as the announcement by the virtuous Mr Richard Bruton to slash the wages of the poorest workers. At the same time, 19 honourable former senators were given lump sums that averaged almost €229,000 each.

For instance, the celebrated Ivor Callely, who had problems relating to travel expenses with the Oireachtas Select Committee on Members' Interests, received a Senate termination tribute that came to almost a quarter of a million euros and a €63,000 a year pension for the rest of his life.

Poisonous cynicism

Needless to say, the senators, including Mr Callely, were entitled to the largesse for their contribution to the common good. No government party objected to the payout because, of course, the politicians had a longstanding agreement on what the redundancy terms should be.

Political generosity extends even to Mr Kenny's very best pals, the chaps who write the marvellous speeches that contain uplifting echoes of other speeches. Four will get over half a million a year to share, a far cry from the €370 a week that the checkout girl earns.

Yet, despite evidence that Éire is a place of great political rectitude, Sinn Fein and the Bolshies assert that inequality produces a poisonous cynicism that infects the body politic.

They claim that the lack of trust in politicos continues to fester, as does public frustration, hopelessness and disillusionment. For many people, every politico is full of crap, and that's it.

Gilmore the Good is a case in point. Wikileaks revealed last week that at the time of the second Lisbon referendum, he explained to the US Embassy that his 'public posture' of opposition to the Treaty was the opposite of what he believed and intended doing. His extraordinary attitude was 'politically necessary', he said.

A Sunday newspaper declared Gilmore had not a shred of credibility left, but did anyone care? No! And why not!

No porkies

Because, while Gilmore may have been guilty of a terminological inexactitude, he did not lie. And, that's the bottom line. No Irish politician lies. Mental reservations yes, putting a gloss on things yes, but never downright lies. Enda the Good may have 'exaggerated' in order to get into government but no one accuses him of lying. Lies smack of political corruption and Éire doesn't do that.

Still and all, there is disquiet among mainstream politicians. For instance Fine Gael's new boy, Jerry Buttimer, recently sought a specific assurance from the Government that proposed legislation would hold business types to account - which was a tacit recognition that in the Land of Nod, all may not be what it should be.

Perhaps the thought had crossed Deputy Buttimer's mind that the close relationship between Éire's political and business elite was not healthy and that it was the elite's forgive and forget culture that plunged the State into the economic wasteland that some of us now inhabit.

Of course the forgiving and forgetting culture of former days did not just eventually impact on Fianna Fáil politicos. Nice people such as the Ballydehob builder, Greg Coughlan, were also victims. The poor chap was obliged to vanish off the face of the earth after failing to obey court orders aimed at executing a judgment against him for unpaid property loans.

He was the co-founder of Howard Holdings, a property company that transformed a large part of Cork city. The Irish Examiner noted that the judge commented that Coughlan was evading arrest and that he would not have him 'thumbing his nose' at court orders.

Good advice?

Seanie Fitzpatrick, the 'world's worst banker,' is another. He is the public face of the economic collapse and, fair deuce to him, continues to enjoy his round of golf at the Druids Glen. Michael Fingleton, the Irish Nationwide boss, happily sits on a €20 million pension pot, while David Drumm runs a successful financial advice company in Boston thanks to a €3.9 million nest egg.

Indeed, the 'forgive and forget' culture is part of what we are, or at least part of a unique system of elitist government. And it works in the sense that few politicos want to change the system.

For instance, at Seanie's last public appearance, where he addressed an audience of distinguished political and business people, he advised the government to 'kill off the sacred cows of universal child benefit and pensions in the budget.' Loud applause greeted his observation.

To judge by the recent attack on benefits to ordinary people, the head honchos in Fine Gael and Labour also nodded in approval and bookmarked the recommendation for 'future action'. And, that's the kind of politics we have.

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