Allegations of political criminality reported to An Garda Siochana

Politician holding a mask in front of his face speaking to a large crowd of people. (Used clipping mask)

By Anthony Sheridan

The political administration of Ireland is corrupt.  There’s an endless list of examples of such corruption stretching down through the decades but there is no need to delve into the past to make the point. 

We only have to note that serious criminality occurs on an ongoing basis at the very heart of our democracy.  A small group of just 18 citizens [ministers] wields executive power on behalf of the people.  Under the Constitution it is a criminal offence for any of these ministers to breach Cabinet confidentiality.

We know this law has been broken in the case of the proposed appointment of Catherine Zappone.  We also know that no member of the Cabinet has acted to protect the integrity of the Constitution by bringing the minister[s] involved to justice.

With this in mind I have submitted the following report to An Garda Siochana [Cobh] requesting that they investigate the alleged crime.

For attention of:

An Garda Siochana – Cobh

22 September 2021

I wish to report a number of allegations concerning breaches of Cabinet confidentiality as laid down in Article 28.4 of the Constitution.

First allegation:

That a minister in the current Cabinet illegally leaked information to a media source concerning the Katherine Zappone appointment.

I submit the following information in support of this allegation.

On September 1 2021 the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe was interviewed by RTE presenter Claire Byrne. It is clear from Minister Donohoe’s comments that he is aware of the allegations of criminal activity within the Cabinet. 

Claire Byrne:  ”One of your party colleagues leaked the news about the Katherine Zappone appointment while the Cabinet meeting was still in session. Do you understand what the problem is?”

Minister Donohoe:  ”Of course I understand what the issue is here. I know there are allegations and the case is being made that material did emit from Cabinet when decisions were being made.”

A number of other ministers were also interviewed by media indicating that they are aware of the criminal allegations, including: Taoiseach Michael Martin, Minister Catherine Martin….and others.

The Irish Examiner newspaper is a possible link to the ministerial leak as evidenced by a comment in that newspaper by the paper’s political editor, Daniel McConnell on September 2:

”As Cabinet was still ongoing, news of the appointment was reported online by the Irish Examiner.”

Second allegation:

Fine Gael senator Regina Doherty has accused former minister Shane Ross of breaching Cabinet confidentiality.

I submit the following information in support of this allegation:

Report in Irish Examiner, 29 Oct 2020

Former Minister for Social Protection, now Senator, Regina Doherty demanded action to be taken against Mr Ross for the book [by Mr. Ross] which she says breaches Cabinet confidentiality.

In the same report Mr. Ross appears to confirm that breaches of Cabinet confidentiality were common:

You might as well have an RTÉ camera in the room the way information was being live tweeted to journalists.

Report in the Irish Independent, 28 Oct 2020 concerning the same allegation.

Mr. Ross admitted he did not seek a High Court ruling to reveal details of Cabinet meetings as required under the Constitution.  He justified his action with the following comment:

I don’t expect there will be any prosecutions, either, as the precedent is there for them having done this.

Mr. Ross further revealed that leaks were a big issue when he served as minister and revealed an incident concerning Foreign Minister Simon Coveney.

The result of that was one day Simon Coveney said,

This item we are now discussing, okay, it is out on RTÉ already what is being said at this cabinet meeting.’’

Relevant section of the Constitution:

Inserted a new subsection in Article 28.4:

3º The confidentiality of discussions at meetings of the Government shall be respected in all circumstances save only where the High Court determines that disclosure should be made in respect of a particular matter-

i. in the interests of the administration of justice by a Court, or

ii. by virtue of an overriding public interest, pursuant to an application in that behalf by a tribunal appointed by the Government or a Minister of the Government on the authority of the Houses of the Oireachtas to inquire into a matter stated by them to be of public importance.

I request that this matter be investigated as a matter of urgency.

Yours sincerely

Anthony Sheridan

Hard copy to:

Garda Commissioner

Clerk of the Dail

Minister for Justice

Minister Catherine Martin: Not fit to serve

By Anthony Sheridan

Green Party TD Catherine Martin is unfit to represent the people of Ireland.  On Thursday 2 September she cashed in her political integrity when RTEs Claire Byrne asked her how she felt about the abuse of Cabinet confidentiality.

I think that’s an internal matter for Fine Gael. 

