A new regular column on the political upheaval in "these islands" starts its journey with scandal-ridden Dublinby John Lloyd / April 20, 1999 / Leave a comment
Published in April 1999 issue of Prospect Magazine
It’s an overused word-revolution-but Ireland is having one, in the overused sense. We haven’t paid much attention in Britain because Irish news is usually confined to how far the Irish government is assisting the peace process. But we are missing a spasm of disgust with corruption rather like that which convulsed Italy in the early 1990s.
Very large public figures are being investigated by commissions established to sift a bewildering blizzard of allegations. Most of these are about the standard kickbacks from businessmen-usually builders-to politicians or their parties. The emerging picture is of networks of money and influence which gave funds to politicians, political clout to banks and planning permission to builders.
It is a measure of the depth of the crisis that three prime ministers, including the present one, are implicated. The main figure is Charles Haughey, the former Fianna F?il Taoiseach. Haughey has had his bank accounts opened by the tribunal investigating him, and suffered the indignity of seeing exposed an internal memo of the Allied Irish Bank (AIB), where his account was kept, which stated that “Mr Haughey is quite irresponsible in money matters. He cannot be controlled on a running account.” This was written in 1975. Yet the bank continued to fund him until his account showed an overdraft of over ?1m-much of which the bank then wrote off.
The AIB was similarly generous, although not so wildly, with Garret FitzGerald, the Fine Gael leader who succeeded Haughey. Fitzgerald borrowed ?200,000 from the bank to invest in shares which crashed; the loan, or at least most of it, was written off.
The latest allegation is that P?draig Flynn, Ireland’s EU commissioner, received ?50,000 from a property developer. Flynn, a close associate of the present Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and a former Fianna F?il cabinet minister, has said it was a “personal political donation” and hopes to survive the…