How To Stop This

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From top: Cllr Hugh McElvaney; Cllr Joe O’Donnell; Anne-Marie McNally

Tackling low standards in high places.

Will the government choose party politics over the implementation of a real solution?

Anne-Marie McNally writes:

If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck then it must be…..a goat. Right?! Well if you are to look at Irish political discourse in the past 48 hours then you could be forgiven for assuming so.

On Monday night the nation sat with bated breath (I may be exaggerating slightly so chill out in the comments) and waited for the much anticipated RTÉ Investigates programme into dodgy local politics in Ireland.

The programme focussed in on the almost ludicrous shenanigans of local councillors but it’s also worth remembering that a brief mention was given at the top of the programme to a number of TDs who had under-declared their assets on the register of interests.

They had ‘forgotten’ to do so it seems. Funnily enough, as soon as RTÉ mooted its impending programme those same TDs suddenly remembered and appropriate declarations were made. Go figure.

So Monday night we sat and watched as elected officials offered to trade services for payments. Decisions regarding vital topics such as planning were being offered for financial reward –in one case “ten grand – a nice little figure.” We watched, we tut-tutted, we wrung the hands and we shouted things at the telly. If twitter and Facebook are anything to go by, we did so collectively, as a nation.

Let’s call a spade a spade here. Offering to skew a political decision for financial gain is corruption. It is an illegal act. To engage in same is to break the law and to fundamentally undermine the democratic system thereby making you unfit for elected office.

Yet we are still hesitant in public discourse to use words like corrupt or corruption. This morning’s reporting of the issues raised by the programme spoke in terms of ‘breaches of standards in public office’ and ‘possible illegality’.

It speaks volumes that on foot of the programme airing not one of the Councillors featured engaging in these acts has actually resigned from public office (at the time of writing). That you could actually have the gall to hold onto your public office after knowing the nation watched you engaging in those acts is breath-taking but unfortunately not surprising.

The general consensus is that these things come and go; ‘ah it’s a storm that’ll blow over’ being the generally held opinion of those who have brass necks. And why wouldn’t they assume that opinion when they are fully aware that the mechanisms of the State to actually penalise them for such acts are wholly insufficient and when those acts are not even termed as ‘corrupt’ when being discussed in the public domain?

The laissez-faire culture we adopt in relation to corruption – or whatever more asinine term you want to apply to it – is an enabler for those who have spent their political life in the nudge-nudge, wink-wink territory that is so synonymous with Irish life. But it has to stop.

Public engagement in the democratic process is vital – without it we are a democracy in name only however it is unfair and impractical to ask citizens to engage in a democratic process that they simply cannot or will not trust. Legislators have a duty to craft a democracy which brings people into the system rather than shutting them out.

Enda and the rest of the Government TDs and those before them can point to various bits of inadequate legislation and disjointed and fragmented bodies and agencies – but they cannot point to a real and meaningful solution or to any evidence that the current regime has been successful in stamping inherent corruption from Irish political life.

Tonight in the Dáil, at roughly 9pm, there will be a vote on the Social Democrats proposal to establish a one-stop shop, with full investigative and enforcement powers to tackle corruption. The very thing that SIPO officials, and so many commentators say is needed – an Independent Anti-Corruption Agency.

Tune in and watch how many, from either side of the house will choose party politics over the implementation of a real solution to the toxic political culture that pervades our democracy. Then remember that vote when watching the next RTÉ Investigates and wringing your hands – because trust me, there will be another one…and another one after that too unless the lip service stops and the solutions begin.

Anne-Marie McNally is a political and media strategist working with Catherine Murphy TD and will be a candidate for the Social Democrats in the forthcoming General Election. Follow Anne-Marie on Twitter: @amomcnally

48 thoughts on “How To Stop This

  1. Jimmee

    Standing on the side lines wringing your hands and grinding your teeth is a lost cause. Sure, a few Soc Dems might get elected but look how far Dessie O’Malley got in trying to straighten out FF in 1989. But whatever makes you happy I suppose.

    1. alan

      I’ll tell you what would make me happy, Jimmee — not having to read defeatist baaa-ing like your above comment.

  2. ahyeah

    A large percentage of our pathetic little nation would vote a terrorist as it’s leader. Why then are we surprised that such devious, duplicitous behaviour is tolerated.

    1. Neilo

      @ahyeah: Agree wholeheartedly re the threat from the political inheritors of The Physical Force Tradition™

    2. Tish Mahorey

      LOLz, invoking IRA past in response to current and widespread criminal corruption among Fine Gael members. Brilliant.

      1. ahyeah

        Tish tosh tish. A nation that is tolerant of Sinn Fein /IRA corruption and terrorism is a nation that tolerate all forms of corruption. Why are you shrilling Fine Gael when I made no such reference.

