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‘Dunlop prosecution should not be the last’

Dublin, 26 May 2009 - Transparency International Ireland also calls for comprehensive whistleblower protection to stop further abuse of power

The Irish chapter of anti-corruption organisation Transparency International (TI) has called on the Government to tackle systemic corruption rather than satisfy itself with the prosecution of Frank Dunlop who was sentenced today to two years in prison and fined €30,000 on five counts of bribery.

The chief executive of TI Ireland, John Devitt, called for the prosecution of all alleged bribe-takers where there was sufficient evidence to bring a case. He also pointed to the need for whistleblower protection for everyone who reports an issue of public concern and a register of lobbyists to shine more light on the role of money on government policy making.

“Government may be tempted to believe that this prosecution, while welcome, draws a line in the sand. The sad reality is that eight local politicians [three of whom are deceased] were also accused of taking bribes from rogue developers via Mr. Dunlop. If we are to prevent the same thing happening again, the Government has to commit itself to introducing comprehensive whistleblower legislation for all employees together with a register of lobbyists,” Mr. Devitt said.

Corruption is believed to have badly damaged the country’s reputation overseas. Ireland's score on the worldwide Corruption Perceptions Index worsened dramatically in the wake of revelations of corruption at the Planning Tribunal. The index which measures business perceptions of corruption in some 180 countries is often used by foreign investors to calculate political risk and is believed to directly affect levels of foreign direct investment .  In 1995, Ireland’s score on the corruption league table was 8.57 out of 10, with a score of 10 denoting a country free of corruption. By 2002 that score had dropped to 6.9.

The Council of Europe and the OECD have also called for whistleblower safeguards in Ireland that will protect any employee reporting wrongdoing to their employer, the authorities or a third party. The European Commission is also supporting a groundbreaking whistleblower protection and advice programme in Ireland to be led by Transparency International later this year.

Note for editors

Transparency International launched the first comprehensive study of safeguards against corruption in Ireland last March. The Government-sponsored report found that Government policy making was particularly vulnerable to undue influence through lawful political donations and personal relationships – defined as “legal corruption”. Safeguards against corruption in local government were also believed to be inadequate.

TI Ireland has also described a Government proposal to treble the value of gifts and loans that politicians can keep without declaring them as disturbing.  “The Government can’t claim to be serious about tackling bribery when it’s prepared to increase the level of secrecy around cash and politics,” said Mr. Devitt. In the wake of the controversy surrounding former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s finances, the Government sought to change the law so that politicians could accept €2000 in secret gifts and loans.

The High Court recently froze lands rezoned as a result of alleged bribes to County Councillors by Mr. Dunlop. The Criminal Assets Bureau now has the power to seize assets acquired through corrupt transactions. The CAB is now seeking to reclaim over €50 million back from Jackson Way Properties, the company alleged to be behind Dunlop’s payments to Councillors for land rezoning in Carrickmines, Co. Dublin.