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Ignoring issues a road to perdition

Calm down, says the Taoiseach. We've got bigger challenges up ahead. The Government must remain united.

Good advice, of course, because "calm down" is almost always good advice. This time, it might have been even better had it been tendered earlier, before the frictions between and within the coalition parties became too glaring to ignore.

Better still, Enda Kenny could reflect, had he himself grasped much earlier the underlying reasons for the current discontents in the Fine Gael party as well as among his Labour partners.

These have their immediate origins in the reports of the Mahon and Moriarty tribunals.

The latter was published a year ago, but only lately has there been a widespread public debate on the subject. It has been discussed in tandem with the Mahon Report, and the key question has been action, or lack of action, against persons criticised in these documents.

Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte has summed up a feeling deeply held. The delay -- coupled, he might have added, with the belief that no action will ever be taken -- is indeed unconscionable. Even more germane is the position of those responsible for the banking collapse and the near-ruin of the country. Nobody has been prosecuted. And nobody believes that any prosecutions will take place.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter has responded weakly, saying that the Anglo Irish Bank saga is also a source of frustration to himself and that the Garda Commissioner is consulting with the Director of Public Prosecutions. Meanwhile, several ministers, it seems, maintain the traditional camaraderie which so often leads back to the old Irish practice of government by nod and wink.

This has coincided with the Government's astounding incompetence in the household charge affair, the concerns of Fine Gael ministers about unsuitable friendships, and the "solo runs" by Social Protection Minister Joan Burton which provoked a remarkably silly tweet from Charlie Flanagan, chairman of the Fine Gael parliamentary party.

Mr Flanagan asked if Ms Burton had "a government death wish". The answer is no. Many coalitions have survived greater strains. This one should be strong enough to run its course even in the face of more severe economic shocks.

But Mr Kenny should take note of, and action on, the deeper reasons for internal friction.

Nobody can dispute the correctness of his priority, to concentrate on the economic crisis. But he must also understand the importance of tackling cronyism and corruption.

There is an alarming tendency to justify or play down the practices disclosed in the Moriarty and Mahon reports. That is the road to perdition, economic and moral. The way the country is governed, and the mindset of those doing the governing, must change. Else we will repeat our worst failures. Not a calming thought.

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