Former politicians make complaint about Mary Lou McDonald’s Ansbacher allegations

Former PD leader Des O’Malley calls accusation untrue and very damaging

Mary Lou McDonald last December made comments using Dáil privilege to link six named politicians to offshore Ansbacher accounts. Photograph: Alan Betson

Mary Lou McDonald last December made comments using Dáil privilege to link six named politicians to offshore Ansbacher accounts. Photograph: Alan Betson


Former politicians named as alleged Ansbacher account holders by Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald have made formal complaints to the Oireachtas condemning the allegations as “unfounded”, “defamatory”, “untrue” and as a “violation of constitutional rights”.

Four former ministers wrote to the Dáil’s Committee on Procedure and Privileges (CPP) following comments made by Ms McDonald last December using Dáil privilege, which linked six named politicians to offshore Ansbacher accounts.

In written submissions to the Committee chaired by Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett, the four former ministers requested the Committee invoke Standing Order 59 and have the allegations withdrawn and the record of the House corrected.

The written submissions were made by former PD leader Des O’Malley, former minister for finance and EU commissioner Ray MacSharry, former minister for justice and EU commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn and former PD leader and tánaiste Mary Harney.

Ms Harney was alleged by Ms McDonald to have terminated an investigation into Ansbacher accounts by an authorised officer, on the basis of names being put to her. The other three – Ms Geoghegan-Quinn, Mr MacSharry and Mr O’Malley – were alleged to have been holders of Ansbacher accounts. All three categorically denied they had ever held such accounts.

Two other former ministers named by Ms McDonald, Gerard Collins and Richie Ryan, did not make formal complaints. The seventh person named by Ms McDonald, Sylvester Barrett, died in 2002.

The CPP met to consider the matter and the four complaints on March 5th and Ms McDonald was found to be in breach of the standing order in relation to making allegations against persons who were not members of the House. However, because the comments were made under privilege there is no facility or mechanism to effect a withdrawal.

Response in writing

One part of the CPP decision was to publish the four submissions that it had received and those documents were yesterday laid before the House.

In a short submission, Ms Harney described the allegation as totally unfounded. “I did not, as alleged, terminate an investigation, on the basis of any name that was put to me by the authorised officer (investigating Ansbacher accounts),” she wrote.

Ms Geoghegan-Quinn described the allegations as totally false and said she had no right of reply in the Dáil to protect her good name. “I have never had an Ansbacher account. Neither have I ever had an account with Guinness and Mahon Bank,” she wrote.

The longest submission was made by Mr MacSharry who said Ms McDonald had asserted that he had been engaged in illegal tax evasion.

He wrote that the allegations led to his suffering damage to his good name and was a violation of his constitutional rights and his right to privacy.

Stating that the allegations were untrue, he said the statement was defamatory and asked the Ceann Comhairle to “withdraw without qualification the utterance made”.

Mr O’Malley wrote that the allegation was “totally untrue and is very damaging. The Deputy concerned appears not to have withdrawn the allegation.”

While Ms McDonald has not repeated the allegations outside the Dáil, she has defended her right to raise the issue and “echo” the allegations against the former politicians, which she claimed came from a credible source. She was not reachable for comment on the matter last night.