Wednesday 19 September 2018

Mahon Tribunal is 'discredited' by judges, says PAC chairman

Sean Fleming TD
Sean Fleming TD
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

The Mahon Tribunal, which investigated corruption in the planning process, is "the most discredited tribunal" by judges, according to the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.

Fianna Fáil TD Seán Fleming made the statement in response to criticism of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's decision to walk out of a TV interview when asked about its findings.

Willie O'Dea, who served as a minister under Mr Ahern, also defended his walkout saying it can "lead to a certain frustration" when journalists arrange interviews for a specific topic but then start "asking about all sorts of other things".

The inquiry did not find the former Taoiseach to be corrupt but said much of the explanation provided by Mr Ahern as to the source of "substantial funds" were "untrue". Mr Ahern has always maintained he did nothing wrong, citing "dig-outs" from friends to help him cover legal bills after his divorce as an income stream.

In recent days, he told a German television programme called 'Conflict Zone' that he was "happy with [his] evidence" and was "quite happy I cleared my name". But when the journalist continued to question him about his "mixed fortunes" in politics, Mr Ahern removed his microphone and abruptly ended the interview.

He left the party following the Mahon Tribunal's report in 2012 but on Sunday he received a round of applause from Fianna Fáil supporters at the annual 1916 commemorations in Arbour Hill after Micheál Martin said the Northern Ireland peace deal would have been "impossible" without his dedication.

Asked on Kildare FM whether Fianna Fáil was out of touch with the public mood, Mr Fleming went on the offensive.

He said the "truthful but not popular" view was many of the tribunal's findings had been overturned by the courts.

"The Mahon Tribunal, as recently as two months ago, every single time a person against whom a finding was made by that tribunal went to the High Court, the tribunal's findings were actually overturned by the courts and thrown out," he said.

"It is the most discredited tribunal in terms of other members of the judiciary. Any time they are asked to make an adjudication on the tribunal, every single time they throw out the judgment."

Some findings against former Fianna Fáil minister Ray Burke and businessman Des Richardson have been quashed following legal proceedings. The Laois TD said he watched the clip from German TV and felt the interviewer was unfair to Mr Ahern.

"It was very clever by the guy but if he was interested in discussing the Good Friday Agreement, he should have stuck to that agenda. That's my view on it," he said.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the tribunal, Mr Justice Alan Mahon, was yesterday selected by Cabinet to be the new ombudsman for the Defence Forces.

Mr Justice Mahon was recommended following an open competition run by the Public Appointments Service. He will be resigning as a judge of the Court of Appeal to take up the position, which is a non-judicial position.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section