This is a lie because Ms. Martin knows that breaching Cabinet confidentiality is a criminal act and that she, as a cabinet minister, is not only obliged to acknowledge the crime but to act on that knowledge.

By failing to act Ms. Martin has tainted the seal of office bestowed on her by the people of Ireland and thrown in her lot with the cabal of political shysters who have inflicted so much damage on Ireland over the decades.

Whenever an individual or party decides to enter government in Ireland they must make a choice.  Challenge and expose the rot eating away at the core of the state or abandon all principles and collaborate with those who have no regard for democracy or the interests of the country. 

Clearly, Ms Martin has chosen the latter.  It’s likely that her motives are based on the genuine but naïve belief that the end justifies the means. That the implementation of her party’s political agenda is worth the abandonment of her political principles – if so, she is seriously wrong in that belief. 

Ireland is not a normal democratic state.  The disease of political corruption has polluted the administration of the state to such an extent that all who associate themselves with the diseased become diseased themselves. 

This disease must first be eradicated before our country has any hope of becoming a healthy democracy.  For that to happen good people must deploy the weapons of courage and principle against the political shysters.

Ms. Martin’s failure to do so will see the people remove her and her party from power at the first opportunity.

Copy to Catherine Martin

Relevant section of interview with Minister Martin.

Claire Byrne: How do you feel about Cabinet confidentiality being abused?

Catherine Martin: I think that’s an internal matter for Fine Gael.

Byrne: But it’s not just a matter for one party, it’s a very serious matter for government.

Martin: And that’s why I’m saying I’m not happy with the process. I hope lessons are learned and transparency is put in place.

Byrne: But when it comes to the leak, that’s a criminal offence?

Martin: That’s an issue for, you know, that is absolutely unacceptable that leaks would happen like that but it’s up to that individual…interrupted.

Byrne: No, it’s not, it’s a really serious matter for government, it’s a really serious matter for the entire cabinet and a really serious matter for you as a member of that cabinet.

Martin: It is and it’s a really unnecessary distraction from… blah, blah, blah…

Copy to:

Catherine Martin

Youth power – Don’t ask – Take

By Anthony Sheridan

Irish Examiner journalist Aoife Moore is not happy.  The young people of Ireland are suffering because they don’t have a seat at the table [of power] she thundered in a recent article.

Focusing mainly on the youth wings of political parties Moore tells us the young are bullied, harassed, their complaints go unanswered, they’re not viewed as important, all of which is driving them away from politics.

Nothing will change, she asserts, until the grown-ups give the young a seat at the table of power.

This bizarre idea that young adults are children waiting for the ‘grown-ups’ to hand them power portrays a serious lack of understanding about the role young people play in politics.

Instead of whinging about being ignored by those at the table of power the young should be upending that table and forcibly taking their rightful place in the governance of the country.

Young people should be organised and focused in challenging the ‘grown-ups’, they should give no quarter in their determination to gain power and implement their policies.

The regular injection of political radicalism by the young is one of the mainstays of a healthy democracy.

Sadly, such political radicalism has never taken root in Ireland and forced emigration is the principal reason.  The primitive economic strategy of boom and bust has always suited the ruling establishment.  In boom times friends are looked after, when bust inevitably follows ordinary citizens are made to pay and forced emigration is just one of the costs.

Banishing young people to the four corners of the world removes political radicalism from the body politic thus eliminating any threat to the stale but very comfortable political establishment. 

This is why successive Irish governments, unlike most other governments in the world, have staunchly refused to grant a vote to emigrants. Out of sight, out of mind and forever out of power has always been the self-interested strategy of the ruling political class when it comes to young people.

Those who remain behind are usually politically apathetic or become members of youth wings of the establishment parties.  Within these ultra-conservative entities the young morph into clones of their ‘grown-ups’. They are quickly indoctrinated into the ways of political gombeenism which includes stamping out any sign of political radicalism – and so, the rotten establishment wheel continues to spin.

But change is coming as we’ve seen from recent elections but it’s not coming from the lost youth in the establishment parties that Ms Moore is so concerned about.  It’s coming from outside the ruling political class, from an increasingly radicalised electorate determined to create a decent country not just for the young but for all citizens.

Copy to:

Aoife Moore

When the establishment betrays the people’s trust

By Anthony Sheridan

The political establishment that has [mis]ruled Ireland since independence is on the verge of extinction.

For clarity, here’s a good definition of the term ‘establishment’.

