Ceisteanna–Questions. - Conflicts of Interest.

Wednesday, 16 June 1999

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 506 No. 3

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  1.  Mr. J. Bruton  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   asked the Taoiseach  Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern   if he will provide details of the severance package, if any, agreed with a person (details supplied) who resigned from his Department recently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15230/99]

  2.  Mr. J. Bruton  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   asked the Taoiseach  Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern   if he will publish details of the contract of employment of a person (details supplied) who recently resigned from the staff of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15232/99]

  3.  Mr. J. Bruton  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   asked the Taoiseach  Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern   if he will make a statement on the recent resignation of a person (details supplied) from the staff of his private office in his Department. [15235/99]

  4.  Mr. J. Bruton  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   asked the Taoiseach  Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern   if he will report on his meeting on 21 May 1998 with representatives of NTL; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15237/99]

  5.  Mr. Quinn  Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn   asked the Taoiseach  Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern   the circumstances of the resignation of his special adviser (details supplied). [15343/99]

  6.  Mr. Quinn  Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn   asked the Taoiseach  Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern   the severance package, if any, provided to a person (details supplied) following his resignation as special adviser. [15348/99]

  7.  Mr. Quinn  Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn   asked the Taoiseach  Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern   the circumstances of his meeting in May 1998 with the telecommunications company NTL; the way in which the meeting was arranged; if the matter of the possible sale of Cablelink was discussed at the meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15349/99]

  8.  Mr. Higgins (Dublin West)  Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins   asked the Taoiseach  Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern   if he will make a statement on his dealings with NTL, particularly in relation to the sale of Cablelink to that company. [15428/99]

[524]

  9.  Mr. J. Bruton  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   asked the Taoiseach  Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern   the meetings, if any, he had in 1997, 1998 or 1999 with representatives or agents of any of the companies which subsequently bid for Cablelink Limited; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15465/99]

  10.  Mr. J. Bruton  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   asked the Taoiseach  Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern   the number of occasions on which he has met a person (details supplied). [15466/99]

  11.  Mr. J. Bruton  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   asked the Taoiseach  Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern   if a record exists of the meeting he had on 21 May 1998 with representatives of NTL-Cabletel; the correspondence, if any, subsequent to the meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15467/99]

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 to 11, inclusive, together and to answer them comprehensively.

I deeply regret the unfortunate circumstances that have led to Mr. Paddy Duffy's resignation as my special adviser. However, in the absence of the necessary clarity with regard to potential conflicts of interest and given the manner in which politics has to be conducted, it was probably, sadly, unavoidable.

Mr. Paddy Duffy has been by profession a school teacher. He was a founding principal of the Gaelscoil na Cille school in Ashbourne, County Meath. He was always very interested in cultural matters, including the Irish language, music and sport, and expressed a strong social concern.

After giving me voluntary assistance over many years, Mr. Duffy first came to work with me in the Department of Finance as press officer and also to assist with the preparation of speeches and to meet delegations on my behalf, particularly in the areas of interest I indicated earlier. He subsequently became my chef de cabinet during my period in Opposition, and joined me as special adviser in the Department of the Taoiseach, where his principal role was writing and co-ordinating speeches. Along with other senior members of the Department, he also helped to meet people on my behalf and to sift, evaluate and process, as necessary, with the help of Departments and agencies, some of the large number of projects, representations and proposals that are brought to every Taoiseach's attention.

Like many people who knew him, I appreciate the service, loyalty, dedication and commitment that Mr. Duffy gave on many occasions not just to me and my party but also in the public interest. At the time of his appointment to the Department of the Taoiseach in June 1997, Mr. Paddy Duffy was on secondment from his teaching post. He subsequently applied for and was given a one year career break with effect from 1 September 1998. The need to resolve this and related matters, including superannuation and remuneration issues, was a reason a formal contract was still under consideration at the time of his resignation, although the standard terms of employment are clear and in some individual instances in the past [525] have been put on the Dáil record. The question of severance and eligibility for it will require further study, so I am not in a position to make any statement about such arrangements at this point.

Earlier this year Mr. Duffy informed me of his intention to leave the public service and go into the private sector. He did not mention any specific companies or employers. I now gather from his recent statements that he had originally intended leaving at the end of last year but that he then subsequently decided to stay on for a further year. As far as I know, the first time his intentions appeared in print were in Phoenix magazine of 26 February 1999, and I believe that he first spoke to me shortly before that. I understand from further inquiries that his interest in moving into consultancy had been known in some of those circles for some time. I gather Mr. Paul Dillon first raised with Mr. Paddy Duffy the question of coming to work with his company at a lunch on 5 June 1998 in La Stampa.

