“Corruption in Ireland 1922-2010 – A Crooked Harp” by Elaine Byrne
November 12, 2012

I finished this book recently and I’m still scratching my head wondering why it was written.    Essentially it’s a meander around the various tribunals of enquiry that have been held over the years with little comment on anything else.   There isn’t much that I could see in it that isn’t in the public domain already and Prof. Byrne doesn’t add any great insight or new understanding to the events she covers.

The most corrupt relationship in the country since independence has been the one involving politicians and other agents of the state and the Catholic Church.    At its worst it led to politicians, educators, Gardaí and the judiciary facilitating and concealing the rape and torture of children for decades but sadly, Byrne doesn’t explore this at all.

Neither does she examine the relationship between the media and politicians.   Media organs are owned or controlled by wealthy and powerful people and she would have done a great public service had she shone some light on the extent to which governments have served the interests of that group in return for favourable coverage.

It may be that the book was rushed out to capitalise on current public interest in political corruption but that doesn’t justify the many errors it contains.    For instance, the Ministers and Secretaries act is referred to as the Ministries and Secretaries act and  the IDA is called the ‘Irish’ rather than the ‘Industrial’ development Authority. When she tells us that Denis O’Brien is a ‘Corkyman’ we can assume she means he’s from Cork but it’s anyone’s guess what she’s trying to say when she claims that “In many ways he is a synonymous public figure…”

As a scholarly work it lacks the academic crispness of Claire Hamilton’s The Presumption of Innocence in Irish Criminal Law’ or the narrative fluency of Joe Lee’s ‘Ireland 1912-1985’.   It’s unambitious in scope, clumsy in execution and peppered with irksome little errors. My advice would be, give it a miss.

Baron Von Biffo – 12/11/2012

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