Member's Co-operation with Tribunal: Motion.

I move:

That Dáil Éireann, having regard to the con tent of the motion passed unanimously by the House on 30 January 2001,

That Dáil Éireann is of the opinion that, given the sentence of the High Court, structured as it was to elicit full co-operation within a definite timeframe and the fact that the judge referred to his membership of Dáil Éireann, that Deputy Lawlor should now fully meet the requirements of the courts and the tribunal or, that failure to do so within that timeframe would confirm his membership of Dáil Éireann to be untenable and that he should voluntarily resign his membership,

now notes and deplores the Deputy's continued failure to provide the co-operation sought by the tribunal, which was established by the unanimous decision of Dáil Éireann, and regards such failure as confirmation that his membership of Dáil Éireann is untenable and is of the opinion that he should accordingly voluntarily resign his membership.

Dáil Éireann is aware of the contents of Deputy Lawlor's letter to Party Whips of 5 February 2002.

Irish politics is undergoing a period of profound change. The uncovering of a previously hidden and unacceptable past in our political life has severely undermined public confidence in politics and politicians. The Government, and indeed all parties, determined that there should be a comprehensive examination of all alleged wrongdoing. For politics to recover the confidence of the people, the facts must be laid bare and the appropriate lessons must be learned. Politics was not the first area of our national life to come under the spotlight. The succession of revelations about many areas of Irish life, previously held in largely uncritical esteem, has contributed to a profoundly changed atmosphere for public life in Ireland. I am talking about public life in the broadest sense, not just politics. An increasingly confident and critical public rightly demands that its affairs are administered in an open way and to the highest standard.

All people in politics, particularly those of us who have the honour of serving in the Government of this Republic, have a solemn duty to make good the high aspirations of our people. The past must be accounted for and those who have transgressed must face justice as prescribed by the laws framed in accordance with the Constitution. For the present, we who hold office now must conduct ourselves in a way that honours the democratic mandate with which we have been entrusted. For the future, we must ensure that public life is ordered to make it as difficult as is humanly possible to repeat the excesses of the past. Furthermore, we must provide for the swift administration of justice for any transgressions in the future. The Government proposed, and the House agreed unanimously, to the establishment of the tribunals so that past events could be uncovered. This is necessary for its own sake and essential in building confidence in public life for the future.

This is an obligation that bears especially on those who hold public office. Deputy Lawlor has on three occasions been found by the High Court to be in breach of his duty to co-operate with the Flood tribunal. On three occasions he has been committed to prison. Political life is cheapened by these events. Cynicism about public life is fed by the spectacle that has surrounded these proceedings. Most importantly, the work of the tribunal established unanimously by the Oireachtas, including Deputy Lawlor, is frustrated. This is wrong and unacceptable. This, as set out in the motion before the House, makes Deputy Lawlor's membership of Dáil Éireann untenable and I believe, accordingly, that he should voluntarily resign his membership of this House. We, in this House, must honour the trust of the people who elected us. As an elected member of Dáil Éireann, Deputy Lawlor has a particular duty to uphold the law.

The tribunals are established by the unanimous democratic will of the people's elected representatives. Their work represents the national will on an issue of the highest importance, namely the conduct of our public life. In this Republic nobody is above or below the law. There is no untouchable caste. Every citizen is accountable. When a citizen holds public office, there is an additional duty to lead by example. At a minimum, there is an onus not to bring the administration of public affairs into disrepute. Deputy Lawlor has repeatedly failed to live up to the standard that might reasonably be expected of a Dáil Deputy.

We should be clear that Dáil Éireann is not a court. We cannot and should not sit in judgment. In this case, judgment has been made in the courts on three occasions. It is on foot of those judgments and in the light of our political responsibility that Dáil Éireann now draws its political conclusion and arrives at the view that Deputy Lawlor's position is untenable. In making our view known, we do not seek to interfere with or override the inalienable right of the sovereign people to elect the members of the Legislature. We do, however, seek to exercise leadership and remove even the possibility of ambiguity in relation to the duty of every citizen to the tribunals. That duty is clear, it is to co-operate with the lawful orders of the tribunals.

Today is both a sad and a good day for politics. It is saddening that this unprecedented step must be taken and it is not being taken lightly. It is good, however, that events have moved to the point that the tribunals, having been established, are doing their work and dealing effectively with the obstacles they find in their path as provided for in the legislation introduced by the Government. Specifically, and for the first time, this provided for the punishment of imprisonment for any person who fails to obey the lawful orders of the tribunal. The law is working. We have not only prescribed higher standards but also provided for serious punitive consequences. The light at the end of the tunnel is that politics is again being seen to work.