I would now like to set out the facts regarding my contact with Cabletel, Mr. Duffy's involvement in Dillon's and the sequence of events, so far as I have been able to establish them. I met with representatives of NTL, which is the parent company of Cabletel, on 21 May 1998 in Government Buildings. NTL was represented by Mr. George Blumenthal, chairman of NTL, Mr. Owen Lamont, managing director of NTL Ireland and Mr. Paul Dillon, managing director, Dillon Consultants. A senior official from my Department and my special adviser, Mr. Paddy Duffy, were also present. I stress that the meeting was essentially with NTL. The representative of Dillon Communications was there as a facilitator.

I had met Mr. Lamont previously, in Belfast on 23 January 1998, when I addressed the Northern Ireland chamber of commerce, of which Mr. Lamont was vice-chairman at the time. On that occasion, Mr. Lamont, who was seated beside me, briefly informed me of his company's plans to establish a presence in Ireland. Subsequently, he wrote to me on 15 April 1998 regarding the issue of rebroadcasting RTE channels into Northern Ireland, which my office referred to the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands. In that letter he also inquired about arrangements for the sale of Cablelink, which my office referred to the Minister for Public Enterprise.

As a follow-on to that brief meeting, I understood that NTL wished to arrange a presentation of its investment and development plans both in Northern Ireland and here. To this end Dillon Consultants, on behalf of NTL, wrote to Mr. Duffy by fax dated 23 April 1998, which was the first contact he had from that company, with a view to arranging such a presentation. Mr. Duffy's name was suggested to Dillon's by a public relations consultant who worked mainly on her own account and who would have had some contact with officials in the Taoiseach's office over the years. She believes that the person she first approached was my appointments secretary and she subsequently spoke to Mr. Duffy who hap[526] pened to be available. Both Mr. Duffy and Mr. Paul Dillon have independently corroborated that they had not previously met. The stated purpose of the meeting, according to the letter, was “to bring An Taoiseach up to date with Cabletel's significant development plans in the Republic”. Departmental officials were consulted with regard to the request for a meeting. The advice was to the effect that it would be a useful briefing. This advice was given in light of the considerable changes under way in the communications market at the time and in respect of which it was felt that there might be merit in meeting with a company with experience of operating on an international basis, including within the UK, where the liberalisation process was somewhat ahead of the Irish situation.

It is my policy, as it has been of my predecessors, to meet at their request with those undertaking or contemplating major investments of benefit to the economy, usually on the assumption that they are also already pursuing, or intend to pursue, their plans with the Minister or Ministers or other agencies most directly responsible. In addition, like my predecessor, I have taken a strong personal interest in ensuring that Ireland is well prepared for the information society. The importance of a telecommunications infrastructure has been stressed in reports submitted to me by the Information Society Commission in February 1998 and the National Competitiveness Council in March 1998, and on numerous occasions since by other expert groups.

I have arranged for a report of the meeting, together with copies of other relevant documents, to be laid before the House. This report indicates that it was a short but informative meeting, with, as anticipated, a helpful overview of trends in the sector on a global basis being provided by the company's chairman who also outlined their plans for developing activities here, especially through the completion of a fibre optic ring.

At the time of the meeting the Government's decision that Cablelink be sold was already a matter of public record, although none of the arrangements regarding the sale had been settled. NTL indicated during the meeting that it would consider bidding for Cablelink when the sale process got under way. Deputies will be aware that, in view of the rigorous EU procurement rules which must be respected in these matters, it was some months later before the advisers handling the sale were even appointed, and some further time again before the tendering process was announced. As the House will be aware, an exceptionally good price has eventually been obtained for the sale of Cablelink.

Turning to the matter of subsequent correspondence, some months later, in September 1998, NTL invited me to announce the completion of its fibre optic ring in October 1998, which involved the establishment of the first fibre optic links between Ireland and Britain. For the record, this invitation was also made by Dillon Consultants and was sent, in the first instance, to my [527] special adviser. I was happy to accept the invitation and I attended the function which took place at the Portmarnock Hotel on Wednesday, 14 October 1998. The speech prepared for that occasion, which Mr. Duffy would have had some role in drafting, is one of the documents I have laid before the House.

A number of matters arise in relation to the Ethics in Public Office Act, 1995. These matters, by virtue of the Act, are solely the responsibility of the Public Offices Commission. While recognising the primacy of the commission in these matters, as a matter of courtesy to the House, I should deal briefly with them.

