Yesterday we heard the Taoiseach, in his defence, speak strongly of the manner in which he conducts his business as Taoiseach of the country and to the effect that he never betrayed public trust and did everything in accordance with the highest of standards. Yesterday we also heard from TG4's Ms O'Connor of the method by which funds were despatched for a marine access infrastructure in Kenmare, County Kerry, despite the fact that on 4 December 2000, the assistant secretary of the Department of the Marine and Natural Resources, in a memo to the secretary, said that the Taoiseach was anxious that a letter would issue without delay and that he took the view that such a letter issuing without appraisal of the project involved would involve a letter of comfort, which could result in legal claims against the Department subsequently. The drafting of that letter was conducted by the Taoiseach's programme manager. It states:
This is the type of letter you need for the Kenmare marina project. Would you please see if Minister Fahy will sign and issue it?
The letter is signed "Gerry". This is in advance of any appraisal of the project involved, which project amounted to €750,000, of which over €300,000 has been paid.
Deputy Healy-Rae, in whose favour this was being granted, as distinct from the then Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, who is in the Chamber, had this letter changed, on his insistence, to read "I believe that the project would be eligible for funding" to "I agree that the project will receive funding."
In light of yesterday's probity in high standards, does the remit of the Taoiseach's programme manager extend to approval of capital projects without appraisal? Did the Taoiseach see this correspondence? Did he see and approve the letter from Gerry? Did he tell the then Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Fahey, that the letter from Gerry should issue and that on foot of that, it amounted to a letter of comfort on a project, be it worthwhile or otherwise, that amounted to €750,000? How can the Taoiseach stand over this kind of dispensation and slush fund being used by his party, apparently on his personal direction?