Week 4 was dominated by the Moriarty Tribunal and its findings into the behaviour of T.D. Michael Lowry and businessman Denis O’Brien, in relation to the phone licence. The manner in which both individuals cast dispersions on Judge Moriarty in their efforts to undermine the case against them left a lot to be desired – here is a part of my Dáil speech:
“I was somewhat taken aback at the manner in which Mr. Justice Moriarty and the Judiciary have been called into question. This is a dangerous road to follow. The Judiciary in Ireland is an independent and fair system. It may not get all the answers right but it is worthy of our respect. If we are not going to respect its decisions, what are we going to do? It would not stack up anymore. The core of any democracy has to be respect for what a judge decides or has to say. It is not good for us that people with influence, whether political or financial, are able to challenge the legal system with such brazenness. It is something we have to think about. I am surprised that the Government is not more outraged about this matter. We should be angry this is happening. It must seem to the ordinary people there is one rule for them and another for the people who have influence. Is this the way it is supposed to be? Is this how it will stay?
We heard a great deal about change during the election campaign, which was my first. As I travelled around to listen to people I observed an appetite for change. Fine Gael and the Labour Party have promised significant change but I am taken aback they are not more outraged. I am disappointed the Chamber is not full. The Moriarty tribunal and its report have serious implications for our society. Does it not matter enough?
If they are serious about making this Parliament work in the manner it should or organising our society properly, can they show a bit more interest? Can they be here? We have a huge responsibility. The people put us here. They expect us to run this country in an honest fashion, to make honest decisions and to care. We have to forgive them for thinking we do not care. This is an opportunity to show that perhaps things can change.” (29 March 2011)
Given that a wealthy businessman like Denis O’Brien was able to buy favours from a politician is not good, but hardly a surprise to us given the manner in which this country has been run for a long time. It is also worrying that the businessman got such an easy ride from the Irish media – after all, Judge Moriarty did say that he bribed a State official – but given his huge power and influence on Irish media, should we be surprised? I challenged Taoiseach Enda Kenny on this issue, relating to political donations:
“The Taoiseach promised a number of reforms and it will be great if he is able to implement them. He referred specifically to donations. If someone wants to give €100 to a politician running for election, we should know who he or she is. People who pay pipers call tunes. Through money, businesses big and small can separate the electorate from the Legislature. Money comes between them. This is not good and we should stop it completely rather than introduce half measures such as bringing it down to this or that limit. Let us do away with the practice completely. It is not the way to run a proper democracy. Perhaps I am naive or too idealistic but I believe things can be different.” (29 March 2011)
I also addressed the Universal Social Charge issue, the unfairness of it and the damage it is doing, not just to ordinary people but also to small and medium-sized business.