Mahon: Bertie untrue; Padraig Flynn, Liam Lawlor corrupt
In its final report published today, the Mahon Tribunal found that Padraig Flynn "wongly and corruptly" cashed a £50,000 cheque for his personal use. The cheque, paid by developer Tom Gilmartin, was intended for the Fianna Fail parliamentary party and issued "on the understanding that steps would be taken by Mr Flynn to ease or remove obstacles and difficulties then being faced by Mr Gilmartin in relation to Quarryvale". The Tribunal also found that former TD and councillor Liam Lawlor corruptly accepted £75,000 in relation to a development at Bachelor's Walk in Dublin. Th Tribunal did not rejected evidence given by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's in relation to the source of substantial funds he received in the 1990s, claiming it to be untrue. The Tribunal concluded that one bank account, claimed by Ahern to be for political purposes, was used for "personal benefit".
Below, Malachy Browne will be summarising the key findings of the report with context, archive content and relevant audio visuals. Read reaction to the report here.
A Word document of the full report (allowing copy and paste) may be downloaded here (11 MB).
Below is the 15 January 1999 Late Late show in which Padraig Flynn described Tom Gilmartin and his wife as "not well". The comments, an attempt to undermine Tom Gilmartin, in turn provoked Gilmartin to release details of meetings with Padraig Flynn to the Mahon Tribunal.
In response to the Tribunal's findings, Bertie Ahern said that monies received by him were ethical, legal and had no tax implications. "These [donors] were close friends, they were not big business. These were peoeple I met on a very regular basis. There were no favours sought, no favours given."
The Tribunal report states: "Much of the explanation provided by Mr Ahern as to the source of the substantial funds identified and inquired into the course of the Tribunal’s public hearings was deemed by the Tribunal to have been untrue."
The Tribunal states that "regrettably", its inquiry into a connection between Bertie's money and Mr O'Callaghan "were rendered inconclusive" because it did not believe Bertie's evidence.
We are seeking clarification on whether the Tribunal found that Bertie obstructed its investigation: certainly on his first day giving oral evidence in September 2007, Tribunal barristers outlined at length Bertie's failure to co-operate with orders for information. Were he found to have obstructed the investigation, Bertie may have to pay €300,000 in Tribunal fees. The length of time it took to furnish evidence is outlined in this blog post.
Because it rejects evidence in relation to the monies below, the Tribunal could not establish the source or purpose of lodgements and withdrawals (except in the case of the B/T account which it finds was for the "personal benefit" of Mr Ahern and Tim Collins).
5 DECEMBER 1994 - A lodgment of £28,772.90 was made on Mr. Ahern's behalf to the bank account of his then partner Celia Larkin. The Tribunal says the source of this money was USD $45,000 which corresponded to the Irish amount using that day's exchange rate. Bertie Ahern claimed that the source of the lodgement was Stg £30,000 in cash provided by his friend Mr Michael Wall (to refurbish a premesis in Drumcondra). At the time of the interview by Brian Dobson (video below) on 'donations' he received, Ahern never disclosed this lodgement. When it later emerged, Ahern described the amount as Micheal Wall's money, and not his money (see video Vincent Browne's questioning below).
The Tribunal could not establish the source of the funds. AIB bank in O'Connell Street, where the money was lodged, had no record of such a Sterling lodgment on that day.
15 JUNE 1995 - Two lodgements of Stg £10,000 cash and IR£2,000 cash were made to Bertie Ahern's account. Mr Ahern alleged that the £10,000 element was was of a purchase of Sterling £30,000 by him. He said that this Sterling amount was funded by IR£50,000 withdrawn five months previously by Celia Ahern when he requested that she return Michael Wall's money to him. This is rejected by the Tribunal.
1 DECEMBER 1995 - Stg £20,000 in cash was lodged to Mr Ahern's account. Ahern alleges that this amount is the Stg£20,000 remaining of his purchase of Stg£30,000 above. The Tribunal rejects this.
1994 - Stg £15,500 in cash is lodged to Bertie Ahern's own account and to those of his daughters with the Irish Permanent Building Society. The Tribunal rejected Mr Ahern's evidence that he cashed salary cheques and expenses in Ireland, converted this money to Sterling in the UK and returned to Dublin where he held the Sterling in his safe.
THE B/T ACCOUNT - The Tribunal "believed that the account was operated for the personal benefit of Mr Ahern and Mr Collins". It rejected evidence by Tim Collins, Joe Burke and Bertie Ahern that this account was opened by Tim for the upkeep of Mr Ahern's constituency office, St Lukes in Drumcondra.
- 25 August 1992 - IR£19,000 lodged (most of an IR£20,000 cheque): "Mr Ahern and Mr Collins were in a position to accurately account" for this but did not do so
- August 1994 - withdrawal of IR£20,000: Mahon doesn't believe this was for the refurbishment of St. Lukes
- 26 August 1994 - lodgment of Stg£20,000: Mahon rejects evidence that this was a refund of monies earlier withdrawn
- 18 July 1995 - IR£10,000 cash lodged: "Mr Ahern and Mr Collins were in a position to accurately account" for this but did not do so
Below is a recording of RTE presenter Bryan Dobson's interview with Bertie Ahern on 26 September 2006. Read a full transcript of the interview on Politico here.
