Political Corruption in Ireland 1922-2010, A Crooked Harp?

Political Corruption in Ireland 1922-2010, A Crooked Harp? Manchester University Press, 2012

This book, now on its third print run was the second biggest selling book for Manchester University Press in 2012. It maps the decline in standards since the inauguration of Irish independence in 1922, to the loss of Irish economic sovereignty in 2010. It argues that the definition of corruption is an evolving one. As the nature of the state changes, so too does the type of corruption.

New evidence is presented on the early institutional development of the state. Irish public life was motivated by an ethos which rejected patronage. Original research provides fresh insights into how the policies of economic protectionalism and discretionary decision-making led to eight Tribunal inquires.

The emergence of state capture within political decision-making is examined by analyzing political favoritism towards the beef industry. The degree to which unorthodox links between political donations impacted on policy choices which exacerbated the depth of Ireland’s economic collapse is considered. This book will appeal to members of the public and students interested in Irish history and politics, corruption theory, governance, public policy, and political financing.

Preview of first chapter here

Sunday Independent extracts here.


Order it from:

Kenny’s Bookshop (free postage)

Easons and Waterstones

Amazon (also available on Kindle for UK customers and Irish or other customers)



Financial Times by David Gardner – ‘Seeds of the Irish crisis were sown long ago’ 

Times Literary Supplement by Patrick Geoghegan – ‘Political Corruption in Ireland’

Studies by Prof Tom Garvin – ‘A Crooked Harp?’

Irish Examiner by Colette Browne – ‘Republican ideals crumble to dust’ 

Irish Times by Fintan O’Toole –  ‘State of corruption: power and impunity’ 

Irish Independent (also Belfast Telegraph) by Stephen O’Byrnes – Political Corruption in Ireland’

Sunday Independent by Michael McDowell – ‘Political Corruption in Ireland 1922-2010, A Crooked Harp’ 

Sunday Times by Gerard Howlin – Why mud won’t always stick’ (paywall)

Sunday Business Post by Patrick Freyne – ‘A system of checks and balances’ (paywall)

The Irish Review of Community Economic Development Law & Policy by Angelina Cox – ‘Book Review’

Irish Political Studies by Frank Litton – ‘Political Corruption in Ireland: A Crooked Harp’

The Phoenix Magazine – Phoenix

Village Magazine by Michael Smith – Crooked Harp

LSE Review of Books by Jason Brock – Book Review: A Crooked Harp?



Interview on RTE Today with Pat Kenny 

TV3 Vincent Browne panel discussion on book



Book launch 

The book was launched by Michael McDowell, former Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

Photographs of the launch at O’Connell House and flickr

Michael McDowell on RTE Today with Pat Kenny 

Irish Times, Mary Minihan, McDowell warns on dangers of oligarchs owning print media 

Irish Examiner, Paul O’Brien, Oligarchs on march, says McDowell

Irish Independent, Media not trophies for oligarchs, says McDowell

Trinity College Dublin, Trinity Political Scientist publishes book on political corruption

Michael McDowell’s speech published by thejournal.ie   

Sunday Independent, Liam Collins, Modern Battles and our Crooked History 

Sunday Independent, Ronald Quinlan, RTE denies dropping McDowell’s speech 



Chapter outline



1: Introduction
Towards a new definition
Towards a new definition – clientelism and brokerage
Towards a new definition – mediated corruption

2: Why so little corruption? 1900s-20s
Administrative legacies of British rule: conditions for Irish probity
Context: ministers and the £4.9:6 civil war restaurant bill
Unsung heroes: A civil service obsession with probity

3: Setting standards: 1930s-40s
The Wicklow gold inquiry 1935
The Great Southern Railways Tribunal 1943
The Ward Tribunal 1946
The Locke Tribunal 1947

4: At a crossroads? 1950s-70s
The 1963 Planning Act and the 1974 Kenny Report
The 1968 High Court bribery case and 1975 Tully Tribunal
Response by the National Coalition to corruption allegations

5: Golden circles: 1980s-90s
The Beef Tribunal 1991-94: context
The Beef Tribunal: The five political decisions
The Beef Tribunal: A re-evaluation

6: The Tribunal Period: 1990s-2000s
The McCracken Tribunal 1997 and Moriarty Tribunal 1997-2011
The Flood / Mahon Tribunal 1997-
The Tribunal process: a balance sheet

7. Political funding and the legislative response 1980s-2010
Political funding 1980s
Political funding 1990s-2000s

8. Political corruption in Ireland 1922-2010
Political corruption in the twentieth century
Political corruption: Ireland in the new century
Three corruption variables?



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