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Dáil Éireann debate -
Friday, 20 Feb 2004

Vol. 580 No. 4

Tribunals of Inquiry: Statements.

The third interim report of the Tribunal of Inquiry into Certain Planning Matters and Payments was published on 21 January 2004. Its findings relate to Mr. George Redmond and its publication was delayed as Mr. Redmond, who is the primary subject of the report, was before the courts facing charges for corruption.

Mr. Redmond was the assistant city and county manager for Dublin. The report describes in detail three payments made to Mr. Redmond. Of those, the report concludes that two were corrupt payments and the other did not fall within the definition of a corrupt payment as provided for in the interpretation of the tribunal's terms of reference. The report found that the persons who made the payments were Mr. Joseph Murphy Jnr. and Mr. Michael Bailey.

The establishment of the tribunal has sent out a very clear message to anyone who has corrupt dealings relating to planning that these matters can no longer be kept secret. This message is reinforced by the clear findings in the second and third interim reports of Mr. Justice Flood. The Government fully supports this and is providing the tribunal with the resources it requires to continue with work set out in its terms of reference so that the matters being investigated by the tribunal can be resolved once and for all.

Corruption and the act of hindering or obstructing a tribunal are criminal offences and the law in this regard must be enforced. It is unacceptable for any person who holds high office to accept corrupt payments in return for favours. It is important that legislation and structures are in place to ensure that decisions taken by personnel in public office, which can confer large financial benefit on others, are taken in a transparent way. Over the past few years the Government has been actively working to ensure that this is the case.

As yet, the tribunal has not made specific recommendations in regard to amendments to planning, local government or ethics in public office legislation. However, while much important work remains to be completed by the tribunal, the Government has initiated some ongoing improvements of planning and ethics law. The Government made a series of significant changes to planning legislation in the Planning and Development Act 2000. We introduced more opportunities for public consultation and scrutiny at both development plan and permission level.

It is notable that, in the conclusion to the report, one payment referred to was connected to the non-application of development charges that are normally imposed as a condition of a grant of planning permission. The law has been updated and radically revised in the Planning and Development Act 2000. Contrary to the rhetoric of some Members opposite in recent debates, these revisions will improve the transparency of the system and ensure that it applies openly and fairly across all developments. It takes decisions away from the level of individual applicants and sets a common standard.

The new system of development contribution schemes gives the job of deciding on a scheme of contributions to the elected members in each planning authority. The officials of the authority must then apply the scheme across all developments. All local authorities have adopted or are in the process of adopting a development contribution scheme to comply with the statutory deadline of 10 March 2004.

In addition to the changes to development contributions over recent years, my Department has been intervening more proactively with planning policy advice and has issued guidelines on matters such as increasing residential densities, mobile phone masts and child care. Draft guidelines on quarries, architectural heritage and landscape have been issued for public consultation. The purpose of these guidelines on specific subjects is to assist local authorities in carrying out their planning function and to give all involved in the planning system up-to-date guidance on best practice.

Modern guidelines for development management and control, which were last issued in 1982, are being prepared and will be published later this year. These guidelines will give general guidance to planning authorities on processing planning applications and the content of permissions. Planning authorities have the difficult job of promoting the development of their areas at a strategic level, while handling tens of thousands of different applications for planning permission for individual developments every year. The guidelines issued by the Department will help planning authorities to remove inconsistencies regarding how applications are managed, as well as applying a more consistent national framework by which to measure their performance.

As well as changes to the planning code, there have been significant developments in recent years in the legislative and regulatory framework governing the conduct of public representatives and public servants. These changes will reinforce public confidence in the standards by which Ireland is governed.

I am glad to point out, in so far as local government is concerned, that the Local Government Act 2001 provides a comprehensive ethics framework for local government employees and councillors. From January 2003 this has applied to all local authorities. This new framework updated and developed the previous law taking account of the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995. As its starting principle, the Act provides that it is the duty of every councillor and employee to maintain proper standards of integrity, conduct and concern for the public interest.

The framework is based on three basic requirements: first, an annual declaration of a wide range of interests; second, disclosure of any interest in a matter coming before the authority; and, third, a public register of these interests. The interests that have to be declared annually by councillors and specified staff include such matters as shareholdings, directorships, holdings of land or other property, gifts, supplies of property or services, travel facilities, contracts with a local authority and certain other matters.

There is also a requirement to disclose interests in any matter which arises in the performance of functions by the local authority and in which the councillor or employee concerned or a connected person has an interest. A councillor cannot speak or vote in such cases and an employee must comply with directions from his or her manager. Where the matter relates to a manager, she or he must delegate the function. Failure to comply with either requirement is an offence and the penalties have been set at a high level to deter anyone from pursuing this course. The penalties are a fine of a maximum of €12,690 and a term of imprisonment of two years on conviction on indictment.

