That Dáil Éireann resolves that the terms of reference contained in the resolution passed by Dáil Éireann on the 7th of October, 1997 and by Seanad Éireann on the 8th of October, 1997 under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Acts, 1921 and 1979 be amended as follows:
1. By the deletion from paragraph A.5 of the words "committed on or after the 20th June, 1985."
2. By the addition of the following paragraphs after paragraph D:
"E The Tribunal shall, in addition to the matters referred to in paragraphs A(1) to A(5) hereof, inquire urgently into and report to the Clerk of the Dáil and make such findings and recommendations as it sees fit, in relation to the following definite matters of urgent public importance:
1. Whether any substantial payments were made or benefits provided, directly or indirectly, to Mr. Raphael Burke which may, in the opinion of the Sole Member of the Tribunal, amount to corruption or involve attempts to influence or compromise the disinterested performance of public duties or were made or provided in circumstances which may give rise to a reasonable inference that the motive for making or receiving such payments was improperly connected with any public office or position held by Mr. Raphael Burke, whether as Minister, Minister of State or elected representative;
2. Whether, in return for or in connection with such payments or benefits, Mr. Raphael Burke did any act or made any decision while holding any such public office or position which was intended to confer any benefit on any person or entity making a payment or provided a benefit referred to in paragraph 1 above, on any other person or entity, or procured or directed any other person to do such an act or make such a decision.
And that the Tribunal be requested to conduct its Inquiries in the following manner to the extent that it may do so consistent with the provisions of the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Acts, 1921 to 1998:
(i) To carry out such preliminary investigations in private as it thinks fit (using all the powers conferred on it under the Acts), in order to determine whether sufficient evidence exists in relation to any of the matters referred to in paragraphs E1 and E2 above to warrant proceeding to a full public inquiry in relation to such matters;
(ii) To inquire fully into all matters referred to in paragraphs E1 and E2 in relation to which such evidence may be found to exist;
(iii) In relation to any matters where the Tribunal finds that there is insufficient evidence to warrant proceeding to a full public inquiry, to report that fact to the Clerk of the Dáil and to report in such a manner as the Tribunal thinks appropriate on the steps taken by the Tribunal to determine what evidence, if any, existed and the Clerk of the Dáil shall thereupon communicate the Tribunal's report in full to the Dáil;
(iv) To report on an interim basis to the Clerk of the Dáil on the following matters:
the number of parties then represented
before the Tribunal;
the progress which has been made in the hearing and the work of the Tribunal;
the likely duration (so far as that may be capable of being estimated at that time) of the Tribunal proceedings;
any other matters which the Tribunal believes should be drawn to the attention of the Clerk of the Dáil at that stage (including any matter relating to the terms of reference);
and to furnish such further interim reports as the Tribunal may consider necessary.
F And that the Sole Member of the Tribunal should be informed that it is the desire of the House that:
(a) the Inquiry into the matters referred to in paragraph E hereof be completed in as economical a manner as possible and at the earliest date consistent with a fair examination of the said matters, and
(b) all costs incurred by reason of the failure of individuals to co-operate fully and expeditiously with the Inquiry should, so far as is consistent with the interests of justice, be borne by those individuals.
G And that the Clerk of the Dáil shall on receipt of any Report from the Tribunal arrange to have it laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas immediately on its receipt."
Pursuant to resolutions in both Houses of the Oireachtas in October 1997, a tribunal of inquiry, with Mr. Justice Feargus M. Flood of the High Court as its sole member, was set up to inquire into certain planning matters. The motion before the House today amends the terms of reference of that tribunal in two principal respects.
The motion provides for the amendment to the original terms of reference of the tribunal sought by Judge Flood in his interim report to the House of 26 February 1998. It extends the remit of the tribunal to enable it to inquire into all substantial payments made or benefits provided, directly or indirectly for whatever purpose or with whatever motive, to Mr. Raphael Burke, the former Minister, Minister of State, Dáil Deputy and county councillor. This implements fully the commitment of the Government given by the Taoiseach in this House on 3 June 1998.
In accordance with the provisions of the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) (Amendment) (No. 2) Act, 1998, Mr. Justice Flood has consented to the proposed amendment following consultation with the Attorney General on my behalf. The text of the resolution before the House today is the result of detailed and extensive consultations between Mr. Justice Flood, the Attorney General and their staffs.
