EAMON GILMORE HAS joined Michael Noonan, Richard Bruton and a host of others in denouncing Michael Fingleton and the expenses that he claimed as the former boss of the Nationwide Building Society. Fingleton has already refused to repay the €1m bonus that he received during his last year of tenure and while this is likely to be legally upheld, the expenses are something different.
The Tanaiste has gone as far as to suggest that legal action should be considered. I’ve lived in Ireland for the best part of nine years and based on the evidence that I have seen so far, he should save his breath. Nothing will be done. Unless, that is, if you favour the route to justice that sees a laborious inquiry that takes years and years to complete, offers very stilted opinion and achieves nothing, other than furthering the burden to the taxpayer with exorbitant costs.
There is no doubt that the expense claims are absolutely despicable. There is absolutely no doubt that every single tax-payer in this country should be absolutely outraged at the way that Fingleton and others used the Irish banks as their own personal banking fiefdoms. But the far greater outrage should be directed at the distinct lack of action being taken. I am really struggling to understand the distinct inactivity.
The current issues surround expenses claimed by Michael Fingleton totalling €87,205. This included bills at the K Club totalling €48,000, over €12,000 to cover dental treatment and a further €2,600 for a two night stay at the Dorchester Hotel in London for Fingleton and his wife. All of this on top of a very handsome salary and substantial pension facility.
Ever felt like you were taken advantage of?
If any further proof was needed of the completely different lifestyle of the nation’s bankers, this is most definitely it. There is no doubt that the architects of the most debilitating financial situation that this country has experienced, knew how to enjoy themselves. Ultimately all at our expense! Fingleton, Drumm and a host of others quaffed champagne, dined in the finest restaurants, stayed in the most lavish of hotels and partied whilst the rest of us were left with a tab that we didn’t even know about at the time. Ever felt like you were taken advantage of?
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, speaking in Warsaw, said that he detects a real sense of anger in people about the “carry-on” of some elements of banking over recent years, that has impacted severely on people’s lifestyles and on their quality of life.
He added that: “They would like to see that if there are people out there that are guilty, they should be brought before the courts and if the courts decide to punish them, that the law of the land should take its course.”
“People don’t want to see these things drag on interminably, and I hope that the statutory authorities charged with following these things up continue to do so as expeditiously as is possible,” he said.
As the leader of the country I think we would all expect him to do a little bit more than “hope”.
We are in danger of obssessing over the particular issue of the expenses claimed by one person
Why is Ireland so far behind the curve in dealing with white collar indiscretions? In the UK, former environment minister Elliot Morley was recently freed from prison after serving a quarter of his 16-month sentence for fiddling his parliamentary expenses. Kweku Adoboli, the rogue trader at the centre of the losses at Swiss Bank, has had no opportunity at freedom, remains in custody and prosecutors have already extended the charges that he is facing. This is justice taking its course in the right and appropriate manner. Neither have the opportunity to avoid questions as they are demanded to answer them.
However, recent media suggests that we are in danger of obssessing over the particular issue of the expenses claimed by one person. If the only return for a banking crisis that at Irish Nationwide alone resulted in a €5.4bn bailout is the repayment of a far smaller sum of expenses, then something is very wrong. We have experienced first-hand how inept the banking system was and now are being subjected to a similar display by the judiciary. The Government is also seriously out of touch with public opinion if they think a prosecution for dodgy expenses will appease the general public’s sense of justice. It would really only be the very tip of the iceberg.
To date, the Irish judicial system has failed spectacularly to bring anyone to trial. Fingleton’s expense claims are despicable but there are still far greater injustices that need to be explored far more aggressively than they currently are. We are being led away from the real focus.
I have no doubt that that there are numerous offences that can be charged. Unfortunately it will only happen if you are prepared to look and have the inclination to bring these people to trial. I see no evidence of either at the moment.