Ireland still great place for shysters and scam merchants
The products of this mentality have been quite staggering. Two brief examples will suffice. The first goes back to the Dirt scandal that exposed the appalling failure of ethics in our banking system – a warning that, if heeded, would have prevented the crash.
In response to that scandal, it was recommended by the Review Group on Auditing in 2000 that the directors of a company should have to report annually on the way it was complying with tax and company law. A watered-down version of this was then put into legislation in 2003. But parts of the corporate world lobbied against the implementation of this law.
The matter was referred to the CLRG. The Director of Corporate Enforcement argued strongly that the law should be implemented. Astonishingly, the CLRG recommended that it should be scrapped entirely but that, if it had to remain, it should be watered down even further.
The second example concerns proposals to give protection in law to “good-faith” corporate whistleblowers. In a comic masterpiece, the CLRG came out against this on the basis that “One cannot say that there is any evidence of endemic failure in relation to corporate governance or its enforcement in Ireland that negatively affects the investment climate and which requires enhanced ‘whistleblowing’ provisions.”
If such laws were enacted, “Ireland’s reputation as a lightly regulated economy could suffer.” Surely the geniuses who believed that there was no evidence of endemic failure of corporate governance in Ireland and that it was bad form to ask directors to declare that they were obeying the law were shown the door after the crash? Surely the remit of the group was changed so that instead of prioritising “commerce” it would look at why white-collar crimes continue to be committed with impunity? Not a bit of it: the remit is entirely unchanged and 16 of the 25 members of the group, including the chairman, are exactly as they were when the crash came in 2008.
Here, again, we see the extraordinary persistence of almost all the factors that led to the collapse of the economy and of Irish independence. At the centre of the Establishment, the people and the mindsets are largely the same. And if we had the chance to do it all again, the outcome would be the same too.