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Appearances

As this is written, the public perception of AIB and Bank of Ireland is that they are solvent. They may not be. If they are not, the Government, or part of it, knows it. The Government, although it is silent on the point, is in that case, in effect. perpetuating the illusion of the banks’ solvency. This split between what is officially the case and what is really the case is common. We have seen recently that, although they were not directly protected by the State, we slowly, and by chance, learned that Liam Carroll’s property interests were financially unsustainable with Paddy Kelly’s likewise, followed by Bernard McNamara’s. These truths, easily comprehended when brought to view, are part of the more obscure greater truth, that the crash of these property interests was facilitated by massive Government failures and that the possible insolvency of the banks was caused by the Government.

The recent apology from the British Government to the victims of the Thalidomide scandal reminds us of what is required when important issues are denied or ignored; quality journalists.

In the UK they had the Sunday Times “Insight” team under Harold Evans. As editor of the Sunday Times, Evans refused to knuckle under in the face of Distillers’ court injunction preventing the newspaper from publishing the truth (to the extent then known) about the cause and history of the dreadful birth defects that had appeared as a result of the use of the Thalidomide drug by women. (Distillers was the distributor of Thalidomide).

(Ironically, given the title to this post, a newspaper of the name “Sunday Times” continued to exist after Harold Evans left it, but it was not what it had been; Rupert Murdoch owned it then).

At the crucial time and on the central issue, openness, the UK courts came down emphatically on the side of Distillers and attempted to impose secrecy.

Here in Ireland, if there were to be a reprise of that struggle we can not be sure that the courts’ response might not be equally inadequate.

The reasons for this are twofold; access to public records is still regularly denied as a consistent Government policy, and, within the court system, access to paper and electronic records is a matter of chance and whim. The Government has not only set the policy of “closed” administration, it has written the legislation to make it legal to refuse access to public records.

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