There is none righteous; no, not one.
St Paul’s Letter to the Romans, Chapter 3, Verse 10.
Well, I’ve been down so very damn long
That it looks like up to me.
Jim Morrison, Down So Long.
Government Chief Whip Regina Doherty was a guest on Today with Seán O’Rourke on RTÉ Radio One on Friday, explaining why the Government was dragging its heels on the latest episode of the Garda Whistleblower controversy. “The revelation was only made on Monday,” said Deputy Doherty. “Today is Friday.”
It is Deputy Doherty’s job to appear on radio and explain that, had an Taoiseach doused her with petrol and set her alight just before she came on air, it was great to get warmed up, what with the winter drawing in and all. But sometimes, you have to come out with your hands up and say look, there’s a worm in the apple and that’s just how it is. We need a new apple. This one just isn’t any good.
The nature of the Gardaí’s internal disciplinary procedure has been in question for years. Years. And it’s not just the whistleblowers – there is also the genuinely extraordinary story of the tremendous balls made of the investigation into the murder of Sophie Toscan du Plantier, and that happened over twenty years ago. What are these guys doing? Why are they getting away with it?
It is the done thing in functional democracies to hold people in power to a higher standard of probity than ordinary citizens. This is because great power brings great responsibility with it. The oldest example of that level of probity is Julius Caesar’s, who remarked that not only he, but his wife also, must both be above suspicion.
This is not how we roll in Ireland. In Ireland, access to power means that you are given a benefit of doubt that you by no means deserve, and a benefit of doubt that an ordinary citizen could not dream of. Nobody resigns in Ireland because they’ve done something wrong. In Ireland, a powerful person only loses his or her job when he or she is dragged kicking and screaming from it. Vide Alan Shatter, our previous minister for Justice, the nature of whose precise exit from government has never been made 100% clear.
And now he we have it repeating again. If the previous Garda Commissioner had to resign, the appointment of that previous Commissioner’s right-hand woman as the next Commissioner doesn’t exactly signal regime change. Nobody knows what’s going with these half-spoken allegations, but your correspondent is hardly alone in wanting them sorted out as soon as possible.
And what do get? Niall Collins of Fianna Fáil on Prime Time repeating “due process, due process” like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz saying there’s no place like home, each hoping to be magically taken over the rainbow.
And Deputy Collins, theoretically, isn’t even in Government. It is fashionable in Irish political commentary to describe chicanery as a particularly Fianna Fáil trait but if there is one thing our remarkably slow-witted nation should take from all this is that our political class are all the same.
Ireland’s political system is broken. It encourages us to vote for our lesser, rather than our better, angels, and continuous ramshackle government is our reward.
It is to Deputy Mick Wallace’s credit that he has been so dogged in pursuit of Garda malfeasance. If only Deputy Wallace were equally dogged in paying his taxes. Deputy Wallace’s stance on the current garda controversy does not excuse the nation for its lack of judgment in re-electing a tax dodger. He can’t do that. He has to set an example, and the pursuit of the whistleblower case doesn’t make tax-dodging excusable.
Ireland has to demand higher standards from our public representatives. My own opinion is that our proportional representation, single-transferable-vote electoral system and our libel laws that protect the strong at the expense of the weak have to be changed and even then, it will be a generation before any real change can be seen.
I pray to God to it happens but right now, looking at the contemporary Irish political scene, I might as well pray for the Irish rugby team to beat New Zealand in both Chicago and Dublin when they play at the end of the month. There’s a better chance of it happening.