Along with their suspicion of politicians, the Irish respondents said almost a third of the police, a fifth of customs officials and those involved in the law abuse their power for personal gain.
“The survey reflects the public’s overwhelming frustration over the government’s failure to fight corruption and white collar crime in particular,” said John Devitt, head of Transparency International’s Irish office.
“We still have seen no prosecutions from the current investigations into Anglo Irish Bank and the last Garda annual policing plan did not even mention white-collar crime.”
The public also perceives EU-wide corruption as being on the increase, with almost half of those questioned in Ireland saying corruption had grown over the last two years. Irish people appear to be the least tolerant of corruption, with just over half believing that it is unavoidable and that it has always existed. Italy, a country plagued by corruption, is almost equally intolerant.
Most Irish people blame the country’s government and politicians for the country’s problems, and especially for what they see as their failure to tackle such abuses.
The overly close links between politicians and business is seen as the second-biggest culprit. About 80% say that corruption is part of the business culture, but only a quarter believe it is rife in the private sector.
This is amongst the lowest in the EU, similar to the figures for Italy and Greece, where politicians are seen as mostly to blame for corruption in their countries.
Meanwhile, Sweden and Germany — where most people perceive their countries as having the lowest levels of corruption in the EU — see their private sector as the most corrupt.
While demanding and paying bribes is seen as a problem in some countries, just 2% of Irish people said they have ever been asked to pay a bribe — the second lowest in the EU, next to the Dutch where the figure is 1%.
Some two-thirds believe there is not enough transparency in financing political parties.
Transparency International runs a free helpline for people concerned about possible fraud, abuse of power or corruption.
The Standards in Public Office Commission has made various recommendations for changes in ethics in public office.