SF deputy leader calls for judicial inquiry into whistleblower allegations

Mary Lou McDonald defends decision to name some individuals in ‘Ansbacher’ dossier under Dáil privilege

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald defended her decision to name a number of individuals whose names appear in the whistleblower dossier handed to the Public Accounts Committee. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald defended her decision to name a number of individuals whose names appear in the whistleblower dossier handed to the Public Accounts Committee. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

 

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald has called for a judicial inquiry into the allegations made against former senior political figures in a dossier given by a whistleblower to the Public Accounts Committee.

Ms McDonald on Wednesday named under privilege on the Dáil record a number of individuals listed in the dossier.

They included former PD leader Des O’Malley, former Fianna Fáil politicians Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, Ray MacSharry and Gerard Collins, an ‘S Barrett’, assumed to be former Fianna Fáil TD Sylvie Barrett, and former Fine Gael minister Richie Ryan.

Ms McDonald defended her decision to name the individuals on the record and said it was not for her to make a decision on whether the allegations were right or wrong.

She said the PAC, of which she is a member, had received legal advice that it might be “beyond the capacity of any Oireachtas committee” to investigate the matters.

She had written to Taoiseach Enda Kenny on Wednesday telling him the Government needed to identify a mechanism of inquiry to review the matters and to get to the bottom of the allegations.

“I hope the Taoiseach doesn’t just wish this away and hope it’ll go away. I think there’s a real case now for a thorough investigation,” she said.

Speaking on Newstalk radio on Thursday morning, Ms McDonald said one option was to allow the former investigator Gerard Ryan, the civil servant who sent the dossier to the PAC, to complete the investigation halted in 2004.

“That’s one option. Of course another option is to establish an inquiry, perhaps under the stewardship of a member of the bench, to review all of the documentation,” she said.

This would involve a review of “the conduct of Revenue”, as well as the conduct of Garda investigations.

Crucially, it would also review “the behaviour of the relevant government department and relevant ministers and to explore and sift through all of these issues”.

“My own view is that it requires the second, the broader type of inquiry.”

But Ms McDonald said she was “sympathetic to” and understood the desire of the authorised officer, Gerard Ryan, to finish the work of his own inquiry.

“Either way, the net result is the PAC will do what it can, but we can only do those things that are legally permissible.”

“I have no doubt that we will do a good job where it is possible for us to investigate. But this story is a long-running one. It’s extremely troubling.

“It involves considerations or lack of consideration allegedly of certain material by the Moriarty tribunal, for instance.

“The consequences, if the allegations are in any way true, I think, are very very serious. I think it’s certainly in the public interest for the investigation to happen. And I think the Taoiseach should act speedily now and set out very clearly how he proposes that we get to the bottom of all of this.”

Asked whether she would not have done the individuals she had named “a bit of an injustice” given their vehement rejections of the allegations, Ms McDonald said they were public figures and she had felt it necessary to bring it into the public domain.

She said it had been an “option of last resort”.

“They are former senior office holders, former senior public servants still in receipt of a very substantial and generous state pension. So they are public figures. They are absolutely as entitled to their good name as I.

“I didn’t do this flippantly. We’ve been in receipt of the whistleblower’s dossier now or a month. I was very careful to seek out legal advice, to establish and to consider what the Public Accounts Committee could do and might do.”

She had also considered the position of the whistleblower, who had not come forward “lightly”.

She was asked by presenter Ivan Yates whether it had not been “just downright nasty” of her to name in the Dáil an ‘S Barrett’ listed in the dossier, given her “spat and difficulties” with Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett. It was “known” the reference was to the late Fianna Fáil TD Sylvie Barrett, the presenter suggested.

Ms McDonald said she was not going to “second guess” who the ‘S Barrett’ might be.

The name was listed as ‘S Barrett’ and it was not for her to decipher beyond that.