Under the Act—

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  All of this is material which we, on this side of the House, are hearing for the first time. We have not had the opportunity of reading any of it or checking back on it. We must have complete recollection of everything the Taoiseach has said in this extremely long reply. From the point of view of cross-examining the Taoiseach on the matter, which people will expect us to do, we are at a decided disadvantage. The Ceann Comhairle may have a copy of the reply, the clerk has a copy of it and the Taoiseach has the reply, but the people who have to question him do not have a written copy of it.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Can we get a copy of the reply?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Chair has no control over that.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I appreciate that is the case, Sir, but the Chair is the only one to whom I can appeal. The Taoiseach has not done us the courtesy of giving us a copy of the reply in advance. He has given a copy of it to the Ceann Comhairle and to the Clerk of the Dáil but not to the Opposition.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That is the normal procedure.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It may well be. It is expected we will cross-examine the Taoiseach closely on this matter, but we do not have a copy of his reply in front of us, whereas in any normal cross-examination people would have such a copy in front of them.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy has made his point. The Chair has no function in this matter.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I know the Chair has no function in this matter, but the Chair has a general function of protecting the interests of Members. Members of the Opposition are supposed to question the Taoiseach. None of the Members beside him will question him, the Chair will not question him, the Clerk of the Dáil who has a copy of his reply will not question him, the [528] reporter who also has a copy of it will not question him and members of the media who have a copy of it will not question him. We are the ones who are supposed to question him and we are the only people in this Chamber who do not have a copy of his reply. That is not fair.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  The Deputy has a copy of all the questions.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We will have to proceed with the reply.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  With due respect, what will the Ceann Comhairle do about it?

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  Nothing.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Chair is not in a position to do anything about this matter. What is happening is the normal procedure at Question Time.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Everyone else in the House, including all the journalists, have a copy of the reply—

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Who said the journalists have a copy of it?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  As far as I am aware, the normal procedure is being pursued.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  —apart from the Fianna Fáil backbenchers, whose jobs depend on their agreeing with the Taoiseach.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  As there is only 45 minutes allocated for the Taoiseach's questions, we should proceed as normal.

Mr. Sheehan: Information on P. J. Sheehan  Zoom on P. J. Sheehan  The Taoiseach's reply is a major speech and we should have a copy of it.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  (Dublin West): I agree with what Deputy Bruton said.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We cannot have statements on this matter. The Deputy must resume his seat. This is Question Time and we must proceed. The Taoiseach is replying to a number of questions.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  (Dublin West): Why can we not have a copy of the reply?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should not be on his feet when the Chair is on his.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Unlike the journalists, we do not have the material before us. People may say we did not ask all the right questions, but it is easy to be wise after the event. We do not have the same luxury as the journalists. The Taoiseach is trying to avoid his responsibility.

[529]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Question Time must proceed in the normal way. The Chair is on his feet and the Deputy should resume his seat. He is out of order. We will proceed as normal.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  (Dublin West): On a point of order—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy is not entitled to rise to speak when the Chair is on his feet. He will resume his seat.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  (Dublin West): Why can we not have a copy of the reply now?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I will have to ask the Deputy to leave the House if he does not resume his seat. The Deputy must resume his seat and allow Question Time to proceed as normal.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  We will have to have an extended period to ask questions after the Taoiseach has read his reply.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Will the Deputy resume his seat?

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  We do not have a copy of the Taoiseach's answer.

Mr. Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Having listened to the Deputy over the past ten days, one would think he had all the right answers.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I do not have a copy of the Taoiseach's answer to these questions.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I call for order.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  The Deputy should take out his pen and take a note of the Taoiseach's reply.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I call on the Taoiseach to proceed.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The recent criticism I received in this House is that I did not answer questions until I was asked questions and that I did not answer them in this House. What I am trying to do today is to answer these questions comprehensively. I have not had an opportunity of answering any of the questions, which have been listed fairly. I have no objection to these questions being raised in the media or to those that have been carried in the newspapers over the past two weeks. I thought the right place to answer those questions was in this House. I could have answered them at a party meeting, but I thought I should answer them here.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  That is all we want.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Is it a disgrace to answer them here?

Under the Act there is a requirement for senior special advisers, whose remuneration exceeds the [530] prescribed amount, to make a statement of interests pursuant to the Ethics in Public Office Act, 1995. All such statements were made at the required time and forwarded to the Public Offices Commission at that time also.

It is a matter of great regret to me that copies of the statements of the two years ended January 1998 and January 1999 were not laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas until last week. This was due to an administrative oversight, and I have taken steps to ensure this does not happen again.

Other documents required by the ethics Act to be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas include, in the case of senior advisers whose remuneration exceeds the prescribed amount, statements of their qualifications relevant to their functions as special advisers; and in the case of all special advisers, copies of their contracts and statements as to whether they are related to the office holder. Regrettably, the laying of those documents before the Houses of the Oireachtas was also the subject of an administrative oversight.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Come off it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The documents have now been laid as required and the new administrative arrangements, which I have instituted, will ensure that this oversight does not occur again. Some information about their employment has been supplied in answer to parliamentary questions, and the background, career and qualifications of my senior advisers would be reasonably well known to many in the media and to most Members of the House.

In relation to contracts, there was an added difficulty that in a number of cases, issues had arisen, which were the subject of clarification and negotiation, and this had the effect of delaying completion of the contracts in those instances, a not unprecedented situation under other Governments. A small number have yet to be completed, chiefly in relation to advisers appointed very recently. I would be very concerned, however, by any implication that, if a contract had not been signed, people would not feel themselves bound by the conditions laid down in it. I think one of the lessons of this episode is that contracts need to be signed at the commencement of employment, and if there are questions that cannot be immediately decided or settled, such as pensions entitlements, then this can be dealt with by way of supplementary contract.

