Irish/Italian accountability

The ongoing case involving the Bank of Italy’s governor, Antonio Fazio makes an interesting comparison with how things are done in the Banana Republic of Ireland.

Fazio is facing questioning by magistrates for allegedly abusing his position by favouring Italian banks over foreign banks. If Italian standards of investigation and accountability were applied in Ireland, there would be dozens if not hundreds of Irish executives and politicians in jail.

Let’s just compare the Italian case with one of the hundreds of corrupt practices uncovered in the Banana Republic in recent years.

Irish banks and other financial institutions robbed hundreds of millions from the State through a well organised fraud involving DIRT tax. The Central Bank, Dept of Finance, Revenue Commissioners and various Ministers for Finance all knew that this fraud was in operation. Indeed, Revenue actually facilitated the fraud by issuing a memo that specifically prevented its own officials from checking the banks.

When the media (the only effective regulator in Ireland) uncovered the fraud, the banks were only required to pay back a portion of the money stolen, with some interest. No police, no magistrates, no courts, no jail, no accountability.

In Italy, Fazio is merely accused of favouring an Italian bank over a foreign bank in a takeover bid. For this he could be facing a three year jail sentence. In Ireland, this kind of activity would attract praise and promotion.

But most astonishing of all for Irish citizens, used to living in a state without integrity or accountability, is to witness the Italian Economy Minister, Domenico Siniscalco, resign in protest over the scandal saying that Italy’s reputation was being damaged.

Two Laws

Every once in a while a case/report appears in the media that crystalises how things are done in the Banana Republic of Ireland. Last Saturday’s Irish Times reported on the case of a Land Registry official who is facing charges of corruptly accepting cheques. The Department of Justice issued the following statement.

“A number of irregularities came to light in the Land Registry during 2003 in relation to the processing and payment of fees for certain services.”The gardaa­ were duly notified and they undertook an investigation into the matter. The matter is now before the courts. No further comment can be made at this stage as it is subjudice.”

In today’s Irish Times we read

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Micheal Martin has directed that information amassed in an inquiry into three companies linked to the Ansbacher affair be passed from his department to a number of other public bodies.

The ordinary official is in court on corruption charges two years after his alleged crime but according to the Irish Times report involving the Ansbacher scandal

the findings of the investigations into Hamilton Ross, Guinness & Mahon Ireland and College Trustees remain secret, some seven years after they were initiated

(Just allow me to repeat that – remain secret some seven years after they were initiated)
The case of the ordinary official in the Land Registry office is a good example of how real democracies deal with alleged corruption – Investigation: charges: trial: appropriate punishment. (All carried out efficiently and applied to the rich and powerful as well as to ordinary citizens)
This system results in respect for justice, respect for law and order, a sense of equality in society, and international respect for our democracy.

The Ansbacher criminality primarily involves rich and powerful citizens. None of those involved will face criminal charges, none will see the inside of a jail. Deals will be done, arrangements will be made, secrecy will be maintained.
This system results in cynicism, loss of respect for law and order, loss of respect for democracy, international contempt and the deserved title – Banana Republic of Ireland.

Only one event at centre this year is equestrian

Everyone remembers the controversy surrouding State funding for this center in Kildare, then Charlie McCreevy’s constituency. It seems now that all that taxpayers money was given away for nothing, as we all expected.

Just one event taking place in the controversial Agricultural and Equestrian Event Centre in Punchestown this year can be described as either equestrian or agricultural, an Oireachtas Committee heard yesterday.

During a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee (Pac) the €15 million State-funded centre was described by the Department of Agriculture as meeting a need in the agricultural and equestrian sectors for such a facility.

The department was presenting a review of the project which claimed it was properly sited at Punchestown and provided a positive economic and social benefit.

Pac chairman Michael Noonan of Fine Gael questioned the relationship between a series of events taking place at the centre this year and the agricultural and equestrian sector. These included a chilled food show, the Oxegen Rock concert, a car show, a house and garden exhibition, a Christmas trade show and a commercial truck show.

He said that of the 10 events at the centre this year, the only event that appeared to be linked to agriculture was the Kildare Growers’ show, a horticultural show taking place at the moment.

“There seems to be a divergence between the theory and the practice,” Mr Noonan said.