Saturday 1 October 2016

'Old boys' network pushes back minister

Published 09/12/2015 | 02:30

The Education Minister launched a Garryowen with her plan to level the playing field on admissions
The Education Minister launched a Garryowen with her plan to level the playing field on admissions

'Jan O'Sullivan is about to set off the most almighty row between Labour and Fine Gael, whose ministers will be lobbied intensely by the fee-paying schools sector."

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And thus former Irish Independent Education Editor John Walshe set the scene for the predictable outcome to the schools admissions reforms scrum earlier this year. Well, it looks like the influential 'old boys' network' won that match-up fairly easily.

The Education Minister launched a Garryowen with her plan to level the playing field on admissions. Ms O'Sullivan's proposal was for schools to only be allowed to reserve one in 10 places for the children of past pupils.

Her clampdown on the so-called 'parent rule' went much further than proposals by her predecessor, Ruairi Quinn, who wanted to set a 25pc limit.

In the subsequent backlash from upmarket schools, the minister was easily pushed back over her own try line.

The excuse of time running out and not enough on the clock to bring in legislation to make the change rings hollow.

When it came down to Labour's way or the 'old boys'' way, there was only going to be one winner.

We urgently need an anti-corruption agency

'What's in it for me?' With these few words Monaghan Councillor Hugh McElvaney may have turned Enda Kenny's claim that this is "the best little country in the world to do business", on its head.

Mr McElvaney may have come across as preposterous, but the perception gained from what was witnessed on the 'RTÉ Investigates' programme has once more put another deep dent into the hallmark of standards in public life.

If one takes Mr McElvaney at his word, he not only duped RTÉ, but he has made a joke of the whole country.

If, as he insists, that it was all a hoax, then his impersonation of a grubby politician on the take was mesmerising. He would be wasted in a land of the mythical brown envelope, and ought be in line for a golden one, at the Oscars.

We know that absolute power corrupts absolutely,but how does one account for the spectacular results of investing even the most modest portion of it the hands of a few county councillors?

There is a belief that the value system in a country frames its view on corruption. And that is precisely why we cannot simply laugh off these tawdry shenanigans.

We have been awaiting a planning regulator since July 2012, when it was recommended in the aftermath of the Mahon Tribunal.

Last night there were renewed calls for the establishment of an anti-corruption agency. They must be heeded.

It is quite clear that to strike out corruption an entity with real powers of enforcement and investigation needs to be established. The failure of governments to follow through on commitments in this regard is disingenuous.

It is in their interests to see that their names are not tarnished by pork-barrelling buffoons.

Henry Kissinger said that it was corrupt politicians that made the other 10pc look bad.

But if governments baulk at taking the necessary steps to stamp out possible graft, they will continue to devalue their own currency.

Irish Independent

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