We cannot hope to resolve our economic situation without trust in institutions of the State.
The various tribunals of inquiry dramatically undermined the trust we should have in our politicians and in our government.
We learned that for many of our politicians it appeared to have become a ‘case of what can my country do for me’ rather than ‘what I can do for my country’.
It became clear there was a class of people who appeared able to operate with impunity irrespective of their actions.
It tended to make us all the more cynical and enabled us to take a view that all of our politicians were in it for themselves, whatever they said to us. Not only was our trust undermined, but so was our respect.
However, rather than learn from the mistakes of their predecessors our politicians exacerbated that decline in trust further. They unfortunately continue to do so. The end result is that only sycophants, political party hacks and diehards look at politician and politics with anything other than cynicism and distrust.
With the advent of the Freedom of Information Act in 1997 we had thought we were entering a new era — when government and affairs of the State would be undertaken with greater openness and transparency. Unfortunately, a new coalition government was elected later that year which emasculated the provisions of the act in as far as possible, ultimately making it a shadow of the promise it once held.
The current government trumpeted its intention of reinvigorating Freedom of Information on their respective return to government. Yet they are now making it even more difficult to access information by seeking to charge even greater amounts than hitherto.
There is only one reason information is hidden and that is because you do not want people to know what you have done or agreed to have done, in their name. Issues of commercial sensitivity, competitiveness, the cost of providing the information or giving support to the enemy are, by and large, limp excuses.
It would appear that our senior public servants, who undoubtedly, are the authors of ever greater restrictions on access to information, have forgotten who actually pays them. They expect us to trust them but give us no reason to do so.
We were promised that government would enact a law that only provided tax relief on that element of the provision that would generate a pension of €60,000 per annum. To the vast bulk of people a €60,000 pension is an unimaginable and unrealisable dream. Yet we thought fair enough.
Yet when the bill is finally prepared we discover that the limit is €100,000. Given that Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen have pensions north of €130,000 per annum paid by the Irish taxpayer we can guess who are among the main beneficiaries. It’s another case of the boys looking after the boys.
Incompetent government, aide apparently by even more incompetent regulators, failed to stop the banks from driving our economy into freefall.
However, five years later we are no closer to understanding the how, why and who of what actually happened. We had been led to believe that our regulators were now on top of the financial sector. The recent suspension of three senior executives in RSA makes one wonder what they are on top of.
The final effective dissolution of Newbridge Credit Union and a bailout of over €50m, after apparently dancing around the problems without introducing necessary credit union management control legislation for nearly eight years, underpins our reluctance to take anything at face value.
Unfortunately for us, if we do not have trust in the institutions of the State, our real ability to get out from the yolk of austerity is seriously undermined.
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