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Martin is not in a place to occupy the moral high ground

MICHEAL Martin was in an aggressive mood over the weekend. He took a dig at the Taoiseach, claiming it was "sinister" that Enda Kenny has never officially accepted the findings of the Moriarty Tribunal.

He also ruled out his former deputy Eamon O Cuiv's suggestion that Fianna Fail should form a coalition with Sinn Fein, pointing out that Gerry Adams has never apologised for the IRA's "barbarity".

All these criticisms may be valid, but unfortunately Martin is in no place to occupy the moral high ground. Almost six weeks since the Mahon Tribunal report was published, the FF leader has still not properly dealt with the corruption that is threatening to destroy his party's reputation forever. Sure, there has been plenty of hand-wringing and pious condemnation from the Cork Choirboy -- but he hasn't taken the legal action that might actually help to bring some of his old colleagues to justice.

The facts are simple. Developer Tom Gilmartin says that in 1989 he gave Padraig Flynn (below) a cheque for £50,000 that was intended for the party, although he left the name of the payee blank at Flynn's request.

As we all know by now, Pee actually used that money to buy a farm in Mayo for his wife, Dorothy -- causing Mahon to describe his usage of the payment as corrupt and dismiss Flynn's evidence as "astounding, incredible and untrue".


So why has Micheal Martin still not made an official complaint to the gardai about a large sum of cash that was apparently stolen from his party?.

However, this cop-out could have serious legal implications, because without an official complaint, the Criminal Assets Bureau's investigation will find it much more difficult to prove that Flynn obtained the money by deception or fraud.

In other words, Martin is adopting the old FF tactic of shutting his eyes and hoping that the whole embarrassing mess will just go away.

We don't yet know if the DPP or CAB will be able to bring a successful prosecution against Flynn.

We do know that the public wants to see the book thrown at him -- and if Martin is failing to help the legal authorities in any way possible, we are entitled to know the reason why.

Sadly, there is a pattern of behaviour here.

Last Friday, the former FF junior minister Ned O'Keffee was arrested on suspicion of making false expense claims for his mobile phone (he was released without charge).

Once again, the official complaint was not made by FF or even a TD from any other party -- it had to come from a journalist instead.

Micheal Martin is clearly an honest man.

What he fails to understand, however, is the depth of the public's anger when they see former politicians tell blatant lies and then walk away without losing anything except their reputations.

Bertie Ahern, Pee Flynn and other FF luminaries may have chosen to quit the party before they were pushed, but with six-figure pensions to cushion the pain, their ghosts are set to haunt Martin's dreams for a long time to come.

When challenged about Pee Flynn's legal position over the weekend, Martin feebly protested: "I would have to say it's a payment we would not be comfortable dealing with. There's a lot of discomfort about it in the party."

Well, he can say that again. While helping to prosecute his old pals may be a painful business, there is no excuse to sit on his hands, because this could be the only way to persuade voters that they should even think about entrusting FF with power again.

Micheal Martin has recently started dropping hints that he sees himself as just a caretaker leader.

If he doesn't have the stomach for cleaning out the manure from his party's stables, it may soon be time for him to hand over to a new broom.