Allow me to be a little parochial, for a moment


The Irish banking crisis may be a little parochial, but the Irish government’s reluctance to act immediately on the EU money laundering directive is indicative of the relations between Brussels and the national parliament. Let’s take a recent concrete example of the 2015 anti-money laundering directive, which has lain dormant in the corridors of the Irish parliament with very little interest to turn it into national law. The EU is now threatening legal action unless the government takes action immediately.

It was agreed in 2015 that the full implementation of this new directive into local law was to be before 26 June 2017. This gave a two year window for national states to implement this anti-money laundering directive on which there is general agreement among the public.

 This EU directive could help to improve transparency and prevent tax avoidance as well as strengthening existing rules opposing money laundering and terrorism financing, according to the European Commission. This is about an environment where banks are dealing with large sums of money. It is about ‘white collar’ crime. But Ireland, like 17 other countries, is dragging its feet in its implementation. One suspicion is that the real problem is the government’s close relationship to the banks (which is extraordinary given our recent history), along with our astronomically high level of national debt which the banks greatly contributed to.

Two weeks ago, a Department of Justice spokesman gave the following excuse “This is a complex piece of legislation, which has required consultation with and input from various Government departments and agencies”. It is their official excuse. The bankers, on their side, claimed they would have to hire new staff and have them trained to implement any such possible legislation, and apparently they haven’t bothered even to begin the recruitment of staff.  There are many other EU directives, from banking to water management which lie in a limbo of non compliance. But why is the Irish government so reluctant to implement EU directives within the stated periods?

This week everything has changed as the EU prepare to initiate infringement proceedings against the Irish government. Suddenly the government and the banks have woken up. The government is promising to introduce a bill into Parliament within weeks; the banks have likewise said they are actively recruiting new staff. Politicians are often at the behest of interest groups and prefer to delay or ignore EU directives accordingly. This often goes on, unknown to the electorate.

European parliament members in many countries, including Ireland, do not generally communicate well with the public, be it the man in the street or local media. Normally the public rely on official publications which few actually read or even know about. Occasionally, the media will comment.

This lack of communication with the general public has to change if we don’t want the public losing interest in the European venture.

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