Gilmore links corruption to crash


THERE WAS a connection between the corruption unearthed by the Mahon tribunal and the fact the economy had been brought to the edge of collapse, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said.

“The property bubble was a product of the toxic triangle between Fianna Fáil, the banks and property developers,” he said.

“There was a culture, at the highest levels of Irish society, that sought to make extraordinary fortunes on property development, and some politicians were determined to have their share.”

Mr Gilmore said the question for Fianna Fáil was why it took so long for anyone to act. The seeds of the problem went back much further than the events investigated by the tribunal, he said.

Fianna Fáil’s problem, said Mr Gilmore, dated to a transition in the early 1960s, when the revolutionary generation in the party gave way to a new leadership.

In the first two ministerial offices Charles Haughey was appointed to, he first replaced Oscar Traynor as minister for justice, and then Paddy Smith, in agriculture. Both men were veterans of the War of Independence and the Civil War. “Mr Haughey, in contrast, was the leading light of a new generation, remarkable for its association with Taca, a body devoted to raising funds for Fianna Fáil – a forerunner to the Galway tent,” said Mr Gilmore.

It was not unknown, he said, for post-colonial societies to experience corruption when the idealism of the revolutionary era began to wane, and when governments were faced with the challenges of economic development. “As a new state begins to take an active role in economic development, it is common enough to find that opportunities arise for office holders to dishonestly enrich themselves,” said Mr Gilmore.

It was only fair to say, he added, that many in Fianna Fáil were opposed to Mr Haughey and sought to remove him. Some even left the party. And it was also fair to say that many who supported him did so out of genuine political motivations, particularly in respect of his views on Northern Ireland. It was all the more disappointing, then, that so little was learned when problems came to light again under Mr Ahern. “The evidence that Mr Ahern gave to the tribunal was manifestly inadequate,” he said.

Mr Gilmore said several people had raised questions about planning, including journalists Frank McDonald, Mark Brennock and Joe McAnthony, but it was extremely difficult, if not impossible, to prove anything without a formal inquiry.