Ceisteanna–Questions (Resumed). - Questions 1 to 11 (Resumed).

Wednesday, 16 June 1999

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 506 No. 3

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Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Does the Taoiseach consider he was as careful as he ought to be in following up the possibility of a conflict of interest, given Mr. Duffy's published intention to seek employment elsewhere in business, and if any of his current employees are in discussion for potential employment in business?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I believe I was careful enough. I asked Mr. Duffy at the time if he had any particular place in mind and he told me he had not and would not make up his mind until the autumn.

[544]Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The Taoiseach was not careful enough. He was derelict in his duty.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  The Deputy would say that, would he not?

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It happens to be the truth. The Taoiseach has failed here.

Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation (Dr. McDaid): Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  Does the Deputy remember somebody called Michael Lowry?

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I can do without that help. I applied a higher standard in my appointments than Deputy Ahern did in appointing Deputy Burke.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  How many times did the Deputy go to Ben Dunne's house begging for money?

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Is it the case that Mr. Duffy was on the inner board of the Millennium Committee and not on the committee at large and that he was intimately involved in all the decisions in regard to possible grants being given by the Millennium Committee, which is, of course, the disbursement of public funds? Did Mr. Duffy inform either the inner board or the committee at large at any time of his involvement with Dillon Consultants and of Dillon Consultants involvement with some of the applicants?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  To clarify, it is not a board, it is a working group which tried to help process the application. The answer to the second question is no.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Does the Taoiseach believe that constituted misconduct on Mr. Duffy's part?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Mr. Duffy should have told the Minister, Deputy O'Rourke, the Millennium Committee and me that he had such a relationship. It was inappropriate that he did not.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Was it misconduct?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  It was inappropriate.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  (Dublin West): Does the Taoiseach accept that it is highly irregular for a Taoiseach's special adviser to be on the board of directors of a PR company advising another company which wants to purchase a major public asset? If the Taoiseach accepts that, why does he not ask his advisers straight out if they have any private interest or involvement in private companies? In the same way he would not ask the EU Commissioner straight questions. Is it not the case that Dillon's wanted Mr. Duffy for a particular reason? Mr. Duffy was to be grease to lubricate the wheels.

[545]

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy is making a statement, he should confine himself to a question.

Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins   (Dublin West): I am asking if Mr. Duffy was to play a key role for smooth interaction between the major players in the privatisation of a major semi-State company. Mr. Duffy was feathering a new nest before leaving the old one. The Taoiseach should have established this.

In view of the fact that the Government is shamefully flogging off public companies which are worth billions of pounds, does the Taoiseach accept that there is potential for major conflicts of interest with public servants advising the State on the privatisation, the sale and terms of sale and then, when the privatisation is carried through, perhaps moving to become part of the privatised company or a company which has benefited from the privatisation? Does the Taoiseach accept there should be legislation to prevent people moving from important public service positions into companies with which they have dealt while in the public service? Such circumstances give rise to the potential for corruption.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Mr. Duffy had no involvement in the issues of NTL.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Was he a shareholder?

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  How does the Taoiseach know that?

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  He wrote the statement.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Did the Deputy read his statement? The Deputy does not believe there was any involvement, he is just in the business of slinging muck at a decent person. He is good at that.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Was he a shareholder?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Taoiseach is on his feet. Deputies should realise that they must be called by the Chair.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  In reply to Deputy Higgins's question, not only did I ask Mr. Duffy about this but he signed his declaration. He did not just give a reply to what he was asked, he also signed a declaration and has since put in a supplementary declaration. Those questions were asked of him.

