Bill to fight corruption due shortly, says Shatter


THE HEADS of a Bill to reform the laws on corruption and bribery will be published within weeks, according to Minister for Justice Alan Shatter.

The new Criminal Justice (Corruption) Bill would clarify and reform laws dating back to 1889 so that anti-corruption measures were made clearer and more accessible, he told a conference yesterday.

Mr Shatter said the response of the Government to reform, in the light of the self-examination sparked by the reports of the Moriarty and Mahon tribunals, would be “the mark of our integrity as ministers and parliamentarians”.

Speaking later to The Irish Times, the Minister declined to comment on the cases of individuals who had been the subject of adverse findings by the tribunals.

Pointing out that gardaí were currently awaiting directions from the DPP in relation to possible criminal proceedings arising from the Moriarty tribunal, he said he had been careful not to say anything that could prejudice any action that could arise.

Mr Shatter ruled out any changes in the law which would facilitate criminal action against those featuring in tribunal reports, saying laws could not be enacted to apply retrospectively to people.

He also declined to comment on Fine Gael’s disciplinary committee inquiry into members who were the subject of Mahon tribunal findings, which began yesterday.

Mr Shatter’s constituency colleague in Dublin South, Olivia Mitchell, is vigorously resisting any attempt by the party to censure her after the tribunal found that it was inappropriate for her to have received £500 from lobbyist Frank Dunlop in 1992.

Speaking at the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe) forum in Dublin Castle, Mr Shatter said lack of good governance, the absence of efficient and accountable institutions and a lack of transparency opened the door to corruption.

Increased international co-operation was core to the targeting of the proceeds of crime, he said. Work was ongoing on a statutory register of lobbyists and “trading in influence” would be made an offence in the forthcoming corruption Bill.

“The lack of good governance, the absence of efficient and accountable institutions, the lack of transparency – all these lead to economic underperformance, open the door to corruption and abuses of power and generate an array of security risks at national and regional level.

“Good governance at all levels contributes to prosperity, stability and security. Secondly, promoting good governance requires a comprehensive, multi-dimensional and multi-stakeholder approach.

“Promoting good governance and combating corruption is not a simple task and consistent action on several fronts is needed,” Mr Shatter continued.

“Preventive measures have to be intertwined with enforcement measures. Legislative improvements have to be supported by strengthening the implementation capacity of relevant institutions.

“A culture of integrity, transparency and accountability at central and local level has to be promoted. At the same time, it is important to strengthen whistleblowers and safeguards for protection.

Asset and income declaration systems are important corruption prevention measures but they have to be backed by effective verification mechanisms and ultimately by the capacity to identify, freeze and recover stolen assets.