July 18th, 1963
FROM THE ARCHIVES:The introduction in 1963 of turnover tax by the minority Fianna Fáil government – with the help of two independents, Frank Sherwin and Joe Leneghan – was hugely controversial and led to the following scenes in the Dáil.– JOE JOYCE
ALLEGATIONS THAT a deputy had been offered bribes of £3,500 and £5,000 were made in the Dáil last night as the Finance Bill debate reached its closing stages. The words “perjurer” and “coward” were flung and demands were made for a committee of inquiry into the allegations of bribery.
Mr Oliver Flanagan (F.G.) had alleged there were rumours to the effect the Independent deputies, Mr. Sherwin and Mr. Leneghan, had been offered £3,500 each for their votes on the Finance Bill.
In unprecedented scenes, deputies called each other “Thugs”, “Yellow”, “Contemptible”, “Coward”, “Perjurer” and “Low thing”. The Bill was passed by 69 votes to 66, both Independent deputies voting in favour of the Government.
When Mr. Flanagan was saying the turnover tax was designed by a millionaire ice-cream man for the purpose of putting the small businessman of Ireland out of business, Mr. [Brian] Lenihan, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Lands, was heard to say “Perjurer”.
Gen. [Seán] MacEoin (F.G.) drew the attention of the Chair to the remark, and Mr. P[atrick] McGilligan (F.G.) called across to Mr. Lenihan – Are you saying anyone is a perjurer? Mr. Lenihan said: I said the word “perjurer”.
Mr. McGilligan: Don’t run away. Don’t be a coward. Did you say “perjurer?” Who did you apply it to? You have said in the House that someone had a red streak; you have a yellow streak.
Mr. M. J. O’Higgins (F.G.): I suggest the Chair must have heard the remark of the Parliamentary Secretary and that he should be asked to withdraw it, or withdraw from the House.
Mr. McGilligan: Don’t be a coward. Didn’t you say “perjurer”? Mr. Lenihan: If the cap fits, wear it. The Leas Ceann Comhairle, Mr. C[ormac] Breslin, above the noise, said: The Parliamentary Secretary has stated that he did not call Deputy Flanagan a perjurer.
Mr. [Seán] MacEntee, Minister for Health: Did not three judges find that? .
Mr. Flanagan: Three judges that Gerry Boland and de Valera bribed and got at. Mr. Lenihan: You are contemptible. Mr. McGilligan: You are yellow. Mr. MacEntee: McGilligan would not face the tribunal. Mr. O’Higgins: This is a matter of concern to every deputy in the House and the Parliamentary Secretary must withdraw the word or withdraw from the House.
Mr. Lenihan: I used the word “perjurer”. Mr. McGilligan: In relation to whom? Mr. Lenihan: I am not under cross-examination by you. Mr. O’Higgins asked whether Mr. Lenihan was not referring to the deputy who was speaking. Leas Ceann Comhairle: The Chair cannot answer that question.