We must consider these events in context. The Government has initiated the most far-reaching inquiries not only in the history of this State but in the recent history of most democratic countries. In Government we have established the following tribunals: Moriarty, to inquire into payments to politicians; Flood, to inquire into irregularities in the planning process; Lindsay, to inquire into the contamination of blood products; Costello, to inquire into Ansbacher accounts; Dunne, to inquire into organ retention in our hospitals; Blaney, to inquire into irregularities at National Irish Bank; Murphy, to inquire into abuse in swimming; and Laffoy, to inquire into childhood abuse. We are determined to find the truth, whatever it is. We are determined to deal with all the issues from all the tribunals, however numerous and complex they are. The Government is committed to restoring confidence in public life.

We believe, as do Deputies on all sides of the House, that politics is about the service of others. In this Republic, elected office is the highest honour any citizen can achieve. Through various tribunals and inquiries, we have learned and will continue to learn the truth. Through the unprecedented legislation proposed by this Government and enacted by the Oireachtas, we will apply the lessons learned. In the life of this Government we have completely and radically overhauled the legislative basis for public affairs in Ireland and have enacted one of the strictest regulatory regimes anywhere. We have laid the foundations for a new beginning in Irish political life. However, we must first deal with unfinished business. We must ensure that the tribunals run their course and that their work is successfully completed. It is only by learning the lessons of history that we can hope to avoid repeating them and only by enforcing accountability that we can hope to provide credibility in the future.

Deputy Lawlor has let down politics repeatedly. I, therefore, commend this motion to the House.

Just over one year ago we stood in this Chamber debating a motion on Deputy Lawlor. I began my address on that occasion by saying it was with deep regret this House should find itself having to debate such a matter. I said it was a sad day for the House and a sad day for Deputy Lawlor and his family, and I repeat those comments today. Some 12 months on, it is with even deeper regret that we find ourselves back here on the same subject. I have particular sympathy for Deputy Lawlor's wife Hazel and his family. In my view they have been subjected to excessive and unfair media exposure during the past year and over the past two months in particular.

This is an even more serious matter than it was 12 months ago. It is deeply disturbing that the statutory instrument devised by this House to investigate planning and related matters has been flouted to such a flagrant extent by Deputy Liam Lawlor. Mr. Justice Smith, in delivering his ruling last Friday in the High Court, said Deputy Lawlor by his conduct had compounded his contempt and was in disregard of orders of the tribunal and the court. The House would do well to commend the actions of Mr. Justice Flood and the planning tribunal legal team on the manner in which they are conducting the ongoing inquiry and for their unswerving resolve in attempting to uncover the truth behind these matters. The tribunals that have been set up have been doing their job well. The Flood tribunal, in particular, has confounded its sniping critics by proving with persistence and determination it can root out the truth as it has been mandated to do by this House.

Ultimately the success of the tribunals, which I am confident we shall see, may be of such importance that we may no longer need their like again. They should have the deterrent effect in the first instance, to signal that our democracy means business when it comes to fairness, openness and standards in public life. The fact that the tribunals, particularly the Flood and Moriarty tribunals are uncovering unsavoury information should give us some degree of satisfaction that they are working well. Public accountability has been greatly enhanced by the tribunals, painful and shocking though the information they uncover has been. The effectiveness of the tribunals has been damaged and the cost to the taxpayer increased, not by anything the tribunals have done but by the evasiveness and lack of co-operation that too many witnesses have shown. The public is rightly eager to hear the considered reports of the members of the tribunal at the appropriate time. The public wants to see results. I am sure Deputies will agree that it is the public duty of those called on to give evidence to the tribunals to co-operate fully and speedily so that the answers the public so clearly wants and deserves can be given.

The requirements of due process, natural justice and constitutional order govern us all and are things to which the vast majority of us hold. We must hold ourselves to these standards in public life. Although it is the case that in other jurisdictions a member may be removed by parliament, I agree with the thrust of our Constitution that it is ultimately a matter for the electorate to remove a Member and not for his fellow Members. The sovereignty of the people is sacrosanct, not simply as an aspiration but as a practical matter with particular consequences. We in this House cannot allow ourselves to forget this fundamental fact. It is this that drives all our efforts to ensure accountability through the Oireachtas to the public. We are but a conduit for accountability to the public. We cannot in this instance cause the removal of a Member of the House permanently by our will alone. While we can and do sanction Members for unparliamentary behaviour, and there is scope for us to examine how extending the rules under which we do so may serve to encourage greater standards in the discharge of public duties, we ought to restrain ourselves from seeking to cause the removal of a sitting Deputy. The dangers that would arise were our Constitution not to prevent the removal of a Member by other Members of the House are evident to all of us. Such powers would be open to abuse by the majority position in this House.

