Classifieds Advertise Archive Subscriptions Family Announcements Photos Digital Editions/Apps
Connect with us

Political World

Ombudsman controversy less about bugs and more about a big fly in the ointment

Avatar

Published

on

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

When the story broke on Sunday about the Garda Siochana Ombdusman Commission’s office being bugged, it had all the appearance of being something sensational.

The office is the one that deals with complaints about members of the Garda Siochana and which also deals if there is an incident involving Gardaí – say, when a guard discharges a shotgun or when a garda patrol car is involved in a serious collision.

The answer to the question first posed by the Roman poet Juvenal, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who guards the guards?) is the Garda Siochana Ombudsman Commission or GSOC.

This was very serious. Evidence had come to light that the offices may have been bugged, which also suggested the work and investigations of the office had been compromised. The GSOC had investigated the incident and had only concluded its inquiry in December, several months after being picked up.

If this was true, it suggested a conspiracy which might be as grave as the bugging scandal of the early 1980s, though perhaps not as extraordinary as the events surround the Arms Trial from a decade earlier than that.

The bugging scandal of the 1980s came about after the government of the day, led by Charles Haughey, suspected that somebody (one of its Ministers presumably)  was leaking confidential information from Cabinet meetings to selected journalists.

In 1982, then-Minister for Justice Sean Doherty arranged through senior Gardaí to have the phones of two journalists, Bruce Arnold and Geraldine Kennedy intercepted (or tapped). The motives were purely political rather than having to do with the security of the State. Haughey and his cronies regarded Arnold and Kennedy as hostile.

When Michael Noonan of Fine Gael became Minister for Justice late that year, he revealed all the details of the tapping in early 1983. He disclosed that Doherty had authorised it and that normal procedures had not been followed. He also disclosed that another government minister had borrowed bugging equipment form the guards to secretly record a conversation with another minister Martin O’Donoghue.

Ray MacSharry justified the highly irregular practice by claiming that O’Donoghue had told him that money could be found to assist anyone who found themselves in financial difficulties (MacSharry’s business was reported to have been experiencing troubles at the time).

Predictably the upshot was a massive national story and another of the periodic crises that Fianna Fail underwent when Charles Haughey was leader. However, as before (and later) Haughey survived the challenge to his leadership and winning the contest by 40 votes to 33. That challenge saw the beginning of Des O’Malley’s exit from the party.

And it had an epilogue over eight years later when Doherty went onto RTE Nighthawks programme to claim that it was not a rogue operation as had been claimed but that Haughey was fully aware that the phones of the two journalists were tapped. Haughey, then Taoiseach, denied it categorically but faced renewed calls for his resignation (this time from Albert Reynolds and his supporters). He did not go immediately but it was clear that his time had come.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Ireland must examine new alternatives to lockdowns

Avatar

Published

on

Professor Martin Cormican....social distancing the key.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

As of this week, Ireland had the lowest 14-day rate of Covid-19 in the EU. Our rate of 88.5 cases per 100,000 people beats the next lowest, Finland, which is at 96 cases. Iceland, which is not in the EU, is lower but there are extenuating circumstances there, given that it’s a little like New Zealand and Australia – literally places apart.

Being an island nation is certainly a help to us. But being a small mixed economy, and a huge base for global pharma, agriculture and technology, we had some of the busiest sea and air routes in Europe.

A lot of people come in and leave the country each day in normal times, tens of millions of journeys in and out each year.

Of course, that traffic has subsided greatly. We still have flights and sailings, but the great bulk is freight or essential journeys.

The air industry has claimed there is little connection between travel and Covid-19, as most of the transmission was community. But community transmission must start somewhere.

The first cases in Ireland came mainly from people coming back from skiing holidays in Austria and northern Italy. Many thousands of Irish people went on holidays to the Continent during the Summer – including a substantial number who went to countries like Spain, which were not on the ill-fated green list.

Some of the cases identified here in the Autumn came from a particular Spanish strain of the virus.

It remains to be seen if the new EU traffic light system works and if people take the (relatively expensive) tests before flying – or just ignore it, knowing there will be little chance of being sanctioned.

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

Continue Reading

Connacht Tribune

Best laid plans and programmes can fall foul of political reality

Avatar

Published

on

Debate snub...Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald.

World of Politics with Harry McGee

If architects’ plans were like the Programme of Government,

  1. the country would be full of unfinished buildings
  2. that would look nothing like the plans.

Prospective governments spend weeks – and sleepless nights – working out the programme that will be the blueprint for their term of office.

Some even produce a glossy self-congratulatory report each year, showing how many of its targets have been achieved.

Two things need to be said about that:

  1. They are subjective.
  2. Nobody outside the bubble pays any attention to them.

Some set out ambitious targets for the first 100 days of government. That idea has been around since the 1930s and is designed to show a signal of intent, that the new Government is going to put its money where its mouth is.

More often than not the new regime learns to its cost that it has bitten off more than it can chew. Achieving something in the world of politics within 100 days is like reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace during a lunch break.

  1. Not exactly impossible
  2. But not exactly possible

And do governments learn from these mistakes? Do they realise that it is a bit of a ridiculous concept?

  1. No
  2. No

There is a political problem here. You might achieve the big things in politics, you might get a wobbly economy back on to an even keel, you might create a historic record for employment, you might push through the six referendums you promised to liberalise society.

But it’s a bit like the guy who earns a reputation for not buying a round. No matter if he has devoted his life to the service of others, and has sacrificed everything for the personal good.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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.

 

Continue Reading

Connacht Tribune

Politics and law have been entwined through the ages

Avatar

Published

on

Seamus Woulfe...at the centre of latest storm.

World of Politics with Harry McGee – harrymcgee@gmail.com

I remember when I was a kid there was an Irish rugby tour to apartheid South Africa which caused a huge furore, including a (if I remember correctly) a shouty row on The Late Late Show. One of the arguments used by those favouring the tour was: “Sports and politics should not mix.”

It went down well as a sound bite but was a nonsense; the reality is that politics mixes with everything, including sports. Nothing occurs in a vacuum.

Politicians make decisions over how sport is funded, how it is governed and regulated (look at the recent row over John Delaney’s tenure), and sometimes when it can be played.

All sports organisations have their own internal politics which can be more vicious than the stuff that goes on in Leinster House. And political parties have long ago discovered the benefits of putting a high profile former sportsperson up as a candidate.

Which brings us onto the bigger issue: the separation of powers in the State. Our Constitution draws out a relationship between the three arms of State – the Executive (government), Judiciary and Parliament (the Oireachtas). The impression that has been handed down to us is they are three goldfish in different bowls, all swimming, but in different waters.

It just doesn’t work out like that in real life. For one, for most of the history of the State, parliament has essentially been a chattel of government, with no real separate powers of its own.

In recent years, with less stable majorities for government than in the past, that relationship has changed – but parliament is still very much subservient to central Government.

It’s not just lip service when it comes to relationships with the legal establishment. There is an effort to assert that they operate in separate spheres but real life often intrudes – it’s more or less impossible to maintain the divide, unless you do it artificially.

For one, it is politicians who appoint judges, not other judges. Now, of course, judges have a say in it. There is the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board (JAAB) which assesses the merits of lawyers who are not yet judges.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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.

 

Continue Reading

Local Ads

Local Ads

Advertisement

Weather

Weather Icon
Advertisement

Facebook

Advertisement

Trending