The final elements of this framework, separate draft national codes of conduct for councillors and employees, have been drafted. The codes' aims are to set out the standards and principles of conduct and integrity for local authority employees and councillors, to inform the public of the conduct it is entitled to expect and to uphold public confidence. These draft codes have been made available to interested parties for their views and it is intended, following consideration of those, to have them in place by the middle of 2004. The intention is that the codes will supplement the specific requirements under the Act, and will form an integral part of the new ethics framework. Both the courts and the Standards in Public Office Commission may have regard to them in carrying out their duties.

The 2001 Local Government Act is bolstered by other legislation covering the public service such as the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Act 2001. This legislation strengthened the law on corruption. It provides for a presumption of corruption where there is proof that certain persons in public office have received money or other benefits from a person who has an interest in the way certain functions are carried out or the outcome of certain decisions. In effect, a person who receives a payment in these circumstances will have to prove the payment is not corrupt, instead of the prosecution proving that it was. This should make the prosecution of corrupt payments easier. The types of decision covered by this legislation specifically include the sale or purchase of property and decisions on planning matters.

The Standards in Public Office Act 2001 provided for the establishment of the new Standards in Public Office Commission with wide investigative powers. The commission is a permanent statutory body set up to monitor, investigate and regulate the conduct of those elected to serve the people or who are employed in the public service. This is to ensure the maintenance of proper ethical standards. The Act imposes on politicians and others an obligation to have their tax affairs in order and to swear a statutory declaration that this is so. The commission, in carrying out its functions, can also have regard to a person's compliance with the local government code of conduct. An independent and powerful body such as the Standards in Public Office Commission with an ongoing mandate to supervise and maintain proper ethical standards is the best guarantee that what has happened in the past will not be permitted in the future.

Ireland needs a planning system that delivers a better quality of life for all. Hard decisions will always have to taken on where and how the country is developed. The best way to get the right decisions that encourage sustainable development is to ensure that they are made in a way that is open and transparent and can be measured against the right standards. The changes the Government has introduced into the planning code will ensure that decisions on development will benefit not just a few individuals but all the people of the State, now and in the future.

The Government welcomes the third interim report of the tribunal and the clear message it sends out to all persons who engage in corrupt practices. The tribunal has shown that wrongdoing will be exposed. The legislation already enacted and proposed by the Government ensures that we now have anti-corruption legislation appropriate to a modern democracy, with strong monitoring, reporting and enforcement mechanisms. We will not hesitate to respond to any recommendations made by the tribunal to improve our systems further.

Mr. Justice Flood is to be congratulated on producing this lucid and conclusive interim report. Any response to a report of this nature must be tempered, especially given the precedent set by the Tánaiste, Deputy Harney, when her misplaced remarks enabled the former Taoiseach, Mr. Charles J. Haughey, to evade justice.

The report details a series of corrupt practices that occurred in the 1980s. It also determines that forenamed persons hindered and obstructed the tribunal's work. This should send out a strong signal that nothing less than full co-operation with the tribunal is acceptable. I expect that the report will be furnished to the Director of Public Prosecutions so that he can take the matter to its conclusion. Will the Minister of State indicate if the DPP has received the report and if any decision been made?

Despite the costs and the length of time the work of the tribunal takes, this report, as with the previous two interim ones, shows that the tribunal, as a forum for excavating the truth, can deliver. I thank Mr. Justice Flood for his tireless work in bringing to light a litany of corruption that has been a black mark against politics for 20 or more years. It must also be noted that Mr. Justice Flood and the tribunal legal team had to work in the face of stubborn refusals to co-operate with the tribunal from the central people in the investigations. Cutting through the golden circle of givers and takers of bribes was not an easy task and we must be grateful that Mr. Justice Flood, with the help of his team, was able to do that. He has exposed what has turned out to be a culture of corruption in certain quarters throughout the 1980s and quite possibly beyond. It must be determined how deep this went because, if this type of behaviour is tolerated and left unpunished, there is little reason it cannot continue regardless.

George Redmond received corrupt payments for using his official position to decide on a lower level of service charges and levies being charged to developments on Forrest Road lands. The amount paid was 50% of what would have been payable had Redmond not intervened. A mere 10% of the savings, which was what Redmond had demanded, netted him payments of more than £12,000. These payments were made by Joseph Murphy junior and were a flagrant abuse of an important public official. While one incident does not make a culture of corruption, it does point to the possibility.

