I have come here today to defend my personal integrity, the integrity of my party, of this Government and the honour of this House. I have also come here to reassure the public and in particular my constituents that I have done nothing wrong. The experience of my 24 years' membership of this House has seasoned me in the way parliamentary politics operate. The dynamics of democratic politics operating at parliamentary level dictate that Governments are opposed by Oppositions who in accordance with their function will avail of every opportunity to make life uncomfortable for the Government of the day.
I say this without rancour. I have been in Opposition myself many times. That is the way our system operates. I accept that. If I did not I would have no business being here. Furthermore, I do not expect that the facts I will present here today will in all cases satisfy everybody. I am, however, making this statement out of respect for the House and for those Members of the House who have sought this statement in good faith.
The circumstances which have given rise to the position in which I find myself occurred during the 1989 general election campaign and have already been described in a statement issued by me on 7 August this year. With your leave, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I propose to read this statement into the record of the House:
During the last two years I have been the target of a vicious campaign of rumour and innuendo. Since my appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs this campaign has intensified. The stories which have appeared in the media in recent weeks are, as one prominent journalist acknowledged in a letter to me last week, the culmination of a lengthy series of smears about me. The story still keeps resurfacing in different shapes and forms, and the repeated articles and comments of recent weeks have placed an unacceptable burden on my family and myself. While I resent having to dignify these allegations by responding to them at all, I believe that I must now do so. The facts of the matter are that during the 1989 general election campaign I was visited in my home by Mr. Michael Bailey of Bovale Developments Ltd., and a Mr. James Gogarty.
Mr. Bailey was well known to me as he was a resident of north County Dublin and a long-time supporter of Fianna Fáil. I had not met Mr. Gogarty previously but he was introduced by Mr. Bailey as an executive of Joseph Murphy Structural Engineers — JMSE. Mr. Gogarty told me JMSE wished to make a political contribution to me and I received from him in good faith a sum of £30,000 as a totally unsolicited political contribution. At no time during our meeting were any favours sought or given. I did not do any favours for or make any representations to anyone on behalf of JMSE, Mr. Michael Bailey, Bovale Developments Limited or Mr. James Gogarty either before or since 1989.
From what I have read and heard it seems the source of the allegations in the media may be Mr. James Gogarty. I do not know what motive, if any, Mr. Gogarty would have for pursuing such a vendetta against me. I believe, however, that he and his former employers, JMSE, parted in acrimonious circumstances. If Mr. Gogarty is the source of these allegations, then he is the author of a campaign of lies against me. I have also been the recipient of a number of anonymous threatening letters relating to these allegations. I have turned this correspondence over to the Garda.
As regards the most recent newspaper reports, I received an unsolicited political contribution of £30,000, not £80,000 as reported. The allegation that I received £40,000 from Mr. Bailey or Bovale Developments Limited on that or any other occasion is false. There were three persons present when I received the contribution from Mr. Gogarty — Mr. Gogarty, Mr. Bailey and myself — and not five as reported. There was one JMSE executive present, Mr. Gogarty, and not two or three as variously reported.
I am taking the opportunity to state unequivocally that I have done nothing illegal, unethical or improper. I find myself the victim of a campaign of calumny and abuse. It is totally unacceptable that this matter should be allowed to continue to fulfil an agenda which has nothing to do with election contributions or any other aspect of reasonable or reasoned political debate in public life. If any further untruths are published about me, I will take all necessary steps to vindicate my good name and reputation.
I wish to elaborate on aspects of that statement. My understanding is that the making of this contribution came about as follows. Mr. Gogarty indicated to Mr. Bailey that JMSE wished to make a contribution to my election fund. Mr. Bailey brought Mr. Gogarty to my home and, during a brief meeting, Mr. Gogarty confirmed that JMSE wished to make a political contribution to me. The contribution was entirely in cash. Prior to leaving with Mr. Bailey, Mr. Gogarty wished me well in the election. I did not receive £40,000 from Mr. Bailey or Bovale Developments Limited on that or any other occasion. I did not receive any personal contributions from Mr. Bailey either before, during or after the 1989 general election, although I have established that over the years Mr. Bailey made a number of contributions to the Fianna Fáil organisation in my constituency on such occasions as race nights and so on.
In light of allegations made subsequent to my statement of 7 August last, I confirm that Mr. Joseph Murphy junior of JMSE was not present at my meeting with Mr. Gogarty and Mr. Bailey. I did not meet Mr. Joseph Murphy junior during or in connection with the 1989 general election campaign. Mr. Gogarty, who was the managing director of JMSE, was the only executive of that company present.
I confirm that I contributed £10,000 to the Fianna Fáil national organisation during that election campaign. In addition, l handed over moneys totalling approximately £7,000 to my local constituency organisation during the general election campaign in 1989. The remainder of the political contributions received by me, including the contribution Mr. Gogarty gave me during our meeting in my home, were used to cover my personal election campaign and subsequent political expenses. I did not and do not have separate accounts as regards either the election campaign in question or my subsequent political expenditure.
As regards the contribution, £30,000 is the largest contribution I have received during any election campaign either before or since 1989. On the other hand, in 1989 there had not been any legal limitations since 1963 on the amount a parliamentary candidate could expend on his or her election campaign. Furthermore, political expenditure does not begin or end during election campaigns. As all Members of this House will be aware, the last 25 years have seen a fundamental change in the operation of politics with public representatives or prospective public representatives having to operate ongoing and expensive constituency campaigns and services between and not merely during elections, such as newspaper advertisements, race nights, community contributions, leaflet drops, clinics and so on.
