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Political leaders need to tackle fundamental governance gaps which enable corruption in Ireland

Wrongdoing continues to undermine economic stability

Dublin 6 June 2012

Anti-corruption group Transparency International Ireland (TI Ireland) today calls on political leaders to go beyond austerity policies to tackle fundamental governance gaps that undermine economic stability.

The call comes with the publication in Brussels of a report into corruption risks in Europe which highlights transparency deficits in the way policy decisions are made and political groups are funded in many EU countries, including Ireland.

The Transparency International report, 'Money, Politics and Power: Corruption Risks in Europe', highlights gaps in governance that contributed to the financial and political scandals in nearly every European country last year.

Out of the 25 countries surveyed, 19, including Ireland, have yet to regulate lobbying. Ireland is among the fifteen countries that have failed to introduce an outright ban on undisclosed political donations. It is also singled out in the study as the only country which has introduced excessive fees for Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.

Endorsing the report’s recommendations, TI Ireland calls for lawmakers to curb the influence of powerful interests on politicians by opening lobbying to greater public scrutiny and making political campaign finance more transparent.

The anti-corruption group also urges the government to remove prohibitive fees for Freedom of Information requests and to bring crucially important bodies including the National Asset Management Agency, the National Treasury Management Agency, the Central Bank and the Garda Siochana within the scope of FOI laws.

“Ireland’s anti-corruption framework is decidedly patchy, with significant weaknesses that undermine the quality of our democracy and standards of governance,” said Nuala Haughey, TI Ireland’s Advocacy and Research Manager.

“On the downside, structural weaknesses in democratic governance mean the executive is not properly held to account by parliament. Policy-making remains shrouded in secrecy and political patronage is alive and well when it comes to appointments to state boards. Our ethics watchdog, the Standards in Public Office Commission, is hobbled by weak investigative and sanctioning powers. And political party finance laws are riddled with loopholes -- significant corruption risks that draft legislation currently before the Oireachtas does not adequately address.

“The Taoiseach’s election mantra was that he wanted to make Ireland the best small country in the world in which to do business, raise a family and grow old with dignity and respect.  If he is serious about this, he needs to go beyond austerity policies to tackling the fundamental corruption risks and governance gaps that undermine our economic stability.”

TI Ireland welcomes a draft law to introduce whistleblower protection, as well as plans for a statutory register of lobbyists which, provided it is mandatory, could help ensure that policy making is not skewed in favour of special interests.

Today’s European study brings together the findings of 25 country-level ‘National Integrity System’ assessments which analyse a range of critical institutions and laws in terms of their anti-corruption efforts. Transparency International Ireland’s National Integrity System assessment was published in 2009 and is currently being updated as part of the 25-country research project.