A tale of two countries – one accountable, one corrupt

On the 3rd of July last RTE News reported (10th item)on a major police investigation in the United Kingdom into alleged fraud in the horse racing industry. The investigation was conducted over two years and involved 130 police officers. Dozens of people have been charged with serious crimes including defrauding customers and money laundering.

Those charged are out on bail awaiting their day in court where they will successfully prove themselves innocent of the charges or be found guilty and receive the punishment that society rightly demands. Key terms to keep in mind here are; Police, charges, crimes, fraud, court, guilt and punishment.

On the 5th of July last RTE News reported (1st item) on a similar case of dodgy dealing in the Irish Greyhound industry. The case involves serious allegations of fraud and cover up in the industry. The police are not involved. The courts are not involved. Nobody has been charged, nobody will be charged.

Keeping in mind the key terms quoted in the UK case above the following is a brief outline of how these serious allegations of fraud were dealt with in the corrupt Republic of Ireland.

A retired civil servant was appointed to carry out a secret investigation. (Question: What other democracy appoints retired civil servants to investigate allegations of serious fraud?) His terms of reference were extremely narrow so his chances of finding anything substantial were very slight.

After a long delay the report was finally published, just before the politicians are due to head off on their very long summer holidays.

The report was examined by politicians sitting on the Public Accounts Committee. There was a lot of hand wringing, a lot of talking but no action. The committee is only allowed to talk; they have no power of action.

The politician ‘responsible’ for the greyhound industry, Sports Minister, John O’Donoghue has promised legislation to tighten up procedures – ‘sometime in the near future’. (This translates as – never)

The Comptroller and Auditor General has said he will carry out further investigations into the greyhound industry. The Auditor General is as powerless as retired civil servants, as powerless as political committees, as powerless as ministers who don’t want to rock the boat, as powerless as governments operating within a corrupt system so his investigation will simply result in yet another report.

When that report is published the whole sequence starts over again. Talking, wringing of hands, empty promises but no action, no police, no charges, no courts, no trials, no punishment, no accountability.

Just the continuing massive damage to a country and its people by the putrid and rampant disease of corruption.

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.

Not even for a place in Heaven

Sometimes, amid all the corruption and incompetence that dominates this Banana Republic; we are treated to a comment/opinion that raises the spirit. Such a gem occurred on ‘It Says in the Papers’ on RTE this morning.

Longford judge, John Neilan, explaining his reasons for refusing to attend the opening of a courthouse with Justice Minister Michael McDowell said.

“I wouldn’t share a platform with him if he was opening the gates of Heaven for me”

Makes me proud to be a Longford man.

Haughey's private navy

Sometime in the late 1980s, a sailor in the Irish Naval Service listened in astonishment to a news report in which the Dept of Defence officially denied that Irish naval ships were sent to ‘guard’ Charlie Haughey while he entertained on his private Island, Inishvickillane.

The Irish Navy carries out two and three week patrols around the Irish coast. Before departing on patrol, a ship will be given a Sailing Order outlining areas to be patrolled and specific missions to be achieved.

This is a broad instruction and is open to change depending on changing circumstances. These circumstances could include proceeding to a vessel in distress, reports of illegal fishing or even investigating illegal arms or drug smuggling. These missions were all part of life for a serviceman at sea and were accepted as part of the job. However, there was one mission that always caused deep resentment within the ranks of naval servicemen – being used by Haughey as a private resource for services and entertainment.

Having a State vessel at his private disposal was, no doubt, a great boost to Haughey’s ego. Friends and guests would be brought on board for a tour and entertained with food and drink at the States expense. Other services were also provided. For example, naval divers would install and maintain moorings at the island.

These ‘secret missions’ to entertain Haughey invariably occurred on long holiday weekends. They never formed part of the sailing order. A radio signal from Naval HQ, usually received a day or two before a patrol was due to end, would instruct the vessel to proceed to Inishvickillane.

Last minute instructions like these were necessary for secrecy and to prevent servicemen, who should have been relaxing at home with their families after a grueling three weeks patrol in the Atlantic, from venting their anger.

Obviously, at this time in the late 80s a serviceman or family member had had enough and complained to a media source – hence the official denial from the Dept of Defence Press Office.

How do I know all this in such detail? I was that sailor listening in astonishment to the official denial.

Haughey's last failure

At Haughey’s funeral today, Sean Haughey quoted his mother

“Everybody hates Charlie Haughey except the people.”

Well, today the people begged to differ with this opinion. Despite a massive propaganda campaign by the State and Haugheys friends, enthusiastically supported by RTE, the people of Ireland stayed away in their droves.

It was a clear statement that the majority of Irish citizens see Haughey for what he really is – a corrupt politician that abused power to enrich himself, family and friends.

