Cosmography Politics

EU To Ban Crucifixions – Ben Dunne

It’s now got worse, they want us to do away with crucifixions, they want us to deny we are Christians publicly.

Ben Dunne either advertising his chain of gyms or his contempt for democracy. Possibly both.

So said Ben Dunne, in a bizarre tirade to a radio chat show. The paper corrects him to ‘crucifixes’, sadly, but the rest of his wild and weird inaccuracies – that the EU wants Ireland to stop playing the Angelus bell on public radio, or Christianity is being banned and that European money is somehow contingent on this – still stand.

Of course, most of you don’t know who Ben Dunne is. Time to put on your safety harness, we’re off on a brief, scary ride through the dark side of Irish politics.

A former tycoon, famous for lavishing gifts of money on politicians, more famous for an embarrassingly public cocaine-and-hooker freakout in an Orlando hotel (my favourite response: A t-shirt with a map of Florida, a line of coke, and the legend “Ben There, Dunne That”), most famous now for his part in business dealings described by a public judicial investigation as, “profoundly corrupt to a degree that was nothing short of breathtaking”. Yet there he was on the radio, ranting – even raving – in defence of his religion.

Pretty sure his religion was wishing he’d shut the hell up.

Before the last Lisbon Treaty, one of the things I got a commitment from senior people in politics about was that the Angelus wouldn’t be done away with.

He thinks he can get politicians to change continent-wide treaties to suit his personal desires. The scary thing is, there was a time when that might not have been delusion.

Of course, the Lisbon Treaty had as much to do with broadcasting the Angelus as it did with tourist visas for mermaids. Opposition to Ireland’s national broadcaster playing one religion’s chimes every day doesn’t come from the European Union. It comes from Irish people who want the separation of church and state to actually mean something. Anything.

Dunne is clearly teetering on the edge of derangement. You would feel sorry for him if it wasn’t for his egotism and bullish bluster, and for the incredibly destructive influence he has had on Irish democracy. He cannot be scapegoated for all political corruption – there’s simply far too much of it – but he is so perfectly emblematic of it. And in a way it explains his faith – or perhaps vice versa. How else could he have done all that, without an unshakeable belief in a saviour who can forgive anything?

But he is a man out of time. There were headlines when the census results were released about Ireland still being ‘overwhelmingly Catholic’ after all that has happened, but that really depends on what you mean by Catholic. Sure, 84 percent of the population identified themselves as such, but for a lot of people religious affiliation is mainly just that – a cultural, historical identity. Many assume that you are supposed to put down the religion you were born into, whatever you actually believe now.

Two thirds of those who call themselves Catholic don’t attend a weekly mass any more – and that’s according to a survey published the church (PDF). Three quarters find the Catholic Church’s teaching on sexuality “irrelevant”, and a similar proportion says woman should be allowed to be priests. Three in five think the Church is wrong about homosexuality. 87 percent think that priests ought to be allowed to marry.

If we define being Catholic as accepting Catholic dogma, there are almost no Catholics in Ireland at all. It’s mainly just Ben.

Humour Politics

Michael Lowry Is A Corrupt Politician

Esat Digifone logo
"Jesus But Didn't We Make Some Money"

There, it felt good to say that. Of course he is far from alone, it almost seems unfair to single him out, but because of our wealth-favouring libel laws it’s not often you can actually come out and name one of the bastards.

Today I can, because a judicial body, the Moriarty Tribunal, says it is beyond doubt that Michael Lowry, when Fine Gael minister for transport, energy and communications, gave “substantive information to Denis O’Brien, of significant value and assistance to him in securing the licence”.

The licence they speak of was for the country’s second GSM mobile phone network in 1996, the biggest contract ever awarded by the State to a private company. Denis O’Brien’s Esat consortium won, even though by proper procedures their bid would have come third. In a transaction which the Tribunal concludes was not unrelated, Minister Lowry was given a huge wad of cash. And when that licence was later sold to British multinational BT, Denis O’Brien made more money than you will ever even be shown a picture of.

Lowry CartoonInterestingly, while the Tribunal’s report calls this “a cynical and venal abuse of office”, it doesn’t actually call the act corrupt. I refuse to be so mealy-mouthed. If he cynically and venally abused office, if he received money in consideration for bending the rules to favour the giver, then Michael Lowry is as crooked as a snake with stomach cramps.

Moriarty does use the word corrupt with reference to an unrelated deal between Lowry and another tycoon, Ben Dunne (most famous for giving an unexplained million or two to former Taoiseach C. J. Haughey). Dunne reacted with outrage, saying that if they wanted to call him corrupt then they should put him in jail.

Denis O’Brien likes to emphasise how much money the State has wasted on trying to catch him. The Irish Times puts the final costs of the Moriarty Tribunal at over €100,000,000, though O’Brien has set up his own site to lie about and exaggerate the figure. It’s even got a picture of the gates of Dublin Castle on it, so it gives the impression of being official. That’s how crap the man is.

He is right though. As is Ben Dunne. The money spent on the Tribunal has been wasted. It will remain wasted until he and his fellow corrupt and corrupting businessmen are safely behind bars, along with the politicians they paid for.

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