This is not a victimless crime. We, the people, have to live in the poorly planned areas and make up the shortfalls in taxes. The tribunal has decided that George Redmond received £15,000 from Joseph Murphy junior as compensation for not giving him a consultancy job. This raises the question, for what did Joseph Murphy junior feel the need to compensate George Redmond? What did he owe him for? Further payments of between £16,000 and £20,000 were made by Michael Bailey to George Redmond which the tribunal decided were corrupt. No specific instance was used but the tribunal decided that these payments were made to influence George Redmond in his official capacity.

The corrupt payments are shocking enough, but equally shocking is that the tribunal found that people hindered and obstructed its work by various means. Not alone have George Redmond, Michael Bailey and Joseph Murphy junior done wrong, they continue to cover up their wrongdoing. This begs the question as to what the tribunal would have uncovered had these men co-operated with it.

The can of worms is still pretty much closed. There is one person in jail for his behaviour. What is needed now is some kind of sanction against those who hinder, obstruct or fail to co-operate with the tribunal. During the Ray Burke module, several individuals failed to co-operate with the tribunal. Action needs to be taken to let people who are thinking of not fully co-operating with the tribunals know that they will face punishment for such action. If it is not to be legal punishment, then it should be political and social ostracisation.

This is about protecting the heart of politics, the Civil Service and society in general and we should no longer tolerate the actions, past or present, of the so-called loveable rogues. The glamorising by certain quarters in Fianna Fáil of the actions, in particular of the former Taoiseach Mr. Charles Haughey, must stop. People must realise the damage corruption has done to good planning and development. It must be realised too the potential damage of corruption if left to flourish in dark comers with brown paper bags or their contemporary equivalent.

We as politicians must send a message to the people that this type of behaviour is not only unacceptable but, more important, it cannot happen again. However, are we sure it cannot happen again? Are there enough checks and balances in political life and for decision makers? Are Ministers who do not give full answers to questions about their decisions sanctioned and exposed? Are people told on what basis the decisions of the day were made, even after five years? Are Deputies who cheat on their taxes expelled from their political parties? Is major legislation debated to a point where the public is aware of the main points and the Opposition feels that, while possibly disagreeing, it too has had its say? Does the Taoiseach give straight answers to straight questions?

Unfortunately, the answer to all these questions is "No". The Government tries to suggest that the tribunals are in the past and the occurrences into which they inquire could not possibly happen today. That is the latest spin, on which I heard Fianna Fáil members figures speak on radio and television recently, to the effect that the party is not part of those events. They occurred in prehistoric times and former Deputies Flynn and Burke are dinosaurs who have no connection with the present. They certainly have.

The Freedom of Information Act 1997 was enacted at the time when the revelations about Ray Burke were tearing a hole in the credibility of politics. Everyone welcomed the transparency and accountability the Act would bring to politics. It appeared we had learned the lessons of the past as all parties supported its introduction. What has happened since then is nothing short of a national disgrace. The Freedom of Information Act has been crippled and the sponsoring Ministers for the amending legislation so feared the backlash that they ran away to the races at Cheltenham when it was being passed through the Dáil. Content that the Government's charade of being open had served its purpose to pacify a very angry electorate, it put the amendment through after the 2002 general election. The accountability of this Government is at an all-time low. Its position on so many issues has been fudged to ensure that no one must take responsibility for decisions made on issues such as reductions in community employment schemes, rip-off Ireland, transport gridlock and housing. The Government's responses on these issues are at best ambiguous, at worst, hypocritical. For example, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment promised to tackle spiralling prices while the Minister for Finance was piling on stealth taxes which dominated the inflation figures for 2003.

The drip feed of supposedly secret documents from the Mahon tribunal's next module points to a concerted effort to minimise the impact of the tribunal. It seems likely that certain interests are hoping the public will suffer tribunal fatigue long before the damaging evidence is heard. Every week there is a little more. The Oireachtas set up the tribunals of inquiry on behalf of the people to find out what was going on in the 1980s. One lesson they should have taught us is that the veil of secrecy and the brown envelope go together and if decision makers must give a comprehensive account of their decisions, the brown envelopes become much less influential. Guillotined legislation, Ministers who do not answer questions and a Taoiseach who will not answer straight questions is not good enough, as the Flood tribunal should have taught us.

