An article by Leslie Mallory in yesterday’s Sunday Independent talks about planning corruption in Spain. The general tone of the article is ‘If you think things are bad in Ireland, take a look at Spain.’ In other words Spain has a greater problem with corruption than Ireland. The article spoke of local politicians appearing in court, local government members charged with planning offences, creative accountancy and perversion of the course of justice and a deputy mayor facing four years in jail.
The key words here are ‘ ‘appearing in court’, ‘charged’, and ‘jail’. In Ireland, this simply does not happen, corruption is either ignored, side-lined into never ending tribunals or simply not noticed because it’s such a part of our culture.
In properly run democracies, when corruption is detected a sequence of events follows: police investigation, charges, court case and if guilty, appropriate punishment. This is usually done within a reasonable time frame.
Let’s make a comparison. The very powerful American billionaire Martha Stewart was found guilty of lying to investigators about the sale of some minor stock. It took less than two years from the date of the alleged dodgy stock sale to Martha finding herself slopping out with the great unwashed in jail. (Note that Martha got jail for lying to investigators, something that is regarded as a national pastime here by the so-called great and good)
Ray Burke was first investigated by the Gardai in 1974. Despite constant questions about his ‘activities’, it took 31 years before Irish justice caught up with him.
Of course there is corruption in every country but the difference between an accountable democracy and a Banana Republic is the action taken to counteract it. Leslie Mallory suggests that Spain is more corrupt than Ireland because so many politicians are facing prosecution. I maintain the opposite – the fact that no Irish politician has ever faced corruption charges is an indication that the system itself is corrupt, that it protects rather than exposes the guilty.