Concerns deepen about Haughey's health

 

The legal team for Mr Charles Haughey is to attend a sitting of the Moriarty tribunal this morning amid growing speculation about the health of the 75-year-old former Taoiseach.

The tribunal is not to hear evidence this week as the chairman, Mr Justice Moriarty, continues to examine what type of regime should be set up for future attendances by Mr Haughey.

Mr Justice Moriarty has received medical reports which are understood to state that the stress of having to attend Dublin Castle is taking from Mr Haughey's ability to fight the cancer from which he suffers. However, it is understood that the tribunal has not been urged to stop calling Mr Haughey to give evidence and that, at this stage, the only issue is what type of regime should be established for hearing further evidence in public in Dublin Castle.

The tribunal is due to hold a private session this morning, but it was learned yesterday that Mr Haughey's legal team is to attend, possibly to make a submission in public.

The tribunal holds private sessions as part of the investigative phase of its work, when witnesses are questioned under oath. The practice is that before the private sessions begin the tribunal holds a brief public session when the legal team states that the public and the press should leave.

Mr Haughey is suffering from prostate cancer and has reportedly been advised that surgery is not an option. Medical reports and opinion given to Mr Justice Moriarty last week are understood to detail how his condition has worsened.

In July, when Mr Haughey began giving evidence for two hours each morning, four days a week, the chairman said he had Mr Haughey's agreement that he could make any inquiries he considered appropriate of Mr Haughey's doctors and, should the need arise, have an independent medical examination conducted.

A friend of Mr Haughey's said yesterday that the former Taoiseach did not want to cease giving evidence to the tribunal. "I think what he'd like to do is accelerate it. I know he'd like to get on with it and get it out of the way."

However, the source said the former Taoiseach's medical condition is hampering his ability to deal forcefully with the points being put to him by counsel for the tribunal, Mr John Coughlan SC.

"In the old days he would have demolished him, but now physically he is feeble. It might be the drugs, but something is affecting his mind. He used to have great recall but now he is struggling."

The source said Mr Haughey was frustrated to find himself coming up against the tribunal in a weakened state. He also fears that if he "took on" the tribunal he could be deemed to be uncooperative, according to the source.

Should Mr Haughey's condition disimprove over the coming weeks and months, the tribunal may be forced to contemplate other ways of gathering evidence from him.

Legal sources believe there is nothing to prevent the tribunal coming to findings in relation to matters on which Mr Haughey has not given evidence, should he not be able to complete his evidence.

The tribunal is expected to resume public hearings next week whether Mr Haughey is called or not. Earlier this year it had expected to finish hearing evidence before the summer break, but is not now expected to finish before Christmas.

Mr Haughey has made 12 appearances before the tribunal, most recently on October 3rd.

He has yet to be questioned on a wide range of matters including the medical fund collected for the late Mr Brian Lenihan, the Ansbacher deposits, and financial dealings involving Dr Michael Smurfit, the property developer Mr Mark Kavanagh, and other leading business figures.