The Progressive Democrats, once the bright shining light in the murky and corrupt world of Irish politics. The only party that had principles and actually stood by them. The party that stood up to Haugheys rotten Fianna Fail. The party with the passionate rallying call, We are either radical or redundant. Well, they certainly arent radical any more but neither have they become redundant, instead they have rejoined the Fianna Fail fold, indeed it could be said that they have become more FF than the FFs themselves. The following examples will serve to illustrate the point.
Speaking on Morning Ireland on February 2nd, Mary Harney being questioned on why she chose to terminate the investigation into companies associated with the Ansbacher affair despite the authorizing officer in charge of the investigation disagreeing with her decision. These are her main points:
I acted on strong advice from officials in my Department. I did not initiate the ending of the investigation, my officials did. The investigator was coming across tax matters which should be dealt with by Revenue and also others matters that the tribunals should be dealing with.
When asked the direct question You wanted to end this enquiry, the authorizing officer wanted to keep going, why did that officer want to keep going? Heres Marys telling reply Theres lots of things, unfortunately I cant say, its a criminal offence for me or anyone else to reveal anything that comes to light during these enquiries. Perhaps Labour leader, Pat Rabbitte got it right when he suggested the investigations had been terminated not because they have come to fruition but rather because they might.
Ah, a PD supporter might say, the laws the law and must be obeyed but the PDs are still intent on strong investigation into corruption. Hmmmm PD senator John Minihane reacted on Morning Ireland to the launching of the Centre for Public Enquiry, an independent group with a mission to investigate corruption in Ireland. He noted:
A private body funded from outside the State, accountable to no one people want to undermine the institutions of the State.. shows a lack of confidence in state bodies like the Gards, Revenue and even the Oireachtas itself we are a sovereign State and should only operate under that State very dangerous step we have to protect the institutions of the State.
Hardly a ringing endorsement for accountability. In fairness, it should be said that all the other major political parties also expressed a negative (but not as hysterical) reaction. Funny isnt it that all the main parties want to keep control of the investigation of corruption where they make laws that forbids anyone from revealing the outcome of such enquiries.
But, our erstwhile PD supporter might exclaim, the PDs are still strong on accountability, for keeping an eye on the baddies, in particular in Fianna Fail. Hmmm On January 24th PD Tom Morrissey was on the Vincent Browne Show when he was asked why the PDs didnt act when Ray Burke lied to the Dail in 1997.
Were not in the business of asking for heads on plates anymore. When we did, what thanks did the electorate ever give us? Were not there as a watchdog anymore.
Judging from the attitude of Mary Harney and John Minihane, it seems indeed that the PDs are not in the business of accountability anymore. So where does that leave the once idealistic party? In power but out of principles, I would say.