The planning tribunal has withdrawn its second interim report so that some, though not all, of the corruption findings against former Fianna Fáil minister Ray Burke and his associates can be removed.
The tribunal has confirmed that none of the findings in its final report, which deals with former taoiseach Bertie Ahern, are being withdrawn or altered, despite the changes being made to earlier reports.
Tribunal chairman Mr Justice Alan Mahon has also defended his own actions and those of his predecessor, Mr Justice Feargus Flood. The latter's decision to withhold some witness statements was criticised in subsequent court judgments and led to the unwinding of many of the findings made by the inquiry.
Mr Justice Mahon’s comments appear in a lengthy “information statement” on the tribunal website. He says that some recent media reports are inaccurate or incomplete and the purpose of the statement is to ensure “correct information” is made available. According to the statement, Mr Justice Flood believed he was following fair procedures when he redacted some witness statements. This was done in the interests of efficient investigation and to avoid revealing the identity of people not relevant.
The second interim report will be restored to the tribunal's website once all adverse findings based on evidence by whistleblower James Gogarty are removed. Principally, this means the payment of at least £30,000 to Mr Burke at his Swords home in June 1989, as described colourfully in evidence by the late Mr Gogarty, is no longer regarded as corrupt.
The report, which was a bestseller when published in 2002, was unable to establish why Mr Burke was paid the money.
Other adverse findings remain in place in relation to Mr Burke, concert promoter Oliver Barry and builders Tom Brennan and Joseph McGowan. The payments still regarded by the tribunal as corrupt include £35,000 paid by Mr Barry to Mr Burke, and a total of £170,000 sterling in payments from Brennan & McGowan and auctioneer John Finnegan to Mr Burke.Because of the collapse of the findings which relied on Mr Gogarty's evidence, everyone who figured in the tribunal's investigations up to 2002 will get costs. This includes Mr Burke, whose bills are estimated at €5 million.