Since this matter last arose in the House, I have been greatly encouraged by the work done by the Oireachtas Committee on Members' Interests in bringing forward a code of conduct which will govern Members of both the Dáil and Seanad. I understand it will be before this House very soon. I note also the recent signing into law of the Standards in Public Office Act, 2000, which will among other things require tax clearance certificates from all candidates prior to election.

At this juncture we must ask what is the appropriate course of action for the House, given Deputy Lawlor's unacceptable behaviourvis-à-vis a tribunal established by the Oireachtas. Should the House seek to use its moral influence effectively to procure his resignation? Any moral influence the House possesses depends as much on Deputy Lawlor's own attitude to the opinion of the House as on the collective view of Members. In so far as the House can bring any moral influence to bear, it should be applied towards the goal of procuring Deputy Lawlor's full compliance with the tribunal. He should do this in the spirit of accountability to the public that informed the decision of the Oireachtas to establish the tribunals in the first place. Once again I urge Deputy Lawlor in the strongest possible terms to follow this course with a change of heart and to let us see that borne out in his actions in the near future. That has to be the goal of this House since we cannot collectively ensure his resignation from the House, no matter how much the House or its Members desire it or feel it to be the honourable course of action.

I recognise, however, that as far as the House is concerned, its primary objective as a constituent part of the Oireachtas should be to promote compliance by its Members with the requirements of the tribunals which we established. It is appropriate that the House should express a collective view that we deplore his failure to co-operate with the Flood tribunal and that he should voluntarily resign his membership of Dáil Éireann. That is as far as we can go. We cannot force any Member to resign. Our resolutions on the matter of resignation of a Member in whatever circumstances, and no matter who the Member is, will always have to stop at the point of moral influence.

We are here as Deputies of this House. We are called Deputies because we are here to deputise for the people. Deputy Lawlor is deputising for the people of Dublin West in Dáil Éireann. It is the people who will ultimately decide whether Deputy Lawlor will sit in Dáil Éireann. This is a fundamental democratic principle with which we have no right to interfere. We must all have absolute confidence in this process, as I do.

Like everybody else in this House I deplore the behaviour of Deputy Liam Lawlor and the impact of his behaviour on the public perception of politics and on our political institutions. It is my view that his membership of the Dáil has for some time been untenable and damaging to politics and that he should resign.

However, I was concerned on Tuesday that the debate to take place in the House today calling for his resignation should be orderly and accord with our constitutional obligations. I regret that when I raised in the House on Tuesday the necessity for Deputy Lawlor's presence, my concerns were dismissed by the Taoiseach and widely rubbished outside the House in both official and unofficial briefings to the media. If the Attorney General had taken more time in considering the approach to this debate rather than focusing on his election ambitions, perhaps the Government would have got better advice and this House would not have been subject to the fiasco it was subject to this morning.

When the Flood tribunal was put in place by order of this House, it had full approval in this House and it had full public approval. The initial evidence was dramatic. The evidence given by former Minister, Deputy Ray Burke, was riveting and there was great public interest in the procedures of the tribunal. Now, unfortunately, three years later with little progress being reported to this House, people are beginning to lose interest and faith in the tribunal process. Part of the reason people are losing faith in the Flood tribunal is the long delays which have been experienced by the tribunal in getting to the core issues. These delays have been caused, to a very large extent, by the obstruction carried on by certain witnesses, and in particular by the obstruction of Deputy Liam Lawlor. He has played ducks and drakes with the tribunal and has brought about a situation where unwarranted delays have been caused. He has brought this House into disrepute by his actions and he has failed completely to assent to the unanimous will of this House that everybody should co-operate with the tribunal process and in particular with the Flood tribunal. In doing so he has brought about a situation where the House's reputation for incompetence and ineffectiveness has been magnified.

Despite the Taoiseach's fine words this morning and on many other occasions, the Taoiseach has a case to answer. Last June, Mr. Justice Flood requested additional judges be appointed to the tribunal; to date the Taoiseach has failed to comply with that request and the Government has failed to appoint the judges that are necessary to proceed with the proper workings of the tribunal.

Not long ago a member of the Aer Rianta board facilitated the passage of Deputy Lawlor through Dublin Airport. That person is still a member of the Aer Rianta board. What we have here is the continuing exercise of the Taoiseach's ineffectiveness and ambiguity when there is public denunciation of the Deputies on his side of the House that got into difficulty. This public denunciation is matched by private accommodation. The Taoiseach is quite prepared to continue in an ambiguous fashion where public denunciation by him and others in his Administration is run in parallel with private accommodation of Deputies who have been expelled from his party but to whom he still extends the privileges and friendships of the party.

