Wednesday, 27 January 1999
Dáil Éireann Debate
The Taoiseach: The way in which planning decisions are taken in a manner that may affect many people's lives is a matter of legitimate public concern. The people are entitled to the assurance that the public interest is paramount at all times and that such decisions are taken on legitimate grounds, having regard to employment, effects on the environment and other relevant considerations.
The Flood tribunal was established by the Dáil at the initiative of the Government and with the co-operation of all parties to investigate persistent and disturbing allegations of corruption in the planning process. Such allegations, if not addressed, gradually undermine trust in the impartiality of public administration and have a corrupting effect on the business climate and the way in which people view how they are governed. Competitiveness studies show that public integrity and honest administration favours business development, while, conversely, corruption tends to discourage it, so we have every interest, both moral and material, in the integrity of our public institutions.
I am particularly concerned that we in this House, whether in the pursuit of immediate political advantage or otherwise, do not undermine the integrity of the work of the tribunal, especially given the challenges and obstacles which it has already had to overcome to make progress on the task which we have assigned it. It  will have to go over, in a more systematic and balanced way, all that we are discussing today and much else besides, with all, not just a few of the relevant people.
Government members from every party have always been willing to discuss projects that have significant job potential with their promoters. Ten years ago, when unemployment ran to 18 per cent or more of the population and stood between 250,000 and 300,000, employment creation was the top national priority. I, as Minister for Labour, was a member of an employment task force and our job was to find, bring forward and encourage projects that would create sustainable employment. I, like other Ministers of all parties, would have held many meetings to discuss such projects.
While one always tries to be positive and encouraging, not all such projects on further examination prove to be viable. Some of them would not have been consistent with plans for the area or with public policy in relation, for example, to the size of shopping developments. In other cases, the conditions and incentives which developers might seek might not be feasible. In short, all construction projects have to satisfy certain planning and other criteria, if they are to get clearance to proceed.
Unfortunately, it seems it is as easy to develop conspiracy theories, usually ill-founded, about why some projects fail to get the go-ahead as it is about why in other cases they succeed. There should never be a basis for the belief that the outcome of a planning application for a project, large or small, depends in any way on the giving or, for that matter, the withholding of a financial contribution to an individual politician or a political party. The purpose of the tribunal is to establish whether there was ever any basis for such a belief and, if that should prove to be the case, to ensure it will never happen again in the future. Anyone in politics who demands or accepts bribes should not be in politics. The work of the tribunals will continue to have my full support and co-operation and that of the Government. I believe and act on the principle that any tribunal of inquiry should be entitled to have all relevant information, documentation and co-operation from me.
The position is that while Mr. Gilmartin, a property developer originally from Ireland but based in Britain, has, I understand, made a submission to the tribunal, he has continued to make allegations outside of it, with some references to me. Mr. Gilmartin made no financial contributions to me and I had no reason to believe last year that I had any relevant information concerning a meeting with him that would be of significance to the Flood tribunal. However, when a matter like this is suddenly given added political significance and acquires an unexpected prominence, I have always been frank, forthright and co-operative about it.
It is not always a simple task to check matters that may or may not have happened many years  ago. No one's memory is total or perfect, and it would be impossible without huge resources to keep records of every meeting or encounter in a busy political life. Nonetheless, even where there are gaps in memory, all of us will have a moral certainty about things that in particular situations we would or would not have done. I repeat that I am certain I did not ask Mr. Gilmartin in September 1989 or at any other time to make a financial contribution to Fianna Fáil or to me. It is not my way of doing business. I am not even clear from all the various statements attributed to him that that is what he is consistently alleging.
When this matter first appeared in print, there was no reference to me, nor, to date, has any allegation from Mr. Gilmartin been referred to me for comment by the tribunal. The Sunday Independent last week contained two claims: first, that I raised the question of him making a financial contribution to Fianna Fáil; then, either along with that or perhaps alternatively – it is not clear – after difficulties arose and Mr. Gilmartin had rung me about them, a city councillor, who subsequently arrived to meet him at my request, is alleged to have asked him if he had made a contribution to Fianna Fáil. Former Councillor Joe Burke has confirmed to me that he did meet Mr. Gilmartin but is quite adamant that he did not ask him for or about a contribution to Fianna Fáil, at my behest or otherwise.
Yesterday, on lunchtime radio, Mr. Charlie Bird claimed, after talking to Mr. Gilmartin, that Mr. Gilmartin rang me in September 1989 because some difficulty had cropped up, and, to use his words, I had asked him about a contribution of £50,000. That could not have happened unless he had brought it up in the first place as I would have had no knowledge otherwise about such a sum being given. If he had mentioned giving money, even quite a large sum of money, during the general election to the then party treasurer, Mr. Pádraig Flynn, I would have had no reason to doubt Mr. Flynn.
One thing I am adamant about is that I would not have asked Mr. Gilmartin for a contribution for Fianna Fáil, either directly or indirectly, as twice alleged in the Sunday Independent. The veracity of his various accounts and the statements attributed to him can only be assessed by the tribunal and not by this House. Anyone he makes reference to is entitled to give their side of history and also to question his accuser rigorously. It is not good enough for Members of this House to make heavily loaded political charges that rely mainly on hearsay and unsubstantiated allegations in the media which may have no basis in established fact.
Mr. Gilmartin will need to come and provide direct testimony to the tribunal, on which he can then be cross-examined by or on behalf of those he implicates. That is what he should do, in fairness to the tribunal and to those against whom he makes allegations.
 While the media plays a key role in bringing to light matters of concern that would otherwise not come under proper public scrutiny, leaks to the media are not adequate as a vehicle to prove the veracity of statements and allegations. Mr. Gilmartin's assertions are a case in point. They have not been adequately challenged or tested for substance or motive, and the media have even, I understand, been forced to ignore some of his statements and explanations because outside of the legal protection offered by the tribunal they might constitute a libel, if published.
I draw the attention of the House to some hostile political statements attributed to Mr. Gilmartin regarding the future of the Government and of individual members. On FM 104 yesterday at 4 p.m., Mr. Gilmartin was quoted as saying: “Even if Bertie Ahern survives this week, he won't survive what I have coming down the line for him”. I leave it for this House to decide whether this sort of threatening language against a democratically elected Taoiseach is something it would wish to condone or support. All Members of this House, any one of whom could be subject to unproven and damaging allegations made with a view to bringing about some ulterior political outcome, should be wary of coming to premature judgments on the credence or otherwise to be given them, in particular when an impartial tribunal has already been set up by the Oireachtas to establish the truth. This House today should not try to supplant the tribunal or try to pre-empt its hearings or its conclusions, however impatient Opposition parties may be to short-circuit the process. A rush to judgment outside the established framework of the tribunals would be wrong for many reasons.
The first Tribunals of Inquiry Act, 1921, was enacted to provide a mechanism whereby investigations of a political nature could be carried out by an independent tribunal far removed from Parliament, where the atmosphere of political charge and counter charge makes it very difficult to properly investigate and clarify the truth or otherwise of allegations.
The issues I am being asked to deal with today fall directly within the terms of reference of the planning tribunal. Without doubt, that is the appropriate forum to investigate all these matters, and I expect the tribunal is already investigating them. I understand, from public statements made by him, that Mr. Gilmartin has already made a statement to the planning tribunal. If the allegations so recently made by him regarding our contacts over ten years ago have been included in his statement, I repeat that I have not so far been contacted by the tribunal about them. I will, of course, be sending a copy of this statement and the transcript of other remarks I have made in the past few days to the tribunal. I believe it is quite wrong that, during the currency of a tribunal of inquiry, attacks of this nature are made against me and other  Members of this House. The proper conduct of public policy and a sense of fair play demand a calm and balanced treatment of all these issues, and that is best done in the tribunal.
I will now deal with the question of my meetings with Mr. Gilmartin. When the story appeared in the Sunday Independent, I could only recollect one meeting with him, in my constituency office. My statement issued on Sunday afternoon, in response to media queries, was based quite explicitly on what I could remember. On Monday morning, I made it clear in an interview broadcast at lunch time – but recorded early in the morning – that I had initiated a search of departmental records to try to clarify the position with regard to the number of meetings. I consider that I acted speedily and conscientiously in this regard, and put all the facts that I had on the table as soon as I possibly could. I frankly regard it as ridiculous to claim that putting further information into the public arena reflects on my credibility. It is the action of any honest person to take the earliest opportunity to correct any mistakes or original impressions that prove to be incomplete. There was no calculation whatsoever, simply straightforward behaviour, in making available additional information that came to hand. If somebody brought to my attention today hard evidence of another meeting that took place, I would, without hesitation, put it before the House and not expect that to be made into some kind of hanging offence, particularly when the precise number of meetings may not be particularly relevant.
