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The Word on the Week

Impunity

The ink was scarcely dry on the journalist’s article outlining a couple of cases where crimes had been committed with impunity when the news broke on Thursday of the collapse of the Planning corruption trial.

Following a Tribunal which took 12 years and a trial which lasted 4 weeks the chief witness for the prosecution became ill and is unlikely to be fit to resume his evidence. Ironically he is the only person to have gone to prison in the history of the rezoning-for-cash investigation.

The ineffectiveness of the law to bring to justice those involved in “white collar” crime is monumental.

The UK financial regulator, who has been working here to restore some creditability to the Irish banking system, remarked in his last major public appearance before taking up his next appointment in the UK that the current system is not working well. This must be the understatement of the year! It seems that there is no appetite amongst “white collar” workers to reform the existing structure which has preserved those involved in the culture of corruption with impunity.

The journalist whose article anticipated the collapse of the trial prescribed a “root-and-branch” inquiry into the law, the Garda and the Office of the DPP. In other words an overhaul of our justice system carried out by international experts in those fields. This prescription may fit the disease but the medicine most certainly will not be taken!

How have countries rid themselves of such maladies? Usually by revolution or Christian revival. Historically France chose the former and England the latter. The guillotine proved a difficult instrument to stop once it got going whereas the 18th century revival enabled change to be effected without bloodshed. Rather than looking for bribes those who had wronged others, those converted having themselves been forgiven by Christ, made restitution.

This was the reflex action of Zacchaeus following his encounter with Jesus, recorded by St Luke in Chapter 19 of his gospel. Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”

Changing a corrupt culture by a better justice system may seem at first sight to be the way to go but it does not get to the heart of the problem which is the problem of the human heart. In its fallen state it is biased towards sin. It needs to be transformed by the Holy Spirit’s action in revealing Christ’s redemptive work as being the exact prescription we need and to realise his death for sinners was for me personally. Change in a culture begins when change takes place in us, one at a time, then we will see Christ’s kingdom come but it has to start within us.