Journalist Michael Clifford: Getting it wrong on the bank inquiry

According to journalist Michael Clifford the lack of a paper trail concerning the major decisions taken during the 2008 financial crisis is of minor importance (Irish Examiner).

If that were all that was wrong in the department, we’d all be in clover.

In his article Clifford leads the raging elephant of political/administrative corruption into the room, sticks a long, well sharpened spear up the creatures rear end to ensure maximum pain and then proceeds to completely ignore the ensuing rampage.

Instead he focuses on what he obviously believes are more important aspects of the first days of the latest banking inquiry.

Like, for example, how finance officials had to go home to find out details of that year’s budget or how Fianna Fail is reacting to the inquiry.

This journalist could not be more wrong.

The lack of a paper trail is the single most important aspect of the entire disgraceful episode because it tells us just how corrupt our political/administrative system has become.

Allow me to analyse Clifford’s raging elephant in the room.

Rob Wright, the Canadian public servant who compiled a report on how the Department of Finance was asleep at the wheel during the boom, gave evidence.

Rob Wright is wrong in his conclusion that the Department was asleep at the wheel.

The Department of Finance was not asleep at the wheel. The Department was fully aware of what was happening throughout the boom years, the Central Bank, Revenue and all other relevant state agencies also knew exactly what was happening.

No action was taken because our corrupt political system was, and still is, more concerned with protecting the interests of those who benefitted hugely from the boom than they were/are in the interests of the Irish people.

All our state agencies, including the police, operate under the direct control of our corrupt political system.

Wright was ‘flummoxed’ by the lack of a paper trail surrounding the major decisions made during the crisis.

He was told by many public servants that it was the Freedom of Information Act that was to blame. Nobody wanted to commit to paper anything that might come back to haunt them.

There could be serious ‘hassle’, he was told, if an FOI request revealed a difference of opinion between a minister and a civil servant.

One minister, we’re told, ‘had a lot of concern’ about the Freedom of Information Act after one such revelation.

It is deeply disturbing that civil servants can casually dismiss their disgraceful actions/inactions because of a fear of ‘hassle’ from a minister.

It is deeply disturbing that a minister (and, of course, he/she is not alone in this) expresses concern at the prospect of citizens becoming properly informed by way of an FOI.

It is deeply disturbing that any meeting of ministers and their senior public servants could be conducted without any notes/record being taken never mind the major, life impacting decisions taken during the financial crisis.

To put it bluntly, only those in charge of the most perverse, corrupt, diseased banana republic would think it acceptable to make such decisions while consciously deciding to keep no record in case they were made to account for their betrayal.

As far as I am aware, and I hope to check on this further in the coming year, there is a legal requirement for civil servants to record all minutes of all government/ministerial meetings.

Journalist Clifford ends his article:

The jury is still out on whether this whole thing will amount to a hill of beans.

Wrong again:

The jury is in, every informed person knows what happened, knows that the current inquiry is a disgraceful farce, knows that it won’t even amount to a hill of beans.

The people, in recent elections, polls and protests, have given their verdict – Guilty.

They have delivered their sentence – The abolition of our corrupt political/administrative system.

All that remains is for the sentence to be carried out and, hopefully, that will be sooner rather than later.

Copy to:
Michael Clifford
Department of Finance
All political parties

Love/Hate fiction more rational than our corrupt body politic

I tuned into RTEs John Murray Show yesterday morning where the discussion centred on some fictional series called Love/Hate.

Murray and his guest were very excited about the horror featured in the show and wondered would there be another series.

Having never watched an episode of the show I got bored and switched over to another channel for the news but, to my amazement, the same fictional series was been seriously reported and analysed as if it was real – on news programmes for feck sake.

And so it was throughout the day, Newstalk, Today FM, RTE, Liveline, Drivetime, News at One, Six One News and many more, all reporting, analysing, debating, anguishing, speculating who will die next, will there be another series.

The producer, actors, RTE’s head of drama and whoever you’re having yourself were all interviewed at length as to their reaction to this fictional programme.

Actors spoke in shock about the horror they felt as they acted, I stress, acted, in the programme, commentators wondered would the actors/viewers need psychological help in dealing with the fiction, I stress, fiction.

In our bizarre state fiction had finally merged with what passes for reality.

I wondered why and, very quickly, the answer came as I listened to reports of the latest political scandal involving allegations of serious tax evasion by senior politicians.