I take Deputy Higgins's point about conflict of interest. I outlined my views on that at the end of my statement.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  On the involvement of Mr. Duffy in the Millennium Committee, is it a fact that initially Mr. Duffy denied that he had made representations on behalf of the Gaiety Theatre, for which Dillon's were acting, for the State to purchase and refurbish it? In the Sunday Independent it was revealed that Mr. Duffy had sent a [546] memo to the Millennium Committee in support of the State purchasing the Gaiety. Will the Taoiseach tell us the facts of the matter? Was Mr. Duffy telling us the truth on Friday?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Mr. Duffy was telling the truth on Friday. We are dealing with two separate issues, one of which goes back to 1997 and relates to cultural ideas. One of those ideas was that the Gaiety should be bought by the State and turned into an opera house. Nothing happened with that, it was purely an idea. The second issue, which is entirely different, was a submission by the Gaiety concerning the upgrading of the theatre. I am circulating the sequence of events as part of the note on that today. They are totally unrelated issues.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I accept that. I asked if Mr. Duffy sent a memo, letter of support or any documentation to the Millennium Committee concerning the current application, supported by Dillon's, from the Gaiety for the State to purchase it and invest £7 million in refurbishing it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  A proposal to purchase was not made to the committee by the Gaiety or Dillon's. They are two separate issues. The proposal to the Millennium Committee is about upgrading the Gaiety and that is being considered.

Mr. Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Was there any letter of support for that proposal on file from Mr. Duffy?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I not believe that there was, but all the issues are raised in the detailed note from the file on the sequence of events.

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  Maybe the Minister of State, Deputy Brennan, could tell us. He would know.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I am answering the questions today.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Did the Taoiseach personally ask Mr. Duffy if he had any involvement whatsoever with NTL or is he relying solely on Mr. Duffy's public statement for his authority on that matter?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  My adviser, Mr. Martin Mansergh, has raised all those questions with Mr. Duffy.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Given that Mr. Duffy was the Taoiseach's adviser, why did he not think it proper to speak to him personally?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I have spoken to him. I spoke to him on 4 June but I have not spoken to him since.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I know the Taoiseach has spoken to him but why did he not speak to him about this matter personally?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I listed all the questions I had to ask, they were put to him and he answered [547] them. I want to thank him for his co-operation in answering.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Why did the Taoiseach not ask Mr. Duffy face to face if he had involvement with NTL?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I put all the questions to him which are required to be answered. I discussed this with him on 4 June and he answered every question I asked when I spoke to him on two or three occasions that evening. Since then the questions were put to him on my behalf and he answered them.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The Taoiseach did not ask him about his involvement with NTL and the House wants to know why.

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

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The Taoiseach has not.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I do not go around asking everyone everything.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  More innuendo. The Deputy is full of innuendo.

Mr. Belton: Information on Louis J. Belton  Zoom on Louis J. Belton  I would not like to tell the Deputy what he is full of.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Will the Taoiseach outline to the House the times and content of the information he gave to the Tánaiste on this matter?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Tánaiste was fully informed of everything I knew when I knew it.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Did the Tánaiste query the Taoiseach about why he did not personally interview Mr. Duffy about his involvement with NTL?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Deputy Bruton has barked up 50 trees and got nowhere. Deputy Owen has passed him a note to bark up another. There was no involvement by Mr. Duffy in NTL.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Is it fair to say that Mr. Duffy was more than an official and adviser in the Taoiseach's Department? He was the Taoiseach's political confidante. Does the Taoiseach recall telling a newspaper Ireland on Sunday – I am not allowed quote at Question Time—

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Definitely not.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  —that he had been with him every day of his political life. The Taoiseach said in his script, which was quite unprecedented, at Question Time and which was read out for 37 minutes, that apparently—

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Minus the interruptions of about ten minutes.

