Nothing learnt from the Haughey revelations
Just after 9am on the morning of Wednesday, 20 December, just 20 hours after the publication of the Moriarty report, which presented the most disturbing insight into the inner workings of Irish politics that we have seen since the state was founded, a newsreader on RTÉ's 2FM said breezily that the Moriarty tribunal report story was over – that day's story was the opening of the Port Tunnel. The 9am RTÉ Radio One news that day did not even mention the report.
It is disappointing that after nine years of work, the tribunal reported on a week in which the public was least likely to be interested. The Dáil is not due to resume until late-January. There will then be a two hour – or, with luck, a day's – debate on the report and that will be that. Nothing learnt.
It was obvious from the mid-1960s that Charles Haughey had questions to answer about his private finances. These questions persisted throughout his public career and yet were never pursued by either the media or his political opponents.
The same is happening now.
Two blindingly obvious questions arise in relation to Fianna Fáil at present. Another very obvious question arises for Fine Gael and another for the Progressive Democrats.
The first question that arises for Fianna Fáil is how it is that while there has been abundant evidence for over a decade that senior members of Fianna Fáil diverted funds intended for the party to their own ends, the party and its leadership has done nothing about this? Isn't there a fiduciary duty on the part of the party's trustees and office-holders to secure the finances of the party and, where there is evidence of fraud or of other improper diversions of monies owned by the party, that something is done to recover such monies? And isn't there something deeply suspicious about nothing at all being done to recover these monies?
We have all known that Charles Haughey diverted monies donated to the party and monies afforded by the exchequer to the party leader's account. The scale of thee diversions may have run into hundreds of thousands. And yet nothing has been done. We know Ray Burke, according to himself, has about £100,000 (or its equivalent in euro) in a bank account, monies that were probably intended for the party. And yet nothing done. Ditto with monies given to Pádraig Flynn. Why the reluctance of Fianna Fáil to recover funds that properly belong to the party?
The only possible answer is that any attempt to re-open these issues might result in further revelations that could be even more embarrassing.
The second question that arises for Fianna Fáil has to do with Bertie Ahern's own financial arrangements and, particularly, the arrangements to do with the acquisition and purchase of his home in the 1990s.
He says he bought this home from a Manchester friend, Mícheál Wall, from whom he previously had rented the home. He says that Micheál Wall made a profit over three years on this house of around 34 per cent and therefore the question that there was anything questionable about the transaction is absurd. But how does he explain the following: prior to Micheál Wall buying the house in 1995, he (Micheál Wall) viewed the house (hardly surprising in itself) but did so in the company of Bertie Ahern's then partner, Celia Larkin. Immediately on Micheál Wall buying the house, Bertie Ahern and Celia Larkin moved in on a rental basis but with an option to purchase. Then two or three years later, Bertie Ahern purchased the house.
But what did the “option to purchase” mean, if not that there was an option to purchase at a price agreed at the time that the option was taken out? And how likely is it that Bertie Ahern would have agreed to purchase a property two or three years hence at a value one third higher than its then value? (Yes, property values in the area might have appreciated by a third in the years in question, but who would have anticipated that at the time?)
This question has relevance because of the allegation being investigated by the Planning Tribunal that Bertie Ahern received large sums from a Cork developer around the early-1990s.
We are not saying Bertie Ahern did anything wrong, still less that Micheál Wall did so. We are merely posing questions that are as obvious as were the questions that abounded when Charlie Haughey was around in Irish politics.
The question to Fine Gael is: how is it that just before the party went into government in December 1994 it was almost bankrupt but a year later, when in government, it had loads of money? And for the Progressive Democrats: where did the vast treasure trove of money come from on the foundation of the party?