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The Mahon Tribunal under assault;

MAHON TRIBUNAL

TO BE NOBBLED?

THERE lies just one potential landmine for Bertie Ahern along the road between here and a triumphant general electionsome time next year, namely, the Mahon Tribunal, which is shortly due to resume hearings into some very serious allegations made by Tom Gilmartin against the Taoiseach.However, some dramatic legal moves are afoot in the Four Goldmines where a concerted effort to block the smooth progress of the Mahon Tribunal is imminent in the form of an application for a judicial review into the manner and method of the tribunal. Goldhawk can reveal that the plaintiff in this case is Hazel Lawlor, widow of the late Liam Lawlor, on behalf of herself and the Lawlor family.

Judge Mahon and his team recently saw off the High Court challenge from developer Owen O’Callaghan into Gilmartin’sallegations that Bertie Ahern had been paid large sums of money in connection with O’Callaghan’s Liffey Valleyshopping centre. O’Callaghan had made the straightforward legal demand that the court prevent the Tribunal from making further inquiries or making any findings into Gilmartin’s allegations. However, the new challenge will adopt a more sophisticated strategy that will make more reasonable demands but ones that would, if acceded to, make Mahon’s task exceedingly difficult to proceed with.

The Lawlor legal challenge will be a demand for a judicial review of the tribunal’s modus operandi, its procedures and rules as they have been applied so far. If the High Court allows a review, a raft of challenges to, and demands relating to, the procedures of the tribunal will be then made. In the event of all or a substantial part of these demands being accepted as reasonable, then Judge Mahon’s job could be rendered impossible. Not only would future modules be difficult to process but all manner of witnesses and those accused of wrongdoing in last sessions of the tribunal could come forward and demand that their cases be heard under the new ‘rules’ and procedures. The big question, of course, is whether this judicial review will enable Bertie Ahern’s lawyers to argue that, pending such a review, the Gilmartin hearings be postponed – yet again – moving the tribunal back to beyond the final, mid-summer date for a general election.

Parallel to this legal challenge there is the case being taken by Bertie Ahern and his estranged wife, Miriam, against Mahon’s demand for all financial details of the couple’s legal separation. Put simply, Mahon’s team want to scrutinise these details to see what sums were paid to Miriam in the matrimonial settlement and what were the sources of this money.

It is no accident that The Irish Times leak about Bertie’s financial affairs came along with information about Bertie and Miriam’s legal challenge to Mahon’s demand for details of their matrimonial settlement. It is this avenue of inquiry and the possible sums involved, rather than bits and bobs of donations from relatively small players in the Dublin and Manchester building industry, that Mahon is especially interested in. Details of the Aherns’ joint legal challenge are not possible to ascertain or publish as the matterwas declared in camera by the then President of the High Court, Mr Justice Finnegan, in October. Yet another, linked inquiry by Mahon is that into Celia Larkin’s financial records in an effort by the judge to establish what monies may have been transferred to Bertie, via Larkin, especially in the period when Bertie said he held no bank account.

(Courtesy of the Phoenix Magazine. Tel 016611062 subscriptions: phoenixadmin@eircom.net

www.phoenix-magazine.com

Lest we forget-or were born too late.

If you think we should abandon the Mahon tribunal, read this:

By Ryle Dwyer (Irish Examiner)
YESTERDAY 9th March 2007 was a double anniversary. Both relate to the birth date of short-lived minority governments. Each lasted for less than a year.

One proved a great turning point in our history, while the other was marred by a series of scandals.

Seventy-five years ago — when Fianna Fáil came into power with the support of the Labour Party on March 9, 1932 — the lights of democracy and freedom were going out throughout Europe. In the next decade, Ireland would be one of the very few countries with a Catholic majority that would not succumb to fascism.

Italy, Hungary, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Croatia, Poland, Belgium and France all went fascist, or were overrun by fascists, and the most notorious dictatorship of all — the Nazi regime of Adolf Hitler in Germany — had its power base in the Catholic province of Bavaria.

Fianna Fáil formed no fewer than six minority governments under Eamon de Valera, Seán Lemass and Jack Lynch. Each refused to make a deal for the support of independent deputies. However, on March 9, 1982 Tony Gregory stunned the Dáil with his announcement that Charlie Haughey had made a unprecedented deal for his vote in the election of Taoiseach.

Gregory didn’t just take Charlie’s word; he got the whole thing in writing, and had it independently witnessed by Michael Mullen, Secretary of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union.

"As the Mafia say," Haughey exclaimed as he shook hands with Gregory following the signing, "it is a pleasure to do business with you."