In the case of the special adviser—

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  On a point of order, the Taoiseach had read a 15 minute statement to the House. We have 45 minutes in which to ask him questions. How many more pages does he have to read?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Ten or 11.

[531]Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  The Opposition wanted answers and now they are getting them.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  This is not Question Time; it is for statements, which makes Question Time a farce.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  The Deputy wanted answers and now he is getting them.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Will the Taoiseach agree to extend Question Time by agreement by an hour to allow him to be questioned on all of this?

Mr. Flood: Information on Chris Flood  Zoom on Chris Flood  It does not merit it.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Given that the Taoiseach has taken up an inordinate amount of time in self-justification here, will he agree to extend Question Time by agreement of the House, which I understand we can do, to allow all Members to put relevant questions to him in regard to this reply of which the Opposition has had no notice?

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  The Taoiseach is answering 11 questions.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I did not ask Deputy Woods—

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  I am surprised the Deputy did not know that.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  —but I ask the Ceann Comhairle if the Taoiseach will agree to extend Question Time to allow us to ask all the relevant questions?

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  On a point of order—

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Will the Taoiseach agree to that?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The 45 minutes allocated for Taoiseach's questions is contained in Standing Orders. The Deputy's proposal would require an order of the House.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  We could agree to extend Question Time.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  According to Standing Orders, the period for Taoiseach's questions is 45 minutes. To extend it would require an order of the House and there is no such order before the House.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Will the Taoiseach propose such an order?

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  On a point of order—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I will allow the Deputy's point of order if he resumes his seat.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I would have nearly finished reading the reply by now if I had been allowed to continue.

[532]Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  As the Taoiseach has the authority to do so will he agree to propose an order of the House to extend Question Time for such time as is necessary to allow him to be questioned on this very lengthy reply of which the Opposition has had no notice?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I will give 15 minutes of Government time, if that is agreeable to the House. It is ridiculous to ask that Question Time be extended by an hour.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I am happy on behalf of the Opposition to agree to a 15 minute extension of Question Time.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I will hear Deputy Howlin's point of order.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  We brought in regulations to restrict priority answers to five minutes. It will take at least half an hour for an answer to these questions. This is not Question Time; it is statements time.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The restrictions do not apply to Taoiseach's questions; there are no restrictions relative to Taoiseach's questions or answers.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  It is possible for the Taoiseach to use up all the time available to reply and to leave no time for questions.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Taoiseach has agreed to a 15 minute extension. Is that correct?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Yes. The Opposition must decide whether it wants me to give a comprehensive answer or if it wants to spend its time making allegations on television programmes. When I try to answer questions the Opposition does not want to listen. I do not have the ability to appear on every television programme, as members of the Opposition have been doing for weeks.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Taoiseach can attend every function.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I have listened to all the questions and answered them comprehensively, in this country's Parliament – the Opposition does not want to listen. So far I have lost six minutes through interruptions. I would have read eight pages in that time if I were allowed continue.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Taoiseach, without interruption.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  In the case of the special adviser, Mr. Paddy Duffy, who is the subject of this reply—

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Can we have a copy of the reply?

[533]Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  A Cheann Comhairle, can your staff provide the text of the reply?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The text of the reply will be available in the normal way.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Everyone will wonder why we did not ask the questions.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We must have order. The Taoiseach must be allowed reply.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It would be a big surprise if the Taoiseach could give all the information.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  In the case of the special adviser, Mr. Paddy Duffy, who is the subject of this reply, the official contract had not been completed before his resignation on 4 June last. Complex issues had arisen in relation to his secondment from his teaching post and attendant superannuation arrangements, as well as remuneration matters.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  What?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  John Foley was the same.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The Taoiseach had that one prepared.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  However, even in those circumstances, the provisions of the proposed contract would have been made known to him, including requirements inserted on foot of the provisions of the ethics Act. The standard contract includes the clause, “The position will be wholetime, and you may not engage in private practice or be connected with any outside business which would interfere with the performance of official duties”. On any reasonable interpretation, this would preclude becoming involved, even in a non-executive capacity, in any public affairs consultancy business. Subsection 7 of Schedule 2 of the Ethics in Public Office Act is quite explicit in defining as a registrable interest “a remunerated position held by the person concerned as a political or public affairs lobbyist, consultant or adviser during the appropriate period aforesaid”.

A further fact of which I was not aware at the time was that on 9 December 1998, Paddy Duffy was made a director of Dillon Consultants with effect from that date, on the basis that he would take up employment early in the New Year. Part of the deal was that he would take up a 5 per cent share in the company. Papers with his signature were subsequently lodged in the Companies Office on 12 March 1999. I do not have any documentary evidence showing that he ceased to be a director, nor does Paul Dillon recall any specific request to take him off the list of directors. However, I am informed that after about a week of reflection and consideration, during which he apparently decided to stay on in my Department [534] for another year, he informed Paul Dillon orally that he did not wish to take up the job for another year and returned the shares. I understand those transactions will be shown in the company's accounts, to be filed at the end of this year.

