Malaysia/Ireland: Different responses to corruption

An ongoing anti-corruption protest in Malaysia tells us a great deal about how far Ireland has to travel before we even begin to tackle the disease of corruption.

The protesters are demanding that Prime Minister Najib Razak step down over allegations that he accepted a large payment from unnamed foreign donors.

One protester said:

There are too many government scandals. I hope the Prime Minister steps down because he has shamed the country.

Another said:

The current government is robbing the nation of everything it’s got. The people need to put themselves forward to save the country.

In Ireland, while there is a great deal of awareness and anger at corruption, there is no concerted action in response to the disease.

There is no public outcry when our Prime Minister shames our country, which he frequently does. There is no public outcry when government officials/politicians rob the nation, which they frequently do.

The massive and ongoing protests against the water tax are the only indication that Irish citizens have had enough of corruption. And it is heartening to see that these protests are rapidly evolving into open rebellion against the rot in our political/administrative system.

One of the reasons for the corruption in Malaysia is the fact that the current political party has been in power for nearly six decades. The situation is similar in Ireland. We have a political class, (a ruling elite) principally composed of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour who have been ruling and robbing the nation since independence.

The emergence of several new parties and a host of independents coupled with growing anger among ordinary citizens is a clear indication that this old corrupt regime is heading for the bin of history.

The starkest difference between Ireland and Malaysia is that, in Malaysia, there is an anti-corruption agency. The agency is strongly backing the allegations of corruption made by the protesters.

Not only is there no such agency in Ireland but corruption as an issue is not even officially recognised. To my knowledge corruption doesn’t even appear as a statistic in Garda crime returns.

In fact, in Ireland, there is no independent authority whatsoever that has the power to challenge corruption within state organisations. All so-called regulatory/law enforcement agencies, including the Gardai, operate under the control and influence of our corrupt political system.

Dr. Weeks: Living in the zone of denial

Here’s an absolute law that applies to all commentators writing about Irish politics.

If you write an article analysing any aspect of Irish politics without referring to political corruption or even mentioning the word ‘corruption’, you are wasting your own and your readers time because you are not addressing the raging elephant in the room.

The latest in a long line of commentators to break this law is Dr. Liam Weeks, lecturer in the Department of Government at UCC.

In an Irish Times article, Dr. Weeks repeats the well-known fact that the traditional political parties, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour, are suffering a serious loss of support from the electorate.

He gives two reasons for this development – a declining level of attachment to parties and the collapse in support for Fianna Fail.

However, he makes no attempt whatsoever to explain to his readers why citizens are rejecting mainstream politics in their droves. He could do worse than have a look at this blog where he will find any number of articles outlining the reasons for this development.

Here, for example, is what I wrote on 15 June last. Again, I was writing about the chronic inability/unwillingness of political commentators to recognise the elephant of political corruption.

The emergence of a new politics is directly related to the fact that the old regime (Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour) has, over many decades, loyally served the corrupt political culture of clientelism, gombeenism and stroke politics rather than building a functional, properly accountable democracy.

I suspect Dr. Weeks is not actually aware of this truth. I suspect he operates in the same bubble in which most other political commentators operate. In this bubble he sees the Irish political system as democratic and, for the most part, functional – it is neither.

In order to keep the bubble from bursting Dr. Weeks must, consciously or unconsciously, enter what I call ‘the zone of denial’.

So, in his article Dr. Weeks states the problem – that the electorate is rejecting mainstream politics. He then enters the zone of denial where he can safely ignore the reasons for this development and instead skip to how events will affect the outcome of the approaching general election.

In other words, he describes the past and predicts the future while steadfastly ignoring the reality that connects them – political corruption.

Of course, Dr. Weeks is by no means alone in this. Read the opinion pieces in any newspaper; listen to the many discussion panels on radio/television and you will witness endless analysis surrounding corrupt events but you will never, ever witness any discussion of corruption as a subject in and of itself.

