Was Mary Harney protecting Ansbacher account holders?

I often wondered why then minister and leader of the Progressive Democrats, Mary Harney, suddenly shut down the Ansbacher investigation in 2004.

Perhaps the following question, put to Enda Kenny by Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald, explains Harney’s decision.

Do you believe Mr. Ryan (the whistleblower) when he says that his investigation that was shut down by Mary Harney when he uncovered names of senior politicians from the Progressive Democrats, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, that they held offshore accounts, revelations that would have been most uncomfortable for the political establishment?

Harney's betrayal: The criminal Haughey would have been proud

I find it difficult to believe that I once admired Mary Harney.

When she and Des O’Malley challenged the criminal Haughey and his corrupt party by leaving and forming the Progressive Democrats I had hoped that, at last, Ireland was on the road to real democracy.

And indeed while O’Malley was leader the party acted with integrity and determination in challenging our corrupt, gombeen political system.

Sadly, all that ended soon after Harney took over as leader. She obviously concluded that all that integrity and accountability stuff was a hindrance to staying in and exploiting power.

Harney abandoned her principles and, in effect, rejoined her old, corrupt, Fianna Fail party. In so doing, she betrayed her country.

In typically cowardly Fianna Fail fashion she was on the airwaves today blaming others for the destruction of our country.

We have very strong regulation in relation to corporate governance. For example, I personally established the Director of Corporate Enforcement.

When I was Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment I carried out many inquiries including one into Ansbacher.

There was a failure by the authorities to enforce the regulations, of that there is no doubt.

According to this cowardly traitor government ministers have no responsibility whatsoever for the actions/non actions of state enforcement agencies.

This cowardly traitor did establish the Director of Corporate Enforcement – a completely powerless authority that has yet to bring a single white collar criminal to justice.

Its powerlessness and abject failure is, like the failure of all other so called law enforcement authorities, no accident.

This cowardly traitor was involved in the Ansbacher and many other inquiries concerning white collar crime but none of these crimes were uncovered by so called law enforcement authorities. They were all uncovered by whistleblowers or the media.

Without exception, every one of these inquiries ended in failure. Not a single white collar criminal was ever charged. This is the record this traitor is so proud of.

When asked did she feel ashamed that she is part of a government that has seen the IMF called in she replied.

No, I don’t actually.

She defended her lack of shame by covering it with the lie spouted by her fellow Fianna Fail liars – it’s not a bailout, it’s a loan.

The criminal Haughey would have been proud of this woman’s descent from the high ground of integrity and concern for her country to his own level of grasping greed, dishonesty and betrayal.

Progressive Democrats and light touch regulation

Writing in the Irish Times on Jan 2006 Séamus Mulconroy Progressive Democrats’ director of policy had the following to say about light touch regulation (My emphasis).

IFSC needs light regulation.

If Ireland abandons softer regulation, we will have one of the most stringent financial sector regulatory environments in the world, writes Séamus Mulconroy.

The IFSC has been one of the outstanding success stories of modern Ireland, a public-private partnership that worked, the brain child of entrepreneur Dermot Desmond, backed by the then taoiseach Charlie Haughey.

It transformed an area of disused docklands into a major international financial services. Half of the world’s top 50 banks have Dublin operations. According to the IDA, up to 16,000 professionals work directly in the international financial services sector, and a similar number are employed in support sectors such as legal and accountancy services.

Nor is employment confined to the IFSC, and many IFSC firms have sizable operations across the Republic, including State Street in Kilkenny, GMAC in Mullingar, MBNA Carrick-on-Shannon, Cigna Galway to name but a few.

While the new buildings along the north shore of the river Liffey are impressive, the sheer scale of the operations managed from the IFSC is even more impressive.

The net asset values of domiciled investment funds amounted to €498 billion, while cross-Border life assurance premiums amount to €5.6 billion. The tax revenue to the Exchequer has been equally impressive – in 2002 alone, IFSC companies paid €700 million in corporation tax.

In the early days the value proposition for the IFSC was simple: low corporation tax, a light touch regulatory regime – as little red tape as possible – and an English speaking workforce located in the EU. It was a value proposition that appealed to the international financial services community as attested to by the rapid growth of the IFSC. Just remember that the IFSC was still only a concept in 1986.