He apparently believed that returning the shares would ipso facto remove him from any directorship, and furthermore that his signature, while a sign of serious intent to consider the position, was not a definitive or operational acceptance but subject to a final decision. There was, of course, no question of his accepting any remuneration. Mr. Dillon has confirmed to my office that Mr. Duffy was very much in two minds as to what he was going to do at this time. Mr. Duffy did accept in his resignation statement that he should have resigned before accepting, however provisionally, an outside directorship of this character. Without knowing about the website and without checking the Companies Office, Mr. Duffy assumed that the matter had been sorted out and that he was not a director. However, in his resignation statement Mr. Duffy stated that “through a series of misunderstandings on my own part, I was still registered as a non-executive director” and he accepts that he should have double-checked the register before completing his statement of interests.

Paddy Duffy signed his statement of interest on 27 January 1999 under the Ethics in Public Office Act, 1995. He did not declare a directorship in Dillon's, which he clearly did not believe he possessed. This declaration was sent to the Public Offices Commission on 2 March 1999 within the deadline required by the legislation. A copy was submitted to my office at the same time. In the last week, a revised submission or correction of the record has been made by Mr. Duffy in the light of what has emerged, and the only outside interest referred to is Dillon's.

In February 1999, a meeting apparently took place in London between Dillon Associates and APCO, a very large international public affairs consultancy. Mr. Duffy attended this meeting, which he claims was not a board meeting in any sense, solely to discuss the role that he would play in Dillon's in partnership with APCO. APCO was represented, as reported in The Irish Times on 4 June 1999, by Bradley Staples, European chairman, and its US head, Margery Kraus. APCO was seeking, in partnership with Dillon's, to establish a base in Ireland and Mr. Duffy was there to discuss the possible shape of the company and what part he would play in it, when he joined, on the termination of his employment as a special adviser. Clearly, Mr. Duffy was seen as a future asset, perhaps a key asset, to the proposed company. I have been informed that there was no discussion on NTL, even though it was a client of both companies, but that, for example, the future prospects of the island under the Good Friday Agreement was discussed. Mr. Duffy paid his own travel and accommodation expenses.

On 12 March 1999, form B10, lodged in the Companies Office stated that Paddy Duffy was a [535] director of Dillon Consultants from 9 December 1998. On 15 March 1999, Dillon Associates' website was posted on the web. The site contained a fulsome reference to Mr. Paddy Duffy, special adviser to the Taoiseach, as acting for Dillon's. My understanding, based on information from Dillon's, is that this was an experimental website, equivalent to a promotional brochure, advertising the experience available to them and some of their clients—

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Exploratory meetings and experimental websites.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  —and Mr. Paul Dillon accepts that the posting of this on the website was, for several reasons, inappropriate.

I would like to make the following comment. In general, public affairs companies that wish to have dealings with the State should take steps to acquaint themselves with the rules and ethical requirements governing the behaviour of politicians, civil servants and advisers. If Dillon's had done so, it would have realised that it was totally inappropriate to either appoint or list—

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  It is hardly the fault of Dillon's.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  —a serving official as a director, even if non-executive.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  It is, therefore, Dillon's fault.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I already said Mr. Duffy accepted responsibility.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  And the Taoiseach has no responsibility?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I do not run Dillon's nor am I responsible for Mr. Duffy. On 28 April 1999, as set out in a note of 8 June 1999 from the Minister for Public Enterprise, Deputy O'Rourke, she was telephoned by Deputy Dukes and she met him in her office that morning. Deputy Dukes told the Minister that he had been given information that Mr. Paddy Duffy was on the board of Dillon Consultants. The Minister, Deputy O'Rourke, undertook to get back to Deputy Dukes on the matter. She then informed the Secretary General of her Department and myself of her conversation with Deputy Dukes. Later in the day, I told the Minister that I had spoken with Paddy Duffy, who told me he had no connection with Dillon's or NTL. He did tell me he knew Paul Dillon and was considering involvement with Dillon Consultants Limited after leaving his position as a special adviser. That evening, Mr. Duffy telephoned the Minister and told her personally and trenchantly that he had no connection with Dillon's or NTL but that at the end of 1999 he was going to go into public relations, without mentioning any specific company. However, he told me and the Minister that he had made no final decisions.

[536] On 29 April 1999 the Minister, Deputy O'Rourke, telephoned Deputy Dukes in Bonn and told him that Mr. Duffy had denied any involvement in Dillon's or NTL. Mr. Duffy clearly stated what he believed to be factually correct, but he has acknowledged that he should have put the full facts to me and to the Minister for Public Enterprise.

