Corruption Tribunals Investigations - It's all so inevitable


The Sunday Tribune of 7th March 1999 reproduced a photograph taken in the grounds of Dublin Castle in June 1990. Beaming at the camera, without an apparent care in the world, are the then 12 Prime ministers of the European Union, along with their foreign ministers. They had indeed plenty of reason to feel satisfaction with their weekend's work in Dublin - their idea of closer European political union was being discussed and we were all about to be embarked on the road to European Monetary Union and the wonders of the Euro.

What most people watching the deliberations in Dublin Castle on that weekend nine years ago were not aware of, however, was that many of those who had been entrusted with the task of planning Europe's economic future had more than a love of fine port in common. Of the 12, at least 7 have since been implicated - either directly or by association - in shady dealings, cronyism and downright dishonesty. The then Prime Ministers of Ireland, Greece, France, Britain, Italy, Spain and Belgium have all been associated with charges of varying degrees of fraud, nepotism and political favouritism.

Needless to say, none of these upstanding politicians have spent an hour behind bars. In addition 20% of the members of the cabinet of the then Irish Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, are currently under investigation, by the two tribunals sitting in Dublin Castle, for receipt of political "donations", involvement in shady land deals and the selling of political favours.

The murky world of Irish business and politics is being exposed as never before. Yet one is left with the feeling that this is no more than scratching at the surface. Strenuous efforts are being made by politicians of all parties to portray those being exposed as either the rotten apples in the barrel or as yesterday's men. The fact that the majority of the ministers in the current cabinet served alongside those now being accused is being brushed aside.

The scales of justice

And it is not just politicians who are coming under the microscope. From the beef industry to the banking world, scams and corruption are being uncovered throughout the Irish business world, and the two-faced nature of the Irish judicial system is being exposed.

Consider the following - as pointed out in a letter to The Echo newspaper on 11th March. A young woman who paid a bus fare of £1.00 instead of £2.25 was fined £105 and sentenced to 14 days in prison. Meanwhile Allied Irish Banks - currently making £2.2million profit every single day - got away with paying just £14million of the £100million it owed in Deposit Interest Retention Tax due to a fraud involving non-resident accounts.

If AIB were to be prosecuted for this crime on equal terms with the bus fare dodger, they would have had to pay a fine of £7.224billion and whoever was chiefly responsible for the fraud would be sentenced to 26,473 years in prison.

Of course, we don't expect the 'scales of justice' to be evenly balanced. We know that 'corrupt politicians' or their mates in the banking or building worlds won't end up doing time. We also know that the only reason for this 'corruption' is basically that they can do it. A political system, which siphons all control away from working class people and entrusts it to an elected elite, can only end up thus.

Direct democracy

Parliamentary democracy, by its very nature, breeds corruption. It puts people into a position of control and authority over those they are supposed to 'represent'. Deals are done in secret, ordinary people are never actually asked for their own ideas - they are only asked every couple of years to 'approve' or 'disapprove' of ideas already prepared for them.

There is an alternative system of democracy - one that would remove the power from the 'politicians' and thus remove their potential for corruption. It is the system known by anarchists as 'direct democracy', a system which is based on the premise that people know best how to look after their own situation; that we don't need specialists to tell us how to run our places of work or our communities.

Direct democracy is based on delegation not representation. Delegates are only elected to implement specific decisions. They do not have the right to change a decision previously made by an assembly of people. They can be immediately recalled and dismissed from their mandates if they don't carry out the specific function allocated to them.

Such a form of democracy is the only antidote to the cancer of corruption. In the meantime, tribunals and investigations will provide us all with plenty of entertainment but don't hold your breath waiting for any real results from their deliberations.

Gregor Kerr

This article is from Workers Solidarity No 57 published in March 1999