The report of the Mahon Tribunal is extremely serious for all who care about public life in Ireland. The report has wide implications for different parties, groups and individuals. I am very clear about those implications which relate to Fianna Fáil and those members of the party who betrayed the privilege and responsibility of holding public office.
While nearly all of the events dealt with in the report occurred 20 years ago they are still important and must be addressed. I am determined that my party respond honestly and without hesitation to all the issues and responsibilities arising for us from this document.
Having met with and consulted with the Fianna Fáil officer board, and after giving the principal findings of the Mahon report due consideration, it was agreed that a special meeting of the Fianna Fáil National Executive should be called next Friday 30th March at which a number of specific proposals will be tabled to ensure swift and decisive action by the party in a number of areas.
I now wish to outline my response to the report.
(i) Fianna Fáil Councillors
The planning process in Dublin was, as previously described by one of my colleagues, a debased currency. As Judge Mahon notes in his report, that debasement was not caused solely by the councillors of any one party. It is up to each party to respond appropriately. Those Fianna Fáil councillors identified as taking corrupt payments for making planning decisions not only debased the planning process, they also debased our party and helped undermine public trust in local politics. I condemn their actions unreservedly.
It is clear from the report of the Tribunal that there are grounds to consider the expulsion of a number of individuals who remain members of the party. These are GV Wright, Finbar Hanrahan and Don Lydon. None are still public representatives, but their conduct was unbecoming a member of Fianna Fáil and consequently I am proposing motions of expulsion against those who remain members of the party and against whom negative findings have been made in this report. We are writing to these members informing them of this decision.
(ii) Padraig Flynn
The Report has found that a former Minister, Padraig Flynn, accepted for himself a sum of IR£50,000 that was handed over to him in his ministerial office by the developer Tom Gilmartin. It was wholly inappropriate for any person to give a Minister a payment of IR£50,000 (€63,500), irrespective of how it was described. It is reprehensible that Padraig Flynn should have taken it for his own use. That behaviour on his part was a disgrace and betrayed the trust that the Irish electorate had placed in him.
I, together with the party’s officers with whom I have met and consulted, believe the conduct of Padraig Flynn constitutes conduct unbecoming a member of Fianna Fáil. Accordingly, I will propose a motion to expel him as a member of Fianna Fáil at the special meeting of National Executive. We are writing to Mr Flynn to inform him of this decision.
(iii) Bertie Ahern
Although the central allegation against Bertie Ahern was not sustained, the evidence confirmed by the Tribunal and its comments relating to him are extremely serious. The receipt by a senior office holder of large amounts of money which a sworn Tribunal has held is of unclear origins and the failure to give any credible explanation requires an unequivocal response. No matter how high a member rises within the party and in elected office, they still carry a duty of trust for the members of Fianna Fáil and for the people who elected them.
The report records that Bertie Ahern gave a significant amount of evidence to the Tribunal which, in the opinion of the Tribunal, was untrue.
It is a matter of profound personal and professional regret to see confirmed in this Report the extent to which Bertie Ahern fell short of the standard of personal behaviour which is expected of the holders of high office. In the manner in which he received this money while holding high office and in the giving of rejected evidence to a sworn tribunal Bertie Ahern betrayed the trust placed in him by this country and this party.
I, together with the party’s officers with whom I have met and consulted, believe the conduct of Bertie Ahern as outlined in the evidence made public through the Tribunal and the findings of the Tribunal constitute conduct unbecoming a member of Fianna Fáil. Accordingly, I will propose a motion to expel him as a member of Fianna Fáil at the special meeting of National Executive. We are writing to Mr Ahern to inform him of this decision.
(iv) Fianna Fáil organisation in Dublin Central
The Officer Board decided to recommend to the Árd Comhairle that there should be a root and branch review of the organisation in Dublin Central.
If this recommendation is passed, all functions performed by officers of that branch of the organisation will be transferred with immediate effect to the General Secretary. I am also going to seek that all assets held by or on behalf of that party organisation be transferred into the names of the General Secretary and Treasurers to act as trustees thereof, pending the establishment of a renewed Dublin Central organisation.
I wish to stress that this decision is not intended as a reflection on the party’s members in the constituency but it is an essential part in re-establishing trust in the handling of the party’s affairs.
Separately to the above, the Tribunal refers in its introduction to criticism of its work and what it believes was an attempt to “collapse” its investigations. This is not a finding of the Tribunal and no specifics whatsoever are presented in relation to it. The Tribunal did not put this point to individuals. I take this comment seriously but the Report provides no details upon which a response can be given. It is to be assumed that the Tribunal does not view all criticism of its work, of which there was much from many sources including the media and the judiciary, as unacceptable.
The effort of Fine Gael in particular to attack individuals on the basis of this comment in the Report’s introduction is regrettable but unsurprising.
The Fianna Fáil party I lead will not tolerate or fail to condemn abuse of public office – whether in our own party or, as both this report and the Moriarty Report have revealed, in others. I want to lead a party of integrity that will not permit any member to engage in behaviour that debases our primary duty which is to serve the Irish people.
Much of the activity detailed in this report has been tightly controlled or banned for many years, primarily through legislation introduced by Fianna Fáil. However there are still some actions which are required.
Since I became leader of Fianna Fáil, I have brought forward measures that I believe will make any repeat of such abuses impossible. As a party we have published legislation to implement the recommendations of the Moriarty Report. We will take the same approach to the recommendations made by Judge Mahon and his colleagues. We are also calling for the immediate reinstatement of the independent inquiry into more recent planning matters in five counties which was disbanded by the Fine Gael/Labour government last June.
Unlike Fine Gael’s response to the Moriarty report, neither I nor my party will seek to hide from the consequences of the Mahon report.
I understand the anger and disappointment that many people will feel when reading the Tribunal’s report. I share it. I want to reassure them that my party is fully committed to showing that there is no tolerance for the activities detailed in the Mahon report.