"The issues to which Deputy Haughey committed himself included," Gregory told the Dáil, "the allocation of £91 million for housing in 1982." He promised that 400 new houses would be started in Dublin’s north inner city that year and 2,000 new houses by 1984. He also agreed "to allocate a further £20 million to Dublin Corporation’s budget" for that year.

In addition, the incoming Taoiseach "committed himself to an immediate work force of 500 men costing £4 million for a corporation environmental works scheme and more than 150 additional craftsmen at a cost of £1,500,000."

This was intended "to give a major boost to the corporation’s repairs and maintenance services".

"The vital 27 acres on the Port and Docks Board site will be nationalised and developed along lines geared to the needs of centre city communities," Tony Gregory continued. "In the field of education, a major commitment to pre-school education along with the provision of a £3 million community school for the neglected centre city area was given."

Haughey further agreed that "a national community development agency will be set up at a budget of £2 million to replace and continue the work of the Combat Poverty Committee."

Those were just part of "a very comprehensive list of agreed policies," Gregory gloated. He had also negotiated with Garret FitzGerald, the outgoing Taoiseach, but the Fine Gael leader "did not approximate remotely to the commitments given by Fianna Fáil."

Garret FitzGerald had blundered in trying to make a deal with Gregory, because even with his support, Fine Gael would also have needed the support of the Workers Party and the Labour Party to form a government. By negotiating with Gregory, however, he virtually legitimised Haughey’s behaviour.

The government had set off on the wrong foot, but things had been going badly since election day, when Pat O’Connor — who was Haughey’s close friend, solicitor and election agent — was caught for having apparently voted twice. His home was on the boundary between two districts and the occupants were registered to vote in either district, but they were not entitled to vote in both.

Fine Gael noted the mistake and people were keeping an eye out for O’Connor, so when he voted the first time, word was sent to the other polling station, where he was challenged after he apparently voted for a second time. Under the existing law, however, he would only be deemed to have voted if he did not spoil his ballot. Hence he got off, because of the secrecy of the ballot, the state could not prove he voted even once, much less twice.

The following week, Des O’Malley made an abortive challenge to Haughey’s leadership, and this led to a night of intimidating telephone calls. Haughey’s supporters bombarded wavering Fianna Fáil deputies with calls to support the Boss.

There was a further sensation after the formation of the new government when Haughey appointed Dick Burke of Fine Gael to the European Commission in order to create a Dáil vacancy in Dublin West, where his sister-in-law, Eileen Lemass, had just missed out on the last seat. Haughey hoped she would win the by-election to fill Burke’s seat, but Fine Gael won it anyway in May.

JUNE was marked by another sensation, with the disclosure that telephones in Haughey’s office while he was Taoiseach previously were capable of bugging any telephone conversation in Leinster House and Government Buildings.

The telephones had an override button to allow for conference calls in which others in the Taoiseach’s office could join in on a conversation. But if any number in Leinster House were busy, someone in the Taoiseach’s office could listen in undetected on that conversation by just pushing the override button. The media never did get to the bottom of that telephone saga. But then, at this time Haughey was complaining so much about the press that Justice Minister Seán Doherty had taps put on the telephones of Geraldine Kennedy and Bruce Arnold.

In the following weeks there were the horrific sensations of brutal murders of a nurse in Phoenix Park and a man in Edenderry. The same man apparently killed both of them and a highly publicised manhunt ensued before the suspect, Malcolm McArthur, was arrested in the flat of the Attorney General, with whom he had been staying.

Haughey explained his politically inept mishandling of events on the grounds that the whole thing had been grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented. Charlie’s phrase prompted Conor Cruise O’Brien to coin an acronym that entered the Irish political dictionary, "gubu".

The following month there was another gubu when assault charges against the brother-in-law of the justice minister were dropped after the complainant failed to show up in court in Dowra, Co Cavan. He had been inexplicably arrested by the RUC while on his way to court.

The government had become such an embarrassment that Charlie McCreevy tabled a motion of no confidence in Haughey for a Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting in October, before the Dáil reconvened after the summer recess. Haughey survived but the meeting was followed by some of the most disgraceful scenes ever witnessed within the precincts of Leinster House.

Jim Gibbons was assaulted that night and suffered a heart attack a few days later. Mercifully even Tony Gregory could no longer prop up what was probably the worst, most inept and twisted government in our history.

A generation that knows little about that time has grown up since then, but we will forget about those days of auction politics at our own peril. We need to know about the corruption behind the scenes back then in order to ensure nothing similar ever happens again. This is why we still need the Mahon tribunal