The reason for this is as simple as it is stark. If the disease of political corruption is acknowledged it will have to be acted upon and if that happens it will destroy the corrupt political system so carefully created over the decades by the mainstream political parties of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour.

These parties and their many supporters in the media will not easily surrender their privileged and powerful position.

Fortunately, while commentators like Dr. Weeks operate comfortably in the zone of denial, an increasing number of ordinary citizens are taking matters into their own hands.

The days of the old regime are numbered.

Copy to:
Dr. Weeks

Corruption: Feeding off the carcass of Irish democracy

The following words, spoken by Barack Obama in Kenya, have never been heard in Ireland.

People were being consistently sapped by corruption at a high level and at a low level and there was a need for visible prosecutions to show Kenyans that action was being taken.

They (Kenyan people) don’t have to be forensic accountants to know what is going on.

Until these words are spoken and acted upon in Ireland we will continue to have endless inquiries and tribunals that are specifically designed to allow the disease of corruption to endlessly feed off the carcass of Irish democracy.

A direct challenge to Labour Party TD Derek Nolan

Labour TD Derek Nolan recently delivered a political sermon with the heading:

Do the Social Democrats believe in the rule of law?

Deputy Nolan was writing about the decision of Social Democrat TDs not to pay their water charges and didn’t mince his words:

There is no future for our democracy in people picking and choosing which laws they obey.

In July 2013 Labour Senator Denis Landy alleged that a political person attempted to bribe him within the confines of the Oireachtas. He has refused to name the person involved or report the matter to the Gardai despite numerous calls for him to do so.

Senator Landy’s refusal to report the matter seems to be in breach of Section 19 of the Criminal Justice Act 2011 which states:

19. (1) A person shall be guilty of an offence if he or she has information which he or she knows or believes might be of material assistance in

(a) preventing the commission by any other person of a relevant offence, or

(b) securing the apprehension, prosecution or conviction of any other person for a relevant offence and fails without reasonable excuse to disclose that information as soon as it is practicable to do so to a member of the Garda Síochána.

The list of offences under this legislation includes bribery.

The Labour Party, through a spokesperson, responded to this extremely serious incident by declaring that the bribery attempt was a matter for Senator Landy himself.

In effect, the Labour party is saying that Labour TDs who are offered a bribe have no obligation to report the matter to the Gardai; they can simply treat the matter as private and personal.

This disgraceful response also seems to be in breach of Section 19 of the Criminal Justice Act 2011.

So here’s my direct challenge to deputy Nolan.

One: Will you publicly condemn Labour Senator Denis Landy, (as you have publicly condemned Social Democrat TDs), for refusing to report to the Gardai bribery allegations he made in July 2013?

Two: Will you publicly call on Senator Landy, even at this late stage, to report the bribery allegations to the Gardai as he is obliged to do under law?

Three: Will you publicly condemn the disgraceful Labour Party response to this extremely serious matter?

Four: Will you publicly call on the Labour Party to issue a statement confirming that Section 19 of the Criminal Justice Act 2011 takes precedence over the party’s policy that bribery attempts are a private matter between a politician and the person offering the bribe?

Your response to this challenge will decide whether your condemnation of Social Democratic TDs is based on genuine concern for the rule of law or whether it’s based on traditional Irish political hypocrisy.

One week, I believe is a reasonable length of time for a response.

Yours etc.,
Anthony Sheridan

Copy to:
Deputy Nolan
Senator Landy
Labour Party

Anger is a policy

The economist Colm McCarthy said anger is not a policy – he’s wrong.

Anger is crucial for justice, without justice there is chaos. The level of anger in a community/country is directly related to the level of justice. In today’s Ireland there is little justice and therefore much anger. Anger must be harnessed and controlled otherwise it will be exploited and used as a weapon by those who have betrayed our country.

Anger must be used as the powerful force it is to sweep away the corrupt political system that has destroyed the lives of so many people.

