I have been absent from the blogosphere for a little while now and am only remerging now, just when people were beginning to think it was safe to come out because with my usual imperishable optimism I felt I detected an encouraging chink of light from our parliamentarians over the past couple of weeks.
A handful of T.D.s encouragingly selected on a cross party basis, have been giving a good example of democracy at work by their behaviour on the Public Accounts Committee. They braved mutterings from the bewigged gentlemen in the Law Library and their money making machine of the Four Courts, to conduct hearings, albeit in private as a result of pressure, into the penalty points system.
The people now sitting in Dáil Eireann are operating in the wake of an economic tsunami and I have no doubt that in picking through the rubble created by the death throes of the Celtic Tiger that they are trying to do the right thing. The lawyers do not have a monopoly on virtue or on truth. Homer nodded big time when they got it so spectacularly wrong over Louise O’Keefe, that shamefully, she had to go to the European courts to secure a judgement against the Irish state which refused to compensate her for the sexual predations of a school teacher on the cute whore basis that the State was not responsible for the doings of teachers. That was the churches bailiwick.
For years Louise battled on at the risk of losing her home and the state wrote to a hundred and thirty five other claimants bullying them in some cases into dropping their claims in the wake of the Suopreme court decision because the unfortunate victims were threatened that if they didn’t abandon their actions they would be hit with crippling costs. That was law not justice. The Irish public are entitled to justice those in high places responsible for the banking disaster should be held accountable.
As a result of the PAC’s activities, dare one hope that the public who are showing themselves increasingly favourable to what the committee are doing may get sight of their findings, through leak or otherwise and the principle that the people should have some say in the way they’re governed was upheld. I wouldn’t hold my breath for anything good coming out of Minister Alan Shatter’s manoeuvre in trying to keep the controversy under wraps by referring it to the Garda Ombudsman.
Hitherto lack of political will has inhibited much initiative from that quarter, public spirited though holders of the office themselves maybe.
The PAC also brought to light the disgraceful situation whereby the Central Remedial Clinic was apparently using public money to pay its executives from funds which people thought they were giving to further the CRC’s good work.
What has to be realised in all this is that the elephant in the room of Irish public debate is the stultifying influence of the lawyers who have had and are having a retarding effect on the public’s right to know. Lawyers were loudly opposed to Alan Shatter’s far from impressive, and ultimately unsuccessful referendum campaign to allow the Dáil to set up committees to enquire into how the hell an act of major economic treason was committed which almost wrecked the economy and drove the population to suicide, emigration or unemployment.
The lawyers argue that the parliamentarians are not capable of conducting such enquiries because they will end up in party political ranker and that these committees interfere with the man’s right to his good name and the independence of the judiciary.
This is a load of rubbish as a practising democrat I believe fervently both in the independence of the judiciary and a man’s right to his good name but the judges are human too and they can get a bit too hot in their leather. The ordinary citizen had no option but to pay up when the Universal Social Charge was introduced in the wake of the banking guarantee and the arrival of the Troika. But a referendum had to be held to amend the constitution before the judges paid up. They should have given a lead not acted as a retarding factor in the development of a sort of Dunkirk spirit amongst the public.
And it is notorious in the wake of the Banking crash that lawyers, who of course earned vast incomes, are now being pressed quite hard in some cases, to pay back the huge borrowings which the banks in good times conceded to them on foot of their earnings. Small groups of lawyers like those in New Beginning are making commendable efforts to help hard pressed mortgage owners caught in the toils of the banks but the big legal battalions do what they can to help the banks and to frustrate any willingness that the government might show to cut legal costs as the Troika recommended.
In Ireland with certain honourable exceptions that we can all name lawyers have made of the Irish court system a sort of Celtic Ritz hotel – it’s open to everyone. Perhaps the PAC have begun a process whereby a favourable public opinion may yet make entry to the Irish Ritz, more democratic and less expensive.