Waiting for action

The Standards in Public Office Commission has just published its annual report for 2005. Cases involving three politicians are dealt with. The first two relate to former Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Mr. Ivor Callely and Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Mr. Tom Parlon. These cases involve the usual petty and pathetic shenanigans of Irish politicians and can be dismissed as such.

The third case serves as an excellent example of how things are done in a corrupt state in comparison to the reaction of enforcement authorities in accountable democracies.

The following is a very brief outline of the case – In 2002 the now independent, Fianna Fail TD, Michael Collins is alleged to have made a false statement to the Commission regarding his tax situation. He provided a tax clearance certificate and a statutory declaration to the Commission stating that he was compliant with the various tax acts. In 2003, it was revealed that he was the holder of a bogus non resident account. The law is crystal clear on this matter –

Where a conviction relates to knowingly furnishing statutory documentation to the Standards Commission which is false or misleading in any material respect, a member of the Houses of the Oireachtas or a representative in the European Parliament will be liable, on conviction on indictment, to a fine of up to €25,394.76 and / or up to three years in prison.

In a real democracy, the likes of Collins would have been dealt with years ago. In a corrupt state things are handled differently. Firstly, the Commission suddenly realised that it lacked power to take effective action so it brought the matter to the attention of other organs of the state where it was eventually referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Gardai.

That was in 2004, and nothing has happened since. So, the alleged crime took place in 2002 and here we are four years on and the whole case is encased in the secrecy and never ending deliberations of the Gardai and DPP.