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4 January 2007 Edition

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Moriarty Tribunal: Golden circle still exists

BY Mícheál MacDonncha

Charles Haughey

Charles Haughey

Obsession with Haughey distracts from real issues

No-one is surprised that the Moriarty Tribunal Report which was published just before Christmas revealed the extent of Charles Haughey’s greed, his massive ego and the fiddling he did to feed both his greed and his ego. The Report in turn will feed the continuing national obsession with the personality of Haughey. This is a pity because it distracts from the real issues.

It has often been said that Irish people love a rogue. There is something from our colonial past which makes us admire those who subvert authority and pull a fast one on the powers-that-be. Haughey benefited from that despite the fact that he was one of the most powerful men in Ireland, supported by some of the richest. He managed to maintain the image of the ‘friend of the people’ whom the establishment did not like. He was helped by Fine Gael and much of the media who painted him as a republican hawk who could not be trusted with the levers of power. This simply did not work with the Irish public and Haughey continued to enjoy much support.

At the same time it is a sad commentary on Irish politics in the ‘80s and ‘90s that this power-obsessed egotist with such notions of grandeur could have been the leader in whom so many reposed so much hope. It is clear that Haughey really believed that he thoroughly deserved the red carpet treatment from AIB who wrote off his debts while crushing its small indebted customers. He believed that wads of money from Ben Dunne were no more than his due and in return he gave Dunne a special conduit to the Revenue Commissioners to sort out his company’s tax debts. And of course Haughey was one of the wealthy elite who carefully avoided paying tax at a time when he was urging working class people to tighten their belts.

All this we know and have known for some time. But what issues arise from the Report that are relevant now?

Isn’t it interesting that today’s tax-dodgers get off so lightly? One of them, Bono of U2, was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire by the English Queen last week and lionized by the Irish media, yet U2 relocated part of their company abroad to avoid paying tax here. Darling of the Irish media Denis O’Brien is one of the most famous tax exiles but only one of many. An array of them featured on RTÉ’s ‘Rich List’ – an orgy laid on to satisfy the voyeuristic envy of this mé féin society.

While legislation has made it more difficult for politicians to personally benefit from the type of dealings in which Haughey indulged, a golden circle still exists. This is where decisions have been taken by government against the public interest and in the interest of their friends in big business. These decisions include:

  • The changing of Part V of the Planning and Development Act after intensive lobbying from developers. The original Part V required developers to provide 20% social and affordable housing in all developments. This was changed by the FF/PD Government at the developers’ behest so that they can buy their way out of their obligations by paying money to local authorities. As a direct result lower income families have been deprived of homes.
  • The unbridled control of the housing market by land speculators and the building industry with house prices beyond the reach of people on above-average incomes.
  • The granting of major tax concessions to developers of private hospitals. Former Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy admitted that he brought in this concession after lobbying from a private hospital developer in his constituency. Mary Harney has extended the concession by making public hospital land available to developers of private hospitals.
  • The ongoing robbery of our natural gas and oil resources by multinationals who have been handed these resources by successive governments, including the present administration.
  • Public contracts for private developers and property speculators that have seen the public purse ripped off. A prime example is the purchase at over twice the market value of the Thornton Hall lands for the proposed super-prison.
  • The privatisation of Eircom to the benefit of multi-millionaires such as Tony O’Reilly and at the expense of many thousands of conned small shareholders and with the result that we have a sub-standard telecommunications infrastructure in the hands of a private monopoly.
  • The privatisation of Aer Lingus, despite the experience of the disastrous Eircom privatisation.




Commenting on the Moriarty Report, Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin pointed to the above scandals and stated: “All of these measures are legal but totally unethical and against the public interest. The Moriarty Report states that the conduct of Charles Haughey ‘devalued the quality of modern democracy’. That devaluation continues to this day and has done so under successive administrations.”



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