A time of high farce

On the 2nd April last the Taoiseach of this country, Bertie Ahern, was required to provide an explanation to the Irish people, in their parliament, regarding a very serious contradiction in his evidence to the Mahon Tribunal.

Ahern had told the Tribunal, under oath, that he never dealt in sterling. His secretary, Grainne Carruth, also told the Tribunal, under oath, that she never dealt in sterling on behalf of Ahern.

The Tribunal produced evidence in the form of bank receipts personally signed by Ms. Carruth that proved without doubt that she had, in fact, lodged large amounts of sterling on behalf of Ahern.

On production of this evidence, Ms. Carruth admitted that her previous evidence under oath was not true.

Instead of providing answers on this very serious matter to the Irish people, Mr. Ahern announced that he would be resigning on 6th May next. This dramatic and desperate strategy successfully brought to a halt all efforts to bring the most powerful man in the land to account.

The flickering flame of political accountability was extinguished under a stampede of government and opposition politicians, journalists, party members and the general public as they rushed to declare Ahern the greatest Irishman since De Valera.

Enda Kenny, who naïvely but not unreasonably called for a general election, was immediately condemned from all sides. How dare he spoil ‘Bertie’s day’? Journalists, in particular, were scathing of Kenny for not doing the right thing, for making inappropriate suggestions, for making a hames of it.

The very serious matter that a serving Taoiseach had possibly lied under oath was forgotten. There was now no need for Ahern to answer any awkward questions; he was raised to the status of hero.

When he described the legal team that represents the people of Ireland at the Mahon Tribunal as ‘lowlife’ the fawning media sniggered with childish laughter. At least two Government ministers agreed with this assessment and nobody, to my knowledge, has made any serious challenge to the remark.

On Wednesday 23rd April last, The Taoiseach of this country, Bertie Ahern, entered Dail Eireann for the last time as Taoiseach. For over an hour he was eulogized, acclaimed and complimented by speaker after speaker.

It was an event unprecedented in the history of the State; no other outgoing Taoiseach had ever received such lavish praise for his leadership of the country.

Afterwards, Enda Kenny received high praise for ‘getting it right’ on the occasion, for not spoiling ‘Bertie’s day’. Journalists in particular approved of Kenny’s performance, clearly happy that he had learned his lesson.

Caoimhghin O Caolain of Sinn Fein was roundly condemned for sounding a discordant note when he mildly criticised Ahern about the country’s Third World health system.

Journalists, in particular, were scathing of O Caolain’s comments. On radio, television and in print they strongly expressed their disapproval of the comments made by the Sinn Fein representative.

On that infamous day not a single politician made reference to the fact that Ahern was resigning because he had run out of answers to the questions being asked of him by a tribunal established in that very parliament, on behalf of the Irish people, to investigate allegations of corruption in the planning process. Not a single politician made reference to the very real possibility that Ahern had committed the crime of perjury.

The Republic of Ireland and its people were betrayed on that day by the body politic. They were betrayed when politicians willingly and slavishly acquiesced in a disgraceful farce.

Bertie Ahern is free now; he will be allowed to retire in glory. It doesn’t matter what he tells the Tribunal, it doesn’t matter if he’s criticised in the final tribunal report, it doesn’t even matter if he’s found to have committed perjury.

It doesn’t matter because there’s no authority in the land with the power to make him accountable. Nobody will take action against him because Ireland is a country with a weak and compliant media, an incompetent and cowardly opposition and an electorate who have yet to learn that the state they live in is not normal by Western democratic standards, that it is a deeply corrupt and rotten state.

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