[548]Mr. Gormley: Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  We should be given a copy of it. If the press has it, elected Members should have it.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Is it not the case that the Taoiseach said in that script that apparently last December Mr. Duffy decided to leave his employment. He went on to say that apparently he changed his mind and apparently he decided to stay on. I am sure we can get the actual text. Is the Taoiseach telling the House that, notwithstanding his close relationship every day of his political life with Mr. Duffy, Mr. Duffy did not come into the office and discuss with him his departure, his plans for the future, his involvements, his expectations of employment?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  When Mr. Duffy finally made up his mind he came in and told me. He told me he intended leaving at the end of the year. That was when he finally made up his mind.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I will take a brief comment from Deputy Rabbitte and Deputy Bruton.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Is the Taoiseach saying now that Mr. Duffy did not intend to leave at the end of last year and that he did not advise the Taoiseach of his prospective employment? As this Question Time is coming to an end is it fair of the Taoiseach to characterise his remarks today by saying Mr. Duffy was forgetful, inefficient, even stupid – to use the Taoiseach's own word – but that he is completely innocent of any misconduct under the code to guide advisers? Is that a fair summary?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  No, it is not. Anything the Deputy says would not be fair. In my estimation, in this matter, Mr. Duffy was not aware of the website. That is the circumstance in which I said it was stupid. He was not aware his name was posted on the website. I believe he was telling the truth. He would not have said that he was a non-executive director if he did not believe he was so. I have known him for 25 years. He is not a person who deliberately tells mistruths but he did make a fundamental mistake in believing that when he had filled up form B 10 his name would somehow get off it without him doing something about it. He did think that. He is a school teacher not a business person. That was an error and he said that in his own statement. He had no involvement with other matters which are attributed to him. He has paid the price. He is a person who does his business. He has been the subject of more front page articles than most Members in the past month. He has paid a heavy price. In my judgment of him, I say to Deputy Rabbitte who knows him quite well, he has been a good friend, a good political friend of mine, has a strong social conscience and is very strong on the Irish language and cultural matters. In this case he made a mistake and he paid the price for that. He did not [549] give me the full facts, unfortunately, on the most serious matter.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The time is up. Deputy Rabbitte has had the floor and should resume his seat.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Is the Taoiseach telling this House that he did not discuss with Mr. Duffy his plans with regard to his employment?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I could not have discussed the plans until he told me he was leaving.

Mr. Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  He told the Taoiseach last December.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  No, he did not.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We cannot continue in this way.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I have given the date already. He told me just before the end of February. I have already stated that. Unfortunately, the Deputy was not listening.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I will allow a final brief question from Deputy Bruton.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I am sorry, I will not be brief.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Chair has no option but to close this matter.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  You allowed Deputy Rabbitte time. Will the Taoiseach agree that the Cablelink contract was one of the most valuable disposals of an asset belonging to the Irish people that has taken place in recent times? Will he agree that if in any other democracy it transpired that an adviser in the Prime Minister's office was closely connected with the consultant to the successful contractor that would be a matter of the gravest concern? Will he accept that a Prime Minister in any other democracy would accept personal responsibility for the omissions and acts of his own personal staff if not at least for more remote official staff? Will he agree he has personally failed in a grievous way in the supervision of his own office in this regard?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy is going on far too long. If the Deputy continues I will bring the matter to a close.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  There are two more questions I wish to ask.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That is two too many.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Is it the case that the Taoiseach – if I heard him correctly – met NTL on three occasions: first, in Belfast, second, at a luncheon in La Stampa and subsequently at a meeting? To whom were the minutes of those discussions cir[550] culated? What was Mr. Duffy doing circulating a memo to other Government Departments about the Gaiety Theatre, while he was already an adviser? Is it normal for special advisers in the Taoiseach's Department on their own authority to circulate documents on behalf of the Taoiseach's office?

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Dillon's was not, as Deputy Bruton purports to make it, the main drivers of NTL. They were press people who organised press events for Dillon. Dillon, in the case of the contact with Mr. Duffy, was a press person normally associated with his own agency and was not even a Dillon's person. Nobody from NTL was involved in any of the matters in which Mr. Duffy was involved. On the question of what Mr. Duffy was doing on the cultural aspects, he had a particular expertise which is well recognised outside the House. They were looking at useful proposals and he put forward one in connection with opera. It was not a Government memorandum as such. What was the Deputy's last question?

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I asked about the luncheon at La Stampa and so on.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The Deputy has got that all wrong. I did not have lunch in La Stampa. That related to a meeting he had in Dillon's. I had three meetings. I met a met Mr. Lamont who was vice-president of the Belfast Chamber of Commerce in January 1998 when I addressed matters in Northern Ireland on the occasion of the forum when all leaders in the North were invited to a lunch. I addressed the first one. The second was the meeting in my office when all the senior NTL people made a presentation. The third was in Portmarnock, Deputy Owen's constituency, I am sure she was there—

Mrs. Owen: Information on Nora Owen  Zoom on Nora Owen  I was not there.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  —when the loop around the country was being brought ashore on Portmarnock beach.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That concludes the Taoiseach's Question Time. We must proceed to questions nominated for priority.


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