Crime Politics

Was The Mahon Tribunal Worth It?

The Mahon/Flood tribunal will end up costing over €300 million, and people are asking hard questions about it.  They want to know how an inquiry could possibly cost that much.  They want to know why the police couldn’t have done the same work for a fraction of the money.  They want to know why the tribunal needed lawyers every day, for 15 years and so do I, but all of that is beside the point.

My question is why a lawyer, or anyone else, deserves to be paid €2,500 per day when working on a State-funded project.  I have no doubt that  some people will point out what seems obvious to them: we need the best and therefore we have to pay top money, but to that, I’d reply with one word: bollocks.  We can get top-class investigative skills for a lot less than two and a half grand a day.  I know many sharp, intelligent, highly-qualified men and women who would be happy to provide these services for a fraction of the cost.  Remember, the tribunal is not a court of law and many professionals with experience of intensive inquiry, well able to ask hard questions, would consider a fee of €2,500 per day obscene, as I do myself.

Last year, I asked why tribunals of inquiry need to be run by lawyers, and I heard no convincing response.  The point was very simple: since a tribunal is not a court of law, why should it be run by lawyers?  Why not professionals from any sphere, as long as they possess the required abilities to conduct an investigation?  After all, thinking is not a skill confined to the lawyer class, and investigations are carried out all the time by doctors, architects, engineers.  Dentists, even.  Rational thinking is not something that lawyers are born with.

Three people replied to that post.  Only three.

However, to focus on the price of the tribunal is to miss the point.  Yes, it cost too much, and the model needs to be redesigned.  Yes, it took too long.  Yes, it should have powers of prosecution.  Yes, its findings should be available to the courts as evidence of wrongdoing, but none of that is the point.

Here’s the point.  It took 15 years and €300 million to force Irish peoples’ heads out of the sand.

It took 15 years and €300 million to put on the record, unequivocally, what we already knew but which many of us refused to acknowledge, and while the cost was certainly inflated, this information was still something we needed to have whether we liked it or not.

An entire government cabinet conspired to frustrate the activities of this legally-constituted inquiry.  Three or four or five government ministers were on the take.  Prime ministers were blatantly demanding money from businessmen in return for favours.  Elected members of parliament were actively shaking down property developers for millions.   Senior politicians were corrupt.  Local councillors were riddled with corruption.  Corruption was, in the words of the tribunal, endemic and systemic, which means that our state is utterly, irredeemably crooked.

This is not a democracy.  This is a kleptocracy.

You might think that €300 million is an exorbitant price, and in that I’d agree with you, but the information it provided cannot be valued in monetary terms.  Therefore, while we should certainly find a new approach to organising such inquiries, we should still pay close attention to what they tell us, and the Mahon tribunal has told us something terrifying.  Our democracy was bought and paid for by a bunch of crooked, unprincipled parish-pump bunco-artists, and what’s more, those chancers are only a small section of the crooks that have infested every stratum of our society.

€300 million is certainly a huge sum, but compared to the awareness it offers us, it’s nothing.  Mahon tells us that our democracy has been subverted by crooks and cynics.  What troubles me is the thought that the Irish people might be too blasé to understand that, just as they were stupid enough to re-elect the liar Bertie Ahern despite the evidence staring them in the face.

The planning corruption resulted in entire communities being destroyed and lives ruined.  The Liffey Valley development only went ahead because corrupt politicians killed the Neilstown town centre, condemning a local community to a lifetime of living in a suburban wasteland.  That happened because of bribery and it’s an observable, quantifiable fact.

Thieves wormed their way into public office for the sole purpose of taking bribes, and our people need to know this, whatever the cost.

Yes, the tribunals are too expensive.  Yes, the lawyers ripped us off.  Yes, the state was sucked dry, but the fact remains that our country has been raped by crooks in public office.

Forget the €300 million.  This information is beyond value, as long as we act on it.

19 replies on “Was The Mahon Tribunal Worth It?”

“This information is beyond value, as long as we act on it.”
I agree wholeheartedly with everything in your post, but that last caveat is what bothers me. I feel as though there have been inquiries of one kind or another for most of the last twenty or thirty years, going back to CJ Haughey’s first term, and in one form or another they have pointed the finger at corruption in our government and elected representatives. Beyond that, did anyone ever seriously believe that Charlie wasn’t a crook? But for whatever reason, the same clowns get elected and re-elected, the same system gets perpetuated.
I agree that the payments to lawyers were scandalous, but as you say, if €300 million is the price to change all of this, it will be worth the price. Hopefully people act on it and not only throw the crooks out, but redesign the entire system of government to prevent a repeat, making it decentralised, accountable, transparent.
None of this should have been a surprise to anyone. As Thomas Jefferson said “The government you elect is government you deserve.”

