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Greens want 'economic treason' law

Aine Kerr - Irish Independent

THE Green Party wants to define "economic treason" in the Constitution to tackle white-collar crime, despite the phrase being commonly used to attack the Government.

The party wants to lay claim to the phrase used by its Senator Dan Boyle and provide for a tougher approach with white-collar crime and fraud.

The party believes an offence of "economic treason" should be introduced and applied to defined individuals working in financial institutions licensed by the State.

But the party doesn't appear to have given much thought to the fact that the phrase has been repeatedly used by the Labour Party to attack the Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore launched his most scathing attack on Mr Cowen in March when he accused him of "economic treason" -- a charge angrily rejected by the Taoiseach.

Mr Cowen claimed at the time he would never accuse another Irishman of what Mr Gilmore had accused him of.

In response to the recent December Budget, Sinn Fein also accused the Fianna Fail-Green Party Government of "economic treason".


The Green Party insists, however, that its bill will amend the Constitution to include economic treason.

Mr Boyle insisted that convictions would follow on foot of any decision, made knowingly, that resulted in "reputational damage" for the country, and also cover unacceptable economic loss or a loss of economic sovereignty. The offence would carry mandatory sentences and large fines.

One of the reasons that no action has been taken against bankers is that white collar crime and fraud is not properly defined, according to Mr Boyle.

The Green Party senator said "economic treason" should be applied to defined individuals working in financial institutions.

Fianna Fail's Michael McGrath last night claimed the Green Party's idea was a "good one in principle". He added that its definition would need the advice of the Attorney General to be legally robust but even so it may be a case of too little, too late.

"I doubt very much whether any such bill could apply retrospectively so in a sense this is closing the stable door after the horse has bolted," Mr McGrath said.

"However, we do need to examine legislation in this area to ensure there is a very strong deterrent in place against all forms of white collar crime."

But Mr Boyle claimed the party had made provisions to have the proposals implemented retrospectively.

He said the Irish people were justifiably confused and angry as to why nobody had been held accountable for the situation we were in today.

"We urgently need laws to prosecute white collar crime and fraud.

"The inability to bring to justice those whose self-interest and greed so undermined our national well-being, is something that must end -- and end soon," he said.

- ine Kerr Political Correspondent

Irish Independent