The Irish planning corruption tribunal, which was established in 1997, has been the focus of attention in recent times because of an allegation that the owner of a Cork construction company had said that he had paid bribes totalling £80,000 - Irish pounds - made up of two payments - of £30,000 and £50,000 (€101,600) to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in 1994 when he was Minister for Finance - a total amount that was in excess of his annual salary.
In April 1994, developer Owen O'Callaghan together with Cork TD Micheál Martin, T.D., who is currently Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, met Ahern at an officially logged meeting in Dublin. In the same month Ahern, lodged £30,000 to a bank account.
The tribunal is focusing on large amounts lodged to Ahern's bank account, following a period when he operated on a cash basis for seven years, including an amount of £5,000 apparently provided by a 28-year old wage slave, who had met Ahern in a pub 3 times and had the money available in cash when the proverbial hat was passed around by Ahern's solicitor, to pay for marital separation legal fees. Whether or not the tribunal accepts Ahern's story of building a cache of cash amounting to £50,000, and businessmen in Dublin and Manchester contributing more than £45,000 years in "dig-outs," years after a separation, there is another key aspect of the planning corruption tribunal that is ignored.
The Irish land rezoning system that makes multimillionaires of owners of land that has the prospect of being used for development, need not fear any change in this bonanza system as the issue of changing the system is a taboo subject for the majority of Irish politicians.
Lucky farmers who get up to 80% of their incomes from European taxpayers benefit from what is a tax on non-owners of land. They then become landlords both in Ireland and overseas. Do not fall for the speil that the Irish are obsessed with property because of the British - SEE: Irish Property Obsession, British Landlordism and Myths
In December 2006, it was reported that up to €4.6bn of the €18.5bn of taxpayers' money that will be spent on new main roads over the next decade will go into the pockets of landowners.Fred Barry, chief executive of the National Roads Authority is reported as saying that the increases in the cost of land for major roads projects as "disturbing".
Land acquisition accounts for 23% of the cost of roads projects in Ireland, but just 12% in England, 10% in Denmark, 9.4% in Greece and 1% in Iceland. A further 2% of the €18.5bn provided in the Government's Transport 21 for road building over the next decade will go to archaeologists.
Six years ago, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern asked the Committee on the Constitution to examine the issue of the pricing of development land. In 2004, it concluded that Mr Justice Kenny's recommendation in 1973 that development land should be priced with a 25% mark-up on agricultural land prices, could be introduced by legislation, and without amending the Constitution.
So, after almost ten years of stories of endemic corruption, what changes have been made in the system that spawned it? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!
The Green Party believes that it is likely to have a bigger impact on saving the polar ice caps than getting its partners in Government to agree on worthwhile reform.
Change does happen eventually in Ireland but don't doubt that it's at a slower pace than the glacial speed in the Arctic and the penny may well drop at some point for the Dr Faustus of modern Irish politics - John Gormley.
|John Gormley's Planet Bertie Speech Feb 2007|
Irish Politics and the Value of "Values" - - Minister for the Environment and Green Party leader says in Feb 2007 that the Fianna Fáil party is "without vision or values" and that Michael McDowell, then PD leader was Bertie Ahern's Tammy Wynette - Stand by your Man - a role Gormley plays months later.
Gormley may well have done more damage to the reputation of Irish politics than Bertie Ahern because of the huge gulf between his words and actions.