Deputy Liam Lawlor played ducks and drakes with the tribunals and the courts. The Taoiseach allowed him, by not taking the advice that was freely proffered to him on Tuesday, to play ducks and drakes again this morning with this House and to bring the House into further disrepute. You must be a seriously embarrassed Leader of the House—

(Interruptions.)

—and a seriously embarrassed Taoiseach when the courts had to force you—

(Interruptions.)

A Deputy:

What about Bridget McCole?

That is disgusting.

I will not be silenced by the other—

I ask Deputies to address their remarks through the Chair.

(Interruptions.)

Deputy Shatter should allow his leader to speak.

(Interruptions.)

The Taoiseach must be seriously embarrassed this morning to be forced by the courts to vindicate the rights of a Member of this House. It was self-evident that Deputy Lawlor would be accorded the right to attend here under the constitutional rights of natural justice. One did not need to be a constitutional lawyer to know that. The famous man fromDublin Opinion on the Donnybrook bus could have told the Taoiseach that. Any man on a high stool in a bar knows there are constitutional rights and a right to be heard. Yet, the Taoiseach has allowed a situation where the courts again had to dictate to the House how it should proceed and the right of Deputy Lawlor to be here.

Why can the Taoiseach not uphold the constitutional rights of this House and why does he continually, through his inactivity, ambiguity and incompetence, drag this House into disrepute? He has had five years to clean up politics and yet, through the methodology of his management, everything continues to be shrouded in ambiguity. We continue in this House, under its Leader, the Taoiseach, to fail to address the key issues. In the meantime, cynicism outside this House continues to rise. Young people look at us with contempt. They have no notion of exercising their franchise in the general election.

Rubbish.

They not only deem us to be—

(Interruptions.)

Order please. Deputy Noonan without interruption.

They not only deem this Government the most incompetent ever, but they do not trust the Government's fine words. Politics is an honourable profession. It is time the Government restored the honour of politics in this House and outside it. However, the Taoiseach's indifference and ambiguity and his speaking out of the two sides of his mouth continue to drag the honourable profession of politics and all who participate in it in the mire. It is time he left.

Deputies:

Hear, hear.

(Interruptions.)

I call Deputy Quinn.

This is both a good day and a bad day for this Republic. It is a good day because, in one sense, it shows us trying to struggle with the problems of coming of age. It is a bad day because, unprecedentedly, we have to ask someone who like the rest of us has the honour to be elected to this House to voluntarily resign. In the march to freedom for this nation, there were many people who said we could never govern our own affairs. The great colonialist myth was that we were not up to it, could not handle it and were ungovernable. This nation has to demonstrate that we have the strength of character, the generosity of spirit and the humanity to govern our own affairs.

I had the honour of being elected on the same day in June 1977 as Deputy Lawlor. I, and I suspect Deputy Lawlor, can still remember that extraordinary sense of exhilaration, honour and pride at being elected to take my place in this sovereign assembly of a sovereign people, to make laws for ourselves, to hold Governments to account, to attack from Opposition, to sit in office, to make decisions and, yes, to make mistakes, to do things one might regret, to face the electorate subsequently, to be defeated and to be elected again. That is the very stuff of democratic politics, the very reality that becomes a passion in one's adult life, a passion that has driven me all my lifetime. Looking around the world, we see people queuing for 24 hours in South Africa – for what? They queue to vote to elect a person who will represent them and who will, as Deputy Harney said, be their Deputy in a sovereign assembly, who will honour the trust of the ballot box and who will attempt, with all the frailty of our human condition, to do the right thing.

Today, we in this House have to do the right thing. In all my time in this House I have never seen a motion calling on a colleague to voluntarily resign, signed by the leaders of all parties in the House. It is without precedent. This is, as I said, a good and a bad day. It is a good day for us, but it is a bad day for the person we are asking to renounce the trust that was placed in him by the electorate. Why is this necessary? It is because the courts of this land, which are separate and independent of this House, have deemed not once but on three occasions that a Member of this House who voted for or did not oppose the establishment of a tribunal of inquiry into the misconduct of affairs – apparently so – had declined or refused to give the level of co-operation that is expected of every citizen. That happened three times. Today, we are asking a Member of this House to voluntarily resign. This is a Republic. We cannot force people to act but what we are asking this person to do is unprecedented. We are not doing this for party political advantage. It is not, on this occasion, because my party disagrees totally with other parties in this House. It is not because, as a political leader, I have severe reservations about the conduct of affairs by the present Administration. It is because the very foundations of this democracy and the trust in which we are all held are being undermined by the cynical refusal of an elected Member to co-operate with our courts. That is what we are being asked to do. It is without precedent to have a motion signed by the five leaders before us.

