We put our trust in politicians and we expect them to know the difference between right and wrong, in particular on matters relevant to good governance that the layperson isn’t expected to have in depth knowledge of, after all that’s why we let experienced politicians run the country.
So perhaps I was a bit disappointed when Michael Martin and Eamon Ryan stood up to defend the leaking of a confidential document; on the Dail record they accepted Leo Varadkar’s apology, and decided that no harm was done. Meanwhile the opposition kick-started a criminal investigation and really made it clear that not all was ok with Leo’s actions (this Dail debate is summarised in the post The Big Deal).
I’m not a legal expert, so from the outset all I can say is that I don’t know if any law has been broken. I’ve read the article in Village Magazine that calls Leo a lawbreaker, I’ve listened to the Dail debates, and I’ve done my best to find more information on the story. All I know is that during ongoing negotiations the then Taoiseach decided to release a confidential document to a group that wasn’t a party to the talks. While there’s no evidence of financial favours there is a sense of close relationships and inner circles. Is this how all governments are run? Is it normal to court special interest groups while in negotiations with trade unions? It’s clearly not what should be done and whether illegal or not there should be less tolerance for such behaviour.
I’m not going to say Michael Martin and Eamon Ryan knew that leaking this document was illegal, and that they tried to pull the wool over our eyes, nor was I expecting them to perform some sort of character assassination on a partner of government, but I do expect them to have better moral judgement.
That’s why, if found guilty of wrong doing, it’s not only Leo Varadkar that will have to step down. If found guilty the whole leaky trinity will be in trouble, Leo Varadkar will have to step down, Michael Martin will have to step down, and Eamon Ryan will have to step down. This government will need to go back to the electorate if that happens and we will need to ask ourselves the question; when faced with an ethical dilemma do our politicians act the way we want them to, or do they hide below deck so they don’t rock the boat.