The family of former Fine Gael TD, Attorney General and High Court judge, Declan Costello claimed he had ‘forgotten’ he had a Guinness and Mahon bank account and he never did anything wrong anyway so stop asking question.

Then I heard the Minister for Enterprise and Jobs, Richard Bruton, without the slightest sign of embarrassment, tell the nation that the witness statement he received from the whistle blower, which contained very serious allegations against senior politicians and state agencies like Revenue, the Gardai and the Office of Corporate Enforcement, remained hidden in his office for two full years because someone in the department had retired.

And I thought to myself – No, the nation’s media treating a fictional series as if it was real is not really all that surprising.

In fact, it’s more rational than the horrific reality we suffer every day under the jackboot of our corrupt body politic.

Is the Iona Institute guilty of intellectually abusing schoolchildren?

Last April, religious militant and director of the Iona Institute David Quinn, delivered a lecture to fifth and sixth year students falsely informing them that the origin of the universe had nothing to do with science but was strictly a matter for religion/philosophy (See full article here).

There is an abundance of scientific evidence relating to the origin of the universe. Scientific discoveries such as background radiation, inflation and the recently discovered gravitational waves are all scientific facts supporting the idea that the origin of the universe is scientific.

In stark contrast, Mr. Quinn’s claim that the origin of the universe is a philosophical and religious one has no basis in fact whatsoever.

Despite centuries of philosophical and religious debate on the question of the origin of the universe not a single fact has been produced to confirm the myriad of speculative opinions emanating from that quarter.

What is really disturbing about this incident is the fact that Mr. Quinn and the Iona Institute appear to have unrestricted access to propagate what is effectively, religious propaganda to innocent students.

It is obvious from reading Mr. Quinn’s article that his lecture had nothing to do with genuine education, that it was not designed to inform students about the pros and cons in the debate between science and religion.

In addition to the lie concerning the origin of the universe Mr. Quinn’s lecture seems to have been nothing more than a vicious attack on New Atheism and in particular on Richard Dawkins.

Mr. Quinn regularly makes such attacks across various media outlets and, while rationally obnoxious, he is entitled to hold and express those views.

But what is not acceptable and what is deeply disturbing, is the apparent freedom extended to the Iona Institute to effectively intellectually abuse innocent schoolchildren.

I made a formal complaint on the matter to the Department of Education.

The response, while entirely predictable, was nevertheless shocking.

Effectively, the Department said – Nothing to do with us, it’s the responsibility of the boards of management and the patron of each school (See below for my formal complaint, reply from Dept. of Education and my response).

This is the same irresponsible response by the Dept/Government as that taken in the Louise O’Keeffe scandal.

Ms. O’Keeffe, who had been sexually abused by a teacher as a schoolgirl in the 1970s, lost her case for justice in the Irish High and Supreme Courts but finally found justice when the decision of the Irish courts was overturned by the European Court of Human Rights.

Although disgusting in the extreme it seems that this ‘legal arrangement’ is proving very useful to politicians and civil servants as a means of abdicating any responsibility whatsoever towards protecting children from abuse whether physical, sexual or intellectual.

Copy to:
Department of Education
Iona Institute
All political parties

Formal complaint:

10 April 2014

For attention of Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn

This is a formal complaint regarding a lecture delivered by the director of the Iona Institute David Quinn to a group of fifth and sixth year students earlier this month.

Mr. Quinn wrote about his lecture in an article in the Irish Catholic newspaper of 3 April last. The title of the article, which is provided in full below, is:

The atheist’s act of faith

The question of the origin of the universe isn’t a scientific one at all, but a philosophical and religious one.

My complaint is as follows:

Mr. Quinn’s lecture is based entirely on a falsehood; namely that the origin of the universe is not a scientific one at all but rather a philosophical and religious one.

There is an abundance of scientific evidence relating to the origin of the universe. Scientific discoveries such as background radiation, inflation and the recently discovered gravitational waves are all factual events that give the lie to Mr. Quinn’s claim that the question of the origin of the universe is not scientific.

Furthermore, Mr. Quinn’s claim that the question of the origin of the universe is a philosophical and religious one has no basis in fact whatsoever.

Despite centuries of philosophical and religious debate on the question of the origin of the universe not a single fact has been produced to confirm the myriad of speculative opinions emanating from that quarter.

In effect, Mr. Quinn was permitted to encourage students to ignore established scientific facts regarding the origin of the universe and instead accept that his Christian god created the universe.

It is unacceptable and indeed disturbing that somebody with a very strong religious bias like Mr. Quinn would be granted apparent unrestricted access to students to promote a religious viewpoint based on a falsehood.

