I hold no brief for Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern, but the fact that he was found guilty of corruption by a tribunal, not a court, does weigh in my opinion of him.
Allegations not proven in court but made in the course of an inquiry, where the defendant has no day in court to mount a defense, weaken the very nature of justice.
Was Ahern corrupt? Very likely, but we’ll never know as a jury of his peers has never considered the matter.
The Irish tribunals were a farce. Many believe they were conceived in order to give politicians who ordered them up enough time in power to get their jobs done, money stolen and only worry about the consequences later.
But the fact is that Ahern was a symptom, not the root of corruption in Ireland. The father of the Irish state Eamon de Valera stole the money he raised in America from Irish expats and used it to start the Irish Press Newspaper Group, which became the basis of his family fortune.
The One True Holy and Apostolic Ireland de Valera created was where God and Mammon lived side by side, pockets got filled and souls got saved or discarded by whatever means necessary as long as the power elite in business, church and politics got theirs.
It was to hell, or America or Britain, with the rest of the suffering idiots formerly called the citizenry.
Some politicians held up as beacon lights of probity proved not to be.
There are few more revered in retrospect than former Taoiseach Dr. Garret FitzGerald, yet consider the following from the RTE website in 1999:
“Former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald has confirmed that AIB and Ansbacher wrote off debts of almost £200,000 that he owed them six years ago. He was in financial difficulties at the time because of the collapse of the aircraft leasing company, GPA, in which he was a shareholder. Dr. FitzGerald was quoted in today’s Examiner newspaper as pointing out that the write off occurred after he had left politics. He insisted that no favors were asked or given.”
I find the last line especially hilarious. No favors were given? What is a £200,000 write off in 1999 -- close to $600,000 in today’s money?
Now if you replaced the name FitzGerald with Ahern there would be consternation and damnation all over the place. At last! Proof that Bertie had his hand in the till!
Yet there was no investigation of FitzGerald’s miraculous loan write off, no calls for an inquiry.
When it comes to corruption in Ireland no one was clean or safe. Not the founder of the state de Valera, the most “honest” politician FitzGerald, or the longest serving taoiseach Ahern.
Add in the various golden circles that surrounded most of the Irish political leaders and you have a fair old recipe for corruption and graft on a massive scale.
Ahern did powerful work on the Irish peace process which is why I will always temper my criticism of him.
In a corrupt society he was just one of many. The hands in the till fumbling for the greasy pence were at it long before he began. He just happened to get caught.