Wednesday, 28 March 2012


The 19th century English religio-moralist historian, Lord Acton, wrote: 
Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men (sic) are almost always bad men.

Corruption is as human as breathing. Everyone ducks and dives. But it is when human corruption is allied to power that problems really occur. 

In Ireland today, problems of power and corruption bankrupt the State, financially and morally, so that it is the least powerful and the least corrupt, the Citizen, man and woman, who suffers the most.

The corrupt activities of Bertie Ahearn, former Taoiseach and leader of the political party, Fianna Fáil, which ran the government for most of the life of the State, and various members of his Cabinets, are detailed in The Mahon Report. 

It is a case of writing up the known knowns and some of the unknown knowns of corruption in Irish political life of the past thirty years.

Such abuse of power requires collusion and evasion, both of which are founded in fear. It is not a few rotten apples. It is the national orchard and the husbandry thereof.  

With the 100th anniversary celebrations of the formation of the partitioned states in Ireland looming, the disarray in the Republic is appalling. 

Arms of the State including the police, the revenue authorities, the financial regulatory bodies, the great and the good of the Churches, the leaders of business, editors and journalists, most of academia and many others who stayed schtoom through the rapacious years are all implicated in the collusion and the evasion. In the tacit approval.

What is the impact of these formal revelations of perfidy on the part of leading Irish politicians on the believability of the Peace Process in which Bertie Ahearn was such a central figure?

Citizens do not believe the brash and bullying culture of impunity and invincibility that the corrupt powerful create about them. Citizens simply suspend their disbelief in the manner that theatre audiences do.

We see the lights, the ropes, the flats, the curtains, the gantries and the exits and entrances of the players in their costumes and make-up. We know it is a show, a charade, a pantomime. 

Most of us collude with it, suspending disbelief, at least some of the time. In fear, and in the hope of benefiting a little. Many of us switch off and don't watch the show at all. Others of us leave the theatre altogether.

While these may be necessary attitudes to strike in the theatre, they do not work in public, political life.

As citizens we are afraid of our own power, so that it is often the brash and the bullying who corral power over us, rather than with us. 

It is power itself which requires attention and de-absoluting.

It is the power of the Market, where corruption is endemic, central, right-on and valued, that most benefits from this political corruption and collusion. 

It is Democracy that is weakened. Even Lord Acton understands that.

Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end. By liberty I mean the assurance that every man (sic) shall be protected in doing what he believes his duty against the influence of authority and majorities, custom and opinion.

Against the influence of power and corruption.

The Irish Times; newspaper; Saturday March 24th 2012

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