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Dublin: 8°C Tuesday 15 June 2021

Column: While you’re at the Euros, Mick, remember the fate of Paul Begley

Mick Wallace’s predicament may be understandable – but laws must apply to everyone, writes Peter Faulkner.

Peter Faulkner

I LISTENED TO Mick Wallace’s Morning Ireland interview on Thursday, and then throughout the day to the dancing on the head of the pin views of various politicos and commentators. I was struck by the inability of the media to land a killer punch and the silence of others normally so vocal on such matters.

Everybody that has ever been caught with their fingers in the till or the petty cash box always claims they intended to pay the money back. They also normally have a sad story of lost employment, drink, drug or gambling addiction etc and I am sure they are probably telling the truth. The bottom line is that wrongdoing is wrongdoing; it simply cannot be justified by some self-serving claim that it was for the better good. What crime, if any, has been committed should be a matter for our judiciary. It is the least our people deserve.

Mick Wallace seems like a decent man to me, driven to break the law by the terrible predicament facing his business and the fate of his employees. I have no difficulty in understanding his mindset in doing what he did; many business owners face these awful choices every day. Mostly they just fail to make the returns as they have not got the cash to make the payments due, making a false return is a different kettle of fish and is that one step too far over the line.

‘We have become well accustomed to a lack of accountability’

We have become well accustomed to a lack of accountability and personal responsibility in this country. One only has to look at the former bankers, regulators and other public servants who have, at best, failed us by not doing their job properly or, at worst, have been involved in patent dishonesty. They continue to walk the streets and mostly with large pension incomes to keep them in comfort into their old age.

Fair play to ya Mick, if that is the correct soccer parlance, off to the Euros in Poznan. I am however thinking about the shocking contrast to the case of that man Paul Begley who was a director of a family business that evaded import duty on garlic from China. They ‘fessed up completely and cooperated with the Revenue, paid up the money due plus interest and penalties to a total of less than Mick’s €2.1 million. I am sure Mr Begley would love to be off to Poznan or even be able to watch it on TV with his friends and family, but he is in Mountjoy serving a six-year prison sentence. One could only imagine what length of sentence he might have got if the state had had not been paid back a red cent.

I know thing are bad in this country right now and we have little evidence that they are going to get better anytime soon. Surely we are past the time of penal laws, applied with discrimination in accordance with one’s status in society. Perhaps Mick will sing The Fields of Athenry in Poznan and not think too hard about the fate of those who dipped into Trevelyan’s corn.

Peter Faulkner runs a manufacturing business in west Dublin and writes opinion pieces on issues that affect SMEs in Ireland.

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