No one can accuse Fianna Fáil of being shortsighted.
As the country is brought to its knees by corporate criminals, people are calling for retribution - like jailing the bank robbers.
There is just one small problem. The authority set up to enforce corporate laws is a shadow of what we need now. Its boss - a dedicated professional -tried his best to build the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement into a body that could do a job. The government blocked him. Few of us noticed at the time.
One who did notice was Gene Kerrigan. This is what he wrote less than two years back. Read it and rage.
Gene Kerrigan on 4 March 2007 in the Sunday Independent:
Who's Paul Appleby? Mr Appleby is to corporate crime what Domestos is to germs. At least, that's the theory. He heads up the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE).
For the past three decades, Ireland has had more fiddles than a violin factory. Various investigations have shown that many of the family fortunes and business successes of today were built on fraud. Elite business people, huckster hoteliers, bankers and Cabinet ministers arranged the tax fraud that suited them best. Major decisions on where we live and how long it takes us to get to work were made on the basis of bungs and backhanders.
The lackadaisical government attitude to white collar crime became so notorious that over the past decade many of the most controversial characters in the global insurance business made their way to Dublin.
Kerrigan was not the only one to notice the consequences of what was laughably called 'light regulation' -
In April 2005, the New York Times wrote of the "light hand" of corporate regulation that encouraged such people to gravitate to these shores: "Dublin has become known in the insurance industry as something of the Wild West of European finance".
When corporate crime flourishes, customers are ripped off, shareholders are cheated. The State is defrauded, increasing the tax burden on the rest of us. Honest businesses go to the wall, undercut by competitors who take illegal shortcuts.
Listing the number of crooks the ODCE had successfully nabbed with its existing staff Kerrigan tells the remarkable story of how our government reacted to a request for a few more staff to beef up the office:
Mr Appleby has just 36 employees,including six gardai.
After three years in business, having demonstrated what can be done, Mr Appleby applied for an increase in staff. He waited, and waited. Last week, through a Freedom of Information request, RTE dug out correspondence in which Appleby said his resources are "wholly inadequate". Because of the volume of work, the intricacy, the need for specialists, without resources there's inevitable delay. Delay means cases collapse. White collar criminals know every wrinkle in the law in which they might find refuge - they can afford battalions of lawyers to search for loopholes.
Mr Appleby applied for 20 more staff, including four gardai. This request seems based in logic, requesting people with particular skills for specific jobs that need doing.
Only when the matter became public, two years after the request was made privately, did the Government say they'll give the ODCE four new staff. And there's a promise that there'll be another four - one of these days.
In the Dail, Bertie Ahern became waspish. "It is not that Mr Appleby's work is not considered important . . . it is a question of prioritising the placement of staff."
Bertie was indignant. "He has 36, so it seems extraordinary that he could want another 20." The fact that the staff are needed to get the job done seems irrelevant. "One would not receive such an increase in any department," huffed Bertie. "He will have to wait his turn."
The ODCE, said Bertie, "can wait a few more years if the staff are required". ... What's going on?
As RTE reported, shortage of staff means that "a substantial number" of investigations into corporate wrongdoing "will not be pursued". We can see that certain types of business people might want that, but not the Government, surely? We'll forgo millions from chancers. They'll continue to break the law.
Their freedom will encourage others to try it on. Without doubt, some major scandal will eventually be uncovered, leading to another tribunal - more millions down the drain.
Gene Kerrigan is my nominee the Politics.ie Cassandra award - the guy who told us what we did not pay a blind bit of notice to, until it was too late.
Now that the government has promised emergency funding for the ODCE everything will be fine.
[OK I made up that last bit]
Why Bertie's little sulk just doesn't add up - Analysis - Independent.ie