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Perceptions of Corruption in Ireland - Letter to the Irish Times

22 December 2015

The following letter to the Irish Times was published on 18 December 2015 in response to an article written by the Times' political editor Stephen Collins titled 'Corruption, however minor, likely to be an election issue'. The article quotes Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index in downplaying the severity of the issue in Ireland. The Corruption Perceptions Index 2015 will be published on 27 January 2016.


Sir, – Stephen Collins (“Corruption, however minor, likely to be an election issue”, Opinion & Analysis, December 12th) cites Ireland’s relatively high ranking on the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index to support his claim that corruption is not endemic in Ireland. It should be noted that the index is a measure of perceptions of relative levels of corruption, not absolute levels of corruption. A country’s ranking or score is not evidence of how “clean” or “corrupt” any country is in reality.

Indeed, available evidence suggests that Ireland is highly vulnerable to corruption. We would point any interested reader to Transparency International’s own data and analysis, that of the European Commission, the findings of the Mahon and Moriarty tribunals of inquiry, and extensive media coverage of corruption in all its guises, much of which has been published over the past five years.

No country is immune to corruption. However, compared to many of its peers in high-income countries, the State performs particularly badly in exposing the problem and in holding its perpetrators to account. This failure is nurturing a culture of political apathy and impunity in Ireland, which is in itself a cause and indicator of systemic corruption.

It would be remiss not to mention some of the very welcome legal reforms that have been introduced during the lifetime of this Government, including the Protected Disclosures Act and the Lobbying Regulation Act. Nonetheless, the fact that Ireland’s law enforcement agencies lack the resources, independence and statutory powers to investigate abuses of public office should be a cause for great concern among the public.

Given the role of political apathy in creating the conditions for wrongdoing, it would be a cause for even greater concern if corruption were not an issue at the next election. – Yours, etc,

Chief Executive,
Transparency International Ireland