Saturday 20 January 2018

EU auditor Desmond dismisses beef tribunal report as sloppy


THE beef tribunal report was ``poorly formulated'' and ``a sloppy piece of work'', Ireland's recently retired representative at the European Court of Auditors, Barry Desmond has said.

``I could never fathom why Justice Liam Hamilton's report was such a sloppy piece of work,'' he says in his memoirs to be published next week. ``One had to search for definitive conclusions. The punches did not seem to land,'' he said.

Desmond, a coalition Minister for Health and Labour Party deputy, was a central figure in bringing allegations of malpractice in the Larry Goodman-controlled beef exporting business, Goodman International, before the Dáil.

But he is scathing about Judge Hamilton's conclusions or lack of them. ``I recall Dick Spring's adamant assurance to the Labour negotiators (during talks to form the Fianna Fáil/Labour coalition) that he would walk away if Albert (Reynolds) did not give an emphatic commitment to implement the expected recommendations.

``Unfortunately, Liam Hamilton's report was poorly formulated and Albert blew himself out of the Taoiseach's office by his inept response to the report and his utter failure to appreciate the position of the Tanáiste.''

Mr Hamilton was unavailable for comment yesterday. He is in hospital recovering from surgery.

Mr Desmond has also launched an astonishing attack on his former Labour Party colleague, the late Dr Noel Browne, accusing him of ``shamefully'' destroying records in the Department of Health to bolster his own political image.

Desmond says that Noel Browne, a political icon for many, fostered divisions in Irish politics and ``led young political radicals on his ego merry-go-round''.

``Noel Browne stated on many occasions that he initiated the TB eradication programme. I swallowed this myth until I became Minister for Health in 1982 and carefully checked the limited surviving records of that period. That data was sparse because in his memoirs, Browne shamefully records that following his resignation and before he left the Custom House he ensured that `all documents in our files likely to be used or misused against us were destroyed'. This was an outrageous act by Browne.''

But, says Desmond, surviving records show that an action plan had been drawn up by Dr James Deeny, chief medical officer of the Department, and many TB hospitals had been built.

``The truth behind Browne's elaborate claim is that Minister Dr Jim Ryan had already drafted and enacted the TB legislation and financial provisions. Dr James Deeny, in fact, planned the adoption by government of the sanatoria programme. Dr Browne gave it a final push, no more and no less.''

In his controversial memoir Finally and In Conclusion, which will be published this week, Barry Desmond describes Noel Browne as having a ``semi-persecuted presence'' and says that he was ``quite incapable of consistent loyalty to the democratically elected executive of any of the parties he joined.''

Desmond says that Browne's own memoir, Against the Tide, was ``a poisonous denigration of some 90 persons he had come across in his career''.

He also lays the blame for the collapse of the now infamous Mother and Child Scheme with Browne, saying he missed 80 of the 261 cabinet meetings held during his term as Minister for Health.

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