Below is a recording of Vincent Browne challenging Bertie Ahern's exaplanation for the use of funds to refurbish a property:
The Tribunal found that Liam Lawlor, a councillor and TD at the time, attended uninvited at the London office of Arlington plc in relation to a development at Bachelor's Walk in Dublin. Lawlor previously described Bachelor's Walk to Tom Gilmartin as being 'on his patch', the Tribunal found. Lawlor presented himself as a "a representative of the Irish government", prompting Arlington "to expend the equivalent of almost IR£75,000 in payments to Mr Lawlor over an eleven month period", his acceptance of which was "entirely inappropriate and corrupt", thr Tribunal found.
The Tribunal found that Mr. Lawlor "failed to comply" with orders to furnish information "to a degree that was very significant abd which amounted to obstruction of the Tribunal in its work, and he persisted in doing so in spite of generous extensions of time granted by the Tribunal." In oral examination, the Tribunal found that he "repeatedly lied, was evasive, dismissive, unco-operative, obstructive and lacking in cooperation to a degree which can only amount to a very serious attempt to knowingly mislead, obstruct and hinder the Tribunal in its work".
The Tribunal writes that the current requirements for public officials to disclose interests is too narrow, and it makes recommendations to extend this. The Tribunal noted that only some public officials must disclose interests held by family members and/or dependent persons "and only to a very limited extent". "Moreover, they are not required to disclose interests held by corporate entities or other legal arrangements, even those entities/arrangements in which they have a controlling interest."
It notes that while ad hoc disclosure requirements "have a broader personal scope", they do not "cover interests held by friends, employers, electoral donors, business associates or certain legal arrangements"; the Tribunal investigated several conflicts arising from such interests and arrangements.
It recommends that the requirment of ad hoc disclosure of interests be "extended to cover those interests which could reasonably be seen to be capable of influencing a public official in the performance of his or her public functions."
The Tribunal recommends that 'whistleblower' legislation be extended from employees to include independent contractors. It also recommends that the limit of two years remuneration be changed to compensate a whistleblower to whatever amount is just and fair.
CONCLUSIONS ON MR TOM GILMARTIN AND MR PADRAIG FLYNN
1. The Tribunal was satisfied that Mr Padraig Flynn requested Mr Gilmartin to make a substantial donation to the Fianna Fáil party, most probably at their meeting on 19 April 1989, and that the request was made on the understanding that steps would be taken by Mr Flynn to ease or remove obstacles and difficulties then being faced by Mr Gilmartin in relation to Quarryvale, and which Mr Gilmartin perceived to have been improper or unlawful.
2. The Tribunal accepted Mr Gilmartin's evidence that it was his intention at all time that the cheque for IR£50,000 which was provided to Mr Flynn, would be passed on to the Fianna Fáil party, and that Mr Flynn was not given this money for his own personal use.
3. The Tribunal was satisfied that Mr Flynn, at the time he accepted the cheque from Mr Gilmartin, was aware of Mr Gilmartin's belief and understanding that he, Mr Flynn, would proceed to pass on the cheque to the Fianna Fáil party.
4. Mr Gilmartin presented Mr Flynn with a cheque, in which the payee section of the cheque was left blank, at Mr Flynn's request. The Tribunal was satisfied that the word "cash" was written on the cheque subsequently by Mr Flynn (or a person on his behalf).
5. Mr Flynn, in his capacity as a Government Minister, and in that capacity alone, had contact with Mr Gilmartin and received information, including complaints of corruption involving individuals known to him (including members of his own political party), and proceeded to wrongfully and, in the circumstances, corruptly, seek the payment of money from Mr Gilmartin purportedly for the benefit of the Fianna Fáil party.
6. Mr Flynn, having wrongfully and corruptly sought a substantial donation from Mr Gilmartin for the Fianna Fáil party, and having been paid IR£50,000 by Mr Gilmartin for that purpose, proceeded to utilise the money for his personal benefit.
7. The decision on the part of Mr Gilmartin to make a payment to the Fianna Fáil party through Mr Flynn was misconceived and entirely inappropriate on his part.
However, the Tribunal accepted that he did it in circumstances, which included an element of duress or coercion, where he believed he had no choice but to act accordingly in order to avoid obstructive and improper behaviour on the part of elected public representatives (and a senior public servant) and, in order (to use Mr Gilmartin's own words) to create "a level playing field", in relation to his plans to develop Quarryvale.
8. The Tribunal rejected the suggestion that Mr Gilmartin's motivation in making the payment was to promote or secure a Government decision to grant tax designation status to the Quarryvale lands (which was not in any event granted). There was no evidence to suggest that Mr Gilmartin, subsequent to the payment of the IR£50,000, complained that Mr Flynn had broken an agreement or understanding that, in return for the payment, Quarryvale would receive tax designation status.
9. The Tribunal was satisfied that, contrary to what was claimed by Mr Flynn, the IR£50,000 paid to him by Mr Gilmartin in late May/early June 1989, having followed a circuitous route of withdrawals, investments and reinvestments, ultimately funded at least a significant portion of the purchase of a farm at Cloonanass in County Mayo, in the name of Mrs Flynn and was not used (save to a minimal extent) for any expenditure associated with any political purpose associated with Mr Flynn.
10. The Tribunal was satisfied that Mr Flynn contrived, in his note taking of telephone conversations between himself and Mr Gilmartin in September / October 1998 (after the establishment of the Tribunal) to represent wrongfully that Mr Gilmartin had confirmed to him that the payment of IR£50,000 was intended for Mr Flynn personally, and not for the Fianna Fáil party.