Thursday 8 December 2016

Michael McDowell: Culture of impunity is tightening its grip on the throat of Irish public life

Blatant attempts to muzzle the press highlight the need for media ownership legislation, says Michael McDowell

Published 05/08/2012 | 05:00

CLEAR SIGNAL: Michael Lowry, then the minister in charge of the
licensing process, and Esat Digifone chairman Denis O'Brien pictured in
1995 at a conference for the new mobile phone contract
CLEAR SIGNAL: Michael Lowry, then the minister in charge of the licensing process, and Esat Digifone chairman Denis O'Brien pictured in 1995 at a conference for the new mobile phone contract

When I was asked to launch Elaine Byrne's book, Political Corruption in Ireland 1922-2010, I took the opportunity to warn of a culture of impunity that is gripping the throat of Irish public life.

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It is all around us. Peter D Quinn languishing in Fermanagh and his cousin now languishing in Mountjoy, while Sean Quinn plays the victim in public and a large coalition of the gullible parade in support of them, are but a blatant example of brazen impunity and disloyalty to our State being rewarded by deep-seated moral ambivalence.

The emerging hole in Quinn Insurance's solvency, the consequential insurance levy ad infinitum on us all, and the totally unexplained attempt by Sean Quinn to build up a major stake in Anglo Irish Bank by using highly risky "contracts for difference" to come in under the radar, do not excite any sympathy from rational people. Those who feel sympathy should be asking: "Why?" If Anglo Irish Bank ill-served Sean Quinn, he was trying at the time to acquire a huge interest in it by stealth. And those people marching in sympathy might also ask why members of his family were being paid salaries of €300,000 by East European property companies. And to the argument, "He's the only man to bring jobs to the border counties", we should respond: "Just why did he throw all those jobs out on to the roulette table by his reckless acquisition by stealth of a large interest in Anglo Irish Bank?"

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