There’s no doubt that under the tutelage of Charlie Haughey, Fianna Fáil became a deeply dishonest and corrupt party, but there’s also no doubt that the cancer didn’t start with him. Haughey only refined it, while others brought it to its ultimate disastrous and unavoidable conclusion.
If you delved back into the days of Taca, you might see how it all went thoroughly filthy, but you’d still have some more digging. It wasn’t in the Sixties, or the Fifties, nor yet the Forties nor the Thirties that corruption took hold in Ireland. And nor was it exclusively the domain of Fianna Fáil. The homeopathic Fianna Fake also had its share of chancers and crooks, as one would expect of a doppelganger.
Nevertheless, look at Taca. In the late 60s, Fianna Fáil actively reached out to the emergent entrepreneurial classes seeking funds, and in return they offered favours. The more you paid, the more favourable FF policy would be to your case. These men in mohair suits, masters of a backwater universe, swaggered around their little patch with a certain out-of-date, shabby panache that would only have impressed in an introverted, closed society like Ireland.
While the young people were discovering Woodstock and dropping out, or going to smoke their brains out in Notting Hill squats, these dishonest politicians and their red-nosed builder cronies were buying up huge tracts of derelict Dublin, and plotting to destroy our architectural heritage by subverting the planning laws in pursuit of grubby coinage. The young Haughey, Lenihan, Colley and the rest were thoroughly corrupt and on sale for a price. And in this benighted isle, where laws were for the little people, they cleaned up.
Yet, they were still the small-minded, forehead-knuckling serfs they had always been, with their surly resentment of colonial masters, their clumsy manners and their newly-acquired veneer of sophistication. Masters of vulgarity. Haughey, with his instant art collection, his instant stately home, his instant wine cellar, his instant yacht, his instant island retreat and his instant string of horses, was probably the most embarrassing of them, but he was by no means the only lout who managed to impress the yokels because he was marginally less ignorant than they were.
Lenihan was more cultured by comparison, but that wasn’t a difficult feat in a country that had erected a puritanical church-imposed, cultural wall for decades. In the Irish kingdom of the blind, Lenihan was the one-eyed man. They were a sorry bunch, but they had the country by the short-hairs. Their lack of vision gave us a society where the citizens pay for everything and where public services are minimal. They underfunded the defence forces. They sold the telephone network. They were bought by the crooked beef industry. They prostituted themselves to big builders. They sucked the cocks of newspaper owners.
Haughey phoned his Provo friends and secured Ben Dunne’s release from kidnap. In return, Dunne was forever grateful and paid Haughey millions. Thanks, Big Fella, said the malevolent midget, and yet, he was never as much in hock to big money as his so very very ‘umble servant, Uriah Ahern, who later handed billions to the church that put him where he is through his connections with the Knights of Columbanus.
Throughout the twentieth century, the Knights of Columbanus (building division) grew rich out of corruption, double-dealing and unfair manipulation of due process. In the late seventies and early eighties, they orchestrated corrupt planning decisions in North Dublin and the corrupt awarding of monopoly contracts to operate toll-bridges across the Liffey. Their numbers included many of Ireland’s leading architects, engineers, builders and developers, and they were up their necks in many property scandals, including the great rezoning disgrace of North Dublin. Rezoning was big. In the early 80s, Dublin politicians of every shade were bribed with money funnelled through small, unremarkable consultancies with connections to the Knights. The recipients of bribes included councillors and TDs, both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael members.
Meanwhile, since the Thirties, we had the cancer that was Roadstone. Tom Roche Snr was a crook who founded Roadstone and little by little managed to gain control of the State’s quarries through corrupt deals, bribery and dishonest transfers from public bodies under the instruction of politicians. Eventually, Roche’s company gained almost monopolistic control of the country’s road-building resources. Before Roche, all county councils operated their own quarries and produced their own material at no nett cost.
In order to ease Roche’s path to domination, Fianna Fáil minister Todd Andrews executed a policy of destroying our railways, thus ensuring that all transport construction expenditure would have to take place on the roads, and all the money went to the Riches who now owned all the old council quarries.
To make sure that this would always be so, Andrews ordained that strategic sections of the permanent way be sold off or destroyed so that no future government in centuries to come might reverse his decisions. In time, Roadstone would become the headquarters of an illegal bank, operated by Des Traynor, to administer the illegal Ansbacher accounts hiding the illicit offshore money of politicians and big business.
A Roadstone subsidiary — National Toll Roads — controls the two major river crossings in Dublin, and collects all the tolls on them, even though the Irish taxpayer funded the roads that delivered the customers to the bridges. It was a corrupt political decision not to finish the job by building the bridges but to leave their construction instead to a private company.
That’s Ireland for you.