Martin insists Bertie Ahern's legacy 'cannot absolve' him
Bertie Ahern’s achievements, such as the Belfast Agreement, cannot absolve him from the findings of the Mahon tribunal, Micheál Martin has said.
The Fianna Fáil leader said although the central allegation of corruption against the former taoiseach was not upheld, the evidence confirmed by the tribunal and its comments relating to Mr Ahern were “extremely serious” and could not be ignored.
“No matter how high a member rises within the party and in elected office, they still carry a duty of trust for the members of Fianna Fáil and for the people who elected them,” he told a press briefing in Dublin this morning.
Mr Martin said a motion seeking Mr Ahern’s expulsion from the party would be voted on at a meeting of the party’s Ard Comhairle next Friday.
He said the motion was “the only route available to us to assert the fact that he [Mr Ahern] fell short of the standard of personal behaviour which all holders of public office should uphold”.
The parliamentary party will also propose the expulsion of former Fianna Fáil minister and EU commissioner Pádraig Flynn, who the tribunal found corruptly sought and received a payment from developer Tom Gilmartin in 1989, along with the expulsion of former councillors GV Wright, Finbar Hanrahan and Don Lydon.
Describing the implications of the report for national politics as “stark”, Mr Martin said the public had a right to expect further legal proceedings against those implicated in the report.
“Equally, they have a right to expect that the parties who these individuals represented will take action,” he said.
Mr Martin said Judge Mahon’s findings against certain individuals were “clear and unequivocal”.
He said he welcomed the findings of the report, and accepted what it had to say about “corrupt practices”.
“It confirmed systemic corruption in planning in county Dublin which existed over an extended period.”
“Local democracy was subverted by a combination of persons making payments to secure Council decisions and politicians willing to seek and accept such payments,” he said.
Referring to Mr Flynn who was found to have received a corrupt payment of IR£50,000 from Mr Gilmartin, Mr Martin said: “There is no circumstance in which the cheque received by Padraig Flynn could be justified.”
“The evidence is clear and a motion to expel him from membership of the party will also be taken up next Friday,” he added.
Mr Martin also reiterated his party’s intention to seek a formal root and branch review and restructuring of the organisation of Mr Ahern’s former Dublin Central constituency. “It is intended that, if the [party’s] National Executive agrees, all functions performed by officers of that branch of the organisation will be transferred with immediate effect to the general secretary.”
Referring the report’s statement that members of Mr Ahern’s cabinet had sought to collapse the tribunal, Mr Martin said contrary to several statements yesterday, the tribunal did not put this point to individuals. "It is not referred to in either the narrative sections of the report or the findings," he said. "I take this comment seriously but the fact is that the report provides no details upon which a response can be given and it is not up to others to decide what instances the tribunal is specifically referring to.
“It is to be assumed that the tribunal does not view all criticism of its work as unacceptable,” he said.
Earlier, Mr Ahern’s brother Noel said he is "pleased the tribunal found that Bertie was in no way guilty of political corruption". He was critical of Mr Martin for being in a “mad rush” and using the report to “build his own media image”.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Noel Ahern said the party should take time to reflect on the findings of the tribunal and “do what is right after that”.
However, party colleague Timmy Dooley said Fianna Fáil had no option but to move swiftly following the findings against the former taoiseach.
Mr Dooley said there are 50,000 members of the party who are "deeply upset, deeply concerned and embarrassed” that the report found part of Mr Ahern’s evidence untruthful. “We have responsibility to our members and it’s for that reason that we moved with purpose," the Clare TD said.