Sunday 23 October 2016

Johnny Fallon: It’s a start but there are far more who need to be made answer

Published 02/11/2012 | 15:34

SEAN Quinn has been sentenced to nine weeks in prison and it should send a message to all levels of society that the law and the courts cannot be ignored.

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There is no simple way of putting it other than the fact that Quinn has shown quite a shocking degree of contempt for the courts.

Judge Dunne quite correctly pointed out that Sean Quinn has no one to blame but himself.

He is unlikely to listen to that advice though and he and his minority of supporters are likely to continue to blame all and sundry before accepting any blame themselves.

While we all pay a little extra on our insurance to cover for Quinn’s errors we are expected by some to still think he is a great man and to feel sorry for a family that must go from extreme wealth to just ordinary wealth in order to pay its bills.

Certain members of this family clearly don’t believe the law should apply to them; they might start realising now that it does.

The last few months have marked an incredible fall from grace. Reading the testimony from the courts we have been treated to a very different Sean Quinn.

For years, as one of Ireland’s wealthiest men, we were told of his business acumen, even genius.

There were more than a few would happily have had him running the country such was the esteem in which his deal making skill was held.

Over the last few months the picture that has been painted to the courts is of a hapless, wealthy, but naive and innocent victim.

A man who has been double crossed with some ease, a man who only wanted to help out Anglo Irish Bank and then got caught up in someone else’s mess, a man who can’t get at his assets as he has allowed them all slip through his fingers.

The idea of blaming someone else is not new though. Politicians have done it for years.

The wonderful old trick that when a TD does something wrong he can return to his constituency, blame it on the media and some kind of smear campaign, and then return at the top of the poll at the next election.

As a public we are too fond of backing the local boy who has done well. We seem to forget that you can still admire someone for the good they do while condemning the things they do wrong.

Our politicians must face up to this too. Some years ago when a TD was making headlines for all the wrong reasons I complained to one of his colleagues about him. I was told that everything I was saying was right but that you simply couldn’t attack this TD.

Why? Because he had huge support and was a ‘decent fella’.

What has happened to Seán Quinn is not an end to such matters. There are far more who need to be made answer.

Wherever a law is infringed then someone must pay the price. That is a matter for the Gardai and the Courts.

It is equally important that those who broke a moral code or failed to do their job are asked to answer before the people.

Whether it is politicians, bankers or business people there is still a need for a forum where questions are asked and people can answer or even say sorry.

The funny thing is the only group that might actually agree to this is the politicians. That’s not to shower them with praise as some figures have very serious questions to answer.

The current crop of politicians must not be afraid to ask their colleagues and predecessors to explain decisions and even if it amounts to no more than finding someone saying’ I got it wrong and I am sorry’ then that’s a help.

A bigger problem lies with other sectors. Bank of Ireland CEO Richie Boucher showed considerable contempt for a Dail committee by avoiding questions on his salary.

Clearly there is still very little belief here that the banks are owned by the taxpayer and answerable to the people.

Many years ago I used to work for Ulster Bank when Richie Boucher was in charge of things there. They were ending automatic pay increments and bringing in a new pay system.

At a meeting for all of us ordinary staff, Mr. Boucher told us all how much we were valued. He explained our salaries to us saying ‘We are renting your minds’.

It was back in the days of the punt and I was being paid £9,800 per annum. Now my mind clearly wasn’t worth an awful lot, however, given the size of Mr. Boucher’s remuneration, that must be quite a mind the taxpayer is renting.

I’ll be expecting the answers to all economic problems and world peace to emanate from the halls of bank of Ireland any day now.

Johnny Fallon is a political commentator

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