It is unacceptable and indeed disturbing that any outside influence would be permitted apparent unrestricted access to students to promote a particular view without the long established safeguards of independent/objective supervision and the right to hear an opposing argument.

According to legislation the Board of Management of schools are accountable to the patron and to the Minister. This complaint is addressed to the Minister in this context.

Yours sincerely
Anthony Sheridan

Response from Department of Education:

Dear Mr Sheridan

I refer to your letter addressed to the Minister for Education and Skills.

While this Department sets out the constitution of Boards of Management and rules of procedure it is not directly involved in the management of schools. Under the provisions of the Education Act, 1998, the Board of Management is the body charged with the direct governance of a school. The schools Board of Management is accountable to the school Patron.

Accordingly, whereas the Department provides funding and policy direction for schools, the Department does not have the power to instruct schools to follow a particular course of direction with regard to individual complaint cases.

Religious Education is one of 33 Leaving Certificate subjects available to schools. The selection of text books and classroom resources to support the implementation of the curriculum is made by schools, rather than by the Department of Education and Skills or the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.

The Office of the Ombudsman for Children may independently investigate complaints relating to the administrative actions of a school recognised by the Department of Education and Skills, provided the complainant has firstly and fully followed the school’s complaints procedures. The key criterion for any intervention by the Ombudsman for Children is that the administrative actions of a school has, or may have, adversely affected the child. The office can be contacted at: Ombudsman for Children’s Office, Millennium House, 52-56 Great Strand Street, Dublin 1; tel. 1800 20 20 40 or (01) 865 6800 or email oco@oco.ie.

I hope the information that provided is of assistance to you.

Yours sincerely,

My response to the Department of Education

28 May 2014

To Whom It May Concern:

Your response to my formal complaint concerning a lecture delivered to fifth and six-year students by the director of the Iona Institute David Quinn is a disgrace for the following reasons.

One: Apart from issuing meaningless bureaucratic waffle, the decision to do nothing will almost certainly result in some degree of damage to innocent children.

After decades of horrific child abuse the very least we could expect of officialdom is to make some enquiries into the matter. Given the history of child abuse in Ireland it is highly likely that the Iona Institute is not the only organisation that enjoys unrestricted access to preach religious and other damaging propaganda to children.

Two: Your indifferent response is a further disturbing reflection of how unprofessional civil servants have become. Scandal after scandal, on an almost weekly basis, gives witness to this decay of professionalism right across all departments.

Three: Your response is an insult to my intelligence. It is an obvious fact that the Department of Education is intimately involved in every aspect of education across all levels. It is also a fact that if you wished, you could easily carry out an investigation into this matter.

That you chose not to thus placing children in potential danger is a disgrace on you and your profession.

Yours etc.,
Anthony Sheridan

Let's give the Minister for Justice the benefit of the doubt – for now

The Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald was answering questions before the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva today.

She told the committee that the Government would have an independent police authority in place by the end of the year. It should have been in place since 2005, after the Donegal Gardai corruption outrage but better late than never.

She also said that GSOC would have the power to independently initiate investigations without having to first ask the Minister for Justice. We’ll have to wait and see how that turns out.

On the issue of legislation in this area the Minister said:

The legislation was originally introduced in 2005 and was found to have these gaps in it so we are bringing in these changes later this year.

Let’s be kind to the new minister, let’s give her the benefit of the doubt by accepting that she has no idea of the dark reality lurking behind this legislation and how it’s linked to the Donegal Gardai corruption.

Let’s accept that she’s a political innocent when she speaks of ‘gaps’ as if the presence of these gaps were some sort of oversight by the politicians and civil servants who drew up the legislation in 2005.

Let’s accept she naively believes that the so-called gaps in the legislation were not deliberately designed to specifically ensure that the police and their political masters could continue to enjoy the benefits of operating far outside the requirements of public accountability as they have since 1922.

Let’s accept that she’s green enough to believe that her predecessor, Alan Shatter, would have introduced the current reforms even if the recent avalanche of corruption within the Gardai had remained hidden.

Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt – but only this time.

Wolf of Wall Street: Getting it wrong about Ireland

The real Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort, is advising Irish citizens to quit the blame game.

Here’s some of his advice:

One of the messages I want to say to the Irish people is that you can’t blame yourselves.

You’ve got to say it’s okay, we made a mistake and we are going to learn from that and grow stronger from that.

