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Don’t hold your breath for banking inquiry to uncover any shocking insight into crisis

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Political World with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

Someone who is 28 now would have been twelve when the Moriarty and Mahon Tribunals of Inquiry began their work in 1997. And unless they were complete political junkies from the age of dot, they would have been unaware of the circumstances that gave rise to the inquiries, and would have had little interest in the proceedings through their teenage years.

By the time both Tribunals finally reported after many years, that person would have been past the mid-point of their twenties and reading (if they bothered) about events that were historical, that involved people who were prominent before they were born, some of whom were dead.

Tribunals by their very nature with their snail-like procedures (and frightful costs) make a mockery of the notion that they are inquiring into an urgent matter of public interest (which is what they are supposed to do).

This week, the Government gave the go-ahead for legislation that will allow a parliamentary inquiry into the banking crisis of 2008, the circumstances that led up to it, and the response of the authorities to the events that unfolded over the following two years.

All things being equal, and with a fair wind, the legislation may be enacted by the end of the year. The Oireachtas itself (through the Ceann Comhairle and the Committee on Procedure and Privileges) will have the power to set up the inquiry. But there are a lot of procedural hoops that will have to be overcome all of which will delay the start.

My guesstimate is that the earliest it can kick off with public hearings is late next year. And my tuppence worth is if it starts in late 2014, it’s going to have two major flaws – the first is that it has all taken too long and it will be falling into the same ‘historical’ trap as the tribunals; the second is that it will be so close to the next general election that the investigation will invariably become political.

So what are the hoops and possible delays? Well it’s taken an awful long time and that’s partly the Government’s fault and partly because of the botched referendum in October 2011, which was also the Government’s fault in a way.

Ireland was not the only country which witnessed spectacular collapses of banks and financial institutions.

We looked with envy at the US and at Britain where within months full-blown parliamentary inquiries had been held and the chief executives of failed banks were put through the ringer, particularly by the extraordinary scalpel-like Henry Waxman, who chaired the US Senate hearings into the collapse of Lehman Brothers and others.

Another example that was held up to show how shamateurish we were was the very quick prosecution and conviction of Bernie Madoff in New York.
But that’s not a direct comparison because Madoff was an out-and-out con artist who ran a Ponzi scheme which collapsed when his bank ran dry of gullible investors because of the financial collapse. It was a straightforward case.

Culpability, if there was any, in Irish banks was a horse of a different colour – much more complicated, much less apparent. The nearest comparitors were the heads of the collapsed banks in the US and in the UK. All were disgraced but how many were convicted? Zero, unless I’m mistaken.

Parliamentary inquiries haven’t been a reality in Ireland for almost two decades. They came to an unceremonious stop when the High Court ruled that a parliamentary inquiry into the shooting by Gardaí of John Carty in Longford had exceeded its powers.

Carty had mental problems and had holed himself in his family home with a shotgun. He was shot after emerging from the house with the shotgun in his hand and after being challenged by Gardaí.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Changes afoot when Electoral Commission begins its work

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Galway West TD Noel Grealish: an expanded Galway East constituency could take his territories in Claregalway, Carnmore or Oranmore.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

Once upon a time there was a constituency called Galway South. And until 1961 there was the constituency of Galway North. If you go back to the 19th century it was just Co Galway.

For this generation, the two constituencies that have made up this county have been Galway West and Galway East.

But with each census, and with each population increase, those old divisions have come under threat. It was complicated more during the years of austerity when the number of Teachtaí Dála were cut back to 158 for the 2016 election. That could not be sustained.

The 1937 Constitution provides that the minimum population number for each TD will be 20,000 and the maximum will be 30,000.

There was a marginal increase of TDs in the 2020 election to 160. The Constituency Commission recommended that number based on the 2016 census. However, it gave an average representation of 29,762 of population per member, which was perilously close to the upper limit.

It made for some very messy constituency changes around the country. Galway was one of the counties most impacted. The problem did not relate so much to Galway as much as the surrounding counties, Roscommon in particular.

The Commission is told to try to retain county boundaries as much as possible. As Ireland has changed that has become increasingly difficult, even with the wiggle room afforded by the wide margin allowed: between one TD per 20,000 people; and one TD per 30,000 people.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Donohoe discovers it’s the little things that trip you every time

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Minister Paschal Donohoe...embarrassing revelation.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

When the law finally caught up with Al Capone, it was not for organised crime, or for boot-legging – it was for failing to pay his taxes.

There’s a bit of a leap of imagination required for us to segue to the next paragraph. But stay with me …

We are writing about Paschal Donohoe, and the similarity is in the way that is the fact that it is a minor – and unexpected – fault or omission or act, that has also made his position vulnerable.

Donohoe is the third Minister in the past six months to find himself in hot water – not because of policies or Government decisions, but over omissions on personal declarations.

It might seem like a relatively trivial matter when compared with the huge impact that Government policies have on people’s lives. But governance is important.

Last autumn, the Longford-Westmeath TD Robert Troy ran into trouble when the online investigative site, On the Ditch, investigated his property interests. It emerged that Troy, a Minister of State for Enterprise, had not declared all his properties in his register of interests.

Troy initially did not respond but when he did it was only a partial explanation. Then there was more new information about his properties that was not known before. When you are explaining, you are losing, the American political adviser Karl Rove famously said. Now Troy was explaining and the more he explained the closer he got to the exit door. In the end he had no choice but to go.

Then only last week, the same website broke a story about Damien English and his home in Meath. This one went back a long time, to 2008 when English was a 30-year-old backbench TD.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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Connacht Tribune

Two Frank Fahys – sharing a name but not ideologies

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Ruairí Ó Brádaigh.... graveside oration.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

This is the story of two Fahys from East Galway. Both were involved in politics. One was a priest; the other a teacher and a barrister. Both opposed the Treaty but from the 1920s their paths diverged radically.   I had no knowledge of either man until very recently. Then a biography of Frank Fahy, written by Michael Fahy, was published last year.

‘Frank Fahy, Revolutionary and Public Servant’ is a fascinating account of how a teacher’s son from Kilchreest, born in 1879, became a leading figure in the Easter Rising, chose the anti-treaty side in the civil war, and became the Dáil’s longest serving Ceann Comhairle, chairing the chamber for 19 years.

Fr John Fahy was 14 years younger than his namesake but was already a militant nationalist by the time of his ordination in 1919. He travelled back to Ireland to attend the funeral of the republican priest Fr Michael Griffin, who was kidnapped and killed by the Auxiliaries.

Like Frank Fahy he took the anti-treaty side but for the turbulent priest there would be no reconciliation. He remained an unreconstructed militant until his death five decades later.

Frank Fahy went to UCG and became a teacher in Castleknock College in Dublin. He was a beautiful Irish speaker and very involved in Conradh na Gaeilge, becoming general secretary for a time.

He took part in the Easter Rising, being second-in-command of the brigade which took over the Four Courts. After narrowly escaping execution, he was one of the new MPs elected to Westminster when Sinn Fein’s won a complete landslide in 1918.

Taking the anti-treaty side, he was an abstentionist TD but joined Fianna Fáil when it was founded in La Scala in 1926. Michael Fahy paints a great scene when Frank Fahy topped the poll in Co Galway in 1932, which ushered in the first Fianna Fáil government.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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