Having exhaustively checked my office diaries, as promised, with the help of the Office of the Minister for Labour Affairs, the Department of Finance and my own records, I have been able to establish that the meeting which I clearly recollected holding with Mr. Tom Gilmartin took place in my then constituency office over Fagan's pub on Monday, 10 October 1988. I was accompanied by a local person at that meeting. Arlington, which is the name of one of Mr. Gilmartin's companies, is the name recorded in the diary.
I have also established with the help of my former staff in the Department of Labour that there is a record of another meeting in Mespil Road with Mr. Gilmartin at 10.45 a.m. on Thursday, 13 October 1988. According to the records, I also had a meeting a year later with him on Tuesday, 28 September 1989 at 3 p.m. I still have no specific memory of these meetings.
During my time as Minister, I often had more than 20 meetings in a single day in the Department. I have been reminded by the Office of the Minister for Labour Affairs (formerly the Department of Labour) that at that time I was a member of the Ministerial Task Force on Employment, and therefore I held numerous meetings with groups and companies in an effort to encourage and stimulate employment creation. It is most likely that it  was in this context that I met with Mr. Gilmartin.
As I have pointed out before, I am quite certain that I would not have solicited a donation for Fianna Fáil from Mr. Gilmartin, and I have no recollection of any reference made by him to an alleged £50,000 given to the party treasurer, Mr. Pádraig Flynn, in June 1989.
Yesterday, lunchtime, Mr. Charlie Bird reported a further meeting that is alleged to have taken place in Leinster House involving the then Taoiseach Mr. Haughey, the Minister for the Environment, Mr. Pádraig Flynn, myself and others on 10 March 1989. The then Taoiseach's diary contains no record of such a meeting, nor is it recalled by any official likely to have been in a position to know, nor has any record of it, if one existed, so far been found. This does not, of course, absolutely conclusively prove that no meeting took place, but we have no corroboration of it. I would also point out that, post 1987, the then Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, would not have held meetings involving several people on official business in Leinster House. He would have held them in his own office in Government Buildings. It is highly improbable that the Minister, Deputy Seamus Brennan, would have been present at a meeting on 10 March 1989, as he then had responsibility for industry and commerce matters as Minister of State with responsibility for trade and marketing, and no responsibility for transport. He had a lot of other engagements in his diary that day and there is no mention of him attending any such meeting. Meetings involving several Ministers and a business delegation would have been extremely rare. I have no record in my diary of any meeting in 1987, which means it is unlikely I would have attended one if, in fact, it took place.
The diary of the then Minister, Mr. Flynn, shows that he had a meeting with Mr. Gilmartin on 10 May 1989, which was two months later. On 27 July 1989 he wrote a letter to the then Minister of State, Deputy Seamus Brennan, stating his understanding that the bus depot element of the Arlington development at Bachelors Walk would not proceed, and that it would not be included in the national plan or transport operational programme, because the proposal was not sufficiently definite.
I am concerned that we may be involved in a circular argument here, and I think that we should take steps to resolve it. It is now more than 1 1/2 years since Arlington pledged them selves to a comprehensive redevelopment of the Bachelors Walk/North Lotts area and since the Minister for Finance and myself made statutory orders extending urban renewal designation and tax reliefs to facilitate this. The deadline for completing eligible urban renewal works was fixed under these statutory instruments at 31 May 1991. [The Minister for Finance at that time was Mr. MacSharry].
CIE began negotiations with Arlington about a year ago for the inclusion of a central bus station in the development. It is now common ground that this proposal can run only with Structural Funds assistance; conversely, Arlington would be able to proceed more quickly with a less ambitious, but still very substantial, development if it were clear that the bus station proposal was not a runner.
There is clearly an urgent need to clarify the status of the bus station proposal vis-à-vis the Structural Funds. If you judge it a priority for EC assistance, it would be well for this to be conveyed to CIE and Arlington and for the project to be advanced as energetically as possible with the Commission. If you consider that the proposal should not have this priority, then this should be made clear as soon as possible so that uncertainty will not further delay the re-development of an area targeted for early urban renewal by the Government.
It was further established this morning that there is also in the Department of the Environment and Local Government a record and a report of a meeting that took place on 28 September 1989 between the then Deputy Pádraig Flynn, Minister for the Environment, Deputy Seamus Brennan, the then Minister for Tourism and Transport, Messrs. Dadley, Mould and Boland of Arlington and Mr. T. Gilmartin, who was also on the Arlington team, in the conference room in Leinster House. I wish to read into the record of the House the report of this meeting, taken by a civil servant, Mr. Jimmy Farrelly, the now Secretary-General of the Department.
The meeting took place during the week ended the 29th of September and was also attended by Messrs. T. O'Brien and Doyle of the Department of Tourism and Transport and J. Farrelly of the Department of the Environment. [That meeting actually took place on 28 September].
The meeting took place against the background of three options as put forward by Arlington. The first involved the total development of the overall site, costed at some £250 million. In order to secure this, some £54 million would be required from the EEC, CIE, the Department of Transport or whomsoever. On the basis of discussions which the Minister for the Environment had before meeting with the Minister for Tourism and Transport, this option was clearly not a possibility and the Minister for Tourism and Transport indicated  that there was no real possibility of capital funding from CIE, the EEC or his Department on the level required. The second option was for a more limited facility which would provide some 75 per cent of the total overall requirements of CIE. It would need State, EEC or CIE funding to the extent of some £30 million. In the same way this development was not on for the reasons that £30 million of State funding was not available. The third option was clearly indicated as non-viable by Arlington. It involved the development of this site as far as the Halfpenny Bridge for a limited commercial development with no CIE involvement.
Arlington's preferred options would be of course No. 1, but they also regard option 2 quite speculatively, as being one which could be proceeded with, but did of course require some element of State funding for the provision of bus station facilities. Following some considerable discussions, it was accepted that the only realistic prospect of advancing this proposal was to consider the possibility of Arlington providing and financing the bus station on a lease-back arrangement. It was agreed that Arlington have discussion with CIE on this basis and the Minister for Tourism and Transport agreed to seriously consider any proposal put forward along these lines. He recognised, of course, that this also required an element of funding from the State since any such outgoings by CIE would have implications as to the level of CIE subsidy.
Copy of Maps. Showing Arlington site ownership attached – as supplied at meeting. Option 2 is attractive from the planning viewpoint so that it keeps a number of existing buildings on quays and Abbey Street.
That would have been the same day, after Mr. Gilmartin met me on 28 September 1989. There is a parallel note of the meeting made in what was then the Department of Tourism and Transport which made it clear that the two Ministers had a meeting with their officials beforehand. All these document are being given to the tribunal.
I have been asked who instigated the meetings with me. I assume the meeting of 10 October 1988 in my constituency was sought by Mr. Gilmartin. In view of time pressures and constraints, doubtless including other people waiting to see me, I would have suggested he see me in the Department on 13 October. He claims he had some members of his team with him at the latter meeting. Mr. Gilmartin suggests that he initiated the meeting and/or telephone call in September 1989. My general practice when I was informed or briefed about something outside my Department remit, would have been to refer the person to someone more closely involved, other Ministers, perhaps, councillors or officials. I do not have any records of the meetings but neither I nor my  party have been in the habit of systematically destroying records.
Something more general should be said about the two projects in which Arlington securities had an interest. The Bachelors Walk project, which involved difficult planning issues, such as the incorporation of a central bus station, the free traffic flows around the area and the need for a new bridge across the River Liffey, fell through for a number of reasons. First, there were delays in acquiring the site. Then British Aerospace acquired Arlington Securities and with a substantial under-utilised landbank of its own throughout the UK decided not to proceed with the project. However, the cause of the project falling was a decision made in London and not in Dublin. Second, the degree of financial support required was not available.
The Quarryvale project included 1.5 million square feet, a vast scheme on the lines of the Newcastle Metro Centre. It was, in its original form, contrary to the County Dublin development plans and Government policies expressed by ministerial directive. The original scheme was replaced by a more modest proposal put forward by O'Callaghan Properties. In neither instance did the schemes proposed ever become the subject of a planning application lodged before the planning authorities, Dublin Corporation and Dublin County Council.
