Monday 11 December 2017

Banking inquiry is a test of faith

THE ongoing failure to set up a comprehensive banking inquiry is a blot that is further darkening the already stained reputation of this Government. Our escalating new under-class of mortgage-holders in arrears must wonder why Mr Noonan and the Government are getting so cosy with that set of bankers who brought us all to this pass. This listless absence of desire to bring the banks to book is all the more egregious when set against the back-drop of the rich political profits that Fine Gael and Labour pilfered on the back of their stated determination to create a new politics of truth. Sadly, the Coalition's commitment lasted for as long as it took the Taoiseach to end his inaugural critique of "the old ways of politics" which had "damaged us not alone financially, but emotionally, psychologically and spiritually". Since that John Fitzgerald Kennedy-style declaration, the Taoiseach has increasingly resembled that school of Pharisee that spoke one truth and lived a different way. And nothing epitomises the weightlessness of all those bleated promises more than the death-like silence that has fallen over any reference to a banking inquiry.

The rationale behind all political actions, and more importantly still, inactions should be viewed through the cui bono prism of "who benefits?". To a certain extent it matters not a whit whether John McGuinness or someone else is placed in charge of the banking inquiry, though whoever might be chosen would send a certain message. It is instead far more important that we understand who is likely to benefit from the muzzling of the small, still, now stifled voice of accountability. They are those eternal friends of government, the inept public sector mandarins in the Financial Regulator's office, those from the Central Bank who left office draped in more pensions than the Queen of Sheba, and the banks. Some might add politicians to that list, but in terms of public obloquy, individuals such as Messrs Cowen and Ahern are serving a permanent sentence without parole.

In contrast, those who do not benefit include brave whistleblowers such as Robert Pye and Marie Mackle. The lesson any public servant who wishes to act courageously will take from the Coalition's mix of indolence, so redolent of that displayed by their FF predecessors, is not good. It is, however, even less encouraging that the sole example of joined-up thinking in this administration is the dismissive attitude of the Taoiseach's Office and the Departments of Finance, Justice and Public Expenditure to the expendability of whistleblowers. Such a cynical disregard for the promises of a new transparency, alas, is all too typical of the slippery ease with which the Coalition has disappeared from the corpse of its pre-election promises.

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