Accountability - Distractions from a real challenge

THERE is a far, far better chance of Kilkenny making it five-in-a-row next September than there is of even half — anyone for a quarter? — of the 230-plus recommendations made by the Commission on Taxation being implemented by this Government. This is not how it should be or, how we wish it to be, but we know in our hearts of hearts that that is what will happen.

We know too that the majority of Colm McCarthy’s recommendations will be quietly forgotten. We know this because almost every time Fianna Fáil has had the choice of doing the right thing, or doing that which will keep the party in power, it has done the self-serving thing, shamelessly.

The party, ever since the infamous election of 1977, has clung to power by avoiding the hard decisions that might have helped avert the crisis threatening the independence of this country. It has benchmarked and subsidised and derogated its way from stand-off to stand-off, each time pawning a slice of our future.

It has instinctively made bad deals — the giveaway agreed by Bertie Ahern and Ray Burke with Shell for the Corrib gas field; Michael Woods’ get-out-of-jail deal for religious orders over abuse victims; the scandalous deal with consultants; public sector benchmarking and pensions that daily push us towards bankruptcy.

What are the chances that NAMA will be another?

The appalling ineptitude in managing public projects has been a recurring theme too. The overrun on the national primary roads budget was €10.8 billion on an estimate of €5.6bn. Dublin’s Port Tunnel jumped from €220 million to €792m; the M50 widening from €190m to €562m; the Youghal bypass from €10.7m to €43.5m and Luas from €290m to €750m.

It is probable that the people responsible for these disastrous over-runs are still in their jobs, telling us how to live our lives. That is unless they have retired to enjoy pensions immune to the collapse of our economy.

Of course they were free to do this only because enough of us voted for Fianna Fáil. And if we didn’t it made no matter — there was always some power-hungry, gullible party to sustain the unsustainable.

Is it any wonder that the Government’s credibility is shot? Is it any wonder the public is so very angry and fed up at being patronised and short-changed, that we cannot guarantee the Lisbon Treaty will be endorsed.

Yet, once again we take the bait. We exercise ourselves over proposals on property tax, changes to child allowances and a carbon tax. We will waste huge energy debating theories rather than facing realities. Time enough to man the barricades when the Government tells us which suggestions it proposes to make law.

Before then we should get as agitated as some of us seem to be about child benefits about the absolute lack of accountability in this society.

This lack of accountability is at the very centre of the crisis we are in. It is the reason we needed a McCarthy report and a Commission on Taxation and all the tribunals too. We are still waiting for even one banker, regulator, auditor, developer, lawyer or accountant to become a guest of the nation over the myriad financial scandals that have undone this country. We are still waiting for even one politician to apologise with dignity, much less resign. We have a Taoiseach whose fingerprints are all over the corpse of our economy, yet he prevaricates and dodges when challenged with the consequences of his time as minister for finance.

This is no longer a political or an economic issue. We are now morally obliged to insist that people face the consequences of their actions and ineptitude.

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