Grealish attack on tribunal marks end for PDs - Labour

 

Progressive Democrat TD Noel Grealish's claim today that the Mahon tribunal is exceeding its remit in its investigation of the Taoiseach's finances has been described as the party's "death rattle".

Labour Party local government spokesman Ciaran Lynch said the Galway West TD's attack was a step towards him rejoining Fianna Fáil - leaving Mary Harney as the party's only TD.

But Ms Harney, the party leader, later refused to be drawn on her colleague's comments. "I don't want to say anything that will fuel this controversy. We will have an awful long time to discuss these issues in the Dáil and elsewhere when the Taoiseach returns," she said.

I don't think the Taoiseach needs to resign, I don't think he's done anything wrong
PD deputy Noel Grealish

Mr Lynch said it was "very significant" that Ms Harney refused to endorse her colleagues comments. "Clearly what is left of the PDs is deeply divided on the issue".

Mr Grealsih's comments marked the "death rattle of the PDs as a separate party with distinct values", Mr Lynch added.

Mr Ahern said last week the tribunal was not giving him a fair hearing and has consistently complained about its circulation of his personal information and the subsequent leaks to the media.

The most recent leak was earlier this month when it was revealed that Mr Ahern had not obtained a tax clearance certificate from the Revenue Commissioners.

Under Oireachtas rules an elected representative must submit to the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) either a tax clearance certificate or a statement of application acknowledging outstanding tax issues.

Mr Ahern told the Dáil last year that he had no tax issues emerging from payments he received in 1993 and 1994 which are the subject of his evidence before the tribunal.

But the media reported last week that he would not be obtaining a clearance certificate and had lodged a €70,000 surety with the Revenue Commissioners.

Mr Grealish joined Fianna Fáil's defence of Mr Ahern saying there was "an orchestrated campaign" against him.

"I think there is a serious issue . . . the way the Taoiseach, the leader of our country, is treated at times in the Mahon tribunal, and I think that a lot of the Irish people out there are tired of this campaign against the Taoiseach.

"It's going outside the remit it was set up to do."

"I don't think the Taoiseach needs to resign, I don't think he's done anything wrong," Mr Grealish told Morning Ireland.

Fine Gael's Phil Hogan said Mr Grealish's interview was a "new low" for the PDs. "The PDs were founded, in part, in reaction to the low standards of [former taoiseach] Charles Haughey, which have since been exposed by the McCracken and Moriarty tribunals.

"It is now clear that they are blind to the low standards perpetuated by his successor and protege, Bertie Ahern, and his Fianna Fáil ministers," Mr Hogan said.

Minister for the Environment, and Green Party leader John Gormley said he had confidence in the Mahon tribunal.

"Any leaks that come from the Mahon tribunal are to be regretted I think, because let's be very clear, all of these issues are related. You can't separate out what has been said now about the Taoiseach from the Mahon tribunal," he told said.

Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said the Government parties were "all over the place" on the issue.

"The PDs and the Greens are trying to have it both ways by not expressing full confidence in the Taoiseach while at the same time remaining in Government with him," he said.

The tribunal last week responded to the chorus of criticism from Fianna Fáil ministers by saying it was obliged to circulate evidence to relevant parties in advance and that such confidential documentation should not be leaked.

It acknowledged that premature disclosure "may have the potential to damage the reputation of individuals" but maintained it had limited power to prevent leaks that could also lead to a negative perception of its integrity.