Whenever there is a death of a prominent Fine Gael figure, RTE goes into overdrive in eulogy. The former Taoiseach, Liam Cosgrave, was presented as a man who saved the country from chaos. Now Peter Sutherland is being described as the most prominent Irishman of his generation.
Sutherland’s real legacy is terrible.
He began a legal career as a defender of the owners of Stardust nightclub where scores of young people lost their lives.
His links with Fine Gael allowed him to become an Attorney General and later an EU Commissioner.
Sutherland was a striking example of one of those figures who move effortlessly between the pinnacle of the political realm and the corporate world.
He did so because he was one of the most aggressive and active defenders of the wealthy.
His particular style was to present himself as a liberal internationalist. But he was an economic advisor to the Vatican and his internationalism was entirely designed to be at the service of multi-nationals.
Sutherland was chair of Allied Irish Bank between 1989 and 1993. This was at a time when the bank was running a major tax dodging scheme.
Bank managers encouraged individuals to give a non-Irish address so that they would avoid paying DIRT.
He then moved on to becoming a chair of Goldman Sachs, a company that specialises on getting its top people into the apparatus of various states.
This ‘vampire squid’ sets out to change rules so that financial corporations get more profits. Co-incidently, it won major contracts in Ireland for consultancy advice and, in more recent times, bought up swathes of NAMA property.
Sutherland was also chair of BP at a time when that company was convicted of numerous breaches of environmental regulation.
His major achievement was acting as lobbyist for powerful elite organisations such as the Bilderberg group or the European Roundtable of Industrialists.
These groupings worked on the inside track to open doors to full scale neoliberalism.
His crowning achievements were the creation of the World trade Organisation and the EU Single Market.
The former set up a special court composed of trade experts that could overrule democratic elected governments. Whenever a multi-national was aggrieved that it could not get access to markets because it was using child labour or was in breach of the environmental regulations, it went to the WTO for adjudication.
The EU Single Market set up rules on state aid that effectively prevented the expansion of public services and so created new opportunities for large corporations.
Peter Sutherland should be remembered as a fixer for the rich and powerful. We should ensure that people like him are driven out of all positions of influence in the future.
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