Is Ireland corrupt?

TI report cover, via their site.Already previewed on this blog, a report today (cover left) from Transparency International (Press Release here) raises the spectre (and not for the first time) of corruption at the heart of Irish political life. In particular, the National Integrity System Country Study. Ireland 2009 says that whilst there is little evidence of grand corruption at present, and the scale of petty corruption is very low, the political culture of personal relationships, patronage, favours, and donations, compounded by a lack of transparency in political funding and lobbying, gives rise to high levels of what the report characterises as “legal corruption”. As Vincent Browne once put it: our political system is built around private gain.

For the future, therefore, the report acknowledges:

Ireland already has a sound legals and institutional framework upon which future progress can be made. For this to happen, existing institutions will have to be adequately resourced, and laws adequately enforced. Just as importantly, a shift in political will and general attitudes
to corruption and abuse of power will be needed.

In particular, the day after a limited form of whistleblower protection came into effect in the health service, the report recommends the introduction of comprehensive whistleblower protection across both the public and the private sectors, the strengthening of Freedom of Information legislation (including the reduction of application fees), and significant strengthening of the rules relating to political funding (including the publication of detailed audited accounts by political parties) and lobbying (including a public register of lobbyists). It may be difficult to write a comprehensive history of corruption in Ireland, but this report is at the very least an excellent snapshot of the state we’re in right now.

Some coverage:
Belfast Telegraph: Ireland suffering from high levels of lawful corruption
Irish Independent Breaking News: Ireland suffering from high levels of lawful corruption
Irish Independent: Political corruption could be costing us €3bn
Irish Times Breaking News: Corruption costing State €3bn, report claims
Irish Times: ‘Legal corruption’ high in absence of accountability; Government ‘has never valued transparency’; Failing to root out corruption (Editorial);
Press Association: Corruption probe report published
RTÉ: Study calls for whistleblower protection

I can’t wait to see what Anthony makes of it all.