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Public corruption survey shows why Tribunals should be allowed to continue their work

ublin , 6 December 2007 – A new survey published by Transparency International (TI) today, shows that the Irish public views political parties as the most corrupt of all institutions in the State. The Global Corruption Barometer measures public attitudes and experiences of corruption in 60 countries including Ireland.

The Barometer rated political parties with a score of 3.4 out of 5. A score of 1 denotes a sector or institution which is seen as very clean compared to a score of 5 which indicates a sector or institution as highly corrupt. Political parties were followed in order by business and the legal system as most prone to corruption.

One of the more worrying findings is that a much greater number of Irish respondents believe that levels of corruption will worsen over the next three years. Almost half (47 per cent) of those polled said that corruption is likely to increase over this period. This compares to 32 per cent who gave the same answer in 2005. A slight majority of respondents (51 per cent) also felt that the Government was not doing enough to fight corruption

Women and those from middle to higher income brackets also appeared to be most disaffected with standards in public office and business.

John Devitt, Chief Executive of TI Ireland said the results showed that the Government, political parties and business needed to take collective responsibility for the steep decline in public confidence. “What it does point to is the need to restart process of reform that began in 1995 but which seems to have been going backwards since 2003.”

The anti-corruption group is calling on the Government to ratify the UN Convention against Corruption as a matter of urgency. The Convention is seen as a roadmap for fighting graft at home and abroad. Ireland has signed but not enacted this landmark treaty.

TI Ireland has also called for the tribunals to be allowed to continue their work and for the proposed Tribunals Bill to be shelved until existing tribunals finish. “The debate around the length and cost of tribunals misses one important point: overall they are good value for money. They should be allowed to get on with their job”, claimed Devitt.

“The Mahon Tribunal for instance has cost €70 million and it is believed it will cost a further €200 million when third party costs are taken into account. What has been ignored is the fact that the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB) is set to reclaim over €50 million from one corrupt enrichment case alone” he added. The lands belonging to Jackson Way Properties in Carrickmines, Co. Dublin are believed to have been rezoned through the bribery of County Councillors in Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown in 1997.

Using laws introduced in 2005, the CAB is now able to present evidence acquired by the Mahon or Moriarty Tribunal to secure a High Court “corrupt enrichment” order to seize the value of bribes or assets believed to have acquired through a corrupt payment.

The Jackson Way ruling is still under appeal by the landowners, but if the CAB application is successful, it is believed that it could open the way for the State to recoup a substantial proportion of costs from the Tribunals and dwarf the amount seized from organised crime gangs since 1996.

The indirect economic benefits of the Tribunals are also believed to have been substantial. Over €2 billion in evaded tax is estimated to have been collected by the Revenue Commissioners arising from evidence gathered at the Tribunals, the Ansbacher inquiry and DIRT inquiry.

“The claim that Tribunals are too expensive and lengthy has some validity” added Devitt. But any attempt to close them down will not only do irreversible damage to our international reputation, but could also short-change the Irish tax payer.”