John Morton was a 15th century Archbishop of Canterbury and subsequently Lord Chancellor to King Henry VII. Aside from being the Karl Rove of his day, the legacy he left is a little know paradox, one whose logic is a simple as it is deadly for those subjected to it.
One of the Chancellor key roles was the setting of and collecting of taxes from the nobles, a difficult enough job, as in its day there were no bank accounts, auditors or expensive software payroll system to establish wealth. Morton applied this brilliant formula to solve his dilemma and instructed his tax collectors;
“If the subject is seen to live frugally, tell him because he is clearly a money saver of great ability he can afford to give generously to the King. If, however, the subject lives a life of great extravagance, tell him he, too, can afford to give largely, the proof of his opulence being evident in his expenditure."
Morton and King Henry would tour the country with a two hundred entourage in tow. Turning up announced at the castles and manors of his elite expecting and reviving full bed and board for as along as they desired.
In the event that the unfortunate host dined the King, Morton and entourage with the best clarets, finest quail, most succulent pig and sweetest vegetables served by numerous trained and knowledgeable staff in well kept grounds with Persian silk and Egyptian cotton to sleep on, it was obvious to Morton that the host was a wealthy man who could easily afford to pay the exorbitant tax demand from the King.
If on the other hand the host kept a draughty damp abode, with drunken wenches for maids and food fit only for lowly peasants, it must have been the host’s frugal nature and so it was obvious to Morton that the host was a wealthy man who could easily afford to pay the exorbitant tax demand from the King.
Fast forward 500 years and we see the ludicrous paradox of Morton’s Fork still in use when it comes to republican activities. For example with the Northern Bank Robbery the strongest evidence that the IRA was behind it was the lack of evidence.
This dearth was in actual fact The Evidence to convict the IRA of the crime. Think again then of the sophistication of the Castlereagh Robbery as The Evidence pointing to IRA involvement.
The topsy turvy judicial system that republicans find themselves constantly means that the onus is on republicans or those thought to be republicans for them to prove their innocence.
In the very latest development we see that the brother of Niall Connolly (one of the Colombia 3), investigative journalist Frank Connolly has been accused of visiting Colombia in the company of a senior IRA man in 2001. The accusations unveiled under privilege by Mc Dowell have caused a stink in Dublin, with a major scandal bubbling under.
The reaction by many is that although Mc Dowell has abused the rights of a citizen and abused his role as Minister of Justice it is now up to Connolly to prove his innocence.
The latest in this is the admission by the Minister that he released confidential documents to the media, ironic when you consider he wanted to bring in a law preventing Garda from doing the same!
This story is a grower.