Elaine Byrne: Not speaking full truth to power




By Anthony Sheridan

Corruption expert Elaine Byrne and two or her colleagues, Hugh O’Connell and Barry J Whyte, recently wrote an extensive piece on the failings of the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO).

Similar articles on the issue of poor or non-existent state regulation have been penned by a long line of journalists in a long line of newspapers over a timescale of many decades.

They all have one thing in common – they fail, for various reasons, to speak the full truth.

So here’s the full truth in just four sentences:

One:       Those who wield power are responsible for enacting and enforcing anti-corruption laws that are critical to the proper functioning of a state.

Two:     When those in power fail in their duty to confront corruption, the state and its people suffer.

Three:   Ireland and its people have suffered enormously from the disease of corruption over the decades as a direct result of this failure.

Four:     The people who are directly and indisputably responsible for this failure are the three mainstream political parties – Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Labour Party.

These four points should form the basis for every single article written by Irish journalists when they are addressing the issue of political and state corruption.

Unfortunately, Irish journalists have a very poor record of speaking truth to power. Instead, we get articles like that written by Ms. Byrne that pulls punches all over the place out of fear, ignorance or support for those who corruptly wield power.

For example, Ms. Byrne speaks of ‘governance failures’, ‘mistakes’, ‘shortcomings’ and ‘blunders

Here’s the truth: Those who wield power strip all regulatory authorities of power in a deliberate strategy that is specifically designed to protect the corrupt. The evidence for this truth is overwhelming and indisputable.

Ms. Byrne also uses the royal ‘we’ instead of precisely identifying those who facilitate political and state corruption. For example, she tells us that:

We excel at the disease of implementation deficit.

Here’s the truth: The ‘we’ Ms. Byrne speaks of consists of the three mainstream political parties who have wielded power since independence. The evidence for this truth is overwhelming and indisputable.

Ms. Byrne also writes about the ‘national addiction to reports’. There is no national addiction to reports. Irish citizens are fed up to their back teeth with reports and reports on reports that result in zero accountability.

Here’s the truth: The establishment of reports, reviews and tribunals is a strategy specifically designed by those who wield power to protect the corrupt.

So, as Mary and Joe soap make their case before an empowered judge the politically protected corrupt casually perjure themselves in front of a disempowered judge at a tribunal. The evidence for this truth is overwhelming and indisputable.

To her credit Ms. Byrne is one of the very few commentators who have come even close to speaking truth to power.

Here’s how she wrote about a speech she made at the McGill Summer School in July 2012. She was speaking to an audience that would have included many of those responsible for protecting the corrupt.

Official Ireland is predominantly male, predominantly over 50 and predominantly people who earn over €100,000. For the most part, it includes the speakers at this MacGill summer school and those that attend it.

That didn’t go down too well. That part of my speech was greeted with an audible murmur of disapproval (my emphasis) at MacGill in Donegal last week.

Yet every single inquiry into public life that we have had in this country over the past 15 years has come down to one singular thing, the operation of power by Official Ireland. The political tribunals, the church scandals, the police inquiries, the hospital failures and the banking crisis were ultimately about the abuse of power.

She ended her article with this:

These mostly male, middle-aged decision makers are responsible for the (economic) collapse in the first place because they never shouted stop.

This is an example of what I mentioned at the beginning of this article – a failure to speak the full truth to power.

Here’s what needs to be said to the powers that protect the corrupt:

The three mainstream political parties of this country, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and the Labour Party are directly responsible for infecting the political and administrative systems of our country with the disease of corruption.

The evidence for this is overwhelming and indisputable. These are the parties that have wielded power since independence. These are the parties that have consistently and intentionally failed, power swop after power swop, to challenge the disease of corruption.

These are the parties that must be permanently removed from power if the people of Ireland are ever to enjoy the benefits of living in a functional democracy free of rampant political corruption.

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Elaine Byrne



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