In conclusion, I appeal to Deputy Lawlor, notwithstanding anything that has been said in the past or the interviews he has given to the media or individual journalists, to do the last thing he can – invoking the memory he must have had in June 1977 when he had the honour to be elected to this House – to respect the traditions of this State and venerate the memory of the people who came before us, namely to acquiesce without protest to our request that he voluntarily resign from this House and, by so doing, reinforce the foundations of this Republic.

Deputies:

Hear, hear.

Ba mhaith liom mo chuid ama a roinnt leis an Teachta Joe Higgins. Tá súil agam go bhfuil sé sin sásúil.

For the third time in a year, Deputy Liam Lawlor has been sent to jail. That no sanction exists to require Deputy Lawlor to resign his Dáil seat is a matter of huge annoyance to many, including Members of this House. That lack of sanction must be addressed and debated. I propose the introduction, as a minimum sanction, of suspension without pay.

However, deeper concerns regarding this case are being expressed. How can a backbench TD like Deputy Lawlor contemplate the enormous legal costs which have already been incurred by his reckless challenges to the work of the tribunal and appeals to decisions of the courts? It is not unusual for a Deputy to have employment outside Dáil Éireann even though it is not a good idea. However, Deputy Lawlor's money-making activities outside Leinster House are, as far as we can tell, quite extraordinary and require far more rigorous investigation. In this regard, it is scandalous that Mr. Justice Flood's request to Government for personnel to assist his tribunal has not been met as a matter of urgency.

I am not convinced the Government has the stomach for this investigation given that it may drag in other individuals. Deputy Lawlor's background is not very different from that of many current members of Fianna Fáil. It is clear that the philosophy of Mr. Charles J. Haughey – often paraphrased as "money and power at all costs"– was an important inspiration in attracting Deputy Lawlor, the Taoiseach and many others in Government, into politics. It appears Deputy Lawlor opted for the money and the Taoiseach opted for the power. Ironically, had Deputy Lawlor been as skilful an accountant as the Taoiseach he might not have ended up in his lonely prison cell, temporarily released to attend this debate in which we are calling for his resignation.

That is disgraceful.

The Lord's prayer contains some wise advice including the line "Lead us not into temptation"—

Blank cheques.

The current difference between the price of agricultural land and land zoned for development presents enormous temptation for profiteering and corruption. As a former member of Dublin County Council in the early 1990s, I felt the culture of corruption and profiteering in the air but it was very difficult to prove. The advice from planners to councillors not to make bad rezoning decisions was shamefully disregarded by a coalition of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael members in the main over and over again. To this date, those of us outside that golden circle can only imagine the resulting levels of profiteering for developers and speculators.

Councillors will deny they were paid money to help them make up their minds on how they should vote. On 19 February 1993 when I asked, as an unrelated aside to the specific proposals on the agenda that day, whether councillors had at any time received gifts or money to influence their vote, and when I displayed an unsolicited cheque of a mere £100 which was sent to my party, uproar ensued. Upon resuming my seat, I was physically assaulted and had to be escorted from the chamber, following suspension of the meeting, allegedly for my own safety.

The dealings of Deputy Lawlor and, I suspect, others may have been facilitated by a system which lacks traceability and which must be opened up to scrutiny. A system of traceability in all transactions is needed and the introduction of a windfall tax to return a share of the profit from rezoning decisions to the community at large would be an important measure of reform to aid those who might otherwise be open to temptation and find themselves the focus of debates such as this.

Traceability of financial transactions would help ensure honesty in politics and public life generally and could also help to prevent the type of monumental fraud which topically has rocked AIB and the financial world in general. To this extent, the allegations against Deputy Lawlor and Mr. John Rusnak cannot be treated in total isolation. International financial transactions would have to be subject to systems of traceability if a Tobin tax, as proposed by the Green Party, on each international financial transaction were in force. Even a 1% or 0.5% tax would be a major bonus if paid to the poorest people of this earth who make up what aid agencies call the majority world.

The majority should have a say regarding global justice and the majority in Dáil Eireann should be heeded. In this regard, the Green Party joins with all parties in this House in calling for the resignation of Deputy Liam Lawlor. I call on the Deputy to heed that request.

(Dublin West): Gabhaim buíochas leis an Teachta Sargent as ucht a chuid ama a roinnt.

The Taoiseach has hung Deputy Liam Lawlor out to dry here today and so he should but what he conveniently did not say is that Deputy Lawlor did not act in a vacuum over the course of the past 20 or 25 years in public life. It is appropriate that Deputy Lawlor is sitting on the Fianna Fáil benches today because for 20 years he has been a public representative for the Fianna Fáil Party as a Dublin county councillor and Deputy.

