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Stricter controls needed on gifts to politicians

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Leinster House. Photo: Getty Images

Leinster House. Photo: Getty Images

Leinster House. Photo: Getty Images

IRISH TDs and Senators who accept gifts in whatever guise should be subject to much stricter controls, according to a leading European anti-corruption watchdog.

And the lobbying of public representatives on behalf of private clients needed to be closely monitored.

The report also called for the establishment of a Judicial Council to oversee the appointment of "the best candidates" to become judges.

It said the system for the selection, recruitment, promotion, and transfer of judges, needed to be reviewed.

The Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), which produced the report, said "there is growing concern about corruption in Ireland" following events such as the Mahon Tribunal.

It pointed out that Irish politicians and political parties have low levels of trust - and this was similar to trends in several other countries.

But it accepted the Irish authorities were well aware of this, and acknowledged various reforms to improve transparency and accountability in public life had been introduced.

However, the overall guidelines governing good behaviour by legislators and members of the judiciary were still "too complex".

In some cases, guidelines laid down in the Constitution and various pieces of legislation and ethical codes are incompatible.

It recommended that the authorities provide regular training for TDs on issues such as conflicts of interest, and preventing corruption.

The report said the judiciary and the prosecution service were among the most trusted institutions in Ireland, and that the independence and professionalism of judges was undisputed.

But it warned that maintaining the integrity of the judiciary would need further support, and it noted that recent measures to reduce salary levels had been of particular concern to judges.

Training

The proposed Judicial Council would not only enhance the procedures for appointing the best candidates to become judges, but it would also establish a relevant ethical and training code for judges.

It is also recommended the country's prosecution service improve how it handles complaints against prosecutors. However, the report concluded that, over the years, Ireland had implemented a variety of anti-corruption policies.

It acknowledged, in particular, the adoption of the Freedom of Information Act, as well as "ethics acts and the establishment of connected accountability mechanisms".

The GRECO organisation monitors anti-corruption laws in 49 countries.

Discussions are being held regarding the possibility of the EU operating "as a whole" under its remit.

Irish authorities will be expected to submit a report on measures taken to implement its recommendations by April 1916. From "rather low perceived corruption levels", Ireland's ranking according to Transparency International perception index fell significantly in 2012, according to the findings.

Irish Independent