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I didn't callReynolds'corrupt', says Finlay

FORMER Labour Party chief of staff Fergus Finlay has denied reports that he was preparing to describe the late former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds as "irredeemably corrupt".

Reports in a Sunday newspaper suggested Mr Finlay (inset), who is now chief executive of Barnardos, was on standby to testify in a libel trial in 1996.

The report outlines how Mr Reynolds was preparing to sue The Sunday Times over an article entitled "Goodbye Gombeen Man".

The report said that according to an advance copy of Mr Finlay's statement, he was ready to describe Mr Reynolds as "irredeemably corrupt".

"I never believed he was 'irredeemably corrupt'," said Mr Finlay. "If somebody were irredeemably corrupt it would mean they were guilty of criminal acts and I never believed that of Albert Reynolds."

He said he had believed Mr Reynolds' proposed actions in trying to resolve a government crisis in November 1994 would have done irreparable damage to high offices of state.

Mr Reynolds technically won his 1996 case against the paper but was awarded only one penny for damage to his reputation.

The award was about to be subject to another trial in 2000 when it was announced the case had been settled, but the legal bill was IR£1.5m (€1.8m).

The article was published in the British editions of the paper and omitted from the Irish edition in November 1994, just after the Fianna Fail-Labour coalition fell.

The Sunday Independent said yesterday it could not relay Mr Finlay's witness statement comments in 1996 without risking a libel suit by Mr Reynolds.

A report was only possible now because of the former Taoiseach's death 11 days ago.