Thursday, March 23, 2006

Get yer hands dirty in Norn Irn politics

Brian Feeney:

There's no corruption in the British administration in the north of Ireland. There can't be, can there?

After all, it's not like the Republic, with all those tribunals sending politicians to jail and fining them for trousering bribes to make the 'right' planning decisions.

Then there's the gardai inventing tales of derring-do against the IRA in Donegal to get themselves promoted.

So we have the Mahon, Moriarty (formerly Flood), Morris and Barr tribunals, at least two of which have sat for well over 3,000 days, all costing a mint. Isn't it lucky everything is so clean and above board here?

Do you believe that? Do you believe it when the British government won't even allow an independent inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane because the whole world knows the result would expose the intimate involvement of British security services and RUC Special Branch?

Do you believe there has been no jiggery-pokery about planning in the north? Isn't it remarkable that the only scandal that has come to light in recent years is the incompetence of local assembly politicians flouting EU rules about waste disposal?

Doubly remarkable when hardly a week goes by without allegations of racketeering and money-laundering by paramilitaries. Does anyone believe they restrict their activities to the owners of corner shops?

Isn't it extraordinary that, for example, no-one has called for an inquiry into UVF involvement in intimidation and extortion to corrupt planning in parts of Belfast since the late 1970s? Could you build anything in a location the UVF dominates? What do you think?

Again, the public accounts committee (PAC), the National Audit Office and the Northern Ireland Audit Office regularly publish reports sharply critical of local civil servants.

Most recently a report complained that the Department of Social Development here had given 'irregular payments' to a loyalist white elephant: £98,000 just like that.

A couple of months ago a permanent secretary apologised for the mess at Invest NI, formerly Ledu. The PAC told him there had been "a serious dereliction of responsibilities" and that Ledu had been operating "outside the public code of conduct".

In due course the PAC will issue a harsh report. So heads will roll? Don't be daft. That's not the way the north works.

There were similar nasty reports about other government departments in the 1990s and most of those concerned slid away unscathed into luxurious retirement.

Mentioning quangos raises another type of corruption. Nothing to do with cash or incompetence. More to do with arrogance and contempt. Contempt for the public that is.

Our present proconsul is one of the worst examples of this condescension.

He couldn't care less what people here think about him.

No votes you see.

Anyway, he has a neck of solid brass. Has to have, after swinging from being a Young Liberal to the radical side of the Labour Party making anti-unionist statements, then over to the Blairite wing of the party.

He's made a number of questionable appointments to quangos, perhaps the worst being Orangeman Donald MacKay to the Parades Commission at a fee of more than £30,000 a year.

Incredibly, our proconsul announced that he believed he had "the best people for the job". Okay, not incredibly.

Last week he appointed a member of the PUP to the Policing Board. Media outlets coyly said the PUP has links to the UVF.

In fact the PUP represents the UVF. The UVF is up to its neck in violence and gangsterism. The police have failed to make any inroads into it. Now we know why: the UVF has replaced the UDA as the NIO's favourite terrorist organisation.

You see our proconsul wouldn't appoint any of these people to quangos if he wasn't so advised by NIO officials. How could he?

Do you think he would know the name of a suitable Orangeman or PUP member or DUP supporter to appoint to quangos? Nope. It's NIO civil servants who recommend them. He just signs.

Sure Norn Irn's a great wee place. Clean as a whistle.

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