I will now deal with my knowledge of the allegations relating to the EU Commissioner, Mr. Flynn. Some months ago, allegations appeared in the media suggesting that Mr. Tom Gilmartin, an Irish property developer based in Britain, had given a £50,000 contribution in June 1989 to the then Minister for the Environment, Mr. Pádraig Flynn. Fianna Fáil has not submitted an affidavit to the Flood tribunal concerning the non-receipt of the donation of £50,000 from Mr. Gilmartin. The staff member from Fianna Fáil was interviewed by the tribunal. No affidavit was requested. Accordingly, I could not have failed, as alleged in a newspaper today, to tell the Tánaiste about the affidavit because it does not exist.
I recall my programme manager informed me at the time that he referred briefly, at a meeting with the Tánaiste's programme manager, to the fact that Seán Sherwin would probably go to the tribunal in connection with articles that had appeared in the press about that time and that the party was trawling through its accounts and records of the period with a view to full co-operation with the tribunal. In a discussion it was agreed that in general terms party donations would be a matter for the respective parties.
The party's general secretary, Mr. Martin Mackin, at my instigation wrote a letter dated 6 October 1998 marked strictly private and confidential to Ireland's EU Commissioner, Pádraig Flynn, which I will read into the record of the House. The letter will refute the idea that the party did not investigate the matter until very recently. The letter states:
As you are aware there are media reports that a series of allegations have recently been made by Mr. Tom Gilmartin to the planning inquiry presided over by Mr. Justice Flood. Among the reputed allegations is one concerning a sum of £50,000 allegedly given to you and intended for the Fianna Fáil Party.
The Trustees of the party have various legal and fiduciary duties towards the membership of the party. These duties include an obligation to ascertain whether funds were given to any person with the intention that these funds were to be applied for the benefit of the Fianna Fáil Party. In the light of the allegation that moneys were given to you for Fianna Fáil I have been asked by the Trustees to make certain inquires. In the circumstances I would be obliged if you would answer the following questions:
I would be obliged if you would give to me any documentation in your possession relating to the said moneys. Furthermore, if you have any further information in your possession relating to the alleged contribution from Tom Gilmartin, I would be grateful to be appraised of same.
I am posing the above questions to you in a formal manner in order that the Trustees will have discharged their duties to the members of the party. I regret any inconvenience that I may cause to you in dealing with the above queries, but no doubt you will appreciate the legal necessity for this line of inquiry.
I note that today's Irish Times reports that you will co-operate with the planning tribunal and I wish to express our appreciation to you for such a constructive approach. Such co-operation with the tribunal is the policy of the Fianna Fáil Party.
Commissioner Flynn's office was telephoned to confirm that the letter had been received and there was also a verbal reminder. However, no reply to the letter has been received. When this matter of the £50,000 payment to Commissioner Flynn arose in the newspapers at the end of September 1998 we made investigations and established that the money had not been paid to the party headquarters.
 Neither the Government nor the Fianna Fáil Party have any jurisdiction over the EU Commissioner. While we have expressed the wish that he would clarify the situation as soon as possible he is within his rights to reserve his position until the tribunal, and, undoubtedly, as he has stated, he has important work to do with crucial EU negotiations coming up, which have been a priority in my discussions with him in recent months.
If I understand them correctly, both Mr. Flynn and Mr. Gilmartin have denied that any political contribution was made for favours. They have further asserted that no such favours were given or received. It leaves unresolved the question of whether the political contribution allegedly made to Mr. Flynn was intended for the national party or for Mr. Flynn's own use. It is an issue that not only Fianna Fáil would wish to see resolved as soon as possible, but, I believe, the whole country. As we have seen with regard to allegations in the European Parliament against other Commissioners, unresolved matters of this kind do no good to the reputation of Europe and, in this instance, the reputation of Ireland in Europe.
Officeholders in particular, whether at home or abroad, need to be more forthcoming than private citizens because far more hangs on the trust placed on them. I have had to deal, here and elsewhere, somewhat prematurely with matters which are properly the preserve of the tribunal. This is an unsatisfactory and one-sided process. Given that this issue has been widely publicised and commented upon outside the tribunal, it would be much healthier if Commissioner Flynn would likewise clarify his position, where he can easily do so and clear the air, but we have no power to compel him to do that.
This is an open Administration. We have no desire to hide dark deeds from the past. I wish to see established and maintained public standards of which we can be proud and which correspond with the idealism and integrity that characterised the early Members of Dáil Éireann and our respective political parties. I am especially conscious of the high standards set by the founder of Fianna Fáil. We will strive to live up to those standards of austere integrity and we will not allow anyone to undermine them. I am glad we now have a better system of financing of political parties in place that should not give rise to either abuse or allegations of abuse in the future. That will be healthy for our democracy.
It is a pity that in this House we are frequently too ready to put the worst possible construction on what our political opponents say and do, often on an inadequate basis. Political opponents in these situations try to construct an edifice that build circumstantial and often essentially irrelevant points of detail into major issues of principal and crises of trust. In these situations we habitually fail to distinguish the wood from the trees. In so far as it is within my power, I am determined not to let conflict over what are  essentially details cloud the main issues. I do not claim infallibility, but I work exceptionally hard and try to do my conscientious best to honestly represent all the people.
Mr. J. Bruton: Did the Taoiseach read a report in the Sunday Independent of 20 September which broke the story of a £50,000 donation for Fianna Fáil to a former Minister which was not paid over to the party? If he read the report, was he attentive to the fact that in that report it was stated clearly that the party's national organiser, Mr. Seán Sherwin, was made aware by the building contractor of the alleged contribution almost ten years ago? Is the Taoiseach aware that substantially the same statement was repeated in another Sunday newspaper the following Sunday, 27 September? Has the Taoiseach asked Mr. Sherwin, since these allegations appeared, whether this is true, and what is the conclusion of his inquiries?
The Taoiseach: I normally read the papers but I am not in a position to say whether I read an individual article. When these articles appeared in the Sunday newspapers in September stating that Commissioner Flynn had received £50,000 either for the party or for himself, Mr. Sherwin came to the general secretary of the party and stated that he had a recollection of these matters. The general secretary contacted me. I immediately stated that anything Mr. Sherwin had to say should not be said to me but to the Fianna Fáil legal team and that everything he had to say should be documented and sent to the tribunal. That was done forthwith.
The Taoiseach: An inquiry was set up to deal with these matters. I did not see that as my duty. I did see it as my duty to make sure that party officials, party members or any members of the Fianna Fáil organisation co-operated fully with the tribunal. I have done that.
Mr. J. Bruton: Having discovered that there was an allegation that £50,000 of the party's money had been stolen ten years ago and that a party official who is still in the party's employment knew about it at the time, did the Taoiseach not consider that he, as president of Fianna Fáil, might want to do something about it rather than simply leave it to a tribunal?
The Taoiseach: I checked whether we received this money. We did not receive it. Mr. Sherwin had certain detailed comments to make about what Mr. Gilmartin said when he came to the office many years earlier. I did not discuss one iota with Mr. Sherwin. I thought it absolutely proper, as I did in regard to many other issues, that the legal team commissioned by us and working  for us should take every statement and deal with every matter precisely. We made the tribunal aware of everything in Mr. Sherwin's statement and the tribunal spent several hours interviewing and questioning Mr. Sherwin in the early days of October. I believe that was the proper action to take.
Mr. J. Bruton: Would the Taoiseach agree that others might say he was hiding behind the tribunal and not taking his responsibilities seriously, and that if he discovered that a former ministerial colleague had diverted party funds to his own personal benefit, which senior party colleague is still representing the country, he had an obligation to inform himself about the matter and to interview Mr. Sherwin about Mr. Sherwin's knowledge of the matter?
Did the Taoiseach's programme manager tell the Tánaiste's programme manager that what Mr. Sherwin was going to talk to the tribunal about was the fact that the Tánaiste's former senior Minister, when she was Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, had kept £50,000 which belonged to Fianna Fáil? Did the Taoiseach's programme manager tell the Tánaiste's programme manager of the letter that had been sent to Commissioner Flynn? Subsequently, when no reply was received to that letter, given that the Tánaiste has to deal with the Commissioner on a daily basis in a ministerial capacity on behalf of Ireland and would obviously like to know the sort of person with whom she is dealing, did the Taoiseach's programme manager inform the Tánaiste's programme manager that the Commissioner had not bothered to reply to the letter from his party's general secretary?
The Taoiseach: My programme manager informed me at the time that he referred briefly at a meeting with the Tánaiste's programme manager to the fact that Seán Sherwin would probably be appearing at the tribunal in connection with matters that had appeared in the press at the time and that the party was trawling through the accounts and records of the period with a view to full co-operation with the tribunal. That is all my programme manager said to the Tánaiste's programme manager. The matter of whether the £50,000 was given to Commissioner Flynn or to the party was an allegation. What concerned the trustees of the party, which is of no importance to the trustees of another political party, was that these matters should be dealt with by the tribunal.