However, we live in a constantly changing world and as so many investment products stipulate, past performance is no guarantee of future performance. The IFSC faces many challenges, new competitors are emerging both from within and outside the EU eager to replicate our achievements and frankly to steal our lunch.

The IFSC must adapt to the challenges of the future. The Future Of The Services Sector In Ireland, a consultants’ report prepared recently for the IDA, highlighted some of the opportunities which exist. Just as in the past, having the right regulatory regime will be crucial if we are to seize these opportunities. Recent high-profile scandals in the reinsurance industry in the US and Australia have focused attention on the regulatory regime under which the IFSC operates.

Both Justin O’Brien, director of corporate governance at Queen’s University, Belfast and Liam O’Reilly, chief executive, the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority, have both recently written in this newspaper on the issues involved. I do not propose to examine the specifics of the case quoted, but rather to look at the issue of regulation in more general terms.

At the first hint of any scandal, governments and regulators are always called on to act. The cry goes up immediately that something must be done – whether or not that something makes sense or not is another question.

Despite what media commentators always argue, not every scandal requires a government or a regulatory response. Neither government nor indeed regulators should strive to create a risk-free world or a risk-free business environment.

To quote Tony Blair:

“Instead of the ‘something must be done’ cry that goes up every time there is a problem or a ‘scandal’, we make it clear we will reflect first and regulate only after reflection.”

Business is constantly changing and change carries with it new risks. If we seek to pre-empt every risk through regulation, we will simply add to the cost of doing business and drive businesses to other locations.
The essence of business is that investors take risks to gain returns; business without risk would be like the sea without salt.

Charlie McCreevy encapsulated the challenge for regulators in a recent speech:

“My appeal to you is when regulating, to give due weight to the need to strike the right balance between prudential and investor protection considerations and the need for competitiveness and innovation in financial services. “Don’t try to protect everyone from every possible accident. Concentrate on the big things that really matter, and leave industry with the space to breathe and investors with the freedom to learn from their mistakes.”

He also forcefully made the point that those mis-sellers and wrongdoers who break the rules must be punished severely.

In an increasingly competitive world, I fear that if Ireland and the IFSC abandon their commitment to light-touch regulation, the result may be that we have one of the most stringent regulatory environments in the world and very few companies left to regulate.

Light-touch regulation does not mean a free for all or the condoning of illegal or immoral practices; it does mean as Charlie McCreevy says striking the right balance between protecting the public and the integrity of the market and stifling business with burdensome regulation and unsustainable costs.

As the Progressive Democrats have found to their benefit, advice from Charlie McCreevy is always worth listening to.

Séamus Mulconroy is the Progressive Democrats’ director of policy.

© The Irish Times. 20th Jan 2006

Betraying the Republic

The PDs came into existence in the mid 80s in reaction to the ruthless and corrupt leadership of Haughey.

They were a party of courage and integrity while Des O’Malley was leader but as soon as Mary Harney took over the party reverted to its Fianna Fail roots of ignoring corruption in Irish public life in exchange for power.

In part two of ‘Bertie’ Harney effectively confirmed that she has always been a closet Fianna Failer. Asked about the controversy that saw Haughey sack Brian Lenihan as demanded by the PDs she said:

“It’s an issue many in our party would feel bad about, about the stand we took and the way we did.”

Genuine PDs should be proud that they got Lenihan’s head on a plate. Unfortunately it was the last occasion in which the party stood by the Republic.

PDs legacy

The legacy of the PDs was discussed on Saturday View. Former PD minister Bobby Molloy said;

“One of the most important things we did was having the tribunal established to investigate the beef industry and all the stuff that has been revealed following that and other tribunals.

None of that would have happened were it not for the fact that we were absolutely adamant there must be an independent judicial inquiry.”

Molloy is right in his claim that the PDs were responsible for the establishment of the Beef Tribunal but when the report was finally published and it became crystal clear that it was a whitewash his party fell into line with everybody else in sticking their heads in the sand.

Every tribunal since has seen the same reaction. Massive corruption revealed but no action taken. Everybody congratulates themselves for doing a wonderful job, the media analyse the report for a week and all is then forgotten until the next investigation.

It will be the same when the present batch of tribunals comes to an end – no action will be taken.