Yeah, people screwed up but they screwed up all over the world so you owe it to your children and your grandchildren to not dwell on that.

And remember it wasn’t Ireland where people overspent. You are no different from the United States and Spain and England.

The problem with Mr. Belfort’s advice is that it’s based on ignorance about what’s really going on in Ireland.

Here’s the minimum Mr. Belfort needs to learn.

All our problems were caused by our corrupt political/administrative system.

Yes, the global financial crisis had a massive impact but it could have been contained and managed if we had a functional democracy.

Mr. Belfort is completely unaware that our corrupt system is not into learning lessons from the disastrous consequences of its actions. To do so would not be in its interests.

The corrupt system did wobble a bit when the global financial crisis hit but it is now firmly back in the saddle of power and ruthlessly doing what it does best – screwing Irish citizens into the ground.

Unwittingly, while describing his own descent into a life of debauchery and fraud, Mr. Belfort pinpoints exactly how our political/administrative system evolved into a corrupt monster.

You don’t lose your moral compass overnight. You take tiny steps where you become desensitised.

This has been happening in Ireland since the corrupt/criminal politician Haughey came to power in 1979. Tiny step after tiny step until eventually the country fell over the cliff in 2008.

The first time you step over the line you feel bad and try to make things right again but then the next time you take that step further and further and before you know it you are doing things you never thought you would do.

This accurately describes the reaction/attitude of our politicians/administrators. Politicians and officials are now at a stage where they don’t even bother to make up excuses anymore.

They are supremely confident that accountability/transparency is a joke. They know they can do pretty much as they please, even break the law, which they do now on a regular basis.

I know myself now if you create wealth without ethics or integrity its not going to last.

The disaster for Irish citizens is that while the political sector is an ethics and integrity free zone it is, apparently, going to last well into the foreseeable future.

Leo Varadkar storms into the mid 1980s

Congratulations to Leo Varadkar.

Riding on his trusty steed the young buck has stormed into the mid 1980s, looked around and immediately summed up the dire situation – I quote.

The Department of Justice is not fit for purpose, it is clear that big changes are required.

We need cultural change. You know, too much in Ireland, and it’s not just a Garda issue, we still have the culture of doing favours, the nod and the wink, the use of discretion and those types of things.

Oh Jesus, save me. I’m going weak at the knees to witness such incisive analysis, such vision, and such cutting edge assessment of what’s happening in our country.

Why, I ask, why did we have to wait so long for the chosen one, for our saviour?

And of course, it brings me back to the mid 1980s too.

The time I realised that the banking sector was robbing customers and the State with total impunity, they still are, bless them.

It was the time I realised that the criminal Haughey was corrupt and the principal carrier of the disease that would eventually infect every level of Irish society but in particular the political, administrative and financial sectors.

I wonder how long it will be before Leo arrives in the 21st century?

Who know, but when he does he’ll see, I’m sure, with equal clarity, that every government department is unfit for purpose, that civil servants and particularly senior civil servants no longer serve Ireland and its people but are loyal to the anti principles of arrogance, incompetence and corruption.

But most of all he will see that the disease of corruption that has infected our law enforcement and other regulatory agencies is carried deep within the system in which he lives – the body politic.

Information Ombudsman: Getting ever more bizarre

My complaint to the Information Ombudsman regarding the refusal of the Department of Justice to answer a question becomes ever more bizarre.

I wrote recently about correspondence I received from the Ombudsman which effectively stated that the office had no power to investigate the Dept. of Justice.

Here’s the relevant and bizarre comment.

This Office is precluded from examining the issues you have raised in your online complaint. This exclusion includes complaints about the failure of the Department to reply to your correspondence.

This, of course, is ridiculous. If the Ombudsman cannot investigate a refusal by a Government department to answer a simple question then it has no power to do anything.

My reply:

Dear…

I would be greateful if you could answer the following questions.

What precise piece of legislation precludes your office from examining my complaint?

What precise piece of legislation precludes your office from investigating the refusal of the Department to reply to my correspondence?

Your sincerely
Anthony Sheridan

I received no reply to this correspondence so I phoned the Ombudsman’s office yesterday and spoke with the official dealing with my complaint.

The official claimed that she thought I was asking the Ombudsman to deal with the content of my question to the Dept. of Justice rather than the refusal of the Dept. to answer the question.

I pointed out to her that this explanation was contrary to her previous correspondence in which she clearly stated that the Ombudsman does not have the power to examine the Dept’s refusal to answer my question.