The ruling class or authority group in a society; especially, an entrenched authority dedicated to preserving the status quo.

An establishment’s greatest resource is the people over whom it exercises power.  Its success depends on the people’s willingness to tolerate its behaviour.

When an establishment betrays the people’s trust one of two things will happen.  The ruling elite will attempt to preserve its power by becoming ever more oppressive, even to the point of violence, or the people will bring it down and replace it with a new establishment that will return the balance between rulers and the ruled.

For example, abuse of power and an abject failure to respond to the needs of ordinary people trigged the French revolution in 1789.  The revolution marked the beginning of the end of the divine right of kings to rule and the eventual emergence of the middle class political establishment we see in France today.

In addition to getting rid of corrupt regimes revolutions also serve to enlighten citizens to the fact that it is they, and not the ruling elite, who are the rightful owners of political power. They become aware that power flows from the bottom up, that those at the top exercise power solely on sufferance from the people. This sense of people power is as strong in France today as it was in 1789. 

Unfortunately, the opposite is the case in Ireland. This is because there has never been a political revolution in our country and as a consequence there has never been a change in the mindset that sees power as belonging to the powerful. 

We had a rebellion in 1916 that ultimately persuaded the British establishment, who were distracted by the brutality of WWI, that a degree of independence for Ireland within the Commonwealth was better than more war and rising criticism from the international community.

This resulted in the relatively smooth replacement of an oppressive, self-serving colonial establishment with an equally oppressive, self-serving home-grown version. 

This home-grown establishment immediately set about creating a political regime that ensured the subservient mindset instilled in the population over centuries of colonialism lived on as a powerful means of political manipulation.

They created a system of gombeen clientelism where crumbs were handed out in payment for votes.  Citizens were led to believe that the natural order of power in a democracy was a top down system, where the ruling establishment knew best.  

This is why, unlike functional democracies, Ireland never benefitted from the healthy tension between a Left/Right political system.  There was never any real political opposition in our parliament. We never witnessed political parties seriously competing with each other to promote and implement their own political ideologies for the greater good of the country.

All we got was a political ruling elite, principally made up of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, masquerading as separate political parties. They are, and always have been, one political class with one overriding ambition – to exploit the people and resources of Ireland for their own benefit.  The only competition they engaged in over the decades was in the Tweedledee Tweedledum race for government where the opportunities for self-enrichment are most plentiful.

As the political establishment became weaker in recent years smaller parties such as the Progressive Democrats, Labour and, currently the Greens were recruited to support the ruling political class.

The abandonment of most, if not all, of the ideals and policies of these smaller parties was the price demanded and received in exchange for admission to the exclusive ruling elite club.

The British left-wing journalist, Owen Jones, provides the best definition of this particular type of establishment:

The establishment represents an attempt on behalf of powerful groups to “manage” democracy, to make sure that it does not threaten their own interests.

But the century long manipulation of the people and contempt for democracy by this political regime is rapidly coming to an end.  Irish citizens are beginning to realise that it is they who are the rightful owners of power and not the ruling political establishment.

It is crystal clear from recent elections and polls that the people are rejecting the old regime and are demanding real change in how the country is governed. That this demand for change is being ignored not just by the political centre but also by mainstream media demonstrates just how out of touch the establishment is with this revolutionary redirection in Irish political history.

The consensus among the ruling regime is that housing, health and the economy are the reasons for their continuing loss of power, that if these problems are fixed they will survive – it is a vain hope.

While these problems are obviously of huge concern to the electorate they take second place to the demand for radical political change.  People have come to realise that the old regime must be abolished and replaced with a genuinely democratic system. This change of mindset in the electorate is not a temporary phenomenon, it’s permanent – the old corrupt regime is finished.

The dramatic and historic rise in support for Sinn Fein is the most visible sign of this new emerging political landscape.  But that party should take note.  If it fails to radically overhaul how the state is governed, if it fails to abolish the old establishment and create a genuinely democratic balance between rulers and the ruled then it too will be rejected by the power of the newly enlightened electorate.

Public Services Card: Some still forced to comply

By Anthony Sheridan

Two years ago I qualified for the Free Travel Pass but was denied the entitlement because I refused to accept the legitimacy of the Public Services Card.  The Data Protection Commissioner [DPC] has now ruled on the issue:

The Department does not have a legal basis for processing personal data when it’s in the case of a person who’s seeking to avail of a service with the public sector body other than the department itself.