Finally, the energy of anger must be employed as a positive force in the building of a new, truly democratic republic.

Berkeley: Time for calmness and measured respect

Ok, somebody has to say it.

The Berkeley deaths were horrific, tragic and the victims and their families deserve a compassionate and appropriate response.

But some of the reaction is over the top and far from appropriate.

Here’s a recent comment:

It’s such a tragedy. It’s not a plane crashing; it’s not something like the guy with the gun in America last week. It’s a tragedy that could have been avoided.

What would the family and friends of the nine people shot to death in Charleston have to say in response to this comment?

What would the family and friends of the 150 people who died in the recent plane crash in the Alps have to say in response to this comment?

There is not the slightest doubt that the person who made the comment did not in any way mean to cause offence.

But the suggestion, and sometimes outright claim, that the Berkeley deaths were somehow more tragic than other horrifying incidents is not only disrespectful of the people involved in those incidents but is also disrespectful of the Berkeley victims and their families.

It’s time for calmness and measured respect.

An open letter to the leader of the Green Party Eamon Ryan

We must get people re-engaged in politics.

These are the words of Green Party leader Eamon Ryan.

Here’s my reply:

Dear Mr. Ryan,

It is highly unlikely that you will understand never mind actually act on what I’m about to say. This is because, in common with most of your political colleagues, you live in a political bubble of delusion.

Created over many decades of corruption, arrogance and incompetence this bubble of delusion causes a complete blindness to what citizens are desperately looking for from the body politic/State.

What they are looking for is very simple – a political/administrative system they can trust.

But they never get what they want because the political/administrative system is corrupt beyond reform.

This is not to say that every politician/political party is corrupt. It is to say, however, that every politician/political party operates within a corrupt system particularly when wielding political power.

Every politician who enters the gates of Leinster House must make a decision, consciously or subconsciously – to challenge corruption or go along with the rotten system that has blighted the body politic for decades.

To date, most politicians have gone along with the system and by so doing have betrayed the people’s trust. The very few who challenge the system, like Roisin Shortall, are immediately and ruthlessly ejected from the club.

The system will not tolerate a threat from its most dangerous enemy – a politician with principles.

A brief look at recent political history over the last three decades proves the point.

The people trusted the Progressive Democrats because they promised accountability and reform in response to corruption within Fianna Fail.
Ultimately, the PDs betrayed the people when they abandoned their integrity and principles in exchange for power and influence.

The people rejected the PDs for their betrayal.

Dick Spring gained the trust of the people in the run up to the 1992 election on the basis that he would deal with what he called the cancer of political corruption that was doing so much damage to Ireland and its people. He immediately betrayed that trust when he went into coalition with the very cancer he had just condemned.

The people rejected Dick Spring for his betrayal.

In opposition, the Green Party gained the trust of the people by promising to reform politics, to challenge corruption. Once in power however, the party abandoned the responsibilities of power/government and instead focused entirely on getting its own green agenda enacted. The party looked the other way as political corruption continued to wreak havoc on the lives of Irish citizens.

Here’s John Gormley in response to political corruption:

We’re not the moral watchdog of any political party…we look after our probity and our standards…we cannot be responsible for events that took place before our entry into government.

The people rejected the Green Party for its betrayal.

The Labour Party (again) and Fine Gael gained the trust, of a by now desperate people, in the run up to the 2011 election by promising to take immediate action to counter political corruption, by promising to urgently introduce the political reform the people have been desperately seeking for more than thirty years. But once again the body politic betrayed the people.

The people will reject this government for its betrayal.

But, on this occasion, there is a difference in the people’s response. They have finally rejected the system itself that has betrayed them. Our country is now in a transition period that will ultimately see the end of the old regime and the beginning of a new type of politics.

Recent polls have clearly demonstrated that the people have lost all faith in the political system as currently constituted. This fact is most clearly seen in the form of hundreds of thousands of citizens on the streets in protest against oppressive taxes. These people are not on the streets primarily to protest against taxes, they are, effectively, in rebellion against the political/administrative system that has betrayed them for decades.

