Sunday 21 January 2018

Lawyers, millions in fees and years of evidence... it must be a tribunal!

Some 15 investigations were under way between 2000 and 2009, writes Paul Melia

A garda on duty at the Morris Tribunal in Donegal town. Photo: Declan Doherty.
A garda on duty at the Morris Tribunal in Donegal town. Photo: Declan Doherty.
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

IT was a decade which saw more than a dozen probes undertaken into alleged corruption, abuse, incompetence and unsavoury practices in Irish public life.

No less than 15 tribunals, inquiries and commissions of investigations were begun or were under way between 2000 and 2009, which resulted in a sorry picture of how the State operated and how it treated its most vulnerable citizens.

The inquiries covered all aspects of public life, from political corruption to child abuse, and the medical profession to alleged garda corruption.

Many dealt with historic incidents, including the murder of innocents during the Troubles, while other uncovered practices which were still occurring when the inquiries began sitting.

On the medical profession, the Lindsay Tribunal examined the infection of haemophiliacs with HIV and Hepatitis C from contaminated blood products, setting out a litany of cost-cutting measures which resulted in poor-quality treatment being provided.

The Dunne Inquiry was established to examine organ retention from deceased children in the country's main paediatric hospitals. It was followed by a separate inquiry chaired by Dr Deirdre Madden, who concluded that a "doctor knows best" culture meant parents were never told that organs had been removed.

The Lourdes Inquiry found that disgraced surgeon Dr Michael Neary had performed unnecessary hysterectomies on women in his care in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda. He was struck off before the probe concluded.

There were three inquiries into child abuse. The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, known as the Ryan Report, was published in May 2009 and set out a litany of terrible wrongdoing against children, many placed by the State in institutions run by religious orders.

The Murphy Commission also investigated allegations of abuse in the Dublin archdiocese, while the Ferns Report, published in 2005, identified more than 100 allegations of abuse against 21 priests, adding that authorities did not report abuse.

An Garda Siochana was also investigated by inquiries.

The Morris Tribunal published a series of damning findings against the force, especially in Donegal, with Mr Justice Frederick Morris painting a picture of negligence in which officers were found to have planted weapons and ammunition.

The Barr Tribunal also investigated the fatal shooting of John Carthy at his home in Abbeylara, Co Longford in April 2000 following a two-day siege. It found critical errors were made by gardai, including a failure to plan for what to do in the event that the disturbed young man emerged from his house brandishing a weapon.

A number of probes into the Troubles were also undertaken, including the Barron Inquiry, which investigated the 1974 Dublin and Monaghan bombings, which killed 33 people.

The Smithwick Tribunal found evidence that unidentified members of An Garda Siochana colluded with the Provisional IRA in the murder of two senior RUC officers, Chief Superintendent Harry Breen and Superintendent Robert Buchanan, following a cross-border meeting at Dundalk Garda Station in 1989.

Allegations of unsavoury practices in political life began to be probed from the late 1990s.

The Moriarty Tribunal, established in 1997 to investigate alleged payments to former Fine Gael minister Michael Lowry and the late Taoiseach Charles Haughey, extended its probe to include the awarding of the country's second mobile phone licence to businessman Denis O'Brien in 1995.

It found "beyond doubt" that Mr Lowry provided information to the businessman which was of "significant value and assistance to him in securing the licence". Both Mr O'Brien and Mr Lowry rejected the inquiry's findings.

But perhaps the daddy of them all was the Mahon (formerly Flood) Tribunal into planning corruption in Dublin.

It found that corruption was endemic across all aspects of Irish political life, and sat for more than 900 days, heard from hundreds of witnesses and cost more than €250m -- although the final bill has not yet been decided.

It also found that former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was repeatedly unthruthful about the sources of €275,000 in his bank accounts. Former minister Ray Burke was found to have received corrupt payments, along with TD Liam Lawlor.

The cost of holding these inquiries was enormous, with dozens of barristers and legal experts becoming so-called "tribunal millionaires". This was partly because inquiries that had been due to last for defined periods of time ran much longer than expected.

Irish Independent

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