The Taoiseach: Deputy Bruton might be a better lawyer than our legal team, but the Fianna Fáil legal team, who are eminent legal people in my view, perhaps not in the Deputy's, discussed this matter at several meetings. They believed the proper thing to do was to make these matters  known to the tribunal and for the tribunal to interview Mr. Sherwin. That is what happened. The letter of 6 October sought to find out Commissioner Flynn's position on it. We never got a reply to that.
Mr. J. Bruton: The Taoiseach has had several meetings with Commissioner Flynn since this matter became known. Did the Taoiseach ask Commissioner Flynn why he had not replied to the general secretary's letter? Did he ask Commissioner Flynn, at any of his many meetings with him, what had happened in regard to this matter?
The Taoiseach: No, I did not raise any of these matters with Commissioner Flynn because the meetings I had with him were on EU business and matters to do with Ireland. I was not in the business of seeking a reply from him.
The Taoiseach: It was not for me to follow the matter up. Commissioner Flynn confirms that he got the letter. His office confirmed on a second occasion that he got the letter and that he was aware that the party trustees wanted a reply.
Mr. Quinn: I have a number of related questions about the same meeting. Is the Taoiseach aware that in an interview in today's Sligo Champion Mr. Gilmartin states that those present at the meeting in September 1989 were the then Taoiseach, Mr. Charles Haughey, the then Ministers, Mr. Brian Lenihan and Mr. Pádraig Flynn, Deputy Lawlor and the Taoiseach who was then Minister for Labour? Has he records of visits to Government Buildings or Leinster House, and have they been checked? Have the departmental diaries of the respective Ministers been checked? What was the purpose of the meeting? Has the Taoiseach discussed this meeting with Deputy Lawlor, who is quoted by Mr. Gilmartin as introducing Mr. Gilmartin to Mr. Haughey? Has Deputy Lawlor been able to help in regard to establishing the date and the reasons for the meetings?
The Taoiseach: Deputy Lawlor has no recollection of any such meeting that he is meant to have set up. As I stated earlier, I have extensively trawled through the diaries of the former Taoiseach and former Ministers. We found many official minutes of meetings which took place and letters which went between Ministers where civil servants were in attendance and where there were contact meetings, all of which were official and above board, involving former Ministers, Mr. MacSharry, Mr. Wilson, Mr. Séamus Brennan and me. All of this was properly done and properly documented both in the diaries and in the records of the Departments. I have many of those letters.
Mr. Quinn: I will come to Deputy Lawlor later if he wants to answer questions. Does the Taoiseach agree a meeting with a business delegation and a group of Ministers including the Taoiseach, as he stated in his initial statement, is a most rare and unusual kind of gathering yet it is clear from the note which he quoted from the official records that there had been extensive discussions with Arlington on the development of the Bachelors Walk site because of the implications with regards to a new bridge, the traffic flow and the road for CIE? Bearing in mind that Mr. Gilmartin's recollection so far seems to be more credible or more accurate—
Mr. Quinn: —and recognising the possibility that he might be correct on this also, can the Taoiseach state that he has checked the records for September? The Taoiseach stated that he checked the records to which Mr. Bird referred yesterday on the radio and he was correct, it was 10 March 1989, but Mr. Gilmartin is now using the date of September 1989. Is the Taoiseach stating that he has checked the records in respect of a collective ministerial group meeting at which the then Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, would have been present, for the period of September 1989?
The Taoiseach: The Deputy is correct. We have checked extensively on that issue. The date is 28 September 1989. On that day I had a meeting with Mr. Gilmartin but that was after he had his full team in to meet the officials of the Minister for the Environment and those of the Minister for Transport. Obviously, he called to me also. All the meetings were on the one day.
It was not a group meeting. We have checked to see if there was a group meeting. We have checked the diaries of the then Taoiseach and Ministers. We have the minutes and the records of the meetings which took place but they were separate meetings.
Mr. Quinn: Is it possible that if this was a political meeting to meet with Mr. Gilmartin in the absence of officials care would have been taken to ensure that there was no record of it or would the Taoiseach's records include party political or political meetings as well as departmental meetings?
The Taoiseach: I understand why Deputy Quinn is asking the question and, in the light of it, I suppose it is a fair question. We have checked it and I have no reason to believe there was any party political meeting. We have spoken to the private secretaries, the officials and officials who were at these meetings. It is quite clear what the meetings were about. There are ten pages on meetings which took place that day. I will not go through it all. There are reports of the meetings. The subject was the proposed Arlington development at Bachelors Walk. The date was 28 September. Present were the then Minister for Tourism and Transport, Deputy Séamus Brennan, then Minister for the Environment, Mr. Pádraig Flynn; Mr. Raymond Mould, vice-chairman and chief executive of Arlington, Mr. Ted Dadley, chairman of Arlington, Mr. Tom Gilmartin, Mr. Barry Boland, Mr. E. Molloy, bus and rail division, Mr. R. Doyle, Minister's office, and Mr. J. Farrelly, Department of the Environment. There are all of the notes of these meetings, the letters from previous meetings from the offices and diaries of Mr. Flynn and former Minister Wilson and from my office. I think my meetings were probably the briefest because I did not have much to offer. I am quite satisfied, as satisfied as one can possibly be, that there is no matter here which would suggest that there was a political meeting with these people.
I am not taking issue with Deputy Quinn, who used the word “credibility”, but he also used another adjective. That is fair enough. On Sunday evening I had only my constitutency records and my memory. I said that I had one meeting, which I recall. I recall it for this reason: it is not every day that somebody turns up at your Monday morning clinic to say that they are going to spend £500 million on a development in your constituency. I remember it well. Mr. Gilmartin impressed me as a person who might do a few things. As Deputy Quinn will recall, those were times when we needed a few things in the city. I moved the matter on to my Department where officials and others would have been involved and then moved it on to others. Unfortunately, I was not able to be of much help to Mr. Gilmartin.
When I checked my records – I thank the people in the Department and the Department of Finance who stayed up half the night checking them for me – they showed up the dates. I immediately put them in the public domain. I did not try to hide them. It is a little unfair on me that when I correct my recollection of the record quickly I am accused of loss of memory, senility or something else. I am not saying Deputy Quinn said it but others have said it.
Mr. Quinn: By his own admission, it is not every day that somebody will come into one's constituency office with an investment plan of that scale and size. It strikes me as somewhat surprising – but I accept his word – that he only remembers one meeting, the plan disappeared into thin air and he had no recollection of any further meeting on the Sunday night. Subsequently, on the following day he remembers it, bearing in mind the scale and the size of it.
The Taoiseach: I did not remember it. The record showed that I had two further meetings. I have no memory whatever of it but I see from the record that Mr. Gilmartin was in here on 28 September, that he met the Minister for the Environment and the Minister for Tourism and Transport and he obviously met me. I accept that his record of that is correct.
Mr. Quinn: Bearing in mind the intervention by Deputy Lawlor a few minutes ago, has the Taoiseach discussed with Deputy Lawlor the payments he is reported to have received from Gilmartin Arlington Securities either as a political contribution or as a consultant? Has he received any explanation from Deputy Lawlor as to the nature and purpose of the meeting? Is he satisfied that Deputy Lawlor complied with all his obligations as a member of Dublin County Council as regards the declaration of interest in such matters? Is he clear that Deputy Lawlor did not at any stage introduce himself to Mr. Gilmartin or Mr. Gilmartin to any other members of the Fianna Fáil Cabinet led by Mr. Haughey?
The Taoiseach: Deputy Lawlor would have to say whether he introduced him to any members of the Cabinet. As I understand from my discussion with Deputy Lawlor, members of the party referred Mr. Gilmartin to him, and he endeavoured to assist him as best he could. He advised him that 1.5 million square feet was not feasible because it contravened the development plan. As regards any political donations, Deputy Lawlor has already, both through the party and publicly, given details about those.
Mr. J. Bruton: The Taoiseach said a meeting took place between Mr. Gilmartin, two Ministers – the then Ministers Brennan and Flynn – and a number of officials on 28 September. Subsequently, Mr. Gilmartin turned up at the Taoiseach's clinic and said he wanted to see the Taoi seach. The Taoiseach said he would see him in his Department.
The Taoiseach: My recollection is that he wanted to brief me about undertaking this massive development. I remember him discussing the enormity of it with me. I think from his own statements he is saying he brought some of his advisers – architects or engineers – to the following meeting, which was obviously the one a few days later in the Department of Labour, which officials of mine would also have attended. He briefed me and told me about the matter.
