Martin promises ethics reform and 'swift' response to tribunal report


FIANNA FÁIL’S action in the aftermath of the publication of the Mahon tribunal report will be “swift and comprehensive”, party leader Micheál Martin has said.

Mr Martin also said his party would oppose the abolition of the Seanad. He argued that it should instead be reformed to produce a smaller and more efficient chamber, with reduced salaries for members.

Promising tough new ethics rules, he told delegates at the Fianna Fáil ardfheis in the RDS, Dublin, last night of his determination that people who belonged to the party and supported it would never again be let down by low standards.

“I repeat tonight a promise I have given in every meeting throughout the country: when the final report of the Mahon tribunal is published, we will act without fear or favour against anyone who is shown to have abused their position in Fianna Fáil or elected office,” he added. His remarks were greeted with applause.

Mr Martin’s reference to the report, which is expected to feature former taoiseach and party leader Bertie Ahern prominently, was made in his opening remarks to delegates. He will deliver his keynote address tonight.

He made no reference by name to the former leader, who was not present. Mr Ahern’s brothers, Noel, a former TD and minister of state, and Maurice, a former councillor, were there.

Éamon Ó Cuív, who resigned this week as deputy leader, was also in attendance.

Referring to his predecessor Brian Cowen, Mr Martin said he had made “an enormous contribution to this country and party”. As taoiseach, Mr Cowen had “operated under unique pressures and always put the country first”.

Mr Martin said the party would not repeat the “deeply cynical response” of Fine Gael and Labour to the very serious report of the Moriarty tribunal.

Mr Justice Moriarty, he said, had shown how money was targeted at Fine Gael fundraising and said that he did not accept the evidence of a Fine Gael Cabinet minister.

“Seven members of the current Government were ministers when all this happened,” said Mr Martin. “But what did these great ethics hawks have to say about it? Nothing, nothing at all.”

He added that in hours of debate in the Oireachtas, Fine Gael and Labour members stood up and refused to acknowledge their role, let alone be accountable for it. Mr Martin said that Fianna Fáil would today finalise the strongest ethics rules of any Irish political party.

“Any person seeking to stand for Fianna Fáil will have to provide a completely new level of transparency of their affairs,” he said. “They will also be subject to rules which allow the party to act immediately against members who abuse the trust of the organisation and the public.”

On the Seanad’s future, Mr Martin said his party favoured directly-elected senators along with specialised areas being represented. He said the Seanad should play a particular role in scrutinising European legislation.

This year, he said, the Government would present a referendum on Seanad abolition, claiming it represented reform. “It will do nothing of the sort,” he added.

Because the Government had a much lower majority in the Seanad at the moment it was more willing to listen to other opinions when matters were debated there, he said.

Speaking to reporters before Mr Martin’s speech, Mr Ó Cuív reiterated his position on the fiscal treaty referendum.

Asked what portion of delegates agreed with his stance, he said he had not canvassed opinion. “We’re all agreed on one thing. We all love Fianna Fáil. We’ll all work for Fianna Fáil and we’re all for Fianna Fáil,” he said.