When the story subsequently broke in The Irish Times, it created, prima facie, the impression that Mr. Duffy had not been open about previous contacts, future plans and contractual arrangements and that he had placed the Minister in a false and invidious position. That was the most serious aspect of the case. The problem stemmed from the misunderstanding between Mr. Duffy and Dillon's with regard to his status and none of us was in possession of the full picture, in other words, what had happened the previous December.

On 26 May 1999, Cablelink was sold to NTL for £535 million. On 4 June 1999, The Irish Times revealed a story entitled “Ahern aide linked to Cablelink sale advisers”. Apropos of that, I emphasise that Dillon's were in no sense financial advisers to the sale, being involved in only a public relations role, not for Cablelink or the sellers, but for one of the bidders. The Irish Times front page article stated that Mr. Duffy joined the board of Dillon Consultants in recent months. It went on state that a B10 form had been lodged in the Companies Office on 12 March and that Mr. Duffy had become a director in the previous December. Mr. Duffy's signature was on the form. It was also stated that Mr. Duffy had attended a meeting between Dillon's and APCO, a major international firm with which Dillon's was forming a strategic alliance, in London in February. Dillon's and APCO had a client in common, NTL. The Dillon-APCO deal was done on 10 May. Mr. Duffy said this meeting was about his future and that he was not there as a representative of Dillon's.

On 4 June 1999, Mr. Duffy resigned. On 11 June 1999, the Irish Independent lead article stated that Mr. Duffy was also a director of the firm of consultants, Dillon's, that lobbied the Government's millennium committee on behalf of the Gaiety Theatre, which is seeking a £5 million grant. Mr. Duffy was a member of the 15 member millennium committee and part of a smaller group that attended a presentation by the Gaiety, organised by Dillon's. I am informed by Dillon's that it had no involvement in, or knowledge of, any earlier proposal for the State to purchase the Gaiety Theatre. That idea dates back to the autumn of 1997, long before there was any involvement with Dillon's, and relates to the possible use of the Gaiety Theatre as an opera house, and its acquisition by the State for that purpose.

It was one of dozens of ideas relating to cultural institutions or national monuments, real or potential, being put forward as part of an initial trawl. The idea did not come from the Gaiety or [537] anyone representing it, and the focus was the provision of an opera house.

Mr. Duffy had no role in preparing the Gaiety's presentation with Dillon's, and he was lobbied like other members of the committee, although he was in a different position to them. The application came to Mr. Duffy on 4 December from the executive director of the Gaiety theatre, Mr. John Costigan. A spokesperson for the Millennium Committee is quoted as saying that he “never said that he was a director” of Dillon's. For most of the period when it was under consideration, Mr. Duffy did not believe that he was a director of Dillon's. The spokesperson also said that, although some funding had been agreed in principle, many issues remained to be teased out. On the day the article appeared, Mr. Duffy issued a strong statement asserting that his involvement with regard to the proposal was proper and above board, and that the refurbishment of the Gaiety Theatre was a worthy cause.

While accepting that, there is a potential for conflict of interest where a person is adjudicating on, and maybe backing, a proposal on its own merits but which is, nonetheless, being promoted by a firm with which he expects to have a future contractual relationship. It illustrates the unsatisfactory nature of a long transition period between one role and another, where there is a danger of some overlap or conflict of interest. However, I would not wish to see the Gaiety's application prejudiced, one way or the other, because of what has occurred. I am attaching to my reply to the sequence of events with regard to the consideration of this project, which was not considered suitable in its original form.

The only other millennium project being promoted by Dillon's is an application on behalf of the “Hole in the Wall Gang” at Barretstown Castle, which is a very worthy social cause.

On Monday my office was also informed by Mr. Duffy that he and his wife are directors of a company called The Right Word Company Ltd, which is concerned with the sale and promotion of musical and written compositions. For the sake of completeness, I mention that it is my understanding that Mr. Paddy Duffy is also director of the recently formed Anna Livia Opera Festival, the Seán O Riada Trust. He apparently took legal advice in 1996 and was informed that, since there was no question of his directorship of the Right Word Company Limited influencing his function in employment, on that basis he did not need to declare it. Under the Ethics in Public Office Act, which was passed by both Houses on 14 July 1995, section 19(3) requires a special adviser to declare interests which could materially influence the person in the performance of his functions, by reason that the performance could so affect those interests as to confer or withhold a substantial benefit on that person or his or her spouse or child. While schedule 2 defines all directorships as registrable interests, I am advised that, on a strict construction of the Act, if it can be demonstrated that the interest in question could not [538] materially influence the performance of functions, in the sense just referred to, then it is not required to be declared under section 19(3). That is the strict legal position, but, without going into its merits or otherwise in this particular instance, I think it is advisable to err on the side of caution and declare significant outside involvements

I will refer to some of the other more general issues raised by this affair, at a time when our ethics legislation is still developing. It is important that advice given to Government, whether from the Civil Service or from special advisers or any agency of the State, should be financially disinterested, or where there is any financial interest of even indirect relevance that it be clear and transparent, so that there is no undue or improper influence.

