Padraig Flynn's incredible story


The evidence given finally by former EU commissioner and government minister, Mr Pádraig Flynn, before the Mahon tribunal is totally unconvincing and raises the question of what can be done when key witnesses obstruct or fail to assist a sworn inquiry. Lawyers for the tribunal have accused his daughter, Ms Beverley Flynn, TD, of suffering from "selective amnesia". Last week, his wife, Mrs Dorothy Flynn, could not recall important financial details.

Failure to deal speedily and effectively with these matters is a matter of real public concern. But delay has not been confined to tribunals. There have been political failures too in responding effectively to the scandals. It is now five years since public controversy erupted over the payment of £50,000 to Mr Flynn, while he was minister for the environment, by property developer Mr Tom Gilmartin. At that time, the EU commissioner ignored a Government motion in the Dáil calling on him to make a full and immediate statement clarifying his position. He said he would tell all to the tribunal. He hasn't done so.

The Mahon tribunal is investigating corruption in the planning process in Dublin in the late 1980s and, as part of that exercise, is examining the payment of £50,000 to Mr Flynn. Both men say the money was not a bribe. Mr Gilmartin insists it was a political donation for the Fianna Fáil party, rather than for Mr Flynn. The former minister disputes this and accepts the money was channelled into a bogus off-shore account in his name. After that, financial details are lost in a fog of forgetfulness.

Mr Flynn told the tribunal he was not aware his wife had opened a bogus off-shore account with the Gilmartin money and when he learned of it, he asked her to close it. He could not explain how his signature appeared on the documentation, giving a false London address. Similarly, he could not remember being given a cash withdrawal of £25,000 by his daughter, or what he had done with the money. Details of his wife's venture into farming and forestry were equally unclear. Strangely, he was not told Mr Liam Lawlor was demanding money from Mr Gilmartin.

We have been here before. Prominent witnesses have failed to remember before tribunals while others have changed their stories when faced by incontrovertible evidence. An earlier module of this tribunal, which investigated "political donations" made to a former minister for justice, Mr Ray Burke, found them to be corrupt payments. He was the minister enlisted by Mr Flynn to institute a Garda investigation into allegations of corruption made by Mr Gilmartin in 1989. Within months of setting up that inquiry, Mr Flynn took what a tribunal lawyer described as the "monstrous amount" of £50,000 from the property developer. We are all a witness to P. Flynn's incredulity.