The Taoiseach spoke earlier about our previously hidden and unacceptable past in political life as if it was only in the past few years that we became aware of the corruption which was rife where business interfaced with politics. I was elected to Dublin County Council in 1991 and found it to be an institution overrun with land speculators and their bagmen who carried on business with such gusto that it put the Dingle horse fair of my youth into the shade. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael councillors – with the Progressive Democrats getting in on the act once or twice – were driving a juggernaut through the county council development process, rezoning in areas which were scandalously inappropriate. We now know in detail that a notorious figure who never left the public gallery during the debate on the development plan was the bagman for those seeking to enrich themselves at the cost of public representatives, doling out sums of money ranging from hundreds to thousands of pounds to councillors. Fianna Fáil public representatives, apart from Deputy Lawlor, were kept men by millionaire developers. That happened in the 1980s and 1990s. The system was degenerate and corrupt and property planning was brutally shunted to the side. The Taoiseach and many leading people in Fine Gael knew it was happening yet, in spite many of our protestations, no one lifted a hand to stop it.

It is completely unconvincing for the Taoiseach to stand here today and pretend he is shocked by recent revelations. I represent Dublin West. It is the working class communities of Dublin West that have suffered and continue to suffer as a result of many of the decisions made in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, decisions made by public representatives who crowded into the chamber of Dublin County Council having rushed from Conway's pub, their pockets bulging with envelopes stuffed with cash from developers' bagmen on whose behalf they were voting. They did not vote for the interests of the working class people of Dublin West and other areas.

It is those events which have led to the debate in this Chamber in spite of the studious attempts of the Taoiseach and others to prevent them being discussed here today. Let the people who have suffered have their say. The motion before the House should not merely call on Deputy Lawlor to resign, the Government should have announced an immediate by-election in Dublin West so that the long suffering residents of that constituency can have their democratic say and give their judgment on the abuse which has been heaped upon them for decades by politicians.

I express my appreciation to the President of the High Court for affording me the opportunity to address this House this morning.

I will briefly return to the beginning when I, like other Members of this House and local authorities, received correspondence from the chairman of the Flood tribunal requesting our co-operation and the provision of information. I did what most people would do; I passed the correspondence to my solicitor and he advised as to what should be done to comply. He raised some objections to the documentation and sought the advice of senior counsel, Mr. Adrian Hardiman. From Mr. Hardiman's interpretation of the documentation, he advised that there were certain anomalies. He went to the High Court and to the Supreme Court and was found to be correct on two counts. One year of interviews by the Flood tribunal's legal team without the chairman of the tribunal in attendance, and various other aspects of the workings of the tribunal, were found to be illegal and had to be set aside. A full year's work was set aside. There has been no comment from the tribunal as yet about an apology or about the cost that was incurred during that period.

I acted as any normal elected representative or "Sean Citizen" would do. I took advice to co-operate in whatever way I should. When I went to give evidence to the tribunal, my advice was that I was going there to deal with a number of specific headings. In the four days of evidence, it did not turn out quite that way, which was probably my fault. On day four, my credit cards were displayed on a screen while Mr. Gallagher, senior counsel, was questioning me about those cards. All the payments were catalogued. I did not see the purpose of that and I refused to answer. That was a momentous mistake on my behalf because it was interpreted as non-co-operation and the chairman of the tribunal, due to his frustrations, referred the matter to the High Court.

I am not acting alone although I am responsible for my actions. When I went to the High Court, I took advice, I co-operated and I did what I was told I should do. In a lighter comment, I have been saying to friends that I thought "discovery" was a television channel, but I have since learned that it is a wider, more complicated and difficult matter with which to comply. Mr. Justice Smith found last week that I had still not complied with his order.

I have not done this intentionally. Do I want to be standing here or serving a third term? The answer is that I do not want to be standing here. However, one must face the facts as they are. I had never been to the High Court in my life and did not understand the process there. When I went to the court for the first time, my previous adviser had been elevated to the High Court and Mr. John Rogers, senior counsel, took over to give me advice as to how to comply. The advice I got was that Mr. Justice Smith and the tribunal had explained what discovery was pre-Christmas 2000. With a small staff, I set about trying to identify anybody I ever had dealings with for the previous 30 years. My solicitor wrote 272 letters, with the chairman's orders attached, explaining that I had to co-operate with this tribunal and asking the recipients of the letters to assist in providing third party discovery so that I could do so. That embraced banks, building societies, friends, business colleagues and many others. The correspondence had a substantial response and I made discovery of that to the tribunal in further correspondence. I will come back to that.

