Julien Mercille, geopolitics’ lecturer at UCD, writing for the broadsheet.ie in August:
“Last week confirmed once again that in Ireland, the government always finds the resources to control ordinary people, while the establishment gets away with it. Indeed, a lot of energy has been put into tackling welfare fraud while corporate crime is left undisturbed.
Transparency International released a report ranking OECD countries for their efforts to reduce corporate bribery and corruption. Among 41 countries, Ireland comes near the bottom, meaning that our government has one of the worst records of all. This is not the first time that international organisations have warned of the lack of progress on fighting corruption in Ireland.
Now, compare this to our government’s energetic efforts to fight social welfare fraud.
To get an idea of the problem, consider that the Department of Social Protection spends about €20 billion annually in social welfare payments. Fraud amounts to about €40 million a year, or a rather small 0.2% of total spending. Sure, fraud is a problem, but it’s not as if the system is in disarray.
Nevertheless, Joan Burton’s department is conducting a full-scale assault on fraudsters.
Last week, reports came out again that since December 2014, 20 police officers have been assigned to a Special Investigation Unit (SIU) to assist Joan to catch those who commit welfare fraud. The Gardaí are stationed throughout the country.
But this is not all. The Department’s Compliance and Anti-Fraud Strategy proudly lists a number of cutting-edge measures it is now taking, including:
– Over 1 million reviews of welfare claimants conducted in 2014.
– Over 900 staff working on fraud in the department and in communities throughout the country.
– 600 cases now before the courts, and there is even a target to submit 300 fraud cases for prosecution in 2015.
– Inspections at airports, construction sites and road checkpoints.
– Predictive Analytics Modeling: analytical techniques to identify claims that are more likely to be fraudulent.
– Legislation enacted in 2012 now allows for up to 15% of a person’s social welfare entitlement to be deducted without his or her agreement when there has been overpayment in the past.
It is understandable that some steps be taken to reduce welfare fraud. But the problem is that the policy is once again directed at ordinary people, while elites get away with it.
First, as stated above, no significant steps have been undertaken to tackle corruption and white collar crime.
Second, if unemployment was lower, we’d save a lot on welfare payments. Therefore, the austerity implemented since 2009 by Labour, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael politicians accounts for a significant chunk of welfare expenses since it has raised unemployment and lowered people’s incomes.
Third, corporate welfare is huge in this country. Think of our ultra-low 12.5% corporate tax rate. Think of the €64 billion we injected in the banks to bail them out. Or the €365 billion bank guarantee we provided to banks. When is the police going to investigate that with the same amount of detail as for welfare claimants?”
From thejournal.ie yesterday:
“AN EX-ANGLO Irish Bank official jailed for conspiring to conceal bank accounts from the Revenue Commissioners has walked free from jail following a successful sentence appeal.
Aoife Maguire (62), of Rothe Abbey, South Circular Road, Kilmainham, Dublin had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to conspiring to delete bank accounts from the bank’s internal system and conspiring to defraud the Revenue Commissioners on dates in 2003 and 2004.
Following a two month trial and nearly seven hours of deliberations, Maguire along with two co-accused were found guilty by a jury and she was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment by Judge Patrick McCartan on 31 July.
The Court of Appeal quashed her original sentence, substituted a new nine month sentence in its place and suspended any unserved portion.
Giving judgment, Mr Justice George Birmingham said this was a serious offence.
The Governor of the Dochas women’s prison stated that Maguire had participated in all activities and attended classes in history, woodwork, knitting, photography, music appreciation and was studying Italian.
Her teachers found her to be an excellent student. She got on really well in prison, was extremely undemanding and helped others where possible. She also regularly assisted women who were nervous of being in prison for the first time, the court heard.
Mr Justice Birmingham, who sat with Mr Justice Garrett Sheehan and Mr Justice Alan Mahon, quashed her original sentence, substituted in its place a term of nine months and suspended any unserved portion.
There were audible expressions of relief from about a dozen of Maguire’s supporters in court as the sentence was delivered. One person said “she’s out”.”
Studying Italian? Bless…