The tribunal has given its consent in accordance with the Act. The formal consent has been laid before the House and copies are available for Deputies. In relation to the first amendment, the formal request by the tribunal laid before the House yesterday and referred to in today's Order Paper has been superseded by a later document incorporating a legally technical amendment as agreed between the tribunal and the Attorney General.
The original terms of reference of the Flood tribunal provided for the fullest possible investigation of the propriety from the viewpoint of the planning system of the payment which Mr. Burke himself acknowledged receiving from Mr. Gogarty, and indeed any other payment to him that might have been connected in any way with the operation of the planning system. As soon as the Government had grounds for believing that Mr. Burke had received at least one other large contribution, notwithstanding his statement in this House last September, we determined that this and any other substantial contributions or benefits received by Mr. Burke should also be investigated to establish if there was anything untoward relating to the purpose or motives of the donor in making such a payment or of Mr. Burke in soliciting, receiving or rewarding it. Having determined that an investigation should take place, the options open to the Government were threefold: to set up a new tribunal of inquiry or to request one of the two existing tribunals to take it on.
In the course of considering the most appropriate option, the Attorney General consulted with both the judges in charge of the existing tribunals. It became clear fairly quickly that the best course was to extend the remit of the Flood tribunal as it was already examining at least one payment made to Mr. Burke and that judge was agreeable and satisfied that it did not create undue problems. On behalf of the Government, I formally place on the record our thanks to Mr. Justice Flood for agreeing to widen the remit of the tribunal in the manner proposed, particularly given the already heavy workload of the tribunal and the demanding task with which it has been charged.
It is very important that neither I, in introducing the motion, nor any other Member in speaking on it, should be seen in any way as preempting the work of the tribunal in relation to the matters in question. Therefore, I do not intend to comment directly on the allegations which have led to today's resolution.
That there is general agreement among all parties in this House that Mr. Burke's activities should be judicially investigated shows general concern with ensuring that the integrity of our democratic system, and of the politicians who hold positions of trust under it, is not only upheld but seen to be upheld. I believe that this can be achieved in the present instance by having an independent tribunal inquire thoroughly into the allegations which have been made concerning payments to Mr. Burke. It is also important that Mr. Burke's rights to justice and a fair hearing are protected. The tribunal procedure will ensure that fair procedures are applied and the principles of justice upheld while ensuring that the public interest is served in arriving at the truth of these matters.
Mr. Justice McCracken stated quite clearly in his report on his inquiries into the Dunnes payments that it is unacceptable for any Member of the Oireachtas to receive large personal gifts and went on to refer to the potential for bribery and corruption. Speaking in the context of large sums of money, he also said that if politicians are to give effective service to all their constituents or to all citizens, they must not be under a financial obligation to some constituents or some citizens only. The Taoiseach speaking in this House on 3 June last made it clear he fully subscribes to these views. In doing so he spoke for the whole Fianna Fáil Party.
It is entirely inappropriate for any politician to solicit or accept on a personal basis substantial payments or benefits. Acceptance of such payments is open to the interpretation, however ill-founded this may be in any particular case, that the donor expected or the recipient provided some benefit. This is especially true in the case of an office holder and applies to local elected representatives, whose decisions on development plans can add considerably to the value of land, as much as it does to Ministers or Deputies. For these reasons, it is at least as much in the interests of my party as any other to ensure that the tribunal clears up the circumstances of these payments. I can say categorically that Mr. Justice Flood and his team will continue to have the fullest possible co-operation from the Fianna Fáil Party.
We should also not lose sight of the fact that as a result of consensus and co-operation among all parties we have imposed legislative constraints which should go a long way in guarding against any repetition of the type of activities now being inquired into. Under the Electoral Act, 1997, political parties and members of each House of the Oireachtas and the European Parliament are, since 15 May 1997, required to furnish a donation statement each year indicating whether a donation exceeding the relevant threshold was received during the preceding year and giving particulars of any such donation. Following an election, candidates not elected must furnish a similar statement in relation to donations received by them at the election. The disclosure threshold for a political party is £4,000 and for individual members and candidates it is £500. I think it important to say that this new disclosure regime was supported by all parties in the Oireachtas.