Monday, April 14, 2008

Carpe Diem, Brian!

The death of Paddy Hillery provides a timely reminder that, over the decades, there have been many FF politicians who were, at least by Irish standards, paragons of probity and focused on enriching the national rather than the personal purse.

Charlie Haughey seems to have been an infection of major proportions, some of his close associates have been shown to be “on the take”, and the cloud of suspicion hangs over others, most notably Bertie Ahern, our current Taoiseach. The fish rots from the head and inevitably, if low standards are the norm at the highest levels of the party, junior acolytes will assume that’s the way business is done, particularly if (a) you seem to get away with it and (b) the electorate seems relatively indifferent.

I have no doubt that many serving FF politicians are hardworking, honest and motivated by the purpose of public service.

What I find interesting about the tribunal revelations in the past decade is the reaction of the Fianna Fail party and its senior members. Rather than acknowledge the obvious corrupt practices, the diversion of party funds into personal pockets etc, and the need for root & branch reform, blind loyalty to the party has instead caused a circling of the wagons, and created an ethos of defence and denial. If it hasn’t been proven definitively in court, it can and will be denied.

It reminds me of the catholic church reaction to charges of physical and sexual abuse. Blind loyalty to the institution caused many good men to deny the offences and prevented them from outing and ousting the offenders in their midst. We now know how that particular story developed. I’m sure that many clerics today regret that they suppressed their own ethical misgivings out of loyalty to the institutional church.

Brian Cowen has the opportunity to perform that “root & branch” reform of standards in FF, though Beverly’s return surely sends out the wrong signal. However, Cowen’s selection, at his press conference, of Sean Lemass as his role model could be a sign that he intends to revert to the straight standards of FF of an earlier era.
Cowen should learn the lesson of the catholic church and the long-term damage it has suffered, largely because of its earlier approach to dealing with its own scandals. Clear the cupboard of all those Haughey-related skeletons and set out a new ethical course for FF.

Carpe Diem, Brian.

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