Monday, February 23, 2009

Is it time for a show trial?

I heard George Lee and Brendan Keenan on Morning Ireland this morning agree that the issue of the "Anglo 10" was next to nothing when compared with the hole in our finances caused by the bad debts at Anglo-Irish (somewhere between €6bn and €10bn). And, yes, I agree to an extent. The problems in Anglo (and the other banks) are so great that the state's continued independent existence can no longer be taken for granted. This is not the time to be looking for scapegoats.

But, ...

Imagine if the laws of justice were as easily ridden over as the rules and laws of banking were ridden over by what was (is?) an arrogant, smug, greedy few. We'd have the heads of the banks and others - think the Anglo 10, other property developers, investors, whoever - on trial already. All their assets would have been immediately frozen and their right to leave the state denied.

They'd be tried by a jury of their peers, but the normal rules of evidence would be lightly considered by the state. The judge will turn a blind eye to what he knows is wrong-doing by the state. The defense attorneys will be appointed by the state and know that nothing good can come from too strong an effort on their part.

That the accused would be found guilty is beyond doubt and the penalties would be severe. I'm not sure if they'd get much jail time, but I'm pretty sure that these convicts could expect to be fined to such an extent that they'd suddenly find themselves having to 'slum it' in a 3 bedroom semi-detached house in some anonymous suburb. The Bentley would be replaced by a 7-year-old Almera.

What surprises me when I think these thoughts is that I'm not sure that the injustice I'm describing is actually so great that such trials shouldn't be considered. The public's anger has to be acknowledged.

Sure such anger is counter-productive, but it's there and it's a factor that's holding the nation back from taking the steps necessary to right the ship of state. A show trial might be just what the doctor ordered.