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…
Methinks an article designed to deflect attention from the Slab Murphy trial. We will I am sure hear a lot of whataboutery from Gerry about the bankers in the next few weeks. But then who will pay for his holiday homer and private medicine?
I remember some years back when they started paying social welfare payments out of Garda stations instead of dole offices, the number of claimants declined by 35%: which seems to suggest there are a lot of fraudulent claimants out there.
well when it comes to deflection, the big business controlled mainstream media are in a league of their own,blogs like this one are more honest than any print media i can think of,indeed the so called journalists who work in independent group are really a sight to behold.
0.2% is hardly a “lot”, John. No one is denying the need for firm action in that area. We’ve all heard or witnessed welfare fraud at first-hand, especially since 2009. Normally it is desperate people doing desperate things at a time of extraordinary levels of unemployment, poverty and mass emigration. Organised criminal frauds numbering in the tens or hundreds of thousands of euros are a tiny percentage of a tiny percentage. I would question the timing of Tom Murphy’s case, and a trial in a glorified counter-insurgency court. However I have no doubt that he was engaged in the tax fraud mentioned in the conviction, 1996-2004, and at the tail-end of the northern conflict. Equally I have no doubt that neither he nor his family have personally profited from his actions.
If there’s extraordinary level of unemployment and poverty then how come that thousands of foreigners without any kind of contacts in Ireland are able to find work and housing before even arriving here?
If you can’t live better than an immigrant from the other side of Europe who has just stepped out of a plane and knows nobody in Ireland and receives absolutely no assistance of the Irish govt. (that’s me in 2013) then maybe you should think long and hard about your choices in life.
Precisely. The unemp[loyed do a hell of a lot better in Ireland than they do in the UK. 200 Euros per week is something a lot of folks in E Europe have to work six days a week for.
A glorified counter insurgency court….hmm. I think we all know that if there was a jury, they’d be threatened with having a spike driven through their head same as Eamon Collins.
My ftaher was one of seven kids, my mother one of fourteen. Both grew up in conditions which, if they were discovered on any council estate in Dublintoday would have had them taken into care. Both considered themselves midle class in comparison with most of the families around them. Out of my 19 uncles andaunts, 18 managed to avoid a criminal record.
All small potatoes compared to the U.S., they are learning quickly though… Funny that of all people, Joan Burton is going after welfare fraudsters. Where did those water bonuses go, again? I guess it is all about definitions. That’s why the tax payer funded the banks not too long ago.
Burton is one of the few politicians who genuinely enrages me. Her utter lack of political principle, her clear desire for power for power’s sake, make me sick to the stomach. The Labour Party in Ireland is fit for nothing but the rubbish-heap of history.