Corruption, Planning permissions, Donations from developers, Tax amnesties

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Corruption, corruption, corruption, everywhere you go. No matter where you turn these days, it seems to jump right up into your face. Lowry. Haughey. Brown paper bags. Wads of cash. Bank Drafts. Favours. Planning permission. Rezoning. The Cayman Islands! You name it - it seems to have gone on in truly staggering proportions. Yet, for all the revelations, one of the more interesting things that has come to light is not the scale of corruption in Ireland as the varieties and degrees of it.

Now we're all familiar with 'common, everyday' corruption - a la Haughey and Lowry. Apparently this type of corruption is illegal. But what about that other type of corruption that is just as common - so-called 'legal' corruption. Ray Burke is a good example of this. Someone came to his door and gave him £30,000. For no reason, he claims! And it didn't influence his behaviour either.

But Ray Burke is not an exception. 'Squeaky-Clean' Dick Spring (Labour, Kerry North) had no problem phoning up Ben Dunne that time he was involved in getting together some money for the Aquadome Leisure Centre in Tralee. (Dunne coughed up £50,000 by the way). As Spring said, when he was asked about this money, "I have nothing to hide". This gives you a very good indication of how cosy and common the links are between business and political circles in Ireland. So good in fact that large sums of money are being handed around between them and it's no problem!

Plenty of other examples came out in The Dunnes' Payments Tribunal. Michael Noonan (FG, Limerick East) admitted to being "surprised" when Michael Lowry handed him £3,000 towards his re-election expenses. Apparently when Noonan asked "Why?" Lowry replied, "[Ben Dunne] has a lot of time for you as a politician". The Dunnes Tribunal reveals that individuals in all the main parties have accepted money. Even Mary Robinson herself admitted in a statement that she solicited money from close to 1,000 businessmen (sic) for her campaign for the Presidency. (By the way, in case you are counting, Ben gave £15,000 that time.)

One of the defences being advanced by the politicians is that all this slush money (both legal and illegal) isn't influencing any of the decisions being made at Government level. In support of this some politicians have pointed out that all the main parties (FF, FG, Labour, the PDs and DL) have been in receipt of money from Big Business. Yet these extraordinary claims and admissions (apart from their naivete) only serve to underline how bad the problem is. Slush money passing between business and the politicians is an everyday fact of life, it seems. And Ireland, despite the huge explosion in profits for the bosses, is being squeezed for every penny.

Just after this year's General Election, the Irish Times reported on an incident that serves to illustrate how powerful and prickly Big Business can be - there are no free lunches after all. This incident related to satellite TV services in Ireland. According to the newspaper reports, the [former] Taoiseach was asked personally by Dr O'Reilly to enforce the exclusive MMDS licence granted to one of his associate companies, Princes Holdings. When the Government did not respond to his satisfaction, representatives of Independent Newspapers threatened the Rainbow Coalition that they would "lose the group's support as friends."

This tells us, firstly, that Big Business and the Government (of FG, Labour and Democratic Left) have been 'friends'. Secondly, the nature of this 'friendship' was the implementation of policy decisions that pleased Big Business. Thirdly, the 'reward' for the Government was good publicity in O'Reilly's various newspapers. What a very cosy set up.

This is corruption on a major scale. But bear in mind that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Money is being used all over the place to tip decisions the right way and most of the time the politicians play along - politicians of all shades, it should be said. Remember the £100-a Plate Labour Party lunch organised by the Ethics (I kid you not) Minister of State, Eithne Fitzgerald, in 1985. Here again we got a glimpse at the real world of Irish 'democracy'. The letter, if you recall, was on Office of An Tanaiste notepaper. It invited business people to a lunch with Ruairi Quinn (at a cost of £100 a head).

But, as the letter pointed out, this was no ordinary lunch: "The Minster has already published a preliminary outline of his plan for the legislation which gives effect to the Government's financial plan for the coming year. This legislation is of major interest and importance to key sectors in our economy. The occasion [of the lunch] provides a rare opportunity to gain access to the Minister in a semi-formal environment". To do what, one might ask? There are no prizes for guessing what the right answer is.

Compared to others, anarchists have always been very sceptical of politicians. But it would it be quite wrong to think that the current wave of corruption is just the result of 'a few bad apples'. The extent of the corruption and the nature of it, gives the lie to this. Some politicians (like Lowry and Haughey) are certainly more unscrupulous than others. But the fact remains that all the big parties are knee deep in business donations. Some openly share the same agenda as Big Business (FG, FF and the PDs) while others (like Labour and DL) don't. Even so, all of them have their fingers in the pie.

As anarchists we don't stand for elections to the Dáil - we never will. There are a number of reasons for this but one important one is that we recognise that power corrupts. Dáil TDs do have power. They have power over our lives through the decisions they make during their time in office. But one of the things that happens to TDs when they get elected is that they get to like the lifestyle of the Dáil and the prestige of being a TD; they also enjoy being in the spotlight. This happens to politicians of all shades - whether they are socialists or not is immaterial. Power as we all know confers status and privileges and Big Business more than anyone knows this. They have the money to make their influence heard and they make sure it is.

Peter Sullivan

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