In doing so, I endeavoured to co-operate fully and was due to go back to Mr. Justice Smith after Christmas 2000. I hired a big photocopying machine and spent about a day and a half at Christmas discovering every piece of available paper I could in the time available. In particular, Mr. Rogers, senior counsel, handed to the Flood tribunal a file that I coincidentally call "B42". I believe a "B42" is a large aeroplane. That file had "one to 50" names in it, and a record of every penny I could recall receiving from anybody, my salary, expenses and a record of every other income I could put together. Mr. Rogers handed the file to Mr. Justice Smith and made particular emphasis about its content, and gave it to Mr. Frank Clarke, senior counsel for the tribunal. I might be wrong but I believe the tribunal was aware of three names out of the 50 before I handed in that document.

Was I co-operating? That will have to be judged by somebody else some day. I thought the priority for the tribunal should be to identify from where any funds a person received came, and not to identify the overdraft or bank in which a person tried to juggle their funds when they had bank difficulties. To give the source of the funds seemed the most potent thing I could do to co-operate with this tribunal.

Mr. Justice Smith found that there were deficiencies in discovery, compliance and so forth – although I do not for a moment make reference to the honourable judge's judgments, as it is inappropriate to do so. I am back before Mr. Justice Smith on 9 April next to hopefully draw a line in the concrete, not the sand, of discovery for the tribunal.

I will digress for a moment to pick up Deputy Noonan's point. Am I the cause of the delay of the Flood tribunal in making its interim report on modules that have nothing to do with me? I do not think so. There is enough criticism in the House about this tribunal. Deputy Noonan should look behind him where many colleagues of his have been trenchant in their criticism of this tribunal and its actions, as have many Members on this side of the House. However, they have expressed that criticism privately and will take their position in the House today by following their party line. I understand and respect that but the truth is slightly different.

Affidavits were submitted to the High Court. During August 2001, I renewed my correspondence to the "one to 50" list, asking those people to provide records they had regarding this matter. I got replies from some. Affidavits were sworn by the tribunal in July. Regarding one of the sets of documents I sought, I got a letter from a leading firm of Dublin solicitors stating that, as well as my inquiry for third-party discovery, it had received a similar request from the tribunal. The firm intended to co-operate in providing the material and believed the tribunal would copy the same material to me. That is how the tribunal investigators operated. They went down like sliveens overnight and swore an affidavit to the High Court to convince Mr. Justice Smith that I was not co-operating, despite the fact that I was looking for the very same material to give to the tribunal.

A number of affidavits have been sworn in the High Court that should be parked for another day and investigated for their veracity. My counsel in that court, in very diplomatic language, raised serious reservations about the solicitor who swore the affidavits. Last week, Mr. Justice Smith referred to Landesbank in his judgment. I was criticised by counsel for the tribunal for belatedly travelling to that bank. I had written, telephoned and faxed the bank throughout the year, and had made discovery of all sorts of documentation directly to the tribunal. I have a letter, received from the bank, in which I asked specifically if the bank would please give me a letter, for use in Dublin, confirming that I have every shred of paper associated with my one account. The tribunal swore in an affidavit that I had eight accounts and convinced the Supreme Court of that also. I had one account.

What did the tribunal do about the Landesbank situation? I have all the documentation and a letter. The bank holds its records for ten years. I signed an authorisation in the witness box 13 or 14 months ago to give the tribunalcarte blanche to go to that bank and make discovery of everything there because I have nothing to hide there. Will Members believe me when I tell the House that the tribunal sent a fax of my authorisation to the bank and never did a single tap since? There has not been a telephone call to my solicitor, nor a letter to say it had not got what it wanted and would like my assistance. Despite a letter from the bank, Mr. Frank Clarke, senior counsel, quoted from a sworn affidavit in the High Court last week to say he is dissatisfied and that further documentation must be made available. Mr. Clarke then proceeded to qualify that by saying he was making no criticism of that international bank. Either I will be proved wrong or the tribunal will be proved wrong. If I provided all the documentation – and I have been informed there is no more documentation – the affidavit is to be questioned.

Earlier I mentioned co-operation. I wrote to 272 people, and to one to 50. I discovered all documentation corresponding to the tribunal and went to the court. That documentation was then criticised as unacceptable because it was not provided by way of affidavit. What will I do for 9 April? I could take 272 files, and one to 50 files, and start the process again, put them into affidavit form and deliver it to Mr. Justice Smith for 9 April. The tribunal has had this information for nine months but now I will do it the other way. Does that mean I have not been co-operating for the past 12 or 13 months? A very small staff and I, on the advice of a legal team, have attempted, to co-operate, although our efforts have unfortunately been found to be inadequate. Others will have to await judgment on whether that is so.

