ANY political party with realistic ambitions of office must at least give lip-service to the idea of transparency.
Tragically, that promise seems honoured more in the breach than in its delivery. Active, hermetically sealed secrecy is the default position adopted by most governments on most issues. Political handlers might prefer to describe it as discretion, driven by security obligations. They, rightly, argue it is justified and it would be foolish to ignore that hard-earned pragmatism.
However, everything from Hillary Clinton’s emails’ purge, the statement by Bertie Ahern that Government had no over-sight of the Revenue’s tax ruling on Apple, and toxic suspicions around Nama suggest that the principle of transparency carries little or no weight at critical moments.
These conscious breaches of trust, where the need for discretion is used as a mask to deflect attention from destructive behaviour, is one of the driving forces in the disenchantment dangerously undermining western democracies. This is especially so if it is revealed that this power of secrecy is abused to confer inappropriate advantage.
There are suggestions that Finance Minister Michael Noonan may choose not to attend the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee to answer questions on Nama. This position would exacerbate mistrust and suspicion. It would also set an unfortunate precedent — if Mr Noonan can ignore such a request why should anyone else take the PAC seriously?
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