Wednesday 24 January 2018

Do ministers set up tribunals to put off making decisions?

If tribunal findings can just be thrown out years later, it casts doubt on whether we should foot the bill for them at all, writes Eilis O'Hanlon

Sergeant Maurice McCabe. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire
Sergeant Maurice McCabe. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Eilis O'Hanlon

It's been more than 14 years since the earliest interim reports of what was then known as the Flood Tribunal were published. In the High Court last Thursday, the tribunal was forced to admit that its findings against two men back then were "unlawful" and would now be quashed.

At issue was the reliability of the so-called Tribunal of Inquiry into Certain Planning Matters and Payments' star witness James Gogarty, whose testimony was often the sole evidence against particular individuals. The tribunal, it has now been revealed, suppressed material that would have cast doubt on his credibility, and has also been accused by those affected of having "encouraged" Gogarty to make damaging statements about people that were not even relevant to the case.

This whole turn of events is extraordinary. The Mahon Tribunal, as it subsequently became known, was the longest, most expensive public inquiry in Ireland's history, with costs estimated at upwards of a quarter of a billion euro.

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