McGuinness accusation – An allegation that cannot be ignored
This appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Monday, July 09, 2012
Yesterday’s sensational and terribly disconcerting accusation by Fianna Fáil deputy and chairman of the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) John McGuinness cannot be ignored.
It strikes at the very heart of issues that have dogged this society and, if confirmed, must lead to action never before contemplated by an Irish Government.
The allegation must be either quickly refuted or confronted properly at the highest level of Government because it is a direct indictment of the professionalism, effectiveness, suitability for high office and honesty of some of the most powerful public servants in the land.
It alleges unacceptable behaviour by an inner circle which has enjoyed spectacular success in insulating itself from the realities of our time. Their ability to convince the late Brian Lenihan to exclude them from a round of pay cuts confirms this.
Mr McGuinness, speaking to the Sunday Independent, claimed a powerful group of civil servants wants to “nobble” any inquiry into how the decision to guarantee all bank deposits in September 2009 was reached.
Mr McGuinness claimed: “There is at the heart of our administration a reactionary, unprofessional and inefficient group of senior public service managers, whose veneration of the status quo and the perks, pensions and pay it gives them is costing this country a very large fortune. It is a disgrace.”
If this was a tirade from the flaky fringes of political life it might be possible to dismiss it with the usual weary shrug but Mr McGuinness has a record for independence, of calling a spade a spade and of commitment to the public good that means his charges cannot be brushed away.
Neither can the fact that the Public Accounts Committee is embroiled in an Government dispute over whether it or the Dáil’s Finance Committee should lead the investigation into one of the most costly decisions ever made by an Irish Government be used to fob off Mr McGuinness’s j’accuse moment.
The really unfortunate aspect of all of this is that it seems immaterial which committee inquires into the night of the long guarantee because both are unfortunately fettered.
The referendum of October 27 last, which rejected proposals to give the Dáil and Seanad powers to inquire into matters of general public importance and make findings of fact about any person’s conduct, means all Dáil committees are hopelessly silenced on these matters. And who does that ultimately serve?
The saddest thing about the allegation is that there is an air of plausibility about it. Credibility gaps surrounding delivery of reform and savings under Croke Park unfortunately add to this doubt. So too do weekend reports that a senior civil servant in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform twice complained that some civil servants were given pay rises irrespective of performance or even the fact that performances might not be assessed independently.
Mr McGuinness’s accusation is so strong that it stands alone and must be thoroughly assessed immediately — and not by civil servants alone as is the unsatisfactory case with Croke Park. After all the accusation straddles the usual public sector/private sector fault line running through this society because it alleges utterly unacceptable malpractice that impinges on the life of every citizen in this Republic one way or another.