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maThe Mahon Tribunal Report was released on March 22nd and was debated in the Dáil on Wednesday March 28th. The report confirmed what was more or less suspected over the past number of years with all deputies condemning its findings. In his address Mick looks at some of the findings of the report and how they need to be implemented to eradicate corruption within both Government and local Government. There is a massive need for greater representation of the people and their needs. You can watch Mick's speech here or read his entry below.

Given that much of this report has been in the public domain for a long time, I find the level of outrage in the last week a bit odd. I do not think Fianna Fáil can stand over its lack of knowledge of what prevailed during its time in office. I find it hard to take the media’s outrage about what it has just learned. When the people had their chance to speak 12 months ago, they unceremoniously dumped Fianna Fáil and the Green Party out of office. They had enough. One would have thought the people would have had enough of Fianna Fáil by 2007 but sadly, the media played a part in sustaining it in the run-up to the election of that year. When evidence that Bertie Ahern had given to the Mahon tribunal was leaked to the media in advance of the 2007 election, a number of columnists in the Sunday Independent launched an attack on those newspapers and media outlets that had published and reported on the extracts from the Mahon tribunal. One columnist, Eoghan Harris, who was later nominated to the Seanad by Bertie Ahern, wrote:For the first time in my life I am going to vote Fianna Fáil. And if you care about the future of Irish democracy you will do the same. Because I believe the anti-Ahern campaign to be the most sinister, sustained and successful manipulation of the Irish media that I have seen in my lifetime.Those were strong words. Eoghan Harris accused the rest of the Irish media of being gullible. He argued that “the Taoiseach is the object of two orchestrated campaigns”, one led by The Irish Times and the other being a “Sinn Féin/IRA campaign”. He suggested that if the latter campaign succeeded, it would “take down the most brilliant Taoiseach of modern times”. Eoghan Harris also criticised Vincent Browne, who pressed Bertie Ahern intensively on his personal finances at the launch of the 2007 Fianna Fáil election manifesto.The relationship between politics and big business has been at the heart of a serious problem we have had in Ireland for a long time. Sadly, money has the power to separate the electorate from the Legislature. The Legislature is dominated by the ruling party, which is often financed by big business. The more money one has, the more likely one is to have a greater say in how things are done at Government level. The best example of this is found in America, where it costs several hundred million to run for election. The arms industry is one of the biggest contributors to the political system there. As one might expect, if one wants to win a presidential election in America, one will have to be fairly keen on the use of plenty of arms and bombs in order to ensure the arms industry thrives. Despite President Barack Obama’s promises to deal with the war in Afghanistan and his suggestion that it was mad, there has been an increase in the number of troops in that country since his election.
However, given that he got so much money from the arms industry, I am sure his hands are tied.
Speaking of big business, I am surprised at how tolerant Fine Gael has been of certain big business people, including Mr. Denis O’Brien. The latter was strongly criticised by the Mahon tribunal, yet he was at the Global Irish Economic Forum. That was not a great idea. I was also surprised to see Mr. O’Brien in New York at the opening of the stock exchange last week. The Taoiseach said he had no say in the line-up but I am sure that had President al-Assad been in the line-up, he might have had some objections. What occurred is not good enough. When Deputy Joe Higgins challenged the Tánaiste yesterday in the House on the presence of Mr. O’Brien in New York, the Tánaiste replied that what ultimately matters is that we get our economy to recover. There is no doubt that we would like the economy to recover but I would not like to believe it will be at any price.A serious lack of trust in politicians has developed among the people over the years. Unkept promises by Governments do not help matters. The Government, before it got elected, was very keen to tell everybody how it would deal with bondholders but it has not really lived up to its promise in that regard. With regard to the household charge, it was as late as January 2011 that the Government told the people the household charge was grossly unfair on the unemployed, pensioners and those who have already paid too much tax on the purchase of their overpriced houses.
The over-centralised nature of politics and the lack of real self-government and citizen participation have been at the heart of many of our problems. One must examine how decisions are made. Too many decisions are made at the centre at present and we are not nearly democratic enough. County managers have an executive role at local government level. For all practical purposes, with the exception of deciding on the rezoning of land, the county or city manager makes all the decisions. This is a huge problem because one does not know whether a manager is good. The people in local authority areas do not have nearly strong enough a say. They have so little control over their governance. That our system is becoming overly centralised is very frustrating for them.
It was interesting to read some of the recommendations in the Mahon tribunal’s report. It is stated that the National Transport Authority has an impact on planning as it plays a role in adopting regional planning guidelines and has several functions which have direct implications for planning and development but that members are appointed by the centre, namely the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government. The Mahon report recommends that they should in future be appointed by an independent appointments board, thus removing power from the centre.
The tribunal also recommended that the power of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government to give directions to regional authorities and local planning authorities be entrusted to an independent planning regulator. Concern is expressed over recent changes in the planning system that have resulted in the over-centralisation of power to the hands of the Minister.
We will not have a fair society unless we seriously address many of the problems that arise. Seemingly, some corruption is legal. We have seen much corruption in the banking system in the awarding of public contracts, and we have seen it in the control of planning. One could argue a legal form of corruption is the paying of unsecured bondholders. The poor distribution of wealth in the country has left so much to be desired.
There is no doubt but that we have a divided and unfair society. Greater emphasis should be placed on the education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, such that he would attempt to develop in himself a sense of responsibility for his fellow man in place of the glorification of power and success. At the root of many of our problems is our bowing to power and money all the time.
Last week in Britain, the Conservative Party’s chief fund-raiser, Mr. Peter Cruddas, claimed donors giving more than £250,000 to the party could have their voices heard in respect of the British Government’s policies. I am afraid we have an exaggerated version of that. If the new Irish Government is really serious about proceeding differently, its first step should be to engage citizens in the organisation of society. We need real local government reform so the citizen will be an active participant in the running of the country and in determining how his life and community are affected. This model would contrast with the tokenistic one that pertains at present whereby, to all intents and purposes, we have no local government and the people have no representation. 

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