For as long as I have been a Member of this House, political parties and individual politicians have actively solicited and accepted political contributions. Soliciting or accepting such contributions was not outlawed or discouraged through legislation or the Standing Orders or rules of this House. For any candidate or representative to have accepted a political contribution with strings attached would have been unethical if not down-right illegal. In the context of this contribution there was no attempt to attach any strings or to ask for any favours.
We now come to the nub of this matter. The stories that circulated were not that a politician had been given a contribution, albeit a generous one. Until recently, the mere making of a political contribution during an election campaign would not have been news at all. The core of this affair, the issue that has led to the Garda investigation and the primary issue that the Taoiseach felt it necessary to investigate prior to nominating me to serve in this Government is that Mr. Gogarty has apparently alleged not only that a political contribution was made to me, but that it was made for some improper purpose.
Any allegation that I have done anything wrong is completely untrue. No favours were done for JMSE, Bovale Developments Limited, Mr. Bailey, Mr. Murphy junior or Mr. Gogarty. Furthermore, notwithstanding what theSunday Business Post journalist, Mr Frank Connolly, described as “a number of meetings, about fifteen hours of discussions” between Mr. Gogarty and the investigating Garda Superintendent and the fact that Mr. Gogarty was offered immunity from prosecution almost three months ago, I understand Mr. Gogarty has not signed any statement which would finally clarify what precisely he is or is not alleging. If favours have been done for Bovale Developments Limited or JMSE, I had nothing to do with them. I assume that if any Members of this House are aware of any such decision, they will declare their knowledge to this House and any involvement they might have had in any such decision. For my part, I have had no involvement, direct or indirect, in any such decisions.
I ceased to be a member of Dublin County Council in 1987. While a member of Dublin County Council between 1985 and 1987, the only proposal I made with regard to any planning matter related to one private residence which was supported unanimously by all members of the council in attendance at the meeting in question. This matter arose in April 1986 when I was chairman of the council.
For the benefit of the House, l refer to a question put to the manager of Dublin County Council by my colleague, Deputy Gilmore, in which he asked for the lists of all section 4 and material contravention motions together with the names of the councillors who proposed and seconded them which were brought before the council from 1985 until 1989. The reply was given on 11 December 1989. The answer to Deputy Gilmore's question shows that for the relevant part of that period during which I was a member of the council, I neither proposed nor supported any motions involving Bovale Developments Limited, JMSE, Mr. Michael Bailey, Mr. Joseph Murphy junior or Mr. James Gogarty. Since I ceased to be a member of Dublin County Council in 1987, I have not asked for or urged support for any of these companies or individuals in the context of planning or material contravention motions or in any other matter. The first review of the County Dublin Development Plan, which took place after the 1989 general election, was in 1991-3. In relation to that plan, I actively campaigned against the rezoning proposals being made by the councillors. On foot of reasonable and valid complaints from constituents and residents' groups, I actively opposed the decisions that were being made and sought a reconsideration of them by the Fianna Fáil group on Dublin County Council.
I want to quote a letter to Ms Betty Coffey, the then chairperson of the Fianna Fáil group, Dublin County Council, 46-49 O'Connell Street, Dublin 1, dated 4 August 1993, from my home on Dáil notepaper:
I write to you as chairperson of the Fianna Fáil group on the council and I enclose a copy of a letter which I received from [a particular constituent] regarding the rezoning in Dona-bate. As you are aware, there is considerable annoyance in the north county area concerning the recent rezoning decisions and I believe it is in the interests of the party in the area that the group discuss the situation and alter the decision at the next stage of the review process. It would be impossible for me to specify each area of controversy but I would give you as examples the decisions in the Rivervalley area, the Christian Brothers' lands in Swords — there are many others.
Kindest personal regards,
These matters were the subject of many discussions within the Fianna Fáil organisation in my constituency at various levels, during which I expressed my opposition to various proposals. Furthermore, I led a delegation of Fianna Fáil cumann members to meet the then Minister for the Environment, Deputy Michael Smith, in November 1993 to express opposition to the rezoning proposals of Dublin County Council as illustrated in the revised development plan and requested him not to sanction the revised plan.
With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear that in accepting this contribution, even in good faith, I exposed myself to the risk of being the subject of malicious allegations of the type now being made. Any Member who contests elections and depends on contributions to finance his or her campaign — unless he or she belongs to the fortunate few who inherit wealth — could find himself or herself where I am now had his or her path crossed that of a person who was prepared to make false charges against him or her, even if that person refused to honour those charges with a signature.
If anything seems clear from the conflicting news stories relating to this affair, it is that Mr. Gogarty's allegations against me form merely a small part of allegations being thrown by him against his former employers, from whom he parted in acrimonious circumstances. I can only assume that he made these allegations in an attempt to bring pressure to bear on his former employers in the context of his dispute with them.
In this context Mr. Connolly of theSunday Business Post, to whom I referred earlier, confirmed in a radio interview that “from the very outset Mr. Gogarty has been mostly concerned with his unresolved differences with his former employers, JMSE” and, indeed, Mr. Connolly acknowledged that he had pursued the allegations against me “more actively than perhaps [Mr Gogarty] wished”.
In my letter to the Ceann Comhairle asking for permission to make this statement, I made the point that I was going to make a personal statement on a 1989 election contribution. I also indicated that I was willing to take a question and answer session on my statement. This is unprecedented in the House. I will be as forthcoming as I can in any matter relating to the contribution which has been the subject of controversy.
In February, I will be a Member of the House for 25 years. I have no intention of subjecting myself to a show trial to satisfy anyone's political agenda or set a very undesirable precedent for this House. I do not believe that the people who elected me to this House or the decent fair-minded people of this country want or expect me to do so.