  3. ahyeah

    The political system has never changed anything. Change necessarily comes from below. As an electorate, we need to look at ourselves. When someone like Lowry gets elected time and time again, these fu(kers rightly reckon that getting caught will be mildly embarrassing and a little awkward. for a while, but there won’t be any other consequences. Being corrupt is well worth the risk.

    1. postmanpat

      Half of what you say is true. But as an electorate its not our responsibility for laws that already exist to be enforced. We don’t ” need to look at ourselves” and vote another way at the next election and another way the next and so on. If anything we need to excommunicate the likes of these people permanently, old school, perfectly legal, businesses reserved the right to refuse services, to them , there spouses , there mistresses and offspring. Turn them into living ghosts. But not only are people generally soft and to forgiving , they are also opportunist snakes. Just look as the huge crowds of support at these public officials rallies. sycophants cheering and clapping like imbeciles . Remember the crowds in Cavan having a parade for Sean Quinn in 2012? god knows there would be a huge turn out at a support rally for these (*nts (if they ever got prosecuted , which they wont) . I can see it now , all of Monaghan out in droves kissing Hughs hole because he might have bought the odd round here and there. That’s all it takes to buy a vote in a country town, that ,and fast tracking the odd passport for farmer Joes wife who’s flying next week and forgot to renew. Remember Frosses, Donegal? No , you cant just vote away your problems and think things are ever going to change. Corruption attracts the corruptible, It doesn’t matter who you vote for, they are all the same. When caught they lie. deny , deny , deny . lie some more . then say sorry and all’s forgiven.

  4. Billy Joan

    notable how Simon Coveney changed the register on Dec 4 and there wasn’t a peep from RTE about that

  5. scottser

    so mcelvaney resigns from the party and the council, so what? he’s sitting on a 16m waste recycling business, a pub, acres of land etc. surely all this information should be given to the criminal assets bureau?

    1. Hank

      Exactly what I was thinking when I was watching it.
      Why aren’t the CAB being brought in to investigate these scumbags?

      1. Pawel

        Take bribe of 10k 1,600 times then you will have 16 million

        Every little helps as they say at the Tescos.

        Besides that 16 million is probably being divvied out to a whole slew of sleeveens.

    1. ahjayzis

      FF councillor resigned.

      From FF.

      Can’t be bringing disrepute on the party.

      Disrepute onto public office though? Be grand, sure.

      1. meadowlark

        Why is there no drive to have them removed and investigated? They have so patently failed in their duty of care. It is sickening stuff.

        1. John

          “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone”

          I think some lad said that a couple of thousand years ago

  6. fluffybiscuits

    An important point is that there is no deterrent. Firstly SIPO has very little in terms of teeth with which they can do anything with, this was obvious when they asked groups like Youth Def to register if I remember but to my knowledge and Im open to correction they never did. Secondly such powers need to be improved upon so SIPO can have a lot more bite. They are part of the Ombudsman office which is independent and is responsible for govt oversight.

    1. Lorcan Nagle

      Exactly. And even when we prove people like Michael Lowry are corrupt, nothing happens. Hell, during the Mahon Tribunal’s questioning of Bertie Ahern I remember a newspaper editorial in defence of him with the headline “there’s nothing wrong with a bit of chancing”.

      There’s no incentive for politicians in this country not to be on the take.

  7. ahjayzis

    The point made the other night stuck with me.

    Western Australia, population 2+ million, 130 people employed to root out and prosecute corruption and white collar crime.

    Ireland, population 4+ million, THIRTEEN people with insufficient powers and resources, ignored when they point out same.

    Western Australia isn’t even a country, like.

      1. ReproBertie

        It really is bizarre that the people in power aren’t that concerned with having themselves investigated.

  8. Kdoc

    The problem is us. The people vote for these shysters knowing full well the type of low moral character they possess. I believe many aspire to be like them and admire their cute hoorism. Paraphrasing what a radio show guest said yesterday: the elected representatives are a mirror of society.

    1. Medium Sized C

      In fairness to “us”….. It may not be immediately apparent that a given person is a shyster before they are caught engaging in shysterism.

      Such is the nature of the shyster, that they tend to hide their inclination to shyst.

      1. Kdoc

        Are you telling me that the people viewed the likes Ray Burke, Charlie Haughey,Liam Lawlor, Michael Lowry et al as choir boys? Of course not , they admired, and still admire and vote for the strokers.

  9. Eoin

    It is amazing when on one hand you have the Jobstown protesters (who delayed Joan Burton for a few minutes), being railroaded into court, with a Garda escort, just to make sure they are seen doing the ‘perp walk’. And on the other hand you got these councilors, seemingly caught red handed, on camera, who don’t even have to resign.
    It’s also amazing that the default government line is attacking RTE while sweeping this all under the carpet. You only attack whistle blowers to cover up the corruption YOU KNOW exists. I dunno what Jim Daly and FG are thinking by attacking RTE here.

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