On a recent Late Late Show (1hr.5mins), Pat Kenny introduced author and journalist, Colm Tóibín, as follows:
“A man who looks at life a little differently than most, it’s probably why he rushed up to shake the hand of the disgraced building society boss, Michael Fingleton…”
Alas, Mr. Tóibín is very much like the majority of Irish citizens in that he holds a warped sense of right and wrong when it comes to wrongdoing in Irish public and business life.
People like Mr. Tóibín have no problem whatsoever in recognizing wrongdoing in other countries. For example, commentators, journalists, politicians and ordinary citizens in Ireland all seem to agree that the behaviour of UK MPs regarding their expenses is fraudulent and/or seriously unethical. Instinctively, everybody knows such behaviour is wrong.
In contrast, when Bertie Ahern claimed, under oath, that he won large amounts of unexplained money on the horses, there was little if any debate on whether such a ridiculous excuse might be a lie and no debate whatsoever on the possibility that this former Taoiseach may have committed the crime of perjury.
Instead, we had lots of people, operating within the same mindset as Mr. Tóibín, endlessly debating whether Ahern would run for president or opt for a job in the EU. Ahern’s tribunal evidence was only discussed in so far as it might affect his legacy.
In other words, when the brutal reality of what Bertie Ahern really is was exposed, when his flawed pedigree was exposed and put right up there in front of these people they all went into denial and pretended it never happened.
We see the exact same response/mindset from Mr. Tóibín in his defence of Fingleton.
According to Tóibín Fingleton is being demonized simply because of his association with banking scandals in the same way that many (innocent) priests were demonised because of the activities of pedophile priests.
In Tóibín’s mind, Fingleton has done no wrong but is rather the victim of a witch hunt. Tóibín’s problem is simple; he is incapable of telling the difference between those who are guilty and those who are merely associated with the guilty.
This is not to say that Fingleton is guilty of any criminal behaviour, not yet anyway. He is, however, guilty of a recklessness and greed that has destroyed the lives of thousands of people.
He took Irish Nationwide from being a sound business that sold mortgages to help people buy their homes into the casino like world of property developers that left the building society with over 80% of its €12 billion loans related to construction and property.
Irish Nationwide facilitated Sean Fitzpatrick’s dodgy loans which, according to many experts, were fraudulent and are currently under investigation.
He arranged a €27.6 million retirement scheme for himself which gave the impression that the scheme involved a number of members when in fact he was the sole beneficiary. When this was exposed we were asked to believe that the misunderstanding was due to a typing error – shades of Bertie’s ‘I won it on the horses here’.
Tóibín himself provided the answer for his blind loyalty to a chancer like Fingleton.
At some point in the distant past Fingleton did Tóibín a favour, he gave him a mortgage when times were tough. It’s this ‘doing favours’ that lies at the heart of Irish corruption.
It’s why, for decades, thousands of people voted for the corrupt Haughey. – he did them favours. It’s why 12,000 people voted for the liar and tax cheat, Michael Lowry, in the last election – he did them favours. It’s why the chancer Bertie Ahern enjoyed such a successful career in politics – he did favours for his constituents.
The people who sell their votes for favours, the people who buy votes with favours and the people like Tóibín who cannot see beyond the favour are responsible for the destruction of this country.
Mr. Tóibín, along with thousands of other Irish citizens, simply will not or cannot understand that when somebody does something wrong they should be made accountable no matter what favours they have done.
For so long as this primitive tribal mind set persists Ireland will continue to suffer at the hands of corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen.
Mr. Tóibín himself provided a perfect example of the damage that can be wrought when favours, special interests, ruthless greed or blind loyalty take precedence over the common good.
He recalled a (outraged) phone call he received from the New York Times some years ago asking him:
“Is it possible that you are building a motorway through the beautiful landscape of Tara?”
He later visited Tara and realised that anyone who disturbed such a landscape would be in trouble, would be haunted.
The tragedy for Ireland is that while people like Tóibín can see that such actions are wrong he is incapable of understanding that they happen because Ireland is a country riven by the disease of corruption.
He is incapable of seeing that he and others, through their ignorance, are principally responsible for the continuing spread of that disease.