RYLE DWYER: Gardaí should be doing the work of tribunals – at a fraction of the cost

IVOR CALLELY may have had a valid point when he questioned the way the Seanad deplored his claims for more than €81,000 in expenses, largely for travelling from his holiday home in west Cork to Dublin on Oireachtas business. He contended he was entitled to claim the travelling expenses from his holiday home.

It seems other members of the Oireachtas have Dublin homes, but they claim travelling expenses from their constituencies. Maybe this is just exploiting a loophole in the system, but Callely seemed to have a point in contending the Seanad was making a scapegoat of him and ignoring people who were doing essentially the same thing, only the other way around.

Callely contends he has been defamed and is threatening to look for damages. Even if his Seanad colleagues were behaving hypocritically in turning the blind eye to similar conduct by others, this does not justify his behaviour.

“There has been murder and larceny in every generation, but that hasn’t made murder meritorious or larceny legal,” Sam Ervin – chairman of the US Senate’s select committee – famously reminded the American people during the Watergate hearings. Nobody can justify a wrong on the basis that others have done the same wrong.

Following Callely’s appeal to the High Court over his suspension from the Seanad, we are told the inquiry into the fake mobile phone invoices he submitted to the Oireachtas is being delayed. Why is this not being investigated by the gardaí?

Invoices from a non-existent company were submitted to obtain public money, so surely there are grounds for suspecting a criminal offence may have been committed. The gardaí should investigate now. This is not something for the politicians to tinker around with before deciding whether they will call in the gardaí.

Although the country is being run like a banana republic, we are supposed to be a real republic in which laws should be applied equally to all.

The whole series of tribunals in the past 25 years have been an extravagant testament to the fact that our politicians have acted as if An Garda Siochána has no right to investigate criminal behaviour by politicians unless invited to do so by the Government. This is an affront both to the gardaí and our whole system of government. It suggests gardaí are not capable of functioning properly and politicians are incapable of reforming the system.

If the laws are inadequate for the gardaí to investigate such matters, those laws should be changed. All garda superintendents and chief superintendents are political appointments, but this does not mean the force is incapable of investigating members of the party that appointed their senior officers.

Human nature being what it is, there could well be instances in which some senior gardaí might somehow frustrate a proper investigation because of misplaced loyalty to those who appointed them instead of to the people they are supposedly serving. Such conduct would be a gross abuse of power and any individual involved should be considered a cancer within the force and cut out without delay.

If the gardaí are incapable of investigating a specific allegation of political corruption properly, then a judicial tribunal should be set up to enquire into the matter.

A tribunal should, however, be a last resort. We have got the whole thing backwards, however, by introducing tribunals as a kind of initial step.

Judges are not trained as investigators. Unlike most gardaí, all of the judges are political appointees, so why should anybody think they are more competent to investigate political corruption than the police? It is a crazy concept that should be apparent to everybody by now, in the light of the dismal failures of the tribunals after they have squandered millions while failing to come to rational conclusions within a reasonable timeframe.

With the exception of Ray Burke, all of our dodgy ministers have managed to avoid jail. Politicians seem to be going easy on culprits in case they end up in the same boat themselves?

The whole thing, which is poisoning our political life, is a very sad reflection of the public perception of the integrity of our politicians. Instead of blaming the media, Callely and company should realise their own contemptible behaviour has fuelled the disillusionment.

On March 31, 1996, the Sunday Business Post published a story under the heading ‘Fianna Fáil politician paid off by developers’. The story was based on information given by James Gogarty, but under the libel laws it was not possible at that time to be specific about those involved.

In 1997, Gogarty publicly stated that Ray Burke had been given two payments totalling £80,000 in 1989. This money was essentially a bribe to secure planning permission.

Five years later the Flood Tribunal concluded that Burke had received a whole series of corrupt payments. There were serious questions about the purchase of the land and the construction of his home, Briargate. There was no evidence that Burke had paid for either. The tribunal concluded he received corrupt money payments of £50,000 in 1982, £95,000 in 1984, £15,000 in 1985, and £115,000 in 1989. Burke pleaded guilty in 2004 to making an improper tax return and was sentenced to six months in jail.

He served four-and-a-half months and got out early “for good behaviour.” The same year he still got his state pensions. He is currently receiving more than €100,000 a year in state pensions. Maybe he should get the old age pension, but that is it.

He has been rewarded with more than €500,000 since his conviction. Every year at least three young people will have to emigrate to reward Burke for his despicable behaviour. This is an outrage.

BERTIE AHERN appointed Burke to the cabinet in 1997 after he had been warned of Rambo’s bent dealings. In comparison with Burke and the Briargate saga, Ivor Callely’s dodgy paint job was a relatively minor indiscretion, but thankfully on this occasion the electorate has not been deceived.

Callely lost his Dáil seat in 2007 and his own political peers rejected him decisively when he ran for the Seanad, but Bertie Ahern came to his rescue anyway by appointing him to the Seanad. What did Callely do to merit that appointment?

With the economy in free fall, Bertie would have us believe he made no mistakes himself. “The reality is I left this country in a state where we had low national debt, full employment, low taxes and I didn’t foresee Lehman’s coming and the rules changing,” he said on Wednesday.

He seems ready to blame anyone but himself. He said in an interview last year that allowing Lehman Brothers to go under was the “the biggest mistake” the American administration ever made. “Lehmans was a world investment bank,” he said. “They had testicles everywhere.” Ahern exhibited lousy political judgment in his appointments and his laissez faire approach to financial regulation. None of the corrupt bankers and reckless speculators who plundered this country has even been prosecuted. Instead they have been rewarded like Burke.

Whatever about the testicles of the Lehman Brothers, Ahern certainly has balls to suggest that he might run for president.


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