Molloy related an interesting story about how he and O’Malley forced the corrupt Haughey to establish the Beef Tribunal. Apparently, Haughey at first refused outright but when the PDs stood their ground Haughey offered an enquiry by the Attorney General. Again, the PDs stood their ground until finally Haughey gave in and established a full judicial enquiry as demanded.

It was this kind of integrity and courage that made the PDs and it was the abandonment of such principles by Mary Harney that destroyed the party.

PDs drown in Fianna Fail sewer

About the only sensible thing Michael McDowell ever said during his political career was that the PDs had to be either radical or redundant. The party stopped being radical and thus became redundant the moment Mary Harney decided to share power with Bertie Ahern.

Of course, the PDs had shared power with Fianna Fail before but there was always a degree of instability so long as the PDs stuck by their ethical principles. It’s actually impossible to maintain ethical standards and, at the same time, share power with a corrupt party like Fianna Fail as the Greens have quickly discovered.

Harney, realising this, quickly abandoned the party’s core value of defending high ethical standards in public office and led the party back down to the Fianna Fail sewers from which the original leaders of the PDs, including Harney, had courageously extracted themselves in 1985.

Once back in the sewer, political life became much easier for Harney and most of her colleagues, both parties floated along at the same level, happily sharing the same stench.

The problem of course was that voters couldn’t tell the difference anymore so why bother voting for a party that had voluntarily made itself redundant.

PDs – A humiliating end

It’s almost, and I stress ‘almost’, sad to see the PDs (Pathetic Dopes?) spin out their inevitable demise in such a humiliating fashion.

Mary Harney has always been a dyed in the wool Fianna Failer, a fact clearly demonstrated by her complete abandonment of ethical standards after taking over leadership of the PDs.

Her unwavering loyalty to a chancer like Bertie Ahern was bound to result in the destruction of a party that once had the potential to really break the mould of Irish (corrupt) politics.

The poor should be worried

Letter published in the Irish Times 19th February – The Harneyisation of Irish health continues.


GPs have received a letter from the consultants and nursing staff of the emergency department at Beaumont Hospital. The letter states:

“The [ emergency] department is in urgent need of an ultrasound machine which is required to speedily assess internal organ damage resulting from traffic accidents and knife trauma wounds.” And with commendable forbearance the letter observes: “It would be reasonable to assume that the machine would be a standard piece of A&E equipment.”

However, it appears there is no money for it. So the A&E staff are going on to the streets to beg for the money – €24,000 – to buy the machine. They hope to raise it through a golf classic or, for non-golfers, by a one-off donation of €100.

This is a scandal. A scandal for Bertie Ahern. A scandal for Mary Harney. A scandal for the HSE. A scandal for the Government. A scandal for the limp Opposition. And a scandal for the local politicians. Here is a major trauma centre in a national hospital having to get down on its knees to beg for basic equipment.

The poor should be worried. And so, may I say, should the rich. If you have a knife stuck between your shoulder-blades, it is no time to go flashing your Plan E card at the Gullawntha Medical Clinic with the oak tree in the atrium and three ladies playing the harp. You will be redirected to the public hospital and advised to have a nice day.

Repeatedly, general practitioners hear praise from patients for the staff at Beaumont A&E. They comment on the courtesy and care of the doctors, nurses and ancillary staff. And this in spite of the squalor and overcrowding provided by the Government.

The Harneyisation of the Irish medical scene is becoming more and more vivid. Wealth is further swelling the wallets of the wealthy. Mary Harney’s relocation system means that millions upon millions of euro are being relocated from the taxpayers’ pocket into the insatiable pockets of the earnestly rich.

Her plan is clear.The poor will please keep left and know their place. The richly insured will please head for the (very far) right.
Would Ms Harney please write a cheque today for €24,000 for that ultrasound machine in Beaumont? If she has difficulty in getting that sum together she might perhaps consult her friends who have special talents in the art of subtle acquisition.

Yours, etc,


Howth Road, Killester, Dublin 5.

What ever happened to Mary…?

Remember Mary Harney? Wasn’t she the leader of some party or other, I think they started out with high principles, strong views on political corruption and some kind of a motto about being radical or redundant.

I wonder what they would have to say, if they were still around, about the latest shenanigans surrounding their former coalition partner.

What ever happened to Mary anyway, somebody mentioned that she had joined a ‘vow of silence’ nunnery – must be true.