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Mary Harney rejects tax probe claims as Mary-Lou McDonald accused of Dail 'stunt'

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Mary Harney

Mary Harney

Ray McSharry.

Ray McSharry.

Des O'Malley

Des O'Malley

Mary Harney and, inset, Mary Lous McDonald and Des O'Malley

Mary Harney and, inset, Mary Lous McDonald and Des O'Malley

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Mary Harney

FORMER Tanaiste Mary Harney has denied that she closed down the Ansbacher inquiry after it linked her former Progressive Democrat party leader, Des O'Malley, to the tax evasion probe.

A host of well-known former government ministers have said they never held Ansbacher accounts after their names were read out in the Dail by Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald in relation to the accounts set up in the 1970s.

Ms McDonald used Dail privilege to name six politicians in total as being implicated in the Ansbacher accounts scandal.

She also alleged that former Progressive Democrat leader Mary Harney stopped an off-shore tax probe because the name of her former party leader, Des O'Malley, was allegeldy linked to the probe.

The inquiry into Ansbacher accounts was set up under authorised officer Gerard Ryan, a Dept of Enterprise Civil Servant-turned whistleblower.

Speaking last night on RTE, Ms Harney said that she was concerned about the slow progress of his investigation from 2001. She said she asked Mr Ryan to complete it in 2004 because she faced a reshuffle in Bertie Ahern's coalition government and wanted the report finalised.

Others named by Ms McDonald in the Dail were former EU Commissioners, Ray MacSharry and Maire Geoghegan Quinn; former Fine Gael Finance Minister Richie Ryan; former Fianna Fail Justice Minister Gerry Collins; and an "S Barrett".

Ms McDonald challenged the Taoiseach to explain the lack of action on serious allegations made about the alleged mishandling of the so-called Ansbacher Accounts.

The SF deputy leader claimed the probe was shut down in 2004 by Mary Harney, who was the minister responsible and also leader of the Progressive Democrats.

denied

The five former ministers named by Ms McDonald each denied ever holding Ansbacher accounts, which were used by hundreds of Irish people to avoid tax from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s.

Former Fianna Fail ministers Ray MacSharry, Gerard Collins and Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, and ex-Fine Gael minister Richie Ryan each said they never held Ansbacher accounts or accounts at Guinness & Mahon, the bank which was used to access the money.

The sixth politician, named by Ms McDonald as "S Barrett" is believed to be former Fianna Fail minister Sylvester Barrett, who died in 2002.

Des O'Malley said that while he had a legitimate Guinness & Mahon account, he never had an Ansbacher account and had been cleared of the dossier allegations by the Moriarty Tribunal.

Labour's Joe Costello called Ms McDonald's use of privilege a "Dail stunt" and questioned whether she should continue to represent Sinn Fein on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

"PAC has a remit to examine whether the systems and procedures for dealing with tax evasion were adequate to enable Revenue and the gardai to take the necessary actions to pursue any wrongdoing," Mr Costello said.

"It is damaging to the work of the committee for a member to name people mentioned in the dossier against whom nothing has been proved.

"Also, it undermines the work and trust of the committee whose members, including deputy McDonald, have agreed on a particular way forward.

"In such circumstances, Sinn Fein should consider whether Deputy McDonald is now a suitable person to continue to represent the party on the PAC," Mr Costello said.

hnew@herald.ie


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