But…there’s always a ‘but’, the DPC has also ruled that:

The legislation only allows the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to insist on its use for its own services.

They [the ID cards] can continue to be used in the context of availing of free travel or availing of benefits that a person is claiming from the department.

So, not withstanding further clarifications, my current understanding is:

All citizens outside the remit of the Department of Social Welfare now have the option of using the card as identification if they so choose.

Those citizens within the remit of the Department of Social Welfare are not granted the right of choice, they must accept this illegal and very dangerous card if they want to receive their entitlements.

I will not be accepting this card until I am granted the same rights as all other citizens.

Presumption of innocence does not universally apply in Ireland

By Anthony Sheridan

During a discussion on Today with Sean O’Rourke surrounding the controversial bail granted to a taxi driver accused of sexual assault Senior Counsel and lecturer in Law at UCD Paul Anthony McDermott was crystal clear:

We have the concept of bail because of the presumption of innocence. Under our system nobody can decide you have committed a crime other than the jury. So, not the media, not the Gardai, not anyone.  It is only a jury. 

So we take the view that unless and until twelve members of the public decide you have committed a crime the system works on the basis that you didn’t commit it. 

That is regarded as a constitutional right but even if we amended the constitution in the morning the European Convention on Human Rights to which Ireland is a party also requires a presumption of innocence.

I’m sure Mr. McDermott will be greatly surprised to learn that his statement is incorrect.

The Irish state does not universally extend the presumption of innocence to its citizens.

There is one very specific crime that the State considers to be so heinous that those found guilty are not just liable to a prison sentence of ten years or a €300,000 fine but are also deprived of the presumption of innocence principle.

That crime is the selling of even one Mass card without the written permission of a Catholic bishop.

There are many who will find it difficult to believe that such a law could exist in a modern democratic republic; so here it is in black and white.

Charities Act 2009

99: [1] A person who sells a Mass card other than pursuant to an arrangement with a recognised person shall be guilty of an offence.

[2] In proceedings for an offence under this section it shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved on the balance of probabilities, that the sale of the Mass card to which the alleged offence relates was not done pursuant to an arrangement with a recognised person.

I am not a legal person so I am open to challenge on my interpretation of this law; which is:

A person who sells a Mass card without the permission of a Catholic bishop will be presumed guilty until he/she can prove the contrary.

The crux of the presumption of innocence principle is very straighforward:

It is not for the accused to establish his/her innocence. It is for the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused.

Article 99 [1] turns this principle on its head.

Therefore; in Ireland:

The presumption of innocence that is implicit in Article 31.1 of the Irish Constitution does not apply to those accused of this crime.

The presumption of innocence under Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights does not apply to those accused of this crime.

The presumption of innocence under Article 11 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not apply to those accused of this crime.

To my knowledge nobody from the legal profession has challenged this draconian law so it is reasonable to assume that, for that profession, there is no difficulty.

It is, however, reasonable to expect members of the legal profession such as Mr. McDermott to include this exemption to the presumption of innocence principle when delivering an opinion on the issue.

Copy to:

Mr. McDermott

Today with Sean O’Rourke

Alison O’Connor and professional deceit

 

By Anthony Sheridan

 

Even for a Fine Gael journalist Alison O’Connor’s portrayal of Brian Hayes is way over the top. Hayes, who’s abandoning politics for a more lucrative career in the financial services industry, is portrayed as a virtual Irish Nelson Mandela.

O’Conner writes of the terrible conditions Irish politicians such as Hayes have to endure in order to serve the people. Having to stand for election, having to put your face on a poster, having to survive on €100,000 plus generous expenses – my goodness, such horrors.

But like all establishment journalists O’Conner reveals her bias in the detail. She tells us that Hayes’ greatest talent lay in making the government look good.

I couldn’t understand at the time how the party, and then taoiseach Enda Kenny, felt he would be better off in the European Parliament than at home doing a fine job of making the government look good, despite the slashing and burning that was ongoing.

Note – not fighting for the health and wealth of the people, not badgering his party leader to do what was right for the victims of political and financial corruption, not insisting that corrupt bankers be brought to justice.

No, Hayes’ greatest talent, according to O’Connor, was his amazing ability to ‘make the government look good’ as it destroyed the lives, ambitions and wealth of millions of Irish citizens. In other words, Hayes was a brilliant political liar and propagandist.

