The ongoing revelations regarding Ivor Callely’s expenses claims highlights the lack of accountability and transparency in Irish politics. However only focusing on individual cases, such as Callely, allows the Government to avoid addressing the real issue – their unwillingness to bring public representatives financial accountability into line, at the very least, with private sector regulations.
The Irish Times have two welcome additions to the expenses debate, expanding the discussion beyond the individual. The first article, by Enid O’Dowd, shows that the recent review of members expenses regulations actually gives TDs and Senators more flexibility. Noel Whelan’s article calls on public representatives to publish their outgoings to give transparency to the actual costs involved in being a member of the Oireachtas.
If there is to be any improvement in public office and service credibility, senior civil servants and politicians should submit to higher standards than the private sector. Each year the Standards in Public Office Commission list what they believe are the necessary reforms in public office financial reporting and ethics legislation. Each year there is almost complete silence and lack of response from the Government to these requests.
Our local paper, the Northside People published an article on the Callely story. The paper sought comments from local politicians, and my quote aimed to draw reader’s attention to how poorly the public are served through this lack of financial transparency and accountability: “What this unfortunate episode has highlighted is the lack of accountability in the body politic. If the FF/GP Government is serious about reform, they should reconvene immediately and bring in legislation that brings politics into line with standards of accountability that are taken as normal in other walks of life.”