From Socialist Voice, October 2006

Daidí na Nollag does exist!

Bertie Ahern, Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fáil, has now admitted that he received loans totalling £30,000 (€50,000) from a number of friends in 1994 to help him pay the costs resulting from his separation agreement with his former wife. In addition, he received £8,000 for a speaking engagement at a lunch for businessmen in Manchester.
     This is the latest in a growing list of confirmations by senior individuals in Fianna Fáil who have received disinterested “loans” or “contributions” from friends to help them overcome personal difficulties or to “help with decorating their home,” etc.
     Of course all the main parties in Dáil Éireann have been brought before the various tribunals in relation to corrupt payments, planning scandals, payments in kind—the list is endless.
     Because Fianna Fáil has been the main party of government for the last sixty years, it is only natural that its contacts with big business, and the influence of big business, would be greater. Its connections and links with most communities, for historical reasons, ensured that if you wanted anything done you needed the support of Fianna Fáil.
     It is remarkable that the donations that make up the £30,000 correspond to the then legal maximum (£3,000) that could be given as a gift without having to declare it to the Revenue Commissioners.
     Ahern’s claim that he had no knowledge of the collection made on his behalf by his solicitor, who made a whip-around among a few “close friends” to help raise the money to pay his legal costs, beggars belief.
     Everyone knows that Ahern, then Minister for Finance, was strapped for money and that his local bank manager thought him a high risk and had strong reservations about his ability to repay any loan—despite the fact that he had a guaranteed income far above the national average and also a guaranteed and index-linked ministerial pension, which he could draw down immediately he left the Dáil or if he was not re-elected. We mere mortals, on the other hand, have to wait till we reach sixty-five before we are eligible for a meagre state pension.
     It is also remarkable that when he was Minister for Finance he had no bank account yet managed to save £50,000.
     In his television interview, Ahern kept repeating the mantra that it was a “debt of honour,” that he was duty-bound to pay all the money back, but a decade later these generous souls keep sending the cheques back; and of course they did not seek or want any favours in return. Sure we must have the most benevolent and generous business class in the world.
     Our people are being asked to believe that all the generous personal and political donations to the establishment parties—Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Progressive Democrats, and Labour Party—are given purely to enhance and protect the democratic process. The contributors desire nothing and ask for nothing. This is the mantra that all the establishment parties blather when yet another scandal emerges.
     Seemingly the Taoiseach wants us to believe in Daidí na Nollag, or perhaps the Tooth Fairy, as he clearly does. A good number of those who gave money to Ahern were subsequently appointed to the boards of state and state-sponsored bodies, which in turn give them access to important contracts and services. So nothing was asked for; but they received much in return.
     All the scandals and continuing exposures and leaks from the numerous tribunals confirm the old adage that there is no such thing as a free lunch. There is clearly no real appetite or any real interest in rooting out corruption within the Irish political system, because graft and corruption are a necessary element of our political system, and of all capitalist societies, to various degrees. As Marx and Engels put it so well, “the executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.”
     If they were to really root out corruption it would undermine the very political system and undermine the state, and that is the last thing the establishment and its political representatives desire. Ahern is safe for the time being, until they can get another electable “safe pair of hands.”

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