FitzGerald hits out at party’s business links

FORMER Taoiseach Garrett FitzGerald waded into the row over Fine Gael’s corporate backing last night by insisting such links should be banned.

As FG leader Enda Kenny drew some fire over the party’s fundraising golf event which attracted big business backing, Mr FitzGerald said financial links between the political and commercial spheres created a culture of “dependency” and should be stopped.

“The provision by business interests of some of the costs of political organisation and politician’s election campaigns, which creates a political dependency relationship that risks biasing recipients in favour of business interests. Removal of this potential source of abuse is now urgent,” he said at the opening of the annual MacGill Summer School.

Mr FitzGerald also launched a thinly veiled attack on former FG minister Michael Lowry over tax evasion. Though he did not refer to Mr Lowry by name, his target was clear: “Rural tolerance of, and even support for, tax evasion extends well beyond those who have actually engaged personally in this practice — as we have seen from the results of the last general election in North Tipperary, where a candidate who has been shown to have evaded taxes, and who was a government minister topped the poll with almost 30% of first preference votes.”

Mr FitzGerald also said voters had accepted low standards in public life for too long and the culture of “localism”, which he compared with African tribalism, held the country back.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness used the opening address of the summer school to blame dissident republicans for the violence in Ardoyne, as he dismissed the rioters as “bogus patriots”.

Mr McGuinness said outside agitators were responsible for the trouble which ripped through Ardoyne as marching season tensions exploded — insisting they needed to accept the reality of the power-sharing set-up.

“There remain small groups and individuals who cannot grasp the political realities of Ireland in 2010.

“They can be found in the unrepresentative military factions who continue to carry out armed actions and the criminal elements who operate under the cover of bogus patriots.

“This was graphically illustrated last week in Ardoyne, where it is widely believed that many of those who sat on the roads wearing T-shirts describing themselves as residents, not dissidents, told those anxious for a riot, many of them children, to do so only after they had left the road.”

He also called for people in the North to be given the right to vote in next year’s presidential election.

The annual MacGill Summer School will also hear from Tánaiste Mary Coughlan, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny and Labour’s Eamon Gilmore during the week as the forum focuses on the theme “Reforming the Republic”.

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