Comment: 1989-A Year of Irish Corruption and Freedom
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15, 2004: Mr. Tom
Gilmartin’s testimony at the Mahon Tribunal on Irish planning
corruption has coincided with the announcement by the Minister of
Justice Michael McDowell that the Government plans to hold a
Constitutional Referendum to remove the automatic right of citizenship
to individuals born in Ireland, to non-Irish parents.
Mr. Gilmartin, who was an Irish born UK building contractor
seeking to develop projects in Dublin, has recounted how senior members
of the Irish Government bamboozled him in 1989 into making corrupt
payments in return for removing obstacles to the progress of the
was another year when Irish emigrants to the United States took
advantage of special visas that had been issued by the US Congress at
the instigation of Irish American legislators and the Irish Government
maintained its consular assistance in the US to Irish nationals who were
working without visas. The Berlin Wall was dismantled and people could
at last leave their countries without fear of being shot. Politicians in
the West who had long called for the ending of Soviet domination of
Eastern Europe soon turned their attention to controlling the influx of
foreigners into their countries.
we need to control immigration to our now prosperous country, Mr.
McDowell and his colleagues propose a Referendum on the citizenship
issue while there is no political will to reform a system that continues
to promote corruption. Many of us have forgotten our emigrant past and
the victim cross we carried so long has been discarded. Before the
Celtic Tiger period of prosperity, Irish politicians regularly lectured
countries such as Germany on their obligations to help the poor
countries on Europe’s periphery. The periphery has shifted eastwards
and the tune has changed.
fairness to the Department of Justice, its attitude to immigrants has
not fundamentally changed. Although 20% of the Irish population
emigrated to the UK in the 1950’s, the Department has long maintained
a strict policy when dealing with ‘aliens’ from the non-English
speaking world. When the Soviet airline Aeroflot had a stopover at
Shannon Airport on its Moscow-Havana route, there were no rights of
asylum available for escapees. There wasn’t even a pretence of a
hearing. People were handed back to meet whatever fate awaited traitors.
Michael McDowell is the President of the Progressive Democrats, the junior partner in the current Irish Government. He has said in the past that his Party has a choice of being radical or redundant. There has been precious little radicalism beyond tackling the restrictive practices of taxi drivers- an easy target compared with wealthy vested interests. Now we have another easy target as we continue to slumber in a Rip van Winkleland.
- Michael Hennigan
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