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Thursday 23 January 2020

Fianna Fail attacks on Mahon were disgraceful, says Kenny

Eimear Ni Bhraonain and Fionnan Sheahan

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny last night branded attacks by Fianna Fail ministers on the Mahon Tribunal as "disgraceful".

But Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin failed to accept responsibility for the attacks by his former cabinet and party colleagues on the tribunal.

Mr Martin denied he was part of any concerted effort by Fianna Fail to undermine the work of the tribunal.

He admitted comments about the tribunal by Willie O'Dea, who remains a member of the Fianna Fail frontbench, were "unwise".

When asked about the behaviour of former ministers in attacking the tribunal, Mr Kenny bluntly replied: "Disgraceful."

However, Mr Kenny would not be drawn on the tribunal deeming it "inappropriate" for Fine Gael TD Olivia Mitchell to accept a IR£500 donation from lobbyist Frank Dunlop.

"I referred the entire report to the Fine Gael internal disciplinary committee and they will look at the report insofar as any Fine Gael personnel are commented on," he said.

Confirming plans to expel former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern from Fianna Fail, the party leader Mr Martin said he originally believed the evidence.

"I believed what Bertie Ahern said at that time to the tribunal and I was wrong," he said.

"I was disappointed and I am disappointed in terms of the outcome of the tribunal. At the time I felt he was giving an account, I didn't understand it fully . . . I hadn't gone through the entirety of report. You're saying I should know what it took the tribunal 15 years to unravel," he insisted.

Mr Martin said he was personally disappointed that his mentor's accounts to the Mahon Tribunal were not accurate.

He defended himself from an accusation from Mr Ahern's brother, former Fianna Fail minister Noel Ahern, that he had rushed into a "macho" decision to expel Bertie.

"There's nothing macho about this. It's a very dark day for the party when you have to recommend the expulsion of a former leader," he said.

The Mahon Tribunal unleashed a devastating criticism of the previous Fianna Fail-led government after coming under "sustained and virulent attack" from a number of senior government ministers in an effort to undermine its work.

In their final report on the planning investigation, tribunal judges Alan Mahon, Gerald Keys and Mary Faherty hit back at the ministers who questioned their integrity during their investigation of Bertie Ahern's personal finances.

Mr Martin flatly denied he ever said anything to undermine the tribunal.

"I ask anyone to produce any comment that I in any shape or form ever attempted to undermine the integrity of the members of the tribunal or indeed the legality of the tribunal," he said.

However, he did accept comments from his former cabinet colleague were "unwise".

Mr O'Dea remains a member of Fianna Fail's frontbench under Mr Martin as enterprise spokesman.

In December 2008, during Mr Ahern's testimony, Mr O'Dea launched an attack on the tribunal's line of questioning.

"I'm waiting for the day the tribunal is going to go back to Bertie Ahern and question him about his First Communion money, whether he got it in notes or in coins, did he put it in a piggy bank or a real bank, or did he get a half crown from Owen O'Callaghan?" he said at the time.

Former Fianna Fail deputy leader Eamon O Cuiv said he felt betrayed by Mr Ahern in the wake of the Mahon Tribunal findings.

"It's not what you expect from a senior politician. To put it simply, I think it's clear that this was wrong," he said.

Meanwhile, speaking in Brussels, the Tanaiste said the "culture of corruption" uncovered was particular to Fianna Fail.

"All of the national political figures who have been found wanting in tribunals have been Fianna Fail, and people can draw their own conclusions after that," Eamon Gilmore said.

Irish Independent

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