From the Attic Archives 25 June 1994

Sir,

The concern expressed by the banking community at the prospect of regulation by the Director of Consumer Affairs could be well founded.

I recently discovered that my bank had been overcharging me for its services.

On the reasonable presumption that my experience was not unique and that there might be, as the judges say, a lot of this sort of thing going on, I wrote to the Central Bank suggesting improvements in the format of bank-statements.

I also suggested that banks, like other providers of goods and services, should be required to invoice customers for bank-charges before they dipped into their customers’ accounts.

I subsequently received a letter from the ‘Credit Institutions Supervision Department’ of the Central Bank, informing me that the Central Bank “would have no objections” if the banks were to revise their procedures.

No wonder the banking community is quaking in its well-heeled boots at the prospect of losing the protection of such an amenable ‘regulator’.

Yours etc.,

Peter Murray
Carrigaline
Co Cork

Points to note from this 20 year old letter:

The so-called Financial regulator did not regulate financial institutions at that time, it was a free for all.

The fact that there was no financial regulation whatsoever allowed financial institutions to engage in widespread criminality.

The decision by the corrupt political/administrative system to allow the rampant growth of our Wild West financial culture played a major role in the widespread improvishment of millions of Irish citizens post the 2008 crash.

And, most importantly, the exact same culture exists today. There is no effective financial regulation in Ireland.

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There’s talk that Leo Varadkar may be made Minister for Health which just confirms how angry Enda is over his recent loose cannon comments.

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I agree with this letter writer that the Irish Times is not the paper it used to be. In recent times it has lost its cutting/challenging edge and become much more conservative.

Sir.

I was taken aback by your leader on Saturday (April 19th) apologising for a cartoon by Martyn Turner about priestly responsibility for reporting child abuse and the seal of the confessional.

You commented that “Turner also took an unfortunate and unjustified sideswipe at all priests, suggesting that none of them can be trusted with children”.

Turner’s cartoon is entirely justified and fair comment given the record of the Catholic Church in recent decades.

The Catholic clergy individually and collectively tried to cover up the dreadful sexual exploitation of children by some priests.

In saying “some priests” I accept the abusers were a minority. But that minority were tolerated by their fellow priests, who kept their heads down or co-operated with the church policy of moving paedophile offenders from parish to parish when caught out.

The Catholic clergy didn’t produce any whistleblowers to expose what was going on. Instead the truth had to be painfully dragged out of the Church authorities by brave victims and their supporters before the Irish hierarchy grudgingly admitted what was happening.

This was the context for the cartoon in last Wednesday’s paper which has so upset Catholic clergy and some lay supporters.

The fact is that parents of young children will not risk leaving them alone now with priests. Martyn Turner’s critics did not deserve any apology and certainly not in a leader under the – appropriately phrased – heading “An editorial lapse”.

If that leader represents the current editorial policy of The Irish Times I regret to say it is no longer the paper I worked for proudly as a journalist in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

Yours, etc,

DON BUCKLEY

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The two former directors of Anglo Irish Bank who were found guilty of providing illegal loans to ten businessmen to buy shares in the bank could face up to five years in prison.

William McAteer and Pat Whelan will be sentenced on 28 April next. Will they sent down for five years? – definitely not.

Will they get four years? – No.

Will they get three years? – No.

Will they get two years? – No.

Will they be thrown in the slammer for 12 months? – No.

Six months, anybody – No.

A month? – No.

A week? – No.

A day? – No.

What then?

Maybe community service and a small fine – maybe.

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Yesterday, RTEs John Murray Show, hosted by Kathryn Thomas, began with the following skit at the expense of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Lads, what do you make of the former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, he’s some buck. I nearly fell off my chair watching the news last night listening to it.

He’s lost his appeal against a four year conviction for fraudulent accounting at a media firm and apparently the 77 year old is too old to go to jail in Italy so he’s been banned from leaving the region of Lombardy.

He has an eleven pm curfew (laughter) and he has to do four hours community service a week in an old folks home. So I suppose he’ll be finally hanging out with people his own age.

Let me know what you think.

Clearly, RTE sees the Italian way of dealing with political corruption as hilarious.

Curioiusly, the station’s listeners don’t seem to share the same sense of humour. I listened to the show while doing something else but I’m pretty sure not a single response was read out in support of the skit.

In fact the item seems to have been dropped completely.

This is very unusual as there is almost always a big response to such invitations for humourous comment from the Irish public.

I suspect this was because the overwhelming reaction was similar to the email I sent in – which, of course, was not read out.

On Berlusconi:

Italy is generally seen as the most corrupt country in Europe and yet they have put a corrupt former Prime Minister through their court system showing that at least they are acting against even the most powerful.

The people of Ireland can only look on with envy and wonder if they will ever see their justice system make a Prime Minister or former Prime Minister accountable.

They would not be advised to hold their breadths

Anthony Sheridan
Cobh

Copy to:
John Murray Show

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On 4 March last I phoned the office of the Minister for Justice to find out the names of the Gardai who, we are told, were disciplined for their part in the penalty points scandal.

The Department has refused to answer my question.

I was informed by the Information Ombudsman that I could make a formal complaint if no substantial reply was received after six weeks.

