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Irish Government Turns a Blind Eye To Bankers’ Crimes

Ruling Irish Government party Fianna Fail is urged to tighten laws on white collar crime and financial fraud.

“The only reason we don’t have these prosecutions is a pure lack of political will. If we are fixing the tax payer with €50bn and not prosecuting those who caused it, the future of our democracy is at stake,” Green Party national coordinator Gary Fitzgerald told The Irish Independent yesterday.  The Green Party is currently in coalition with Fianna Fail.

Even if Fianna Fail were able to muster the political will, it would be a monumental task for the State to prosecute bankers of the failed Irish zombie banks, notably Anglo-Irish, because proof thresholds required in white collar crime cases are extremely high in Ireland. In fact, the Irish Independent reports in the same article that Ireland has never seen a successful prosecution for insider trading. Ever.

Fianna Fail – which literally means Soldiers of Destiny – has been in government for years, all the way through the so-called Celtic Tiger economy and the subsequent recession. In September 2008, weeks after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Fianna Fail made the hugely controversial decision to issue a full bank guarantee in order to save Anglo-Irish and other failed banks. The cost to the Irish tax payer is believed to be € 34bn and counting. The next upcoming austerity Budget is designed to reduce Ireland’s deficit from an estimated 14% – some claim it is currently a jaw-dropping 32% – to 3% by 2014. Fears are mounting that Ireland may yet have to appeal to the International Monetary Fund or the European Central Bank for a Greek-style bailout – predictably denied by Government officials.

In late 2008, Anglo-Irish Bank was rocked by a series of scandals over suspected insider trading, deceitful book-keeping and secret loans to its former chairman Sean Fitzpatrick, who since appeared on national television and refused to apologize. He proceeded to inform the Irish public that they needed to tighten their belts with not the slightest hint of shame at the fact that the reason the Irish public needs to tighten their belts is, first and foremost, because Seanie and his merry band of bankers took advantage of lax financial regulations to such an extent that they managed to create the largest economic bubble in the history of the universe.

This in itself is bad enough, but the fact that Sean Fitzpatrick and other bankers will probably not be prosecuted is salt in the wound. One has to wonder why the Soldiers of Destiny are stalling on this issue. After all, the party’s ratings are now so bleak that it appears unlikely in the extreme that anyone will ever vote for them again. A public trial of key culprits would provide some closure for the long-suffering Irish public, and it would make Fianna Fail come across as at least somewhat interested in fairness and justice.

Perhaps our august Soldiers of Destiny are worried that part of the blame will ultimately end up on their own doorstep. Fianna Fail were the architects of a system of practically non-existent financial regulation –  and Fianna Fail had a vested interest in keeping the disastrously bloated property bubble going because of the vast amounts of property taxes garnered.

Meanwhile, former Fianna Fail Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and Minister for Finance during the Celtic Tiger economy, Bertie Ahern, insists that if Lehman Brothers hadn’t collapsed, Ireland would have had a soft landing not a deep recession. The problem, he reckons, is not that he and his Fianna Fail mates allowed the Irish economy to become dangerously overheated but that the foreign money market is such a fickle mistress.

There is an absolutely astounding disconnect between reality and the Government version of reality.

Current Minister for Finance, Fianna Fail’s Brian Lenihan, keeps informing us that we have turned yet another corner and that the Irish economy is showing clear signs of stabilizing. I have just one thing to ask Mr. Lenihan: what planet do you live on? This is a serious question. I would very much like to know so that I can get a visa to this wonderful parallel reality of milk and honey and promise.

In the end, Fianna Fail’s message to the Irish bankers is clear and may be summed up thusly: we are going to turn a blind eye to your reckless lending and insider trading, and when you are done gambling away the financial futures of a couple of generations of Irishmen and women, we will let you keep some of your mansions so that you can have a comfortable retirement in your tax shelter of choice. And then we will mount a nationwide re-enactment of the days of oppressed tenant farmers who broke their backs to pay off the gambling debts of their aristocratic overlords.

After all, who needs democracy when you can have time-honored tradition?

Nina Andersen

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