Saturday 16 November 2019

PAC shuts down its probe into Ansbacher allegations

Revenue chairperson Josephine Feehily had denied a number of the claims made in the dossier
Revenue chairperson Josephine Feehily had denied a number of the claims made in the dossier
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The civil servant behind the Ansbacher dossier could be open to legal action, after the Dáil's spending watchdog accepted legal advice that allegations he made about senior politicians were not covered by whistleblower legislation.

The Public Accounts Committee decided not to call Department of Jobs official Gerard Ryan as a witness, after he requested to give evidence to the committee in private.

He was seeking a similar arrangement to that afforded to garda whistleblower Maurice McCabe when he gave evidence about the abuse of the penalty points system last year.

However, the committee yesterday decided against calling him after taking soundings from the Oireachtas legal advice section.

Mr Ryan sought to use new whistleblower legislation - which allows people who highlight what they believe to be wrongdoing to do so without fear of legal repercussions - when he gave the dossier to members of the committee last November.

However, the Oireachtas parliamentary legal advice office advised that Mr Ryan's disclosure was not covered by the terms of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, because he was deemed to be an investigator.

Mr Ryan had acted as an authorised officer inquiring into the Ansbacher affair between 1998 and 2004, when his investigation was wound up by the then-Enterprise Minister Mary Harney.

Various sources told the Irish Independent that a number of former politicians named in the dossier were now considering legal action, including defamation proceedings. All of these politician deny ever holding Ansbacher accounts.

At a private session, the committee agreed not to call Mr Ryan or to seek a written submission from him. It also decided that its investigation of issues raised by Mr Ryan's dossier was now at an end.

Two members of the committee, Independent TD Shane Ross and Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald, dissented from the decision not to call Mr Ryan.

Mr Ryan had been seeking to respond to evidence given last month by Revenue Commissioners chairperson Josephine Feehily, who denied a number of allegations he made in the dossier.

However, Ms Feehily insisted at the hearing that all leads generated by Mr Ryan were fully investigated.

She also said she had never experienced any political interference in the work of Revenue.

Irish Independent

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