Wednesday 19 September 2007

Standards in Public Office Commission Ok With Ahern Cash

Apparently the SPOC has stated that it finds "no basis on which to initiate an investigation [of Aherns cash payments] under the Ethics in Public Office Acts 1995 and 2001." Their statement was short and came without explaining why.

As I wrote in a previous post, the wave of public interest in political integrity has long washed over. In its wake it leaves nothing but apathy and indifference towards the whole question of ethics in office. This is why the opposition parties covered their eyes during the election campaign when Bertie's cash story reached farcical levels of implausibility. And I suspect that the SPOC have noted the public pulse on the issue and have decided they too just don't want to go there.

For it is indeed extraordinary that SPOC have nothing to say about a finance minister who received bags of cash from a businessman a few days before he expected to become Taoiseach. The most common line you hear in the street about Ahern is that he is as dodgey as Haughey ever was. Personally, I don't think that is anywhere close to the mark, but it illustrates that his actions, and his lack of clarity surrounding them, have undermined public confidence in Irish government.

How can the SPOC remain silent when the code of ethics which they are established to police says this:

1. Members must, in good faith, strive to maintain the public trust placed in them, and exercise the influence gained from their membership of Dáil Éireann to advance the public interest. (my emphasis - clearly Ahern in breach)

2. Members must conduct themselves in accordance with the provisions and spirit of the Code of Conduct and ensure that their conduct does not bring the integrity of their office or the Dáil into serious disrepute. (my emphasis - clearly Ahern in breach)

11. Members must co-operate with all Tribunals of Inquiry and other bodies inquiring into matters of public importance established by the Houses of the Oireachtas. ( through selective amnesia, changing his story and holding off info, clearly Ahern in breach.)

The allegations against Ahern aren't that he did favours for money. But they do compromise his own integrity and that of the office he held. Yet he can joke about Man U tickets at the Tribunals, turning the whole thing into a charade,

But SPOC are holding their counsel. They know that after a brief spell in retreat after Beef and McCracken, the Irish weakness for the odd wink and nod has grown back like a noxious weed. . Something in the Irish pysche renders us immune to the argument that effective democracy requires transparency and integrity. Some little fault in our hearts leaves us with an incurable soft spot for cute hoors and brass necks - precisely the kind of vermin that are thriving again in Mayo, Tipperary, and, in all probability, the very core of our political system.

So SPOC, please. When you return to your offices tomorrow bring a stash of boxes, and pack up your files and your gear, for you are wasting your time and, worse still, our money.

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