And then there’s the accidental admission that Hayes is leaving politics so that he can accumulate even more money.

A politician of Brian Hayes’ experience and profile might stand to earn considerably more in the private sector.

So it’s not about selfishly serving people and country, it’s about who pays the most. And with Hayes’ many connections in politics, government and banking, his new career in the Irish Banking and Payments Federation is sure to make him a very wealthy man.

But there’s always a nagging problem for establishment journalists like O’Conner – how to explain the awkward logical gap between the catastrophic financial, psychological and social damage inflicted on the Irish people over recent decades and the claim that the political system responsible for the suffering is populated by people of high principles and integrity such as Hayes.

The answer – ignore the brutal reality and resort to professional deceit.

And the current choice of deceit is – blame social media.

Quoting a senior Fine Gael source O’Connor writes:

It is proving exceptionally difficult to get them [candidates] to stand because they see the abuse politicians get on social media and feel that a political career just isn’t worth that.

I’ll finish with this thought: Irish citizens will never see the extermination of the disease of political corruption for so long as establishment journalists like O’Connor are willing to loyally defend the rotten system.

Copy to:

Alison O’Connor

Kathy Sheridan: Afraid to speak truth to power?

 

 

By Anthony Sheridan

For ordinary Irish citizens, corruption is a dark, malignant everyday reality that causes endless loss and suffering. The political system, the financial sector, planning, property, you name it, corruption is rampant and routine among the top tiers of Irish society. The disease does immeasurable damage to the wealth, health and aspirations of ordinary people.

But in the warm, comfortable bubble where the establishment media happily coexist with the powerful and the corrupt, there is no such thing as corruption. Instead, there is a mysterious entity universally referred to as ‘culture’.

So, for example, there’s no corruption in our police force, our banks or our political system, just this inexplicable abstraction called ‘culture’.

And, apparently, all that’s needed to bring a halt to the massive damage caused by this mysterious ‘culture’ is the application of another magic word – ‘reform’.

So, basically, that’s all establishment journalists write or talk about, culture and reform and it’s off to the Dail bar for drinks – happy days.

But despite the availability of these magic, truth avoiding words, it can still be difficult for establishment journalists to write about corruption without actually using the dreaded ‘C’ word.

Take for example a recent article by Irish Times journalist Kathy Sheridan in which she reflects on the catastrophic economic crash of 2008 which occurred as a direct result of corruption in the political and financial sectors.

The corruption word does not, of course, make an appearance but, to her credit, the truth-avoiding ‘culture’ word only appears in the very last paragraph.

Instead, Ms. Sheridan falls back on another strategy commonly employed by those who are afraid of speaking truth to power. While ostensibly analysing the Irish economic catastrophe she focuses the bulk of her analysis on events in another country thus sparing the blushes of those who wield power in Ireland.

At the beginning of her article she accepts that the people are angry and have lost trust in the system. The bulk of the article is then filled with a long, meandering story about some American financial wizard before ending with a sermonising quote that’s probably meant, somehow, to bring  comfort to the countless victims of the rampant corruption here in Ireland.

It’s about trust, yes. It’s about culture, [oh, there’s that word] behaviour and accountability. But like almost everything that makes life bearable, it’s also about common decency.

Ah yes, common decency. Now if only establishment journalists like Ms Sheridan could bring themselves to speak truth to power, to actually use the ‘corruption’ word, to name those who peddle the disease of corruption to enrich themselves while destroying the lives of so many.

Then, I’m sure, life would be much more bearable for all of us.

Copy to:

Kathy Sheridan

Una Mullally: The youth of Ireland are on the march

 

By Anthony Sheridan

The revolution has begun. Varadkar and his cabal of gombeens are for the high jump. Their time is up as the youth of Ireland take to the streets and march on Dail Eireann to overthrow the old failed system and replace it with a bright new dawn for Irish democracy.

Sadly, there is no truth whatsoever to this fantasy view of what’s happening in Ireland today. The claim of a mass movement of young citizens on the move is nothing more than the meanderings of Irish Times columnist Una Mullally’s overly fertile imagination.

Here are some examples of Ms. Mullally’s fantasies:

Does the Government know it has a politicised generation on its hands?

A generational shift has occurred that both the political and media establishments have not yet truly grasped.

We are in newly charted territory, and young people are the cartographers.