Do a little bit of digging and you’ll see the manifestation of this corrupt culture all around. Look at who has won contracts for various public projects – everything from minor road improvements to small school redevelopments to hospitals and larger civil projects. Then look at the terms of such contracts. You’ll be hard pressed to find one that doesn’t arouse some suspicion.

This kind of corruption, however, is only to scratch the surface. Look at who serves on interview boards and who they hire. Look at the decisions that those who were hired take. Look at how such people move up the ladder in the various organisations and departments, and look at the people they, in turn, bring in.

The truth is that Fianna Fáil, over the period of a few decades, managed to infest the whole public apparatus of the state such that the main function of government became one of transferring the State’s wealth to the Fianna Fáil family in some way or other.

The tragedy for Ireland is that Fine Gael are now trying to do the very same thing. All you have to do is look.

I have to agree with you Bock, the tribunal was worth it but for the wrong reasons.
I’ve noticed that politicians and other slime balls only focus their attention on wrongdoing when it suits them,otherwise things are allowed to slide under the carpet.
Should there be a brave sole who tries to shine a light on wrongdoings they are quickly put back in their box with a combination of a put down from a politico and blindness from the media.
One thing that caught my attention during Ahern’s testimony to Mahon: when there was a contradiction between Bertie’s evidence and statements he had made in the Dail: on being challenged with this contradiction he went to the courts and was able to claim parliamentary privilege and stop that line of questioning in it’s tracks.
Surely such privilege is there to protect a TD from libel not self incrimination.
That the supreme court took Bertie’s side in this throws doubt on it’s integrity.

Having just heard that Ahern has resigned from FF for political reasons and not as an admission of guilt, I can say that the dogs in the street know that Albert (Bertie) Ahern
is and was corrupt.

Bertie Ahern has resigned from Fianna Fáil as he planned to do for at least fifteen years, and not because he was influenced in any way by the recent report of the Mahon Tribunal.

Flynn went to the opening of a new fire station in Newbridge at that time and complained about the cost of the catering. His bribes would have paid for it fifty times over.

Next time, we should outsource the inquiry to the USA. I’ve heard of an excellent facility at Guantanamo that make them tell everything. There are even direct flights from Shannon!

OK lets get local. What aout the decision that led to a portion of the people’s park in limerick eing turned over to a developer?

Which Limerick councilors set aside the will of the benefactors (the people who left the land that is now known as the Peoples Park ) and allowed it to be built on?

Leddin you share a name with an auctioneer/councilor perhaps you know more than I. I’m Scottish and I lived in Limersick during the Dell years and I saw the whole thing as a trough for local snouts. However not being one of the snouts I can only guess at who gained, although I can see who lost.
The local opiate was munster rugby.

Aye we’re both mushsooms as are the rest of the people.
If you are from Limerick think twice afore ye vote in thon turd O’Dea.
Did you notice that because Mahon never named an FF minister while
leveling an accusation of trying to colapse his enquiry all of FF are trying to hide
behind the fact that he never mentioned names.
Limerick gets what Limerick deserves or votes for.

It was all a great laugh until we had our eye put out. Now we are all paying the cost. what do we expect when the professional planners can be overturned by councils. When an elected unqualified gobshite can overturn a decision by their own planning department and change the value of land by 1000% what do we expect.

Your question, ” Was The Mahon Tribunal Worth It ? ”

In a word, yes !

It will become more that its worth in time, at least that is my hope.

Well, I’d like to see wholesale changes to clearing the corruption in public life that we suffer from. There is supposed to be the constitutional review later on in the year, which would be an excellent place to start.

The cynic in me says “official Ireland” won’t let this happen. We’ll just get some hand wriging, pious words and window dressing while business as usual will continue in the background.

I agree with the thrust of your post Bock. I’d also add that unless the mindset prevalent among the population changes (I’m talking about the “wouldn’t you do the same yourself” mindset), then all the reports & recommendations, and action plans and new regulators won’t make much difference. If we continue to elect the likes of Ahern (& these types are not just in FF), we will not get rid of corruption.

Also, when you get down to it, we have a planning system that makes millionaires of landowners at the stroke of a pen, it is very difficult for a system such as this not to be corrupt, the incentive is too high. Windfalls from property rezoning should be taxed at a very high rate (at least 90% IMO), as recommended by the Kenny report almost 40 years ago. Strangely it was ignored. I also think that the funds raised should be used to compensate in some way those who get the shit end of the planning stick. For example, people who get a landfill put next door to them should get priority for good quality roads & services.

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