When these matters were first raised in newspapers many months ago, a former councillor in my constituency, Mr. Joe Burke, contacted me to say he recalled me asking him around that time to meet Mr. Gilmartin. He recalled that he met Mr. Gilmartin who asked about this development. Councillor Burke told him it would create grave difficulties for the council because it was in favour of the development of Temple Bar but was not in favour of the new bridge or the bus station on the Bachelors Walk site. That was Mr. Joe Burke's only connection.
I can only assume that at the second meeting, or maybe the first, Mr. Gilmartin asked me if I could introduce him to someone on the council who could help him. Mr. Joe Burke came forward to say he was the individual who did that, at my request.
Mr. J. Bruton: Is the Taoiseach saying his recollection is that Mr. Gilmartin's purpose in coming to him, first on 10 October for a meeting, and subsequently to his Department on 13 October, was that he was looking for an introduction from the Minister for Labour, a member of the Cabinet, to a city councillor?
The Taoiseach: That was not the main reason – the main reason was that he was briefing a number of Ministers. Somewhere in the course of those meetings, I, trying to be helpful, must have said that he should try to win support for his proposal. Unfortunately he did not get much help from Mr. Joe Burke as he informed Mr. Gilmartin of what he saw as the problem. Mr. Burke cannot recall whether he referred him to an official in the corporation – he said he may have, but he could not be certain. He had no further contact with Mr. Gilmartin at any time after that.
Mr. J. Bruton: Does the Taoiseach recollect who was with him at the meeting on 13 October  in the Department? Who was the local person who was with him at the meeting on 10 October in Drumcondra? I know the Taoiseach might not wish to name these people. However, it is probably better that they are named here rather than be subject to rumours circulating about them as unnamed individuals.
Did Mr. Gilmartin raise with the Taoiseach the possibility that the site he was proposing to develop might be granted tax designation and might therefore be more profitable because it would enjoy certain tax privileges which other sites, with competing enterprises on them did not have? Was tax designation raised with the Taoiseach by Mr. Gilmartin at the meetings in October?
The Taoiseach referred to a letter where, in regard to the redevelopment of Bachelors Walk – North Lotts area it is stated “. the Minister for Finance and myself made statutory orders extending urban renewal designation and tax reliefs to facilitate this”. When were the relevant tax designations made and was the Taoiseach asked about them at any of his meetings?
The Taoiseach: In relation to the individual who was with me in the Department of Labour, it would have been my normal practice to have one official with me. Officials have been endeavouring to find a note in this regard in the Department – the book does not contain a note. I did not recall who was with me in my office. However, one of my local supporters contacted me to say he was there when Mr. Gilmartin came in and when I showed him the plans. The individual concerned is Mr. Timothy Collins, who is a friend of mine.
It is now more than one and a half years since Arlington pledged themselves to a comprehensive redevelopment of .Bachelors Walk.and since the Minister for Finance and myself made statutory orders extending urban renewal designation and tax reliefs to facilitate this.
Those reliefs were made a year and a half earlier, long before any meeting I had. I have no recollection of the matter being raised as the site was already designated. As Deputy Bruton may or may not know, the quays area was probably the first sanctioned in Dublin under the 1986 urban renewal legislation.
The Taoiseach: I cannot be certain about that, I certainly had no involvement. Most of the quays area from O'Connell Street to Ellis Quay, Arran Quay and down to the museum in Collins' Bar racks were the early extended areas and were totally derelict in the late 1980s.
Mr. Sargent: Can the Taoiseach understand the difficulty people outside the House have in hearing about donations made to Fianna Fáil about which various officers of the party knew yet he did not? For example, the £30,000 given by Rennicks to the former Minister, Mr. Ray Burke, which was apparently known about by Mr. Seán Fleming, Mr. Pat Farrell and Mr. Des Richardson and the £50,000 allegedly given to Commissioner Flynn which was known about by Mr. Seán Sherwin. In these circumstances, can the Taoiseach explain why he did not know about those donations given that such prominent people in the party did?
The Taoiseach: Before replying to Deputy Sargent, I will go back to the last question Deputy Bruton asked me. I have to hand the letter I referred to from that time dated 27 May 1988 and it is to Mr. John Wilson, Minister for Tourism and Transport. It states:
I wish to refer to your letter of 12 April in which you enquired if a decision had been made in relation to the inclusion of the entire site which had been earmarked for the Dublin Transportation Centre within the limited extension to the Dublin designated area as announced in the Budget. The Minister for the Environment, in a recent Order dated 9 May, has now provided for the adjustments to the boundaries of the Dublin designated area, giving effect to the Government's decision of 18 December last in the matter. This extension only applies to an area north of the Liffey, and will result in all of the 4.8 or so acres of the site mooted for the Transportation Centre on the north side of the river, coming within the designated area.
Mr. Sargent: I asked a number of questions which I will repeat if I have to. The first concerned donations made to Fianna Fáil which were known to various senior officers in the party but which were not known to the then Deputy Ahern. Can the Taoiseach understand the difficulty people have with that? It requires an explanation and I ask the Taoiseach to provide one.
The Taoiseach: They would not be involved in bringing in these people. Anyone who knows me knows that I will help to organise anything. I will speak at any dinner function and go to any golf classic, although I cannot play golf, but I will not go around asking people for money. I cannot do that. If Mr. Gilmartin had said to me – and this is why I am not arguing with him – that he gave money to Pádraig Flynn or he gave a donation, that would not have registered with me because I would have considered that was the appropriate thing for him to do. If he was giving a donation, he would have given it to our treasurer or maybe to someone on the finance committee. The Fianna Fáil organisation is run that way. At the end of the 1989 election we ended up in a rather sorry financial state, but that is another day's work.
Mr. Quinn: Has the Taoiseach's attention been drawn to claims made in The Sunday Times by a Fianna Fáil councillor in west Dublin, Councillor Colm McGrath, who is reported to have received substantial financial donations from the developers of the Quarryvale project which was the successor to the original Gilmartin project on the M50, in which Mr. McGrath is quoted as follows:
In the context of the way this controversy has unfolded because of the statement made by Mr. Gilmartin, has the Taoiseach spoken to Councillor Colm McGrath in relation to these comments which he has volunteered to the media?
The Taoiseach: I have not spoken to Councillor Colm McGrath since those comments came into the media but senior party members and officials  have discussed these matters with Colm McGrath over several weeks.
Mr. Quinn: I asked the Taoiseach this question before and I am not sure if he answered it fully – perhaps I did not hear it – so I will ask it again. Has the Taoiseach asked Deputy Liam Lawlor about the moneys he received from Arlington and Mr. Gilmartin? Is the Taoiseach satisfied that in the role Deputy Lawlor played, he did not introduce Mr. Gilmartin to the Taoiseach?
The Taoiseach: I have discussed the matter with Deputy Lawlor and he has told me he did not do that. In terms of money or donations he received, he has put those in the public domain and, to the best of my knowledge, he has also given a note of that to our party headquarters.
Mr. J. Bruton: There is a rather curious conjunction of dates in regard to this matter. This mega-meeting, as one might describe it, between Mr. Pádraig Flynn, the Minister for the Environment, the Minister of State, Deputy Brennan, and a long list of officials took place on 28 September 1989. The Taoiseach has also told us that Mr. Gilmartin met him on the same day. What was the reason for that? What did he ask about? If this man was meeting the Minister Deputy Brennan and the Minister Deputy Flynn, why was it necessary for him to meet the Minister for Labour as well?
The Taoiseach: The answer to that is what Mr. Gilmartin said himself. Mr. Gilmartin states that he saw me – I do not recall the meeting but he was obviously in Leinster House as these meetings were held here, as far as I know – because his project had considerable employment potential and I was on the task force. At that time I made numerous speeches at numerous functions promoting designated areas and encouraging people to build on these areas. I did that in Limerick, Waterford and Cork to try to stimulate the economy and generate economic activity. I am sure that was the reason.
Mr. J. Bruton: On the Taoiseach's response to the tribunal, I would remind him that question No. 17 of the questionnaire, which all of us received, states: “Are you aware of any act or omission by any Public Representative, member of An Bord Pleanála, Local Government Official or Official of An Bord Pleanála which could have involved corruption or involve attempts to influence (by threats, deception or otherwise) to compromise the disinterested performance of public duties?” Either at the time the Taoiseach completed that questionnaire and returned it to the tribunal or some time thereafter the Taoiseach knew that the Minister for the Environment – and he certainly comes within the purview of that question – had received £50,000 from a property developer. Did the Taoiseach include, either in his original return to the planning tribunal or in any subsequent addition to his return, any reference to his knowledge of the circumstances concerning Mr. Flynn's receipt and retention of this money?