For some time there have been elements trying to undermine the workings of the tribunal. If someone wanted to limit the impact of the issues surrounding the £50,000 cheque and Senator O'Rourke's confirmation of the meeting in the Dáil involving the Taoiseach, leaking the story before the tribunal had heard it would help to do that. The well-orchestrated leaks come from more than one hand. With local and European elections coming up there was an incentive to get the worst of the news out of the way as quickly as possible. We need to know that this type of activity cannot happen within the Government party again. What safeguards are in place to ensure the financial conduct of Fianna Fáil Oireachtas Members? What preventive measures are in place? What is the punishment for tax evasion? We are being duped by a major PR strategy to dilute the bad news before the elections in June. We need to find out who breached the confidentiality of the tribunal and if there is any way of preventing this in the future. The slowness of production of vital documents requested by the tribunal seems part of the Government's hypocrisy in its dealings with tribunals of inquiry. The Government announced the setting up of tribunals describing itself as courageous in facing up to hard issues, and then drip fed the investigation with the necessary documentation as happened in the Laffoy and the Mahon tribunals.

The hypocrisy is possible because this Government has minimised its accountability to the public, the Opposition and the media. The Dáil has been sidelined and 30 second interviews are all we hear from the Taoiseach, unless we hear a pre-recorded sanitised segment that is more like a party political broadcast than information. Following the fall-out from the Padraig Flynn affair, Fianna Fáil is demonstrating a high tolerance for wrongdoing which is nowhere more obvious than in the broad election embrace for Mr. Flynn in Mayo in 2002.

It was a bear hug.

Tax evasion is condoned by keeping a member of the party outside the parliamentary party but still within the party. That is how Fianna Fáil did business in the 1980s and 1990s. It is crucial that the wrongdoers are found out and punished if we are to be sure that there is nothing rotten at the heart of Government today. It takes a special type of brass neck that is most prevalent in Fianna Fáil to abuse a position in Government for personal gain. We have seen too many compromises on the key issues of today to be sure that there is a strong moral compass in the Government. On too many occasions it appears the public loses out, particularly in the area where so much tribunal work is focused, especially in the building industry. It seems unlikely that house prices could have doubled in such a short span of time without the Government's implicit support. It is unconscionable to think that there could still be corruption in an area which is under the spotlight today.

Much of the time delay in the tribunals has been as the result of deliberate tactics to slow them down and the actions of defence lawyers. Serious questions must be raised about the actions of individuals who have not allowed the tribunals to see the full picture. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform may wish to take note of comments in the media and this House, suggesting that the issue of costs with which he says he is attempting to deal through legislation, may better be dealt with through reform of the profession of which he is a member. Tribunals are expensive because the legal profession is paid far too much. Instead of tackling the vested interests, with whom no doubt the Minister is on personal terms, he has attempted to further denigrate the tribunal process by suggesting that the nature of the tribunals is at fault. The fault lies with the greed of the vested interests. If this Government was serious about reducing costs of tribunals and litigation, the Minister would be leading a campaign to reform the legal profession. He wants instead to treat the symptoms rather than the cause. I thank Mr. Justice Flood for the work he has done in this regard.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to make a contribution on the third interim report of the Tribunal of Inquiry into Certain Planning Matters and Payments. I compliment Mr. Justice Flood and his team for the work they have carried out on behalf of the people. The Labour Party believes that any person who receives a corrupt payment or who hindered or obstructed the operation of the tribunal, should be brought to task and made to pay for his or her actions. This report, like the previous one, relates to activities, actions, decisions and payments made and received by individuals involved in the planning process in Dublin County Council from 1985 to date. I was a member of the county council from 1983. As a councillor I worked tirelessly with a small group of Labour Party activists in endeavouring to win back the Labour seat in Dublin North. This was a daunting task given the political environment that existed in the constituency at that time, a matter to which I will return.

Anyone present in the council chamber was well aware of the carry on. I was very conscious of the central role played by certain builders and developers in the planning process, especially when section 4 rezoning motions were on the agenda on a monthly basis and during the development plan review. The interaction between the landowners, builders, developers and their agents, and the Fianna Fáil and most of the Fine Gael councillors, was very evident. I was present and witnessed agents for these people drafting rezoning motions and amendments in the packed public gallery — there was not much room for the ordinary public. These were then passed into the chamber to willing councillors who were prepared to submit motions in their own names.

I witnessed the way the voting was organised to ensure that as far as practicable, the timing of votes was scheduled to suit the rezoning lobby. If the outcome was uncertain, which was not often the case, a runner would be sent to Conway's pub to ensure that any stragglers in the pub were whipped into the chamber to ensure that another rezoning was carried. It would have been very unusual if a celebratory drink or party were not on the agenda for Conway's pub or the Royal Dublin Hotel after the meeting, paid for, of course, by the new millionaires.

