When I submitted the complaint to SIPO I had no expectation whatsoever that the Commission would rule against the Minister.
Over the years I have submitted many similar complaints to a whole range of government agencies for a whole variety of alleged wrongdoing.
Not one of them has ever resulted in sanctions or any other action against those involved.
My principal motive for submitting such complaints is to expose the fact that Ireland is a politically and administratively dysfunctional democracy.
The system is designed, whether intentionally or not, to protect politicians and others on the rare occasions when they are investigated for alleged abuses of public funds and resources
The manner in which Minister Quinn’s case was dealt with makes the point.
The Standards in Public Office Commission considered the case under the following headings.
The content of letters and enclosures submitted by Minister Quinn and his Secretary General
Under the provisions of section 4 (1) (a) of the Standards in Public Office Act 2001. Specifically, whether the Minister’s actions as complained of constituted a ‘specified act’ or acts.
The Commission decided that there was no basis on which to pursue the matter.
So where is the accountability here?
I requested access to the letters and enclosures submitted by Minister Quinn and his Secretary General under which the Commission made its decision.
My request was refused.
So here we have an ‘independent’ watchdog tasked with ensuring that politicians are made accountable basing its conclusions on secret evidence provided by the politician under investigation.
This does not happen in functional democracies.
Under the second heading the Commission seems to have concluded that Minister Quinn had committed no act that was inconsistent with the proper performance of his office.
I say ‘seems’ because the Commission provides no further explanation as to how this verdict was reached.
But the Commission was under no pressure to explain in any case because the legislation allows massive scope for the dismissal of practically any offence committed by officials or politicians.
An abuse of office allegation can be dismissed as of no significant public importance if the sum of money involved is less than £IR10, 000 (€12,700).
Under legislation the Commission can also dismiss a case if it forms the opinion that the matter under investigation was a result of incompetence or inefficiency.
This type of loophole legislation does not appear out of thin air.
It is very carefully drafted by professional civil servants working with the best legal advice and the full approval of the body politic.
Such loose, weak legislation is only one aspect of an all-embracing culture of secrecy, obfuscation, denial and non-cooperation that has created an environment where political and business corruption thrives.
Judge Alan Mahon’s verdict was as accurate as it was damning.
Corruption was deep-rooted, rampant and permeated every level of Irish politics.
Only a fool would claim that this deep-rooted, rampant corruption has, somehow, magically disappeared from the body politic.
Another consequence of political corruption is the almost impossible expectation that those with power will act to root out the disease.
A corrupt political system is unlikely to take any meaningful action to root out the disease of corruption because to do so could seriously damage the interests of those who depend on the corrupt system to maintain their power and influence.
This failure to act against corruption can lead to bizarre situations such as the incredible events surrounding Michael Lowry following the publication of the Mahon Tribunal Report last month.
Government ministers found themselves under intense pressure to explain why they had dealings with Lowry, a legitimately elected politician.
In a functional democracy this situation could not arise because the wayward politician would have been dealt with immediately by independent, well-resourced law enforcement agencies backed up by strong and effective legislation.
In addition, and parallel to law enforcement, Lowry’s political career would have been brought to a shuddering halt by an outraged body politic and electorate.
Such official and public ostracisation is of crucial importance for the maintenance of a healthy democracy because it prevents the disease of corruption from further infecting the political system and wider society in general.
The catastrophe that Ireland and its people are now suffering can be attributed directly to the failure of the state to act immediately and properly to countless scandals over the last four decades or so.
Every failure to act against an incidence of alleged corruption, no matter how small, hammered another nail into the coffin of accountable and transparent democracy.
The accumulation of such failures has, inevitably, led to the collapse of our economy, the loss of our economic sovereignty and the impoverishment of the state’s citizens.
There may well be a perfectly innocent explanation for Minister Quinn’s large expense claims but, to date, neither he nor his staff has provided any plausible explanation.
This failure, and SIPO’s failure to properly investigate the matter, is further confirmation that Ireland is a politically and administratively dysfunctional democracy.
Standards in Public Office Commission