Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Moriarty Report: The Most Important Irish Political Document Since the Treaty

Yesterday’s publication of the Moriarty Tribunal report was a red letter day in the history of state. An Spailpín suspects that its publication will be like Bishop Casey’s flight in 1992; although momentous at the time, history now sees it as even more so; nothing less than the beginning of the end of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

Nothing was ever the same again after Bishop Casey’s fall, and neither shall it be after the publication of Moriarty. Whether the repercussions will be good or bad is up to ourselves; if we react quickly we can still save the country. If not…

What is the Significance of the Moriarty Report?
It is this: the case is now proven that corruption in Irish public life is by no means exclusive to one political party. The very institutions of the state are set up as such that corruption is the path of least resistance and the route to quickest results.

A whisper here, an introduction there. A phone call on a Sunday morning. A round of golf. A day at the races. Great things discussed. We could do wonders, if only. Is that all that’s holding you up? Leave it with me; I’ll see what I can do. We’ll never forget you; we’ll remember you in Paradise. Here’s something for your trouble.

None of the nods and the winks mean much in themselves. Together, they’re red rotten and stink to high Heaven. They mean that merit doesn’t win out, but that the Golden Circle shines brightly and eternally.

Why is This So Bad?
It’s bad because we’re up to our eyes in debt and are currently on our two knees before the rest of Europe giving them the poor mouth about our debt. And we’re giving them the poor mouth while paying our public servants above the European average across the board. These same public servants who are bypassed by sweetheart deals worth billions to vested interests.

Why are we paying the public servants so much again? To do what? What is the point? What results are you getting for all that money that you say you haven’t got? When the Germans ask why we don’t regulate our own affairs and save money that way, how will we reply?

What Can We Do?
We must change the way the country is governed. Changing the way the country is governed is not wishy-washy old blather about doing away with the Seanad, which is like taking off the corner-forward when you’re getting hammered in a game of football. The problems arise long before it gets up to the men inside. If people aren’t talking specifics, and coming out with a lot hot air about “real change now” now, as expertly skewered here, forget them.

An Spailpín would suggest a root and branch reform of local government. Do away with county councils, and use either provincial or super-constituency based regional areas for local government issues. Having the bins collected doesn’t require a meeting of the Jedi high council.

Reform the libel laws, so the press may operate freely. Reform the press ownership laws, so that all are held equally open to account. Punish those who abuse press freedoms; freedom of speech is too precious to let it be abused.

End the multi-seat constituencies, thus lessening the localism and clientelism in Irish politics (politics will always be local, but it need not be outrageously so). Pass new laws where those seeking to peddle political power and favours are prosecuted enthusiastically and punished severely. The only way to clear up a mess is to spare neither brush, bleach nor elbow grease. It’s time to get serious.

What If We Don’t Get Serious?
You’d think the worst case option would be that we would be no worse off, but we would be. The debt is the issue. Not just Irish debt, but the fissures that have opened all across the Eurozone as part of the global financial crisis.

The Euro was a German idea, and the Germans are now beginning to realise that maybe Europe wasn’t ready to be German in how they regulate their money. So, being realists and practical and so very, very German, they will set about seeing how to deal with that. And they will do it without hand-wringing or calling Joe Duffy or wondering why people don’t take to the streets. They’ll just get on with it, and leave sentiment far behind.

A two-tier Europe is the obvious solution. The countries who can be trusted to balance their books move ahead. The countries who are more inclined towards cheating and playing fast ones and being equally mendacious and dumb will get pushed slowly, slowly to the edge. And if they fall off, what harm? The contagion has already been limited, and the positive contribution was slight. The project moves on without them.

Are Our Politicians Capable of Seeing How Bad the Crisis Is?
The TG4 debate was seen as one of the high points of the election. An Spailpín found it depressing, and for this reason: when the leaders debated the Fine Gael proposal about the future of the language as a Leaving Cert subject, the debate was reduced to whether or not landladies in the Gaeltacht would lose income.

This is Irish politics. No vision. No big picture thinking. Irish is an important issue, as it has to do with the national identity and our very claims for being an independent nation in the first place. And instead it’s twisted, like all things are twisted, into an exercise in squeezing out another thirty or forty votes. The politicians dish out this rubbish, the nation laps it up and so the whole rigmarole goes on.

Not any more. Europe is watching, wondering when they’re getting their money back, and if the Irish are actually capable of self-governance at all. The Government, and the Irish political system’s reaction to Moriarty, which makes the craven reality of Irish politics clear, is the biggest decision facing an Irish government since Independence.

It’s up to us to decide if the country will turn a corner and be relied on to act responsibly in our public life, or are we to be feckless and hopeless poor (with a filthy rich elite of 5-8% of country – our own gentry, as Breandán Ó hEithir put it) for ever?

This is our choice. We are still a sovereign people, who still govern ourselves and can decided how we can to be governed. What are we going to do?

Political Reform now. And may God take pity on Ireland.