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Martin tells Kenny: refer Lowry tapes to Justice Moriarty

LEADER of the opposition Micheal Martin has told Taoiseach Enda Kenny he should refer the Lowry tapes to Justice Moriarty, the former chairman of the Moriarty tribunal, in order to allow the judge make a decision on whether the tapes merit further investigation.

The demand will put further pressure on a Taoiseach whose handling of the Moriarty tribunal fallout has at best been erratic.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent the Fianna Fail leader said: "The tribunal is still sitting, going through costs. It is not beyond the capacity of the Dail to give the judge an opportunity to assess the material."

Mr Martin said: "I would have thought the Dail would have an interest in finding out if a tribunal, established by the Dail itself, was misled.''

He added: "It is surely a matter of simple basic respect to the judge, who has served the State with such diligence, that he be allowed the opportunity, should he so desire, as to whether this matter requires further investigation.''

Mr Martin stressed that he was not asking for the entire tribunal to be re-opened.

Instead he said: "The judge should be asked to assess the evidence, he is acquainted with the material, and report to the Dail on whether the issue merits being re-opened.''

Mr Martin also expressed concern over a real "conflict of interest'' on these matters which will arise in future court cases about the awarding of the licence between a State which having originally accepted the Moriarty report will be denying that any acts of corruption took place.

The Fianna Fail leader also slammed the length of time it has taken the State to make any decision as to whether a garda investigation of the Moriarty tribunal report's findings is warranted.

Two years after the publication of the report, which was referred to the gardai and the DPP, a decision has not yet been taken as to whether a garda investigation into its contents should begin.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Mr Martin said "two years is far too long'' but added this was part of the same process where "it took the Taoiseach too long to accept Moriarty until it was dragged out of him in Letterkenny''.

In a significant move, Mr Martin ruled out the possibility of a future Fianna Fail/Sinn Fein coalition.

Analysis, Page 12

Though Mr Martin went to some pains to claim "we are focused on issues not power right now'', in a cutting analysis of Sinn Fein the FF leader said it was "my personal view that Sinn Fein have still not fully embraced the democratic process".

This was epitomised by the party's ongoing fondness for "intimidation, the manner in which they picket legitimate politicians'' and the ongoing problematic relationship with the PSNI.

The FF leader also claimed that SF economic policies would "crush the small to medium-size small business sector''.

In contrast, responding to the query as to whether Labour values were Fianna Fail values, the FF leader sent out positive signals in the direction of a Fianna Fail/ Labour coalition.

However, Mr Martin made a significant differentiation between "old Labour who shared the same working class trade union base as we do'' and the current Labour leadership that "do not appear to be in touch with the issues in the manner of a Tommy Broughan or a Roisin Shortall''.

He added that "the way Labour's higher echelon turned their backs on Roisin Shortall will come to be seen as a defining moment for this government. The politics looked appalling.''

In a reference to the differing strands of Labour, Mr Martin claimed "old Labour had been isolated and damaged by the merger'' with Democratic Left where "the new pseudo-liberal class that came into Labour took over the party and look down on the working class''. However, the Fianna Fail leader was far more supportive of Joan Burton's claim that we have reached the limits of austerity.

Mr Martin noted that "the fixation by Fine Gael, by Gilmore, and Rabbitte on austerity is incorrect''.

The opposition leader added: "I think we have reached the limits of austerity.''

In a sharp attack on austerity he said: "The IMF are now saying hands up this thing is one dimensional.

"The German analysis is not correct. The one dimensional, get the public finances right position is incorrect and the idea that Europe, for example, would cut its budget in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression is madness.''

But he also warned that "what we need to resolve this is a Marshall plan. We need a European response".

Mr Martin also attempted to reposition Fianna Fail as the party closest to the concerns of the average voter.

He said: "I have been on the doorsteps for one-and-a-half years and you see it, the quiet fear in people's faces, not just those who are in mortgage arrears but side by side with those people who are managing to just pay the mortgage but who have damn all else.''

And he slammed the political obsession with savings of €300m in Croke Park when, what politics has to concentrate on is the "lack of a grand plan to get the domestic economy going again''.

Mr Martin also made it clear that despite Fianna Fail's flickering revival there is no place at the top table for a return of the 'old guard'. He said: "We are committed to a new generation of politicians coming through, there is plenty of room for people to shine.''

He added that the Fianna Fail party would be prioritising new and predominantly female "young Local Area Representatives such as Lorraine Clifford, Lisa Chambers and Lisa Ryan''.

In a significant move, Mr Martin also expressed his support for attempts by independent deputies to secure greater speaking rights within the Dail.

It is believed a number of independent TDs such as Labour's Tommy Broughan and Ms Shortall are attempting to secure the right to set up a technical group that would have the right to question the Taoiseach and ministers.

Mr Martin, who has made real political reform a priority for his party said: "I would be in favour of anything that would broaden the capacity of TDs to hold governments to account.''

He added: "It is not good enough if we elect people to Dail Eireann that they cannot speak.''

Irish Independent