Your comment that the people must re-engage with politics is symptomatic of a political mindset that is in the process of passing into history. I would invite you to wake up and look around you.

A significant percentage of the people are in open rebellion against the political system that you represent, they have taken to the streets in rebellion, they have begun voting in their droves for Sinn Fein and independents for just one principal reason – they no longer trust you, your party or the political system that you represent.

Not since 1916 have the Irish people been so politically energised, not since 1916 have the people been so radically politicised, not since 1916 has the ruling power been so blind to what’s been happening on the streets and in the minds of the people.

Not since 1916 has the governing power been so disengaged from politics and the people.

Yours sincerely
Anthony Sheridan

Copy to:
Eamon Ryan

Lucinda Creighton’s choice: Inside or outside the gates of Leinster House

Lucinda Creighton’s new party, Renua, will ultimately fail in its mission to reform our corrupt political system.

The principal reason she will fail is that she is an insider herself. Her party is launching its laudable campaign for desperately needed reform from inside a system that will not tolerate any serious challenge to its corrupt culture.

In common with most other politicians, Creighton is aware that serious reform is needed if the political system is to serve Ireland and its people in the same manner as functional democracies do.

What she’s not aware of is just how diseased the whole regime has become. She naively believes that the system that has systematically abused power for decades will willingly divest itself of that power in the interests of democratic reform, it will not happen.

The Progressive Democrats, the Green Party and Labour all had similar ambitions for reform but as soon as they entered the political sewer that is Leinster House, they all succumbed to the benefits to be had by cooperating with the system.

The system maintains, for the moment, an iron grip on how things are done, how decisions are made and who benefits from those decisions. We only have to listen to the daily news for confirmation of that fact.

The only way the power of the corrupt regime can be successfully challenged is from an outside force, a force that is in no way associated with or in league with its corrupt culture.

Sinn Fein could have been that force after the last election if the party’s leadership had the vision to take the necessary radical action.

They could have stood outside the gates of Leinster House, surrounded by the disempowered/betrayed citizens, and demanded immediate political reform before any re-engagement with the political process.

An alliance of independent TDs could have done the same.

Such action, I firmly believe, would have had an immediate and dramatic impact on the power of the corrupt regime that has destroyed our country.

A large section of the electorate rebelled against the State over the property tax. That rebellion was suppressed by the power of Revenue. A much larger section of the electorate has rebelled against the water tax and have, in the process, become radically politicised.

There is no putting this genie back in the bottle. I believe the power of the current corrupt regime is coming to an end.

The people are outside the gates of Leinster House demanding real democratic reform.

Lucinda Creighton and her fellow TDs will soon be forced to make a decision:

Abandon Leinster House and join the people outside the gates or remain inside in a last ditch defence of the old corrupt regime.

Copy to:
Lucinda Creighton

Time to force civil servants and politicians to serve the state

The appointment by Fine Gael TD John Perry of his wife as a parliamentary assistant is just the latest example of how our gombeen political system works.

Wink, wink, nod, nod and when caught out, throw out the first thing that comes to mind – Ah shure it was just a temporary arrangement and I’m now appointing somebody else.

The gombeen system is backed up by a civil service that’s 100% loyal to the politicians and their cronies. Secrecy is the principle weapon but legislation is also a powerful force when it comes to ‘looking after’ the lads and ladies in Dail Eireann.

I rang the Oireachtas this morning to ask what legislation they were referring to when refusing to tell the taxpayers of the country how much it was costing them to fund the salary of Perry’s wife.

Section 37 of the Freedom of Information Act, I was told. I had a look and, while I’m no expert in the area, it seems to me that using this Act to protect the likes of Perry and his wife is an abuse of the FOI Act.

It is long past time that politicians and civil servants are forced by law to serve the people of Ireland and not their own selfish interests.