I have removed the name of the civil servant with whom I have been in communications with on this matter.

My complaint was made on an official form on the Ombudsman’s website hence the structure.

Which public body is your complaint about? The Department of Justice.

When did the action you are now complaining about take place? 4 March and on going.

Please tell us: What happened? Where did it happen? Who was involved? How were you affected?

The Department of Justice is, effectively, refusing to answer a question.

The sequence of events are as follows:

4 March: I emailed the following question to the Minister for Justice.

To Whom It May Concern:

It is public knowledge that a number of Gardai have been punished as a result of the penalty points controversy.
I request the name, rank, location and punishment meted out to the Gardai in question.

If this is not possible I request the regulation/legislation under which it is not possible.

Yours sincerely

Anthony Sheridan

5 March: I received the following acknowledgement.

Dear Mr Sheridan,

I write to acknowledge receipt of your email dated 4 March, 2014.
Yours sincerely,

Minister for Justice and Equality

13 March: I sent the following email to the Minister for Justice

Dear Mr.

I would be grateful if you could give a rough indication of when I could expect a reply to my email of 4 March last.

Yours sincerely
Anthony Sheridan

13 March: Received the following acknowledgement.

Dear Mr. Sheridan,

I write to acknowledge receipt of your email dated 13 March, 2014.

Yours sincerely,
Minister for Justice and Equality

20 March: Rang the Information Ombudsman and was advised that I could make a formal complaint if no substantial reply was received after six weeks.

2 April: I sent the following email to the Minister for Justice.

Dear Mr.

I would be grateful if you could give a rough indication of when I could expect a reply to my email of 4 March last.

Yours sincerely
Anthony Sheridan

2 April: Received the following acknowledgement.

Dear Mr Sheridan,

I wish to acknowledge receipt of your latest email of 02 February 14.
Your previous correspondence is currently being dealt with and a further reply will issue as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely

It is now six weeks since I submitted my question without a substantial reply. This question could have been answered within an hour or, at most, within 24 hours.

It is reasonable, therefore , to assume that the Department is refusing to answer the question.

I submit my complaint.

What do you want the public body to do to put things right?

Answer the question.

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The Irish Examiner editorial describes the latest revelations in the Ian Bailey case as mind boggling.

That Gardai may have considered paying someone in order to frame a man for murder is described as not only corrupt but almost unbelievable.

The Irish Times speaks of an appalling vista and grave national concern that Gardai may have acted illegally in securing convictions in the courts.

And yet this stuff is old hat, it’s all happened before. Garda corruption in Donegal involved a whole range of crimes including framing a man for murder.

Nobody was charged, some were allowed to retire on full pension and, to my knowledge, just three gardai were fired.

In other words, major criminal acts carried out by police officers and confirmed by an Oireachtas inquiry were effectively ignored.

The political response was exactly the same as the response we are now witnessing in respect of the latest scandals.

Denial, useless internal reports, full support for the Gardai and minister, promises to legislate to prevent it happening again blah, blah, blah….

The then Justice Minister McDowell and his civil servants who drafted and introduced the ‘this must never be allowed to happen again’ legislation must have been complete morons or they deliberately drafted the law to ensure the minister and Gardai remained unaccountable.

I suspect most intelligent citizens would opt for the latter explanation.

So what’s happening now?

Well, editorials are expressing shock and outrage, politicians are expressing their unqualified confidence in the minister and the Garda and everybody is supremely confident that the interim Garda Commissioner, Noirin O’Sullivan, will act decisively to reform the force.

So let’s have a look at what she has done to restored confidence and clean out the corruption that’s obviously rampant within the force.

She has decided to leave in place the punishment meted out to completely vindicated Garda Maurice McCabe by her predecessor.

And she’s conducting a survey to ask rank and file members how the organisation can be improved.

Pathetic and all a bit sad so to finish I’ll express the brutal truth.

Corruption is rampant within the Gardai because our corrupt political/administrative system, by doing nothing, allowed that corruption to flourish.

That rotten system will do nothing in this instance. Things will remain exactly as they are, exactly as they were allowed to remain following the Morris Tribunal.

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So what are we to make of the obnoxious Mr. Shatter’s decision to absent himself from the annual conference of the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors?

Well, in two words – pathetic and cowardly

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I’m shocked, shocked to my core I tell you on hearing the advice given to the jury by the Anglo Irish Bank trial judge.

Judge Martin Nolan told them they must have moral courage when considering their verdict.

But…but…that means they’ll be using a concept that’s completely foreign to bankers… and that’s just not fair.

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I recently received an email from the Department of Education in response to a query which included the following sentence.

To assist you, the following links provide answers to queries frequently raised by our customers.

I find the use of the term ‘customers’ to be obnoxious. I am not a customer of any government agency, I am a citizen of the State within which every government agency works on my and every other citizen’s behalf.

Somewhere along the line there was a culture change when some politician/civil servant decided that the term ‘citizen’ bestowed too much respect on citizens. It was decided to create a culture whereby the state raised itself to a position above that of the great unwasahed.

It was decided that ordinary citizens were to be looked down upon as no more than ‘customer’s’ of the ruling elite.

I totally reject this obnoxious attitude and will work to destroy the arrogant system that seeks to dilute the quality of my citizenship.

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