The problem that arose in this instance was that a special adviser was arguably in the process of forming a relationship with a private company that would be important for his future career after leaving the public service. That company was, most probably due to a serious misunderstanding, already advertising the special adviser on the Internet as an asset. It underlines the dangers of forming even a tentative relationship with a commercial company dealing with the State prior to leaving the public service.

There has been a growth, not only of political lobbying and consultancy but an encouragement in some parts of the public sector, to people to continue working on a self-employed contract basis. The whole area requires deeper reflection and debate, including whether some gap needs to be instituted between public and private employment where special knowledge or a regulatory position would give an inside track. These are difficult problems that require much more discussion in the public service by the Dáil and in the media. We have to remember that we are a small country and it may not always be easy or practicable here to construct Chinese walls. Given that many of us believe that more contact and cross-fertilisation between the public and private sectors may be more to the public advantage than its disadvantage, we should not automatically assume that we know the right answers before studying the situation more deeply.

I regret that I have lost a valued colleague. I wish Mr. Duffy and his family well. Recognising the potential for damaging controversy, he acted very promptly in offering his resignation, which I reluctantly accepted. There have undoubtedly been unfortunate mistakes, misunderstandings and errors of judgment. However, there are also dangers in taking decisions or forming judgments too quickly on the basis of bad appearances, which may have devastating consequences for individuals who have sought at all times, by their own lights, to act with proper honour and integrity. From the point of view of public ethics, that legislation is still in its infancy. We can all learn from the experience, and I believe that there may be cautionary lessons which have an application that go far beyond the individual involved.

[539] I thank the House for listening to my lengthy reply but it was necessary for me to make it.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Does the Taoiseach think he is in any way to blame in this matter?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  No.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Does he accept that, under the Ministers and Secretaries Act, a Minister is responsible for the behaviour of those employed by him or her?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Yes.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  How, then, can the Taoiseach say he is not to blame, given that he is responsible for Mr. Duffy's behaviour?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  When one does not know the facts, one cannot make decisions; when one knows the facts, one can take action.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Is it not the Taoiseach's job, as it is the job of any Minister, to put himself in a position where he knows the facts?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I could not have done that in the circumstances.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  How many times per day did Mr. Duffy meet the Taoiseach when he was a special adviser?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I did not count.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Would the Taoiseach regard it as unreasonable to say that he probably met Mr. Duffy three or four times a day and that their offices were on the same corridor?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Possibly.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  How, then, is it justifiable to say that Mr. Duffy did not have an opportunity to explain to the Taoiseach his contacts with Dillon's?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Because he did not inform me of them.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Does the Taoiseach consider that Mr. Duffy's conduct in that matter was defensible?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I have answered that comprehensively.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  He has not.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  He has.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I am asking the Taoiseach's opinion. Does he consider that Mr. Duffy's behaviour constituted misconduct?

[540]The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I have answered that comprehensively.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  He has not answered that. Is it not the case that a person employed as a special adviser having a relationship with a private business is clearly misconduct within the meaning of his contract, as drafted and presented to him but not signed by him?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I have outlined that under the draft contract, which was known to Mr. Duffy, it was, in my view and his now, inappropriate to have a relationship with an outside company.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Does the Taoiseach not consider he has a responsibility of surveillance over his staff to ensure they are abiding by their responsibilities?

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  Deputy Bruton's surveillance of Deputy Lowry was not the best.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Does the Taoiseach recall that when Fianna Fáil was in Opposition it pursued a Minister of State in the Department of Agriculture over a matter concerning his adviser with great relentlessness, a relentlessness which did not characterise the Taoiseach's surveillance of his own staff?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  My attention was brought to this issue by Deputy Dukes, through the Minister, Deputy O'Rourke. I checked the matter comprehensively and was given an answer. I have outlined the circumstances of that answer. When it was brought to my attention for a second time by an article in The Irish Times, which was subsequently found to be factually correct, the necessary action was taken. I did not have to take action because Mr. Duffy resigned.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Does the Taoiseach regard it as the duty of the Opposition to give him the information he needs to supervise his staff?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I supervise my staff to the best of my ability. If Deputy Bruton believes I should spend my time as Taoiseach checking all the outside interests of people who have, in their view, filled out forms correctly, I do not believe that is my job. My job is to ensure, first, the forms are filled out, which was done; and, second, that the forms are lodged with the Public Offices Commission, which was done. I trust my staff to deal with matters which subsequently arise, as happened in this case. The third procedural aspect is that these matters should have been put by my office, for which I am responsible, into the Oireachtas Library, which was not done. The administrative staff thought that as it was in the Public Offices Commission they did not have to do that. I am responsible for that. I did not do that. I have now made the necessary arrangements for that to be done. It has been done for [541] the past two years and it will be done in future, due to the changes I have made.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Does the Taoiseach agree that one of the things one expects of a Minister, let alone a Taoiseach, is good political judgment? Does he consider he exercised good political judgment in appointing and supervising Mr. Duffy? Who was responsible for the administrative error that led to these declarations not being laid before the Dáil by him under his signature until 10 June, although most of them were signed back in January? Will the Taoiseach name the official concerned, given that he is not prepared to take personal responsibility himself?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Unfortunately Deputy Bruton was not listening when I answered that question. I said I was responsible for that. I would not name an official in this House and it is outrageous of the Deputy to ask me to do that. I never heard of such a request being made in the House.