A mere 500 people gathered outside the church with a further 2,000 inside. A nearby hall, set aside for the expected massive crowds, remained virtually empty. On the road to the graveyard only a scattering of curious onlookers bothered to turn up, Hardly a Princess Diana type outpouring of grief.

We are told that Haughey planned every detail of his funeral. He probably laboured under the delusion that he was loved by the great bulk of the Irish people and that they would turn out in great numbers to see him off.

That the people were awake to this final stroke by this ruthless and greedy politician is a small indication that perhaps, at last, they are beginning to realise how the cancer of corruption can damage their country and personal lives.

Meanwhile, the national broadcaster, which is supposed to uphold the principle of balanced broadcasting, is beginning to realise that it has been used as a propaganda tool by the State.

On his radio show this morning, Ryan Tubridy reported that all media outlets had been experiencing a public backlash to the State funeral for Haughey. He admitted that RTE was taken aback by the wall-to-wall negative comments received from the public against Haughey.

Certainly, RTE has questions to answer for its almost totally pro Haughey coverage.

Saint or Satan

Got the following text from a friend today.

“All mass cards for Charles Haughey are to be sent in brown envelopes”

It was a very welcome relief from the saturation coverage that portrays Haughey as a serious contender for sainthood.

Personally, I’m not superstitious but today’s date – 16/06/06 should provide some food for thought for all the Satanists out there.

Vincent Browne becomes a Haugheyite

There can be no doubt that Haughey went to his grave a happy man. Apart from the fact that he was never brought to justice for his corruption, it has now emerged that Vincent Browne, for years one of Haughey’s strongest critics has become a Haugheyite.

Browne was one of the first to be interviewed after Haughey’s death was first announced on the The Tubridy Show last Tuesday. Obviously very upset, Browne made a tearful and emotional defence of his new found ‘hero’.

Last night,(Wed.) on his radio show Vincent demonstrated in the clearest possible manner how much he has been taken in by Ireland’s most corrupt politician. I strongly urge anyone who is interested in how the cancer of corruption, and the role played by Haughey in spreading that cancer, has warped even the most objective and professional of journalists, to listen to this show.

On the show, Vincent had Haughey’s former personal assistant, Catherine Butler. Haughey may be a hero to Browne but to Butler he is a god. She describes him as a cultured, intelligent, dedicated and patriotic man.

She blames the media (don’t they all), the Progressive Democrats (she describes them disparagingly as the ‘Perfect Democrats’), Fine Gael and the gullibility of the Irish people for believing all the ‘media lies’ for all the ills that befell Haughey.

Butler is not, however, media savvy so Vincent took it upon himself to guide, lead, prompt and manipulate her views in an obvious effort to present Haughey as an ‘innocent victim’ of cruel circumstances.

There is so much in this broadcast that it will be necessary to come back for further analysis.

Silly questions

When media people are involved in saturation coverage of events they sometimes slip into asking really silly/humorous questions. RTE are a particularly good source for this kind of thing.

For example, it wasn’t unusual to hear Unionist politicians being asked – Are you happy that this IRA man is behind bars? Or Irish politicians being asked – Are you pleased that you have been elected?

The coverage of Haughey’s death is no different. Here’s an exchange between RTE’s Fran McNulty and a former constituent of Haughey’s, on today’s News at One.

Fran: How do you think he looked today?

Constituent: (In a puzzled voice) Well, what can you say, the man was dead?

RTE in mourning for corrupt Haughey?

Was it my imagination or did RTE television news and current affairs staff go into mourning for Haughey yesterday?

On all the major news and current affairs programmes including Prime Time, the presenters wore a sombre and respectful black.

In effect, they were not just professionally reporting and analysing a national event, they were also making their own personal statement of respect for this corrupt politician.

Haughey's demise

I think it is worth analysing the comments of President McAleese during an interview with Sean O’Rourke on RTE’s News at One yesterday.

Speaking of Haughey’s illness, she said that

“he had borne his long illness with great dignity and considerable grace”.

She had nothing to say about the many thousands of Irish citizens who continue to suffer great indignity, pain and humiliation on hospital trolleys because of the savage cuts in health spending that Haughey initiated in the 1980’s.

She mentioned the International Financial Service’s Centre (IFSC) as one of his great achievements. The IFSC stands at the centre of Irish financial culture, a culture that the New York Times recently described as the ‘Wild West of European finance”.

She claimed that Haughey was “a man who wanted to see Ireland flourish”, but as we know his top priority was to see himself flourish first, usually at the expense of those he claimed to represent.

The President rounded on O’Rourke when he questioned the appropriateness of providing a state funeral for a man like Haughey. In an angry tone she emphasized to O’Rourke and the Irish people how much she admires the criminal Haughey

“I’ll be home for Mr. Haughey’s state funeral on Friday. I would have thought there’s a fairly strong view in that, wouldn’t you?”

Enough said.