The Taoiseach: I am not sure of the dates but I would not do that. In recent days it seems more likely, from what has been emanating from Brussels, that Commissioner Flynn received the £50,000 but I cannot even be certain of that now. I have no knowledge and would not dare allege, even under the privilege of this House, that there is any corruption in these matters. I would not put them on my form. An inquiry was set up by this House and I made sure it was aware of the facts. Its officers are the people who investigated them. It is not for me to put on a form allegations against a Member of the House where they have not been proved and have only been substantiated in recent days.
Mr. J. Bruton: Is it not the case that the tribunal was looking for assistance with regard to allegations, not necessarily ones that were proved, and the Taoiseach, if he knew anything, had  an obligation to pass on the information and did not?
The Taoiseach: I do not agree with that. I cannot recall when we received the forms regarding the tribunal. I assume it was when the tribunals were established, which was last year. I would not have even known about those matters at that stage. Even if I did, I would not have put those allegations on my form. However, the forms were sent in long before that matter arose on 6 October.
Mr. J. Bruton: Did the Taoiseach's duties as treasurer of Fianna Fáil – he became treasurer in 1992 – involve him in discussions about the finances of the party with Mr. Seán Sherwin? During those discussions, did he discuss the issue of people raising money in their own constituencies in the name of Fianna Fáil and keeping it for themselves? Did Mr. Flynn's name ever come up in any discussions between the Taoiseach and Mr. Sherwin with regard to the retention of funny money belonging to Fianna Fáil?
The Taoiseach: I formally became treasurer of Fianna Fáil on 28 January, 1993 but I started work in that area in 1992 in the course of the changeover period. I had many discussions with people in Fianna Fáil, mainly with a person who is now a Member of the House, Deputy Seán Fleming, who was previously accountant for Fianna Fáil, about the rules and operation of fundraising in the party.
Early in my term as treasurer we suspended local activities in constituencies so the money could go to the national organisation which was in a poor financial state. Mr. Seán Sherwin does not deal with finance but with organisational matters. I had no discussion with Seán Fleming or anybody else about anything to do with Pádraig Flynn.
Mr. J. Bruton: Does the Taoiseach not think it strange that Mr. Sherwin would not have drawn his attention to his apparent knowledge that £50,000 belonging to Fianna Fáil had been kept by a senior party member?
The Taoiseach: In fairness to Mr. Sherwin, as soon as these articles appeared in the newspapers last September, he made the then general sec retary aware of these matters. I described earlier what happened.
Mr. J. Bruton: Mr. Tom Gilmartin says he met the Taoiseach when he attended a function in London, at which the Taoiseach was in attendance along with Mr. Flynn. He said he went to this meeting because he was under the impression it was a business meeting. He also says he left rather early because he discovered on arrival that it was a meeting at which people were being asked to give money to Fianna Fáil. The Taoiseach said he does not ask anybody for money and never has. Can he recollect from that meeting who broke the news to these invitees that they were not invited for the purpose of enlightenment but for financial reasons?
The Taoiseach: —which perhaps helps the situation. However, lest I am accused of not being clear, when I said I did not look for money I meant I was not part of the machine that could call somebody into the office and say “cough up, the party is looking for money” or ring somebody up for the same purpose. I signed hundreds of letters—
Deputy Bruton is correct that a function was held by the party in England. It was a fund raising lunch. I do not have the details with me now but I had the date to hand a few days ago. These dates are in the party's records. The function in London was clearly a fund raising event and a number of Fianna Fáil people were at it. It was not a meeting and I do not know how anybody could have thought these functions were meetings. I do not know if Mr. Gilmartin was at it but if he says he was, I believe him. Pádraig Flynn, as  treasurer, spoke at the function and other members of the party also attended.
Mr. Rabbitte: The Taoiseach did not comment in his statement about his views on the alleged attempts by Commissioner Flynn to influence Mr. Gilmartin as a witness to the tribunal and on the unpublished information, which I am sure is known to the Taoiseach, that Mr. Flynn importuned Mr. Gilmartin to meet him in England and said he would fly to England to see him, coincidentally in the same week the tribunal flew to England to see Mr. Gilmartin. What does the Taoiseach think about that?
If Mr. Seán Sherwin came forward now to say he had a memory of these times and events, why did he not come forward between 1989 and 1998 in respect of these matters? I had the pleasure of listening to the Taoiseach on “Sunday Sport” during the Christmas recess. Over at least one hour he rivalled Jimmy Magee with his memory of great events that happened in Dalymount Park in the 1960s and in Croke Park in the 1970s.
Mr. Rabbitte: Can the Taoiseach give a plausible explanation as to why he cannot remember somebody who came to him in the late 1980s with a project worth £500 million? Is there a plausible explanation as to why this should slip his mind?
Mr. Rabbitte: Does the Taoiseach recall what answer he gave to question No. 22 of the tribunal's questionnaire? It required us to state whether we were aware of any payment or offer to any public representative in respect of tax designation or the provision of services, including roads, to any property in the State.
The Taoiseach: There are four questions dealing with influencing tribunal witnesses. I do not know if that happens, therefore I did not include it in my speech. If tribunal witnesses were interfered with, it is entirely wrong and inappropriate and legally wrong as in any other case.
I do not know whether these matters jogged Seán Sherwin's mind when he saw them. At least he made a statement. That statement which has been given to the tribunal is there and the tribunal has interviewed him. That is to his credit. He could have perhaps made it before, but he has now given it to the appropriate tribunal.
In relation to the £500 million project, while I have a good memory on the matter of All-Ireland finals and sport quizzes generally, and have a  good recollection normally, I do not remember every single meeting. Incidentally when going back over the diaries, they included people whom I met a number of times but could not recall them. In one such case I checked the reason I met a trade union on so many occasions at a particular time. It was because it was amalgamating. I had met the trade union about ten times in that period and I did not recall it. When one meets a large number of people it is impossible to recall them all.
I remember the meeting with Mr. Gilmartin, as I said to Deputy Bruton earlier, because it was such a big project in a run-down part of my constituency. The others were follow on meetings. I did not say they did not take place and I am not arguing about that.
In regard to Question No. 22, I am sure the answer I gave was “no information”, for the same reason I gave earlier that I would not state something I could not stand over, but I will give details and information to the tribunal.
As Leader of Fianna Fáil and as Uachtarán Fianna Fáil to the extent of being boring to my colleagues, I have done my utmost to tidy up a situation, not where anybody has done anything wrong but to ensure for the future that we operate in as transparent a manner as possible because that is the way society is today. I will continue to do that and I am glad of their support for that in recent years.
Mr. Rabbitte: In respect of the answer to Question No. 22, did the Taoiseach say “no” that he did not know of any payment to any public representative in respect of any development to do with any property in the State? The answer in the questionnaire is “yes” or “no”.
The Taoiseach: If Deputy Rabbitte is asking me when filling up my form if I was aware of anyone who had in a fraudulent or corrupt way received money for any development, I am sure I would have answered “no” because I would not have any evidence of that.
Mr. J. Bruton: Is the Taoiseach aware of any meetings organised by Fianna Fáil with groups of  builders to discuss strategy for development generally, including tax designation, during the early 1990s?
The Taoiseach: Fianna Fáil would have strategy meetings with many sectors, not just builders, trying to promote employment, agriculture and tourism but not on the basis of deciding strategy for tax designation. If the implication is whether these people would have an influence on these matters, the answer is “no”.
Mr. J. Bruton: The Taoiseach said last night he regarded some contributions made to parties and politicians as appropriate and others as inappropriate. From what he knows about it, does the Taoiseach think the contribution made by Mr. Gilmartin to Mr. Flynn was appropriate or inappropriate?
The Taoiseach: I have no information on whether the contribution was actually given but as I have said previously in this House if people take contributions of £30,000, £40,000 or £50,000 it is very hard to explain and for that reason I do not think people should do that. Contributions of that order cannot ever be explained to the ordinary man or woman in the street. For that reason I do not think they are appropriate.
Mr. J. Bruton: —it would appear when it comes to asking Pádraig Flynn about money that belongs to Fianna Fáil, he does not ask him directly but lets somebody else do it. Why does he not like to ask him face to face? When it comes to telling the Tánaiste about something which the Taoiseach admits has shocked him – most people agree the Tánaiste is probably his closest and certainly his most important colleague in Government and they have a close working relationship – is it not surprising he did not even  tell the Tánaiste of this knowledge and that he let her find out about it in the newspapers?
