It’s only a few years ago that Sean Quinn was Ireland’s richest man. Today he starts a nine week jail sentence. How the mighty have fallen.
Of course, it’s possible to argue that Mr. Quinn – along with the rest of the “mighty” who helped plunge Ireland into decades of crippling debt – hasn’t fallen nearly far enough. For years, it was impossible to switch on an Irish television without being assaulted by adverts for ‘Quinn Direct’, Sean Quinn’s insurance company and flagship of his business empire. These days… not so much.
All the same, despite his declaration of bankruptcy and his very public fall from grace – and despite the fact that nine weeks in prison is a bit more than just a slap on the wrist – Quinn’s punishment hardly seems sufficient given his part in our downfall. Because while nine weeks is indeed more than just a slap on the wrist, it’s not much more. And surely he deserves much more.
At least, morally speaking he does. Legally? Well, the best the court could do was hand out a custodial sentence for various charges of contempt of court. See Quinn’s real crimes aren’t actually “crimes”. That is – in a world driven into the abyss by a neoliberal ideology little short of psychotic – a shameful cabal of bankers, politicians, property developers and financiers can destroy the very fabric of our nation and yet still not be seen to have broken any laws. So we trip them up on technicalities and get to see them poke their heads briefly behind bars before emerging to a life of continuing luxury. And nor does Quinn’s version of “bankruptcy” amount to worse than a slap on the wrist either. By passing tens – if not hundreds – of millions of euros in assets to family members, despite owing billions to the Irish people, Quinn once again avails himself of a corrupt system set up specifically to ensure contemptible men like him always land on their feet.
Meanwhile the rest of us eye the forthcoming budget with concern as we wonder whether it’ll be the home heating or the grocery shopping budget that will need to be slashed this winter.