Altruism, solidarity, and a sense of fairness seems to permeate this generation.

Their values are different from past generations, they do not put self-interest first says Mullally.

She then gives some examples of the great ‘injustices’ that motivates this ‘selfless’ youth revolutionary movement that is determined to overthrow Leo and his cabal of gombeens:

Very little development in Dublin is for young people.

New restaurants and bars are expensive and are aimed at 30 – and 40 -somethings.

Young people are watching their nightclubs being demolished for hotel developments.

Student housing built by international companies charging exorbitant rents is totally out of their reach.

Many young people have to live with their parents because they can’t afford the out-of-control rents in the city.

These examples do not sound like a national youth movement intent on overthrowing the old, failed political system but more like a demand for more nightclubs and cheaper drink.

Mullally does, of course, mention other more serious issues. The marriage equality campaign, legal abortion and the current housing campaign. She wrongly credits young people as the principal motivators in these movements.

The marriage equality and the Repeal campaigns were open door issues. Practically every political party and most of society were in favour of these reforms. It did not take any great courage or sacrifice to come out on the streets and demand reform for issues that were practically guaranteed to succeed and, more importantly, posed no threat to the interests of those who wield power in our country.

And while there is a noticeable increase in youth involvement around the housing scandal this is primarily down to the fact that the crisis is beginning to affect the interests of young people particularly students.

This was evident during the recent Take Back the Streets demonstration in Dublin. There was a large, very well organised student participation but the majority of placards were demanding housing and other benefits for students, there was nothing about challenging the corrupt political system that is responsible for the crisis.

Sadly, there is no history of organised political radicalism among the youth of Ireland. This lack of a revolutionary spirit among the young was clearly evident in the water charges campaign. This was a campaign that required real commitment, courage and stamina because it threatened the vital interests of the corrupt elite that have ruled and ruined our country for decades.

If the student unions or any other youth movement were on the streets for the anti-water charges campaign I didn’t see them. In fact, in my experience and observations the bulk of water warriors were made up of middle aged and elderly citizens many of them accompanied by children. Yes, of course, young people were involved but they did not, as Mullally claims, constitute the bulk of campaigners.

In common with all establishment journalists Ms. Mullally operates in a media bubble that has little understanding of the reality out on the streets.

If she ever manages to burst out of that bubble she will immediately realise that there is no revolutionary youth movement in Ireland and that political corruption is the sole reason for the housing catastrophe.

Copy to:

Una Mullally

 

 

Citizenship status has been removed from the Irish people

 

 

By Anthony Sheridan

The people of Ireland should know that Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Labour Party have removed the status of citizenship from them and replaced it with the inferior status of ‘customer’.

The process was initiated in 1997 and has been refined and expanded upon ever since. Ministers and civil servants no longer address citizens as citizens but as customers.

For example, during a recent interview on RTEs Today with Sean O’Rourke  [July 2 – 2nd report] the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty referred to old age pensioners as ‘customers’.

Thinking that this may have been a ministerial slip of the tongue I had a look at Ms. Doherty’s department website and found that the status of citizenship had indeed been removed and substituted with the lesser title of ‘customer’ [See below for example].

A quick search across other departments confirmed that this is official policy. Here for example is an extract from the Department of the Taoiseach:

Our Commitment to our Customers

The Department of the Taoiseach is committed to providing a professional, efficient and courteous service to all our customers…We will treat all our customers equally and make every effort to ensure that the services we provide reflect your needs and expectations.

This is a deeply disturbing development as it strikes at the very core of the democratic relationship between citizen and state. It strongly implies that ministers and state officials have taken ownership of the power, wealth and resources of the state. That they, and not the citizenry are – The State.

It implies that [now former] citizens are mere ‘customers’ that must comply with laid down conditions if they wish to ‘do business’ with the new owners of the state.

This quote, taken from the Dept. of Public Expenditure and Reform, makes it crystal clear that it is the department that is the provider of goods and services and the citizen is the customer:

Deliver quality services with courtesy, sensitivity and the minimum delay, fostering a climate of mutual respect between provider and customer.

The development further implies that ministers and civil servants no longer see themselves as (civil/public) servants, elected and employed to serve people and country but rather as wielders of state power over and superior to the power of the people.

I spoke about the issue with a senior official in the Dept. of the Taoiseach who was genuinely surprised that I thought the matter was of any importance.

