Accessible guide to Gallery of rogues hits mark
BUST: How the Courts Have Exposed the Rotten Heart of the Irish Economy Dearbhail McDonald (Penguin €15.99)
'BUST' will offer succour to every white-collar criminal in the country but probably drive almost everybody else to drink.
The first detailed examination of what our lawyers and judges have been doing since the recession began is accessible and thought-provoking, even if it does not quite prove its conclusion that the boom was "little more than a mirage; a massive pyramid scheme".
Written by this newspaper's legal editor, Dearbhail McDonald, 'Bust' explores complex ideas by following individual cases and personalities. This is the right approach and makes the sometimes difficult legal ideas McDonald is keen to explore more accessible.
Most of the book is divided into chapters which examine individual stories such as rogue solicitor Michael Lynn, the downfall of Brian Cowen's former running mate Ger Killally or South Dublin socialite Breifne O'Brien.
While some of these stories will be well known, McDonald performs a useful service by tying the stories together and including new information.
Two themes keep recurring. The first is just how vulnerable most of us are to a skilful conman. The second is how slowly the wheels of justice grind in Ireland when they can be made to grind at all.
While we are all familiar with almost daily revelations about how the banks have been ripping off the Government and how public servants have been ripping off the public, we are less familiar with how the middle classes have been ripping off one another. Anybody who reads this book will be far more likely to use a healthy amount of scepticism in his or her business dealings.
There are some heroes in this depressing tale: the honest solicitors who blew whistles, Judge Peter Kelly whose no-nonsense approach to his job has made him one of the State's best servants, and the Dublin Port Company which looked after taxpayers' interests as developers sniffed around the Irish Glass Bottle site in Ringsend.
This is an angry book. The anger is controlled and measured and therefore more effective than many of the rants that pass for public discourse these days.
In the interests of full disclosure, it is worth noting that 'Bust' was written by a colleague of this reviewer (who also gets a friendly but undeserved mention in the acknowledgments) but despite this handicap it is easy to recommend the book whole-heartedly as a thorough and well-researched guide to a gallery of rogues who have all too often impoverished their victims and the country.
Penguin has done a nice job and the book includes a useful index and decent paper. However, the bembo font used is irritating.