Time to review laws on accountability

One hundred years ago today British troops massacred 379 Indians at Jallianwala Bagh — also known as Amritsar. 

Brigadier General Reginald Dyer, who was educated in Midleton, Co Cork, ordered troops to fire on peaceful demonstrators. 

It is thought another 1,200 people were injured but figures are vague as Dyer withdrew his troops as soon as they ran out of ammunition. 

This week, British prime minister Theresa May described the massacre as a “shameful scar” but did not offer a full apology. 

The outrage festers, rancour persists.

Next Monday marks the 30th anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster in which 96 soccer fans died. 

Despite the passage of three decades, the truth has not been established. 

Earlier this month the trial of a former police chief accused of lying over the police role in the tragedy collapsed because a jury could not agree. 

What should be memory remains a running sore.

We cannot gloat, we are as bad. We are underwhelmingly indifferent to dealing with tragedy, suspected dishonesty, or gross ineptitude buried in our past.

On these pages this week Fergus Finlay wrote about a case of terrible abuse which stretched over 20 years. 

Later known as the Grace case, this is “in its essence, into how a small group of public servants conducted themselves”, he wrote. 

Despite grave HSE concerns, and a decision that no child could be placed in the foster care home where Grace was, she remained there for 12 years. 

Despite four — yes, four — reports, a plausible analysis is awaited. 

Accountability remains as remote as humanity was scarce.

This week former FAI chief executive John Delaney played ducks and drakes with an Oireachtas committee. 

Hiding behind a “legal advice” shield, he declined to resolve a niggling controversy and, in a sublime example of passive aggression, effectively ignored elected representatives. 

Mr Delaney would have known the Oireachtas committees have had restraining legal advice since the Angela Kerins case warning them to observe their remit and to treat witnesses with respect and courtesy. 

The committee on transport, tourism, and sport had two legal briefings this week, one on the morning of the FAI hearing. 

It is as it must be, laws cannot be cast aside on a whim, even a parliamentarians’ whim.

This week recorded another occasion when the interaction between politics and the world of business led to something like chaos enriched with dollops of farce. 

The PwC report on how the national children’s hospital budget went from around €750m to a runaway train heading towards, as some have warned, around €2.2bn was published but the mysteries remain unresolved. 

Accountability as a unicorn again.

These issues can be linked to the 2011 rejection of an amendment that proposed to give more power to the Oireachtas to hold inquiries into matters of public importance. 

Though politicians have abused that process, the rejection of the amendment was described as a victory for the Ansbacher classes. 

This week’s events, and many more, show that description was a gross underestimation. 

It’s time to get real.

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