During a discussion on nepotism and cronyism Irish Independent economics editor, Brendan Keenan made the following comment:
We have certainly seen in Britain an appalling decline of standards in Parliament and I think we’ve seen some signs of that spreading over here.
It’s difficult to know where to start analysing such a disturbingly ignorant statement.
It seems that Keenan labours under the illusion that, apart from some contamination from the UK, Ireland is a fully functional, democratically accountable state where politicians seldom, if ever, engage in corrupt practices.
First, let me give a broad outline of what happened in the UK when the expenses scandal broke.
There was genuine and widespread anger throughout the land including among the body politic. Politicians were ruthlessly challenged on the matter by a professional and well informed media. Some MPs were even physically attacked by their constituents such was the anger at this theft of public funds.
The police were involved from the very beginning and ultimately succeeded in sending a number of politicians to jail. At least a third of MPs were either sacked or forced to resign and the Government introduced tough new legislation as a result of the scandal.
The theft of taxpayer’s money by Irish politicians is rampant and has been for decades, the practice is an integral and long accepted aspect of the corrupt political system.
The majority of Irish citizens have no problem with such practices so long as their local gombeen representative continues to dispense petty favours.
The police never, ever act against such corruption. The Ivor Callely scandal is a case in point. When a formal complaint was made against Callely the Garda Commissioner, the highest ranking policeman in the state, effectively put the investigation on hold because he was waiting for ‘more clarification’ from a lowly civil servant.
To my knowledge he’s still waiting.
The media, for the most part, are ineffective in challenging the corrupt politicians through a combination of grovelling subservience and/or low journalistic standards.
To be precise here, the Irish media are good at uncovering corruption and even at asking the right questions but almost never stay the course in demanding answers.
Irish politicians have long ago copped on to this and so respond by just throwing out the first excuse/lie that comes to mind and it’s off to the next scandal.
New legislation in response to political corruption never seems to be actually fit for purpose. This, of course, is no accident.
The recent ‘reform’ of TDs expenses, for example, allows them to steal a good portion of their allotment if they so wish, with no questions asked.
This type of legal corruption is rampant within the political system and throughout the ruling class.
One of the crucial weaknesses of how Ireland is governed is the total absence of any law enforcement authority capable of operating independently of the corrupt political system.
The media, for all its faults and weaknesses, is the only force in the land capable of challenging that corrupt system; it’s the only force that provides any protection for ordinary Irish citizens.
That’s why it’s so disturbing to witness such an ignorant display from such a prominent journalist.