Accountability in public life - The biggest threat to our society

DESPITE the reassuring, reinvigorating march of Spring, nature’s greatest expression of optimism, it is increasingly difficult to hope that the culture of evasion and bloody-minded opposition to accountability might ever be confronted much less eradicated from public life.

 It is now hard not to concede that all that is aspirational and good; that all of the ambitious plans for this society might not be undone by the Irish omerta that characterises the relationship between public institutions and the kept-in-the-dark citizens of this dishonest Republic.

That denial of responsibility, that unacceptable, anti-social ordering of interests has become a runaway cancer.

Even at this 11th hour, even if it’s almost too late, it is difficult to understand why we have allowed this nasty, destructive culture prevail, why we tolerate a kind of passive-aggressive corruption wilfully deployed to conceal.

Not only does it perpetuate poor performance, it makes it almost impossible to convince anyone who has eyes to see that higher standards are worthwhile and necessary, that honesty, like virtue, is its own reward even if it is much more than that.

The post-factual world of Donald Trump and Brexit — “£350m a week for the NHS” — are abhorrent but our tolerance of official evasion and disdain instead of transparency is a version of that collapse.

Refusing to take responsibility for actions by refusing to explain or even acknowledge them may not be lying but in today’s Ireland that’s a moot defence because there is no guarantee that good will prevail.

The dust has barely settled on the garda scandals around fake drink driving tests and flawed convictions and new scandals — domestic violence and murder statistics appear.

That these scandals appear before any plausible explanation has been offered for earlier ones is incredible.

That Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan has warned that reform might expose even more skeletons in what must be a huge cupboard adds to the sense of implosion but the gardaí are not alone.

Today we report on ‘Sarah’ who was abused in the same care home as ‘Grace’.

Her family discovered she had been trained to respond to keywords by undressing and adopting a sexual pose.

The HSE has, for two years, refused to share her records although they are legally obliged to. How can they get away with this?

And it gets worse.

When the girl’s family raised concerns they became the focus of the investigation because authorities thought she was abused in her home rather than elsewhere.

The family believe they are being denied access to records to facilitate a cover up. Remember, this is the HSE that has had to revisit the Oireachtas health committee on several occasions recently to “correct” the record.

The world of government, politics, and public affairs has many grey areas, areas where things are not black or white.

Unfortunately, our grey areas have become twilight zones where unacceptable behaviour is the norm.

In the not too distant future Taoiseach Enda Kenny will have a successor.

That person may imagine that Brexit or, say, climate change is their greatest challenge. Not so. Unless this culture of omerta is ended nothing of any consequence will change or improve because silence begets stasis. This is a real crisis.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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