In terms of judgment, Mr. Paddy Duffy is a very good official who has worked very hard and far beyond the call of duty for this country, as a teacher and as an official with me. He is a teacher and not a business person and in this case he made a bad mistake in thinking that by giving back the shares and saying he did not want the job his name would be struck off B Form 10. That was wrong and he accepted that fulsomely in his statement.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Does the Taoiseach accept that the Ethics in Public Offices Act states “the officeholder shall . ”, that it is he personally and not an official or an administrator who has a responsibility to comply with section 19(4) of the Act and that he is in dereliction of his duty under the law in not complying with that requirement?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  If the Deputy wants to be smart, and he is, under that section of the Act there is no date, so in effect since there is no time limit I did not break the law.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Taoiseach is saying that he does not accept the spirit of the law?

Mr. Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  The Taoiseach said—

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I would like the Taoiseach to answer. I know the Deputy has ambitions to be Taoiseach but he is not yet Taoiseach.

Mr. Dempsey: Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  So has Deputy Howlin, but I might have a better chance than him.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Does the Taoiseach accept that the clear spirit of the law requires him to ensure that section 19 is fully complied with and that he is in dereliction of his duty by not doing that?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Under that section of the Act, as I have already stated, it was my responsibility. [542] There was no time limit on it, but of course we should have put in the declaration. I have hundreds of administrative duties as Taoiseach and under the Act I am responsible for them all. When there is a mistake, it is my responsibility. The forms were in the Public Office Commission. The only breach was that my office thought they should go from the Public Office Commission to the public library, We were wrong and I am responsible for that. We should also put them into the library. We have set up a system to do that in future. That is all that happened.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Is it true that in relation to the details of the contract where no contract exists a statement of the terms and conditions in writing should be made? Why was that not put before the Houses of the Oireachtas as is required under the Act? When did the Taoiseach first become aware definitively that Mr. Duffy was a non-executive director of Dillon Consultants? What did he specifically do to assure himself about Mr. Duffy when he was informed by the Minister for Public Enterprise, Deputy O'Rourke, of the conversation she had with Deputy Dukes on the allegation that Mr. Duffy was compromised in this way?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I discussed the matter immediately with Mr. Duffy, questioned him on it and he stated that he knew that Paul Dillon might, if he went into the public relations sector, do business with him, among others, but that he had no involvement with them. He did not tell me of the previous matters which I have mentioned and outlined already. I became aware of this from an article in The Irish Times.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  In relation to the declaration of interests, the contract and statement—

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  There are three items for which I am responsible, which my officials put in the Public Office Commission but should also have placed in the Oireachtas Library, including the contracts and a form in which you state whether your advisers are brothers, sisters, uncles or aunts. I have done that.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Was the totality of the Taoiseach's inquiry after his conversation with the Minister for Public Enterprise, Deputy O'Rourke, on the matter, a discussion with Mr. Duffy, notwithstanding the fact that at that very time the Dillon website was touting the fact that Mr. Duffy had significant political influence and was an asset to Dillon Consultants? Was that checked out by his Department or was he not aware of it?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I was not aware of the Dillon website. Mr. Duffy was trenchantly of the view that he had nothing to do with them, and it was not just a question of a directorship.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Does the Taoiseach find it hard for us to believe that Mr. Duffy would attend a [543] meeting of APCO, believing it to be, as he said in his statement of resignation, a personal matter to discuss his future employment while still acting as the Taoiseach's personal adviser and at the same time a website for Dillon consultants advertised his closeness to the Taoiseach as one of the advantages that Dillon consultants had? Is it not very hard to believe that Mr. Duffy was totally unaware that he was a non-executive director of Dillon consultants, although he signed the legal requirement to be such a director at the end of last year?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I have come to the conclusion that it is so stupid that it is probably believable.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  That is a very good summary of the Taoiseach's approach to this. What did he do when he read the report in the Phoenix to the effect that Mr. Duffy was seeking employment? Did he ask him where he was seeking employment and if there would be a conflict of interests?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I did not read the Phoenix report. I was shown it the other day but I did hear that Mr. Duffy was contemplating leaving my Department. Some days before that article appeared Mr. Duffy came to me and told me he was leaving at the end of the year.


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