The Taoiseach: I was shocked that this amount of money could be floating around because it never floated anywhere that I had been over the years. It is inappropriate. The Tánaiste runs her party and I do my utmost with my colleagues to run our party. What I did was to make sure that matters which had to do with Mr. Sherwin and the tribunal were in the tribunal where they would be properly investigated.
Regarding the insinuation that instead of being down in the office discussing European matters I should be chasing Mr. Flynn about what he may have done in 1989, it would be inappropriate to do that. I put the letter and the facts on record. The general secretary on behalf of the trustees wrote concerning the matter, our officials went to the tribunal and gave all the evidence to it and it will be investigated. That was the right thing to do. The tribunal also has the affidavit of Mr. Gilmartin. That is entirely the correct way to proceed and was the way I was advised to proceed by the Fianna Fáil legal team.
Mr. Quinn: Does the Taoiseach agree that these matters are being discussed here today because Mr. Flynn gave an interview on “The Late Late Show” some weeks ago which provoked Mr. Gilmartin into making a series of allegations?
The Taoiseach and Deputy Lawlor have categorically denied one of the allegations made by Mr. Gilmartin in respect of a meeting with himself, Mr. Haughey, Mr. Flynn, the late Deputy Lenihan and Deputy Lawlor. I accept the stated position as of now is that there is a conflict in that the Members of this House who are present now – the Taoiseach and Deputy Lawlor – have categorically denied that such a meeting took place and, to whit, the Taoiseach has no record or recollection of such a meeting. I agree that such a meeting with so many Ministers in attendance would have left a record somewhere.
I have two questions arising from that observation. Will the search for records continue after today, because this matter has come upon all of us quickly? Do I take it that the Tánaiste's qualified support for the Government remains qualified or has there been a change in that? If she had taken the five minutes available to her, she might have been able to speak for herself, unless she wishes to speak now through the Chair. Do I take it that the support remains qualified?
The Taoiseach: I assure the House and Deputy Quinn that we will continue to check the records because these are important matters. Today more of these letters and minutes were found. I am sure further trawls will find more because they will be subject to the tribunals anyway. If I come across anything which indicates I have misled this House, I will do what I have continually done: I will publicly inform the House.
Even though this matter is appropriate for the tribunal, the events of recent days bring it in here. I saw a note today that Mr. Gilmartin made these statements because of remarks which were made on “The Late Late Show”. I believe what he has said and I know of no other reasons for these allegations. Mr. Gilmartin, from my memory of him was a respected developer working in some capacity for Ireland and had made a great deal of money in Britain. He is a Sligo person by birth. He was involved in two big projects – one of which was the Bachelor's Walk project which was not completed because only 60 per cent of the land was acquired before it was taken over by another company which changed its plans and made decisions in Dublin. I do not know all the details of Quarryvale although I have read much about it. That did not work either so I am sure there is a certain level of dissatisfaction that neither of these developments worked.
Mr. J. Bruton: Did the Taoiseach see a copy of the letter which the general secretary of Fianna Fáil sent to Mr. Pádraig Flynn before it was sent and did he approve the text? Did he think it appropriate that the general secretary should say to Mr. Flynn that he regretted any inconvenience he might cause to Mr. Flynn in dealing with the query and that no doubt he would appreciate the legal necessity for this line of inquiry.
Mr. J. Bruton: What was the thinking which led to the idea that there was a legal necessity to make this inquiry? Was this legal necessity the fact that the tribunal was looking over the party's shoulder or was it that this money belonged to the party? Is it the view of the Taoiseach that this money probably belongs to Fianna Fáil? Does he expect that Fianna Fáil will initiate civil proceedings to have the money refunded?
The Taoiseach: From the time on 21 September Mr. Sherwin gave the details to Mr. Mackin, and after that when I was asked about it, I said these matters would have to be made known to the tribunal. I was conscious of what transpired here earlier last year when I was under fire because I did not make everything known to the tribunal so I was certainly not going to follow the same line. I said I would make everything known to the tribunal. To do that we had to do it properly with our legal team.
Our legal team had meetings on 23 and 25 Sep tember. It was on 27 September that the Sunday Independent named Pádraig Flynn but it had been mentioned on 20 September. The lawyers first met on 18 September about tribunal matters. I had given the instruction, the letter was clear and drafted in conjunction with them and of course, I saw it.
Mr. Sargent: Following my original question, given that the Taoiseach says sums of up to £50,000 are unacceptable or inappropriate if they are not going to the party, does he feel it would have been prudent to have had Fianna Fáil funding which had gone astray investigated at the time those officers knew about such an occurrence? Given the size of the missing sums, would it not be necessary, as happened recently with the ISPCC, to have the Fraud Squad deal with the matter, or indeed the Revenue Commissioners, given that there are tax implications with such sums?
Is the Taoiseach prepared, following today's questions, to confront Mr. Flynn to secure a response to the letter which he says has not been responded to and does he agree with the Tánaiste that, in view of what has been revealed, Mr. Flynn's position is now impossible? Why will he not confront Mr. Flynn if that is the case?
The Taoiseach: Mr. Flynn is well aware of my views on these matters. I have said publicly that it would be helpful if he stated the position. The tribunal will clarify once and for all if Mr. Flynn got the money and why and if it was for the party. Those matters will then be resolved. Obviously, as he is entitled to do, Mr. Flynn will put forward his case and deal with it within the tribunal. That is his right.
Mr. S. Ryan: The Taoiseach's clinic during his time as Minister would have been a popular one. Is he telling us that someone who had a proposal for £500 million just happened to drop into the clinic? Was it not prearranged? Was the Taoiseach or some of his colleagues in Government at the time aware of a request for tax designation for the Quarryvale project – such status was granted to Tallaght – and that Fianna Fáil county councillors support it? It was capped initially but subsequently removed.
The Taoiseach: It was arranged by a colleague or perhaps by Mr. Gilmartin. The decision to designate Tallaght was an enlightened one as it set off many other developments, including the Institute of Technology, Tallaght Hospital and an hotel. It had an uplifting effect. Everyone in the House can be proud. I do not recall a campaign for the designation of Quarryvale. There was a campaign for the designation of Blanchardstown to which, as a city Deputy, I was opposed on the grounds that business would be taken from the city. I have no knowledge of what went on at council meetings.
Mr. Higgins: (Dublin West): Does the Taoiseach recall that in 1989 health, hospital, education and other services were savaged by cutbacks and that innocent people suffered badly? Against that background, does he understand how scandalised ordinary people are to discover that the homes and offices of three senior members of his party were visited by an array of developers, speculators and big business people with envelopes bulging with massive amounts of cash or cheques made out to cash to amounts ranging from £30,000 to £1.3 million? Does the Taoiseach accept that in the view of ordinary people, whether it be political leaders dropping in to big businessmen for a genteel cup of tea – Fine Gael's way of doing it – or big business people arriving at Fianna Fáil's door with massive contributions, this amounts to political corruption? Does the Taoiseach accept that a cheque for £50,000 was given to Mr. Padráig Flynn? That was equivalent to the full annual wage of four workers at the time.
Mr. Higgins: (Dublin West): The cheque did not arrive in Fianna Fáil. Why has the Taoiseach not called in the fraud squad? If Fianna Fáil headquarters was broken into and £500 taken, I presume the Garda Síochána would be called in immediately. Why has it not been called in this case in which it is alleged £50,000 is missing? Does zero tolerance apply only to unfortunate heroin addicts who steal handbags? Does the Taoiseach accept that ordinary people find it extraordinary that he wrote Mr. Flynn a single letter – an apologetic letter – asking for an explanation? The Taoiseach admitted that he has seen Mr. Flynn many times since. He should have gone over and looked up at him and said, “Padráig did you get 50 big ones from Gilmartin and what did you do with it?” It would only have taken five seconds and he could have had an answer in five seconds. Does the Taoiseach accept that ordinary people are perplexed and  enraged at the sight of Commissioner Flynn in his high rise fortress thumbing his nose at the peasants here while they continue to pay for his three homes and three pensions? In view of his contempt, will the Taoiseach activate Article 160 of the EU treaty to initiate disciplinary proceedings against this so-called representative of the country?
The Taoiseach: I have said many times that I take a dim view of corruption where large sums of money are given in return for favours from politicians. My position has not and will not change. The tribunal is investigating the circumstances of this case. Through cross-examination and other mechanisms we will find out what happened. The answers will be clear. I have not given consideration to Article 160 and I am unlikely to do so.
Mr. Quinn: The Tánaiste was quoted in the media as saying she was giving qualified support to the Government. Has the Taoiseach discussed these matters with the Tánaiste since that quotation was carried in the media and if the support is still qualified?
