Top five Irish scandals of the decade
Regrets, we’ve had a few. Oh yes, Irish public figures have made some errors of judgment in the past 10 years, as did we, the public, for letting them get away with it. Irish journalists Shane Ross and Fintan O’Toole have expertly uncovered them in books published this year – “The Bankers” in Ross’s case and the aptly named “Ship of Fools” in O’Toole’s. But for the public purse and for Ireland’s reputation, the revelations all came a bit too late.
It was a decade when Ireland’s Celtic Tiger roared, then whimpered, then scuttled off with its tail between its legs to someplace far away. Other scandals, such as those involving the Catholic Church, have proved even more shocking – there, past crimes are coming to light in revelations long overdue.
Here Irishcentral outlines events we wish had never happened, as we list just the top five scandals to plague the country this decade.
1. Bertie Ahern and the Mahon Tribunal
Who could have imagined that a finance minister wouldn’t have a bank account? Former Irish Taoiseach (president) Bertie Ahern certainly surprised the populace by revealing that he spent three years without one when he was finance minister between 1991 and 1994, even though he happened to be a trained account too.
The Mahon Tribunal dedicated 916 days to investigating Ahern’s finances between 2002 and 2008. The tribunal’s findings have yet to be published but the bad publicity forced Ahern to resign in 2008.
Another earlier former Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, a character hardly free of scandal himself, may have had it right when he remarked of Bertie years ago that he was "The most skilful, the most devious, the most cunning of them all.”
2. Banking scandals
Towards the end of the decade regulators began to investigate the nefarious goings on at Ireland’s biggest banks, and one in particular stood out. Anglo Irish Bank played a major role in Ireland’s housing bubble. In 2008 regulators belatedly realized that its chairman, Sean Fitzpatrick, had been transferring €87 million ($125 million) of bank loans temporarily from one bank account to another to prevent them from showing up on the bank’s annual report.
Meanwhile, in a building society called Irish Nation Wide, a character known as Fingers Fingleton (Michael Fingleton to his friends) gained a reputation of his own. Fingleton loaned huge sums of money without following protocol, in particular favoring friends in the media, politics and business. The result was that when global finances went awry, Irish Nation Wide recorded a €243 million ($350 million) loss and urgently needed government help. As of now, the Irish taxpayer is supporting €8 billion of its €10.4 billion loans. Fingleton, the CEO, departed with a pension fund of €27.6 million and a bonus of € million.