Having believed that I had found the tribunal operating illegally in its first phase and then getting into a controversy of my own making, this became like a heavyweight contest. We are both punching hard and some punches land while others do not. If my solicitor or counsel, in discussions with the tribunal, had had any modicum of co-operation and contact, 90% of what is in these affidavits could be answered.

US banks were referred to. I have three sons, the eldest of whom went to study in the States, to be followed by the other lads who were pursuing various studies and golf scholarships. It now appears that every credit card or overdrawn account of $500 or $1,000 is discoverable. One of my sons has been in the States for four or five years working with a well known bank that is in the headlines at the moment – I hope I am not blamed for that but there is every possibility. I recalled this weekend that when he was going to the States to study he had a credit card. I told him to hold on to it and if he was short of a few bob, he should ring and I would put £500 or whatever in to it. Now I find that is a discoverable account of mine because I put £500 into it. I realised that this weekend. Every account that they ever had in the United States is discoverable.

When the tribunal comes to discuss the next module – and I suggest respectfully to the House that whenever that will be, it is not due to my delaying – it should bring in whomsoever has complaints or allegations to make and the elected members who made decisions. The tribunal, however, may see this as the wrong way to approach the matter. It called a witness, Mr. Frank Dunlop, and gave him the run around for three or four days. As a result there were newspaper headlines identifying people by innuendo. Now he is gone and we have not heard from him since. I look forward to the day when I go to the Flood tribunal to answer for every decision I made in Dublin County Council.

I never agree with Deputy Higgins but we are both from the one bailiwick. Many other elected members from the area besides me have seen villages grow into two satellite towns. There have been tremendous achievements and progress for the young communities living there. I look forward to the day when I can answer the terms of reference of this tribunal.

The tribunal, in its investigative mode, is in a trawl phase. It must be provided with every detail but 90% of what is discovered will probably have no relevance to its workings. If it was to address the planning decisions we made and study them in great detail – contributions provided, etc. – and if it was dissatisfied with the findings, it could trawl then. Perhaps that is an over-simplistic layman's view of the legal workings of a tribunal.

Mr. Justice Smith has come to certain conclusions about the evidence provided on affidavit and I fully accept and respect that. We have all come across brilliant people of great intellect and, although I had never been in a court before, I was incredibly impressed by his attention to detail and the effort that he put into his investigations. I may not have got the decisions I would have wished for but, he would go away for weekends to work and study documents, then come back in and query certain matters. I have no criticism and I respectfully accept his decisions and hope I have taken them with some sort of humility and understanding before I head back to try to resolve this problem. I have until 9 April to provide all of the various information.

There are four c's – compliance, criminality, corruption and correspondence. In theSunday Independent newspaper and so forth, I have already been found to be corrupt, although I do not know how. I sincerely hope, from its point of view, that Mr. Justice Flood finds that I am because if I am not, there will be another day in court.

This House is deciding today, understandably in the political cut and thrust, that my actions have brought it into disrepute. I apologise that it has happened but when a person thinks he is slightly more than half right, he must stand up for what he believes and address that matter with whatever tools are available. The House decided earlier that I should fully co-operate and that is repeated in the motion today. As we come to the end of a 15 month period, I would like to think that I have turned a year on its head co-operating but it has not been totally adequate. If some of these affidavits are reviewed at a future date, by either the President of the High Court or someone else, they will prove what I have put before the House today. If I felt I was swimming against the tide coming into Dublin Bay last Friday, so be it. The waters will calm and I might get a chance to swim forward. In doing so, I hope that when people come to judge this phase that I will account for every penny I got and no one in the witness box will be able to make the slightest suggestion of corruption against Liam Lawlor. That was what the tribunal was set up to achieve and this House should let it do the job it was set up to do. If we criticise it, it should be for good reasons.

Like everyone else, I have rights and I feel deeply wounded by what has happened, as have my family and friends. I did not wish to be in this position but I believe,vis-à-vis early misunderstanding or endeavouring to comply and not complying fully, that the courts have rightfully found non-compliance, but non-compliance in an unintentional and non-malicious way. This tribunal has the power to discover so why would I ever try to hide anything from it? It does not have the power abroad, however, and I know in my heart that it supposed initially when the Czech Republic came up for discussion that this was not firm, reasonable, intelligent, negotiated business, that it was some sort of a mystery. Perhaps its aggression is because it has not found what it thought it would.

Let us continue with the tribunal and let us come to a conclusion in due course.

Question put and agreed to.
Sitting suspended at 1 p.m. and resumed at 1.15 p.m.