She promised to get back to me soonest.

And so, on it goes.

Information Ombudsman has become a toothless tiger?

On 4 March last I phoned the office of the Minister for Justice to find out the names of the Gardai who, we are told, were disciplined for their part in the penalty points scandal.

The Department refused to answer what is a very simple, very straightforward question.

On 15 April last I submitted a formal complaint to the Information Ombudsman on the matter.

Yesterday, April 25, I received the following disturbing reply from the Information Ombudsman.

More on this later…

Dear Mr Sheridan,

I refer to your recent complaint to this Office in connection with the Department of Justice and Equality.

The Ombudsman may investigate complaints against Government Departments and Offices, Local Authorities, the Health Service Executive, bodies within the remit of the Disability Act, 2005 and a number of additional bodies since 01 May 2013.

However, this Office is precluded from examining the issues you have raised in your online complaint. This exclusion includes complaints about the failure of the Department to reply to your correspondence.

If however, you give me your consent to do so, I can refer your correspondence directly to the Department for consideration, following which your case will be closed in this Office and no further action will be taken.

If you are happy for this Office to forward your complaint directly to the Department, please reply to this correspondence by no later than 2 May 2014.

Yours sincerely…

Department of Justice refuses to answer simple question

On 4 March last I phoned the office of the Minister for Justice to find out the names of the Gardai who, we are told, were disciplined for their part in the penalty points scandal.

The Department has refused to answer my question.

I was informed by the Information Ombudsman that I could make a formal complaint if no substantial reply was received after six weeks.

I have removed the name of the civil servant with whom I have been in communications with on this matter.

My complaint was made on an official form on the Ombudsman’s website hence the structure.

Which public body is your complaint about? The Department of Justice.

When did the action you are now complaining about take place? 4 March and on going.

Please tell us: What happened? Where did it happen? Who was involved? How were you affected?

The Department of Justice is, effectively, refusing to answer a question.

The sequence of events are as follows:

4 March: I emailed the following question to the Minister for Justice.

To Whom It May Concern:

It is public knowledge that a number of Gardai have been punished as a result of the penalty points controversy.
I request the name, rank, location and punishment meted out to the Gardai in question.

If this is not possible I request the regulation/legislation under which it is not possible.

Yours sincerely

Anthony Sheridan

5 March: I received the following acknowledgement.

Dear Mr Sheridan,

I write to acknowledge receipt of your email dated 4 March, 2014.
Yours sincerely,

Minister for Justice and Equality

13 March: I sent the following email to the Minister for Justice

Dear Mr.

I would be grateful if you could give a rough indication of when I could expect a reply to my email of 4 March last.

Yours sincerely
Anthony Sheridan

13 March: Received the following acknowledgement.

Dear Mr. Sheridan,

I write to acknowledge receipt of your email dated 13 March, 2014.

Yours sincerely,
Minister for Justice and Equality

20 March: Rang the Information Ombudsman and was advised that I could make a formal complaint if no substantial reply was received after six weeks.

2 April: I sent the following email to the Minister for Justice.

Dear Mr.

I would be grateful if you could give a rough indication of when I could expect a reply to my email of 4 March last.

Yours sincerely
Anthony Sheridan

2 April: Received the following acknowledgement.

Dear Mr Sheridan,

I wish to acknowledge receipt of your latest email of 02 February 14.
Your previous correspondence is currently being dealt with and a further reply will issue as soon as possible.

Yours sincerely

It is now six weeks since I submitted my question without a substantial reply. This question could have been answered within an hour or, at most, within 24 hours.

It is reasonable, therefore , to assume that the Department is refusing to answer the question.

I submit my complaint.

What do you want the public body to do to put things right?

Answer the question.

I am not a 'customer' of the State, I am a citizen

I recently received an email from the Department of Education in response to a query which included the following sentence.

To assist you, the following links provide answers to queries frequently raised by our customers.

I find the use of the term ‘customers’ to be obnoxious. I am not a customer of any government agency, I am a citizen of the State within which every government agency works on my and every other citizen’s behalf.

Somewhere along the line there was a culture change when some politician/civil servant decided that the term ‘citizen’ bestowed too much respect on citizens. It was decided to create a culture whereby the state raised itself to a position above that of the great unwasahed.

It was decided that ordinary citizens were to be looked down upon as no more than ‘customer’s’ of the ruling elite.

I totally reject this obnoxious attitude and will work to destroy the arrogant system that seeks to dilute the quality of my citizenship.