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Garda crises: Behind claims of Irelandís modernity lies endless corruption

13 December 2017

The Irish governmental crisis around Garda whistle-blower Maurice McCabe has been quickly forgotten, replaced by a flurry of chaos around Brexit and the Irish border. Yet it has much to tell us about the fragility of the Irish government and the overall decay and corruption within Irish society.

The latest crisis was, yet again, around the corruption of the Irish police. A sole whistle-blower, Sergeant Maurice McCabe, was the subject of years of slander and vilification. The minister for justice, Frances Fitzgerald, promised him protection, only to agree further slanders against him in a joint campaign with the police. She then denied everything despite a chain of emails and only resigned as the government is about to collapse.

Levels of corruption in Ireland have reached the point where, while we sometimes get resignations, explanations are no longer possible.

So government ministers speak in tongues. The minister couldn't do anything because there was a tribunal which in some unexplained way absolved her of responsibility. Even when she resigned her innocence was proclaimed by the government.

We are now into our third Garda Commissioner in a litany of criminality, corruption and cover-up. No explanation of two million fake breath tests or casual wiping out of motoring penalties for those in the know exists beyond babbling about "systems." In fact the Commissioner and Ombudsman took the opportunity of the current crisis to announce that no further action would be taken on the issues so that he could concentrate on "system reform."

The Fianna Fail party, holding up the minority Fine Gael government through a "confidence and supply" agreement, had threatened to collapse the agreement if Fitzgerald did not step down and hailed the result as a triumph for parliamentary democracy. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The setback for the government is due entirely to whistle-blowers and to the efforts of socialist TD Claire Daly and independent TD Mick Wallace. They have raised the issue of corruption over the years only to be ignored and dismissed by the major parties.

At the end of the day Garda corruption and impunity simply reflect the corruption and impunity to be found throughout Irish society: Banking, government, charity, housing, health, business and sport are all surrounded by stories of corruption. The only response is yet another enquiry that goes nowhere.

Corruption is so pervasive in Irish society because of the parasitic nature of Irish capitalism and its role in facilitating transnational capital. Impunity is built into the system because much of society sees subordination as inevitable and trade unions and political parties shape their policies and actions in collaboration with the government on this basis.

Following a period of quietude the instabilities of Irish society are again visible. The major capitalist parties have seen their support erode over years of austerity. Together they command a majority in the Dail but they are unable to coalesce, hence a confidence and supply agreement that leaves Fianna Fail as simultaneously supporters and opponents of the government.

The danger of this sort of arrangement is that the junior partner will get the greatest blame. Claims of recovery run alongside poverty, despair and homelessness and a growing desperation. Fianna Fail, by asserting themselves, have strengthened their position and weakened their rivals. They will now be searching for the best circumstances in which to collapse the government.

In the current circumstances any election will end up with a similar electoral arithmetic. The main issue is whether Sinn Fein will ally with Fianna Fail to give them a majority. As the economic programme is determined by imperialism, there will be no substantial change.

Yet there is no alternative. A crisis faces the socialist and other opposition groups. A combination of reformism and opportunism saw the disbandment and fragmentation of the forces in the water charges campaign. All the groupsí election platforms remain within the "fiscal space" allowed by the sovereign debt.

A major change of direction is needed. The socialist groups have to describe the dependent and neo-colonial nature of Irish society and express a willingness to repudiate the sovereign debt and move out from the confines of the Dail and into the streets and factories.

Irish capitalism has itself a firm grasp of reality. Despite endless scandals the police were given a substantial pay hike that drove a coach and horses through the last public sector pay agreement. The Irish recovery is based on building a low-pay economy that runs alongside profiteering in the housing market and endless public and private debt. Neither parliamentary nor social stability are sustainable and the state is prepared to act against resistance.

The shape of things to come was shown in the Jobstown trial, where demonstrators protesting the leader of the corrupt Labour party were charged with false imprisonment. The show trial collapsed when video records exposed a suite of fifty Garda in endless perjury.

The trial had a strange sequel. A boy among the demonstrators had been found guilty in the children's court and had appealed. The state came up with an Irish solution. Rather than revisit the conviction, the state presented no evidence and the court wiped the record.

A very substantial attack on basic rights mounted by the state has collapsed, but all the elements of repression and corruption remain. A starting point for a more general resistance involves facing up to the semi-colonial reality of Irish society rather than accept the illusion of independence and modernity.

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