Here’s why I believe the issue is of crucial importance:

Democracy literally means ‘rule by the people’. Not by politicians or civil servants but by the citizenry. In representative democracies certain elected citizens are temporarily appointed to govern on behalf of the people. They are granted state power by the people to govern on behalf of the people but the possession of that power does not raise their status above that of any other citizen. It does not create a relationship whereby the politician is master and the citizen is a customer.

Similarly, many citizens are employed to serve the State on behalf of the people across a wide range of government departments but no individual civil servant possesses a status or a power above that of any other citizen, they remain servants to the democracy of the people.

This policy of downgrading the sacrosanct status of citizenship by replacing it with the inferior and cheap status of ‘customer’ is obnoxious to the very meaning of democracy.

Customer means:

A person who buys goods or services from a shop or business.

In the world of trade this is a perfectly legitimate definition. An individual becomes a customer when they decide to purchase goods or services from the owner of a business.

In a functional democracy citizens do not purchase goods or services from politicians or state officials operating under the illusion that they own these goods and services. Citizens avail of goods and services that they (the citizens) have provided for the greater good of all the people. It is the function of politicians and officials to serve the people by organising and dispensing these goods and services according to need. They do so as fellow and equal citizens, not as overseers doing business with customers.

Citizenship means:

The status of a person recognised under the custom or law as being a legal member of a sovereign state or belonging to a nation.

It’s unlikely that this removal of the status of citizenship is a deliberate conspiracy to weaken democracy but that is exactly what it will do.  Once a concept is accepted by an authority it quickly becomes the norm.

That’s why the official I spoke to at the Dept. of the Taoiseach was so puzzled by my concerns. She has already accepted those who deal with her department are not citizens but customers and therefore should be dealt with as such.

Similarly with Minister Doherty. She obviously feels totally at ease in referring to citizens as customers. But by so doing she is over-turning the centuries long democratic principle that politicians and state officials are servants to the people and not, as the term ‘customer’ suggests, masters over the citizenry.

But even more crucially the Minister has lost sight of the most important democratic principle of all – that citizens ARE the state and therefore can never be customers to it.

Copy to:

Minister Doherty

Official at Dept. of Taoiseach

All political parties

Media

 

 

From the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection website:

The Department of Social Protection delivers an extensive range of services nationwide, to a wide and diverse group of customers including families, jobseekers, people in employment, people with illnesses and disabilities, carers, older people and employers. These schemes and services are delivered locally through a national network
of Intreo Centres and Branch Offices and from centralised offices countrywide.

 

 

From the Dept. of Public Expenditure and Reform

Foreword by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform

Mr. Brendan Howlin, T.D.

On 17th November, I launched the Government’s Public Service Reform Plan.

This Plan sets out our strategy to radically reform how we deliver public services in the years ahead. One of the key themes of the Plan is placing Customer Service at the core of everything we do. An important commitment in this regard is to continue to drive the Customer Charter initiative in the Public Service, particularly with regard to consultation with customers, identification of service targets and channels, and reporting annually on progress.

The Customer Charter Initiative gives customers a clear and unambiguous statement of the level of service they can expect. It also provides a framework that allows us, as public servants, to measure and improve the quality of services provided and to report on this publicly.

Our interactions with customers, whether this is with the general public or businesses, set the basis for how we are perceived. We all know that Ireland is currently in a challenging position economically, but we must also bear in mind that we have an increasingly complex and diverse customer base with growing customer expectations.

The Customer Charter process allows organisations to engage with their customers to design their services better and to become more flexible and responsive to the needs of services users. While the Charter process has been successful, we must continue to aim higher and to further strengthen and deepen the customer service improvement process. The Customer Charters and Action Plans being prepared for 2012-2014 should build on past successes and learn from previous challenges.

These practical guidelines for Public Service organisations for the preparation of Customer Charters were first published in 2003, and revised in 2008. I am now pleased to introduce the third iteration of these Guidelines, which have been revised and updated in light of the Programme for Government, the Public Service Reform Plan and the evolving nature of service delivery generally. These Guidelines also cover Customer Action Plans, which should be used as the vehicle for achieving the objectives set out in Charters.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Quality Customer Service Officers’ Network, who have been central to the Charter process over the past decade, for their work in the preparation of these Guidelines and for their continuing commitment to the implementation of Quality Customer Service in the Irish Public Service.

Brendan Howlin, T.D.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform

January, 2012