Questions queried and sparks fly
An angry tribunal chairman told the Dublin West TD yesterday after over an hour of heated exchanges that he should go home and think about how he was going to give an account to the tribunal in a civil manner.
The afternoon had started sedately enough with an account of the Supreme Court and High Court cases which ended in Mr Lawlor being ordered to give documents and information to the tribunal.
It was when Mr Lawlor went into the witness-box that the sparks began to fly. He was being questioned about a list of companies he was involved with from the late 1960s onwards and which he had furnished to the tribunal.
Could he ask the chairman, Mr Lawlor said, how engineering companies in the late 1960s could be relevant to the terms of reference prior to his election to public office in 1977? That was the start of several clashes in which he returned to the theme, questioning again and again the relevance of the questioning.
These recurring challenges brought an angry response from the chairman who told him: "Mr Lawlor, this crossfire must cease." Not deterred, Mr Lawlor insisted he had given the tribunal information and asked why they were wasting time and taxpayers' money. Several times he said he wanted to make a point of order to which he was told firmly that the tribunal was not the Dail.
At one point an exasperated chairman told him: "The answer to that question is `yes' or `no'. Whether you see it as relevant or not is not a matter for you. That matter was determined by the Supreme Court of this country and I'm not going to have you tell the Supreme Court what is or is not their business. Now can we get on with this inquiry with a simple answer."
In the witness-box, Mr Lawlor spoke emphatically and insisted he was trying to help the tribunal. He said he had written to banks and one had given him copies of what it had sent the tribunal.
When questioning continued, he declared: "This is time-wasting. It sounds like it's an entrapment process here that you're looking for information from the banks about my bank accounts."