The following editorial in today’s Irish Examiner is worth reproducing in full.
The header asks: Why are we pathetically complacent?
I don’t’ think the Irish people are complacent. I think rather they have, over the decades, being rendered totally powerless by the sheer weight of corruption within the political/administrative system.
Irish citizens can see the corruption, they are extremely angry about it, particularly since September 2008, but because the governing system is so infected with the disease it is, short of a revolution, almost impossible to make any serious challenge to the power of state corruption.
Challenging corruption – Why are we pathetically complacent?
Friday, July 26, 2013
It is not an exaggeration to say that the country was convulsed in the run up to the passage of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Bill through the Oireachtas.
Tens of thousands of people marched, every media platform was dominated by debate on the issue. Croziers were dusted off and swung like broadswords in a way that once commanded obedience. Taoiseach Enda Kenny showed an unexpected ruthlessness to get the legislation passed.
We had, in Irish terms at least, a spectacular and almost unheard of form of protest — politicians risking careers on a point of principle.
It was, whichever side of the debate you stood on, a matter of right or wrong. A position had to be taken, remaining neutral was not an option.
Yet, and though the ink is barely dry on the abortion legislation, another manifestation of this society’s justice system’s dysfunction and ongoing failures, our seeming indifference to allegations of corruption — or the innocence and good name of those accused of it — presents itself and there’s hardly a game-changing ripple across the public consciousness.
There is certainly no prospect of 40,000 people marching through the streets of our capital to protest at yet another Irish outcome to an Irish problem.
Is it that we don’t care? Is it that five years after our banking collapse and not a single conviction to show for society-breaking years of Wild West banking that we are a beaten, abject people who have come to accept that for some people accountability is as remote and unlikely a prospect as levitation?
The collapse of the planning and corruption trial earlier this week because a witness is too ill to give evidence has served nobody well, not even the businessman, the councillor and the two former councillors in the dock. Though the principle of innocent until proven otherwise must always apply, too many important questions remain unanswered.
This one case may put the issue into a sharp, if fleeting, focus but there are myriad examples of our failure to adequately deal with the whiff of corruption.
Speaking to the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee, former financial regulator Matthew Elderfield put it in the gentlest terms when he chided that we do not have a system capable of holding individuals to account or tackling white-collar crime.
How could it be otherwise? A report from that committee suggests that fewer than 60 state employees are focussed on white-collar crime. This figure includes all relevant gardaí, Central Bank officials and the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement staff assigned to the problem. We probably have more dog wardens.
It is surely, despite the occasional protest from cornered politicians, naive to imagine this is accidental. If it is, like our tribunals, it is profoundly under-whelming and utterly unequal to the challenge. More likely it is another example of our enthusiasm for rules but our fatal distaste for implementing them.
There is great, chest-filling talk about political reform, about a new political party even and changing the culture of how a citizen interacts with the state. Sadly, all of that will stand for nothing more than a cynical diversion unless we have a policing, regulatory and justice system capable of, and most importantly, enthusiastic about, investigating allegations of corruption.
It is said that a society gets the politicians it deserves and that may well be true, but it is absolutely certain that a society must suffer the consequences of the behaviours it tolerates. The evidence is all around us.
‘Unlike Starbucks, Prince Charles doesn’t have to create some complex network of overseas companies and offices. He simply insists that he shouldn’t have to pay and hides behind his very own onshore tax haven.’
THE heir to the British throne has been reported to British tax inspectors by campaign group Republic for what has been dubbed “a well entrenched tax avoidance scheme” by his Duchy of Cornwall property empire that beats Starbucks for its audacity.
Following an investigation by Republic into the Duchy, the group has questioned why the property empire pays no corporation tax on its multi-million pound profits, which are paid directly to Charles every year.
Charles has avoided corporation tax by claiming that there is no legal distinction between him and his Duchy and that he already pays income tax. However, as reported in Saturday’s Guardian newspaper, an information rights tribunal recently ruled that the Duchy is a separate legal entity.
In his letter to the Britain’s tax authorities, HMRC, Republic Chief Executive Graham Smith said:
“In any other corporation, shareholders, owners and employees must pay income tax while their company pays corporation tax. The company is deemed a separate legal entity which has its own tax obligations.
“As with Starbucks and Google, there is a moral obligation to pay a fair rate of tax.
“Unlike Starbucks, Prince Charles doesn’t have to create some complex network of overseas companies and offices. He simply insists that he shouldn’t have to pay and hides behind his very own onshore tax haven.”
“The Duchy clearly operates as a separate legal entity. It is only in his possession for as long as he is heir to the throne or as long as parliament allows it.
“The test is simple: if it quacks like a duck it’s a duck. The Duchy operates as a separate corporate entity yet pays zero corporation tax.
“For Charles the Duchy operates as his own personal tax haven, depriving the public coffers of millions of pounds – money that could be spent on public services. At a time when the country is under unprecedented economic stress it is unacceptable that the heir to the throne is avoiding his tax obligations in this way.
“We are taking this action as part of a renewed campaign to challenge Charles’s lobbying, interference and abuse of public funds. He must be taken to task over his questionable tax arrangements.
“The Government’s acquiescence in this matter raises serious questions in light of the secret access Charles has to ministers.
“Charles doesn’t ‘earn’ the profit from the Duchy, it isn’t money made as the result of his own hard work. And the Duchy cannot claim, as the big corporations do, that it offers a net benefit to the economy. The Duchy is simply a cash cow for the prince and the prince is clearly set on minimising his tax contributions
Watchdog to tackle public-sector allowances after failed Howlin cull – National News – Independent.ie
PAC chairman John McGuinness said it already intends to call for a special hospital consultant pre-retirement bonus to be binned.
“The Committee of Public Accounts can do a very good job for the taxpayer by putting all allowance payments under public scrutiny, and that is what we intend to do on a case-by-case basis,” he said.
Mr McGuinness said he would allow the committee to question the heads of public bodies on the payment of allowances.
It is seeking information from accounting officers on the extent of allowances paid to staff, the rate, their value and the date they commenced.
The move follows Mr Howlin’s report on the contentious allowance and expenses system.
He had planned to cut the bill by €75m this year but admitted failure, claiming only one of 1,100 allowances for existing staff could be scrapped – a €218 representational allowance for staff attending European Union meetings. That saved €3.5m.