Mr. Quinn: The Taoiseach cleverly ducked my question. The purpose of this special debate is to discuss the serious allegations which have been made, the source of palpable concern around the House yesterday but not today. Yesterday it was reported that the Tánaiste was giving qualified support – I did not write the headline—
Mr. Quinn: As the Minister is well aware, we all respond to headlines. In the light of that headline, has the Taoiseach discussed the matter with the Tánaiste since? Is it his understanding that the position of the Progressive Democrats is to give qualified support to the Government? I would prefer to receive a reply from the Tánaiste but she declined to avail of the option to speak for five minutes.
The Taoiseach: I have had a number of conversations with the Tánaiste in recent days. It is clear to everybody that the Tánaiste was upset and disturbed by these matters. It is unusual for a Taoiseach to answer questions for two hours and to produce records to ensure openness. It is the policy of the Government to allay fears and I am proud to do so.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: It is not in order to raise that matter. That concludes question time. We now proceed to statements by the leaders of Fine Gael and the Labour Party and the Taoiseach or a Minister nominated by him.
Mr. J. Bruton: We now know that in a Government in which the Taoiseach, the Minister for Public Enterprise, Deputy O'Rourke, Deputy Smith and others were members, the then Taoiseach, Mr. Charles Haughey, was in receipt of vast sums of private donations from business people. We know that the then Minister for the Environment seems to have kept for himself a very large sum of money from a person with whom he was doing business as a Minister. We know that the Minister for Communications in that Government, subsequently the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the current Government, was also in receipt of huge sums of money diverted to his own personal purposes. We know that the Taoiseach knows all these people very well. We know the Taoiseach and Mr. Pádraig Flynn, in particular, worked very closely to defend Mr. Haughey from losing his job. We know that people were afraid to ask Charles Haughey about his lifestyle or, indeed, to ask him any questions, and many people wondered about that. Why was it, when one saw him every day, that nobody had the courage to ask him where all the money was coming from and why these strange things were happening?
This debate has given us something of an insight into why that sort of thing would happen as then, and still to a great extent, there is in Fianna Fáil a philosophy that believes if there is an awkward question that should be asked, then for God's sake do not ask it. The less one knows the less trouble one gets into.
Mr. J. Bruton: The Taoiseach has met Commissioner Flynn many times, but he did not have the habit of asking people straight questions. He met him but did not ask him the question. Interestingly enough, when he was going through this exhaustive inquiry to determine the suitability of then Deputy Raphael Burke to become Minister for Foreign Affairs, he did not send him a letter but sent someone off to make inquiries. He did not ask Mr. Burke the straight question: “Did you get money?” He could not ask them. Equally, he did not seem to be of the view that one should tell the Tánaiste anything. Just as, by not asking any questions, one does not get any guilty knowledge, if one has any guilty knowledge one certainly does not share that with one's colleagues. Perhaps it will never come out, and perhaps it is better then not to tell them.
Mr. J. Bruton: This is an example of the deep seated culture of denial and evasion at the heart of the Government. The approach of the Taoiseach to his responsibilities is one of avoiding the truth and avoiding either asking or being asked the hard questions. His approach is one of gradually changing the story as events force him to make the inquiries he should have made long ago but failed to make in good time.
Mr. J. Bruton: Regarding his own meetings with Mr. Gilmartin, when he first knew in September that there was a suggestion Mr. Gilmartin had made a donation that had gone astray I am surprised the Taoiseach did not think it worthwhile to check into it. Why did the Taoiseach have to wait until Monday of this week to inquire into this matter? The reason is quite obvious; it did not appear in the newspapers until Sunday of this week and one does not make any inquiries until forced to do so.
Mr. J. Bruton: That is not the way to run a Government or a party. It is not the culture that the Irish people want in Government. They want people who face the hard questions, who ask people face to face what should be asked and who get on with the job.
Mr. Quinn: The reason we are discussing this today is the tension, if not the pressure, which has built up over the weekend between the two coalition parties. The Tánaiste has left the Chamber and has declined to offer any view on behalf of the Progressive Democrats as to the level of satisfaction, trust or otherwise that exists between her party and Fianna Fáil. That is a matter for themselves, but it is a prime reason we have devoted all of today's business, excluding  Private Members' Business and Question Time to this topic.
It is from the perspective of 1999 that the period of politics in the era of 1989 is viewed. It was the era when, before a by-election, trees could appear and be taken away afterwards, and former Deputy Burke could get the kind of money for personal expenses that some people would not earn in two years. The culture undoubtedly existed where Mr. Haughey could live at the level he did, and that culture has been revealed by Mr. Gilmartin's assertion and the clear indication that Fianna Fáil shares belief in the possibility that £50,000 was given to Mr. Flynn. We will hear more of that in due course, and it is now quite obvious that that culture is absolutely repugnant and scandalous in 1999.
I accept that the Taoiseach had no option but to make time available today to answer the very serious allegations made against him and other members of his party in respect of these meetings with Fianna Fáil Ministers. It is now a matter for the tribunal to establish the facts.
Mr. Quinn: Once the allegations were made, we had no choice but to respond in the way we did today. I am also satisfied that I have a commitment from the Taoiseach that the search for records that will give us some information as to the specific nature of those meetings, which is not available to us as we speak, will continue, and, when found, as he indicated, will be sent to the tribunal.
Mr. Quinn: And which may or may not exist. I note the Minister for Health and Children's new found conversion to legislation which we debated around this time of the year six years ago, which concerned a freedom of information Bill to which he was adamantly opposed, and to the necessity for curtailment of expenditure on party elections, about which he had grave reservations. The idea of having an ethics in public office Bill caused him great concern and I welcome the conversion of the Minister to the necessity now.
Mr. Cowen: On a point of order a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, and for the purpose of accuracy, my point to my then Labour colleagues remains valid today. I do not need Labour-sponsored legislation to keep me straight.
Mr. Quinn: I am sure the Taoiseach will allow me the injury time inflicted on me by the Minister for Health and Children. His unwillingness to listen to anybody else's point of view was evident during Question Time. This affects every one of us in this House. There is no doubt the sins committed by some previous Members – I cannot and will not speak for the present Members – reflect badly on all of us in this House today.
Mr. Quinn: We have a collective obligation to get this addressed quickly. I ask the Taoiseach to ensure the Minister for the Environment and Local Government brings forward without delay the necessary legislation to curb and cap expenditure on local elections – the area in which rezonings can take place – and on the European elections. The committee examining the proposals on ethics in public office should be mandated to complete that work without delay and the changes that are necessary in the legislation should be given priority in this House on behalf of us all in this democracy because of the scandalous nature of the revelations which have done this House no good.
The Taoiseach: A number Deputies asked why I checked the records about Mr. Gilmartin's allegations only this week, given they were rumoured before the Flood tribunal. I had no approach whatsoever from the tribunal. I did not know Mr. Gilmartin had implicated me in any way with it. I am sure he is not accusing me of anything from the various things that he has said. What is certain  is that I issued instructions to all party members and employees to co-operate fully with the tribunal. The staff of Fianna Fáil headquarters have co-operated fully with it and I ask them to continue to do so. All the records were checked last October and staff who were interviewed gave all the relevant information to the tribunal. With the objective of further assisting the tribunal, I wrote to Commissioner Flynn to elicit further information. Having been accused earlier last year of not giving things to the tribunal, I made sure I did so on this occasion. I was more careful than I would otherwise have been and used legal advice all the way. I made sure I did that and I believe I was correct in doing that.
The Taoiseach: That is not a good thing to do. Trying to gut each other is precisely what Deputy Quinn spoke about. I agree with rules and regulations and we should be careful about them. Impugning people by accusing them of being guilty by association does not help.
The Taoiseach: I assure Deputy Bruton that I do not avoid things. Deputy Quinn did not say that I avoid things. I try to do things as best and as honestly as I can. I am not perfect, I am far from it. I do not try to avoid matters. When questions are raised in the public domain I answer them. I make myself more readily available than most to do that and I will continue to do so with tribunals in any form. When I am guilty, I am guilty. When I can defend myself, I will try to do it. That is the job I have to do.
I consider everyone in this House to be honest and I do not shine the light of guilt on anybody. Rules are sensible. I do not disagree with Deputies Bruton or Quinn about capping expenditure. We should not try to price ourselves down to the stage where we would do what my party did in the constituencies in 1932, when it took down the posters of other parties and used Gestetners to put up its posters on the back of them.
The Taoiseach: We cannot run this democracy in that way. We must be sensible about this. The proposals I put forward should emanate from a  committee of the House as that would avoid matters such as this.
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