The 1990s in Ireland were characterised – much like the last decade – by property speculations, based on political connections. There were rumours about politicians getting paid for planning favours. These rumours were so persistent that in November 4 1997 a Tribunal of Inquiry into Certain Planning Matters and Payment was set up. Today, Thursday March 22, good fourteen years later and costing €300m, the Mahon tribunal, called after Judge Alan P. Mahon now its chairman, has published a 3270 pages final report, following four previous reports. It is, to say the very least, a damning description of politics, money and power in Ireland of the 1990s but also points out matters to consider in terms of ethics, regulators and politics.
Ex-Prime Minister Bertie Ahern and his source of money are at the centre of the report – and yes, the report finds ia that he accepted corrupt payments and used the accounts of his daughter Cecelia, now a famous writer, and wife to hide his corrupt income. His earlier explanations were “untrue” – Reuters is more blunt and says Ahern “lied.” Others named for dishonourable sources of money are former EU Commissioner and Minister Padraig Flynn, who on a popular chat show in 1999 defiantly refused rumours and accusations that he had taken money for political favours. The new report establishes that this wasn’t quite true.
Flynn and Ahern are only a few of many leading politicians from the 80s and the 90s whose reputation is now destroyed by the new report. A number of politicians from both main parties, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, have been brought to court or indicted and cases are still running. More might be to come.
The Irish media and the whole nation has plenty to digest today. This investigation regards cases from over a decade ago and practices reaching back to the 80s. The report points out the staggering apathy there has been in Ireland regarding corruption. This might now be changing – but the question the Irish must be asking them now is how much Ireland has changed.
I have earlier compared Ireland and Iceland, ia on corruption (see ia here and here). After the Icelandic SIC report I pointed out that Icelanders knew a good deal more on their banking failure than Ireland. That changed to a certain degree after the publication of the Nyberg report though the SIC report goes into far greater detail on the major shareholders and the banks’ big clients.
It’s interesting to note that in spite of the entrenched corruption in Ireland it seems to be confined to the relationship between the property sector and politics. Ireland is doing well in attracting foreign investments in high-tech and biotech whereas Iceland is struggling in this respect.
Follow me on Twitter for running updates.