Farcical system proves this is no crisis
LET US be clear: there is no crisis in Ireland. A crisis is a moment when a system must either collapse or change. The Irish system has no intention of doing either. It has led us to disaster.
To any rational observer, it seems unthinkable that it could carry on regardless, but it survives in all its farcical glory. Its basic elements of impunity, lack of accountability and cod-democracy are fully intact. Consider just three episodes from the last week.
First, there’s the Mick Wallace affair. It is actually very simple, but it is complicated by stupid questions. Should Wallace be suspended from the Dáil?
Who gives a damn? Giving a TD who cheats on taxes a holiday on full pay is exactly what the old system did – Denis Foley got a two- week paid vacation after admitting to the Moriarty tribunal that he had an Ansbacher-related offshore account.
Should Wallace be censured by the Dáil? In that case, he would be stigmatised as a pariah, just like the only person punished in this way, Michael Lowry. What a terrible fate . . .
Wallace should have been prosecuted. He used money that didn’t belong to him (VAT collected from purchasers on behalf of the Revenue) and knowingly made a false declaration. In any functioning democracy, these are crimes – pure and simple. It is entirely irrelevant what the Dáil or the technical group or anyone else thinks or does – this is supposed to be a matter for the law. So long as it isn’t, how can we say that anything has changed?
The second episode unfolded last Wednesday when the Taoiseach was asked a simple question: what did Angela Merkel say to him about bank debt when they had a telephone conversation after the Irish referendum result?
Two things flowed from this. One is that the Taoiseach’s reply, through a dense fog of verbiage, was, in essence: none of your business. Even more striking, though, is the Dáil’s collective response to this direct assault on its status as the embodiment of our democracy. In any self- respecting chamber, deputies from all sides would have walked out in protest.
What our lot did instead was to descend into infantilism. Here is a flavour of the “debate” that was more like a very bad undergraduate avant-garde play:
Taoiseach: “The question is –”
Micheál Martin: “The Tánaiste said it. The Government side did the leaking. We all know how it works.”
Taoiseach: “The question is that European leaders –”
Micheál Martin: “The Taoiseach made the call.”
Robert Troy: “ET phone home.”