Isn’t it amazing what a bag of cocaine and a bath-full of hookers can lead to? If Ben Dunne hadn’t been standing bollock-naked on the ledge of a Florida hotel preparing to fly, we’d probably never have heard about the money Haughey and Lowry accepted from him.
If Ben Dunne has been in Orlando to visit Disneyworld instead of holing up in a Grand Cypress Hotel suite with a pound of marching powder and Number One Prostitute in all Kazakhstan, his sister Margaret Heffernan would probably never have found out that he was giving company money to CJH, the filthy little weasel.
Then we’d never have heard about all the offshore accounts operated by Haughey and his pals, or the illegal bank operated by Des Traynor from the head office of Cement Roadstone Holdings. We wouldn’t have solid confirmation that Haughey accepted bribes throughout his political career, or that he stole money from the fund for Brian Lenihan’s medical treatment.
We wouldn’t have have heard about Haughey and Lowry evading tax, nor would we know about Haughey intimidating civil servants to sell 140 acres of public land to his good buddies in CRH for a pittance, without going through the usual procedure of holding a public sale.
We might not have learned that Haughey leaned on a revenue official, saving Ben Dunne £23 million in capital gains tax. Nor might we have heard that Haughey was selling Irish passports to Middle-Eastern billionaires.
We might not have found out that AIB forgave Haughey’s large overdraft when he became Taoiseach, thus making him a gift of £1 million.
By extension, we wouldn’t have heard about Michael Lowry’s role in the award of the second mobile phone licence to Esat Digifone — a role described by the Tribunal as disgraceful and insidious. Nor would we have heard about Lowry’s decision as Minister to double the rent paid by Telecom Éireann for office accommodation owned by Ben Dunne, thus doubling the market valuation of the property at a stroke.
I heard Ben Dunne on the radio fulminating with indignation about the unfair treatment he was receiving from the Tribunal and challenging Moriarty to send the information to the DPP. Of course, as Ben knows full well, such action is outside the Tribunal’s remit. Hold me back and let me at him, so to speak.
I thought bluster on that scale was a thing of the past, but Dunne showed that waffle is still alive and well, even if nobody swallowed it. One listener after another called to tell him they didn’t believe him. He seemed shocked, even resorting to a sick-note defence that he was using drugs at the time.
The dog ate his homework.
Since the foundation of this state, there have been many who saw the country as nothing more than an asset to be stripped for their own personal enrichment, like carrion birds pecking at the ribs of a dead buffalo. We saw it with he sale of all the publicly-owned quarries to Roadstone for a song. We saw it with the donation of our gas to Royal Dutch Shell. We saw it with the construction of the M50 using public funds so that NTR could collect a toll at the Liffey crossing. We saw it with the misconceived, incompetent giveaway of our telecommunications network for nothing at all.
As the Tribunal chairman wrote,
in the cynical and venal abuse of office, the brazen refusal to acknowledge the impropriety of his financial arrangements with Mr Denis O’Brien and Mr Ben Dunne, and by his contemptuous disregard for his taxation obligations, Mr Lowry displayed qualities similar in nature, and has cast a further shadow over his country’s public life.
Lowry and Dunne aren’t the only ones feeling the lash of Judge Moriarty’s tongue, but they are two of the more prominent. I’m sure we can expect judicial reviews from Denis O Brien, who built his vast fortune on the Esat deal, which the Tribunal alleges was facilitated by Lowry when he was Minister. The report published today is a huge document, and it will take time to digest, but yet again it shows what we have had to contend with in this country. Gombeenism. Gobshitery. Cosy cartels. Back-room deals.
So here’s to cocaine and Latvian hookers. Long may they continue to embarrass prominent businessmen so that eventually some of the truth comes out, even if most of the really bad stuff remains buried.
What a corrupt little country we’ve made for ourselves.
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