Tuesday 16 January 2018

Whitewashing a rotted house

Kieran O'Donnell, TD: charitable donations evolved into a 'slush fund'.
Kieran O'Donnell, TD: charitable donations evolved into a 'slush fund'.

Irish public life has rarely witnessed a more dispiriting alchemy than the narrative unveiled by the Public Accounts Committee, where charitable donations to an organisation for sick children appeared to evolve into what the Fine Gael TD Kieran O'Donnell called ''a slush fund". In its wake, citizens, shocked to their boots, are understandably asking if it is true that after all of the strife and national trauma since 2008, nothing has changed or, worse still, even been learnt? The revelations about the CRC would certainly appear to suggest that few lessons have been absorbed by the slow learners of our non-political governing classes.

Sometimes a phrase can accidentally capture the spirit of an age. Last week, the St Vincent's Hospital chairman, Professor Noel Whelan, responding to the PAC on a separate issue, noted that the hospital was ''swinging around into compliance''. In truth, salary issues at the substantially private St Vincent's are of unusually minor stature and bear no comparison with the scandals which have unfolded elsewhere.

However, Prof Whelan's phrase is far too applicable far too often to a whole series of other public and private institutions, whose activities have managed to damage even the very concept of charity.

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