News Fionnan Sheahan

Thursday 2 October 2014

Reynolds tribunal and court battles were always fraught

Published 22/08/2014 | 02:30

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Bertie Ahern, Charlie Haughey, Albert Reynolds

ALBERT Reynolds's encounters with tribunals of inquiry and the courts were highly contentious aspects of his career.

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His engagement with the Beef Tribunal effectively caused the collapse of his first coalition and damaged relationships in his second government. There were questions over Mr Reynolds's actions as a minister in granting export credit insurance to the beef industry for exports to Iraq.

PD leader Des O'Malley was one of the primary accusers of his government colleague. But Mr Reynolds denied any wrongdoing, saying Mr O'Malley's testimony to the tribunal was "dishonest".

His failure to temper the remarks prompted a dispute, which led to the collapse of the Fianna Fail-PD coalition in November 1992.

The cloud hung over him until the Beef Tribunal reported during the term of the succeeding Fianna Fail-Labour Party coalition. Mr Reynolds' pre-empted the publication by spinning that he was "vindicated". Although there was little in the report to point the finger at Mr Reynolds, Labour were angry at the move, which damaged trust in the government.

After leaving office, Mr Reynolds sued 'The Sunday Times' after it infamously branded him a 'Gombeen Man'.

The High Court in London found in his favour but offered him just one penny in compensation.

Mr Reynolds later settled his libel action against the newspaper four weeks before a new hearing was due to start. The paper accepted Mr Reynolds did not behave in a corrupt manner and withdrew any suggestion that he did. While the terms of the settlement were not known, it was believed the legal costs ran to over Stg£1.5m.

The Mahon Tribunal heard unsubstantiated allegations in late 2007 about a sum of money being collected on a government trip to the US and an unscheduled stop in the Bahamas on the way home.

Mr Reynolds was excused from appearing to give evidence at the tribunal in July 2008 as he was medically unfit due to "significant cognitive impairment".

But the Mahon Tribunal report was critical of Mr Reynolds, as Taoiseach, for seeking a donation for Fianna Fail from property developer Owen O'Callaghan.

However, the tribunal said it did not find the payment to be corrupt but that Mr Reynolds had abused power.

The tribunal also criticised Mr Reynolds's failure to act on knowledge of a IR£50,000 donation to Fianna Fail minister Padraig Flynn from another developer, Tom Gilmartin.

export credit insurance to the beef industry for exports to Iraq. PD leader Des O'Malley was one of the primary accusers of his government colleague. But Mr Reynolds denied any wrongdoing, calling Mr O'Malley's testimony to the tribunal was "dishonest". His failure to temper the remarks prompted a dispute, which led to the collapse of the Fianna Fail-PD coalition in November 1992 and a general election.

The cloud hung over him until the Beef Tribunal reported during the term of the succeeding Fianna Fail-Labour Party coalition.

Mr Reynolds' pre-empted the publication by spinning that he was "vindicated". Although there was little in the report to point the finger at Mr Reynolds, Labour were angry at the move, which damaged trust in the government.

After leaving office, Mr Reynolds sued The Sunday Times newspaper after it infamously branded him a 'Gombeen Man'. The High Court in London found in his favour but offered him just one penny in compensation.

Mr Reynolds later settled his libel action against the newspaper four weeks before a new hearing was due to start. The paper accepted Mr Reynolds did not behave in a corrupt manner and withdrew any suggestion that he did. While the terms of the settlement were not known, it was believed the legal costs ran to over Stg£1.5m.

The Mahon Tribunal heard unsubstantiated allegations in late 2007 about a sum of money being collected on a government trip to the US and an unscheduled stop in the Bahamas on the way home.

Mr Reynolds was excused from appearing to give evidence at the Tribunal in July 2008 as he was medically unfit due to "significant cognitive impairment".

But the Mahon Tribunal report was critical of Mr Reynolds, as Taoiseach, for seeking a donation for Fianna Fail from property developer Owen O'Callaghan. However, the Mahon Tribunal said it did not find the payment to be corrupt but that Mr Reynolds had abused power. The Tribunal also criticised Mr Reynolds' failure to act on knowledge of a IR£50,000 donation to Fianna Fail minsiter Padraig Flynn from another developer, Tom Gilmartin.

Irish Independent

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