Ray Burke's Fianna Fáil organisation in the constituency was awesome at the time. There never seemed to be a shortage of manpower, transport, including lorries for posters, or meals at election time, and all of the boxes in the polling stations were manned and paid for. As a party we always suspected that payments were made by developers for services rendered for election purposes. This was the machine the Labour Party had to take on not only in the council chamber, but also in the constituency to win back the Labour seat.

Even though we had no money to run campaigns, I was proud of the decision taken by my wife, Patricia, and me when we entered politics not to accept contributions from builders and developers in case it might in any way undermine decisions we would have to take. Notwithstanding that, as I have said before, I received unsolicited cheques, which we never cashed and all of which I brought to the attention of the tribunal. If I, as an objective person looking at the proper planning and development of the area, received unsolicited cheques, which were never cashed, what contributions were made to the election funds of those who supported rezoning motions over the years?

The second interim report in particular outlined what we were up against. The report concluded that offshore bank accounts were set up in the Isle of Man and Jersey to accommodate corrupt payments, mainly to Ray Burke. This money was to be used a political slush fund. As far as I can recall the accumulated payments of all the contributions of which we are aware came to more than £250,000.

The third report concluded that George Redmond, Frank Reynolds, Joseph Murphy junior, and Michael Bailey hindered or obstructed the operation of the tribunal. Many of these are closely connected with the Fianna Fáil Party. Furthermore, Joseph Murphy junior and Michael Bailey made corrupt contributions to George Redmond. In one way or another all of these people, and there may be many more, were major players in the planning process. Is it any wonder that the planning system was debased and the general public was totally disillusioned?

In light of the revelations from the tribunal, has the role of the developer and landowner changed with regard to planning? A pertinent question must be asked as to whether a development plan should be governed by land ownership and be developer-led, or governed by the proper planning and development of an area. Like the Minister, I acknowledge that lands must be rezoned for housing. While I acknowledge there is a role for builders and developers, should it be the central role? This is a fundamental issue.

In the context of whether things have changed, I refer to a letter I sent to the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Cullen, on 16 January. In the letter I stated: "I requested you to carry out an investigation into the circumstances of the proposal to rezone 84 hectares (200 acres) of sensitive (some highly sensitive) lands to residential A1, which is part of variation 34 Donabate lands which was recently passed by Fingal County Council." While I have received an acknowledgement of the letter, I have received nothing else to date. The land which is elevated and forms part of the wider peninsula overlooking the Broadmeadow and Malahide estuaries, was purchased by developers with a view to having it rezoned as residential, to accommodate up to 2,500 dwellings even though at present a local farmer seeking to build a single house for his son would be unlikely to secure planning permission given the sensitivity of the land.

Following research over about two years, the Donabate planning study report March 2003 was published, and was approved and signed off by the county manager. His planning department advised that any development on this land would have adverse implications for this area of coastline in landscape and visual terms and recommended, in particular, that building not take place in extremely sensitive areas. The council planners were very concerned about the proposal. This opinion was also supported by studies commissioned by Fingal County Council from consultants Brady Shipman Martin in May 2001 and February 2003.

The Donabate study was due to be discussed at the Balbriggan/Swords area committee on 27 March 2003, which did not have a Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael majority. However, it was removed from the agenda the day before the meeting and deferred to a future meeting, as "certain people" were unhappy with the contents of the report. Less than three weeks later, an amended report, the Donabate planning study report April 2003, was published and was brought before a special meeting of Fingal County Council on 6 May. The new amended report recommended that the 200 acres of sensitive lands be zoned A1 which was totally at variance with the previous report. I am aware that at least one councillor was extremely angry with the original March 2003 report and made this known to the officials. Furthermore, and interestingly, it was decided not to present the new report to the area committee meeting as originally envisaged, but to bring it before the full county council meeting.

In view of the inconsistencies contained in the two reports, I appeal to the Minister of State and his senior Minister, Deputy Cullen, to carry out an investigation into the variation process from the very outset to the publication of the reports and furthermore to ascertain what representations were made to have these lands zoned A1, especially between 24 March 2003, when the first report came out, and 6 May 2003. There was a time period of three weeks involved.

I do not accept that the alteration of the plan was justified on planning grounds. These are the facts. Sensitive lands were purchased — an area of 200 acres — for which it was difficult to obtain planning permission. After a study lasting two years, the council's report recommended against zoning 200 acres of land to residential A1. Certain people, including the developers and some councillors, were unhappy with the plan. Then the original plan was pulled at a meeting. After three weeks a new, amended report recommended rezoning the 200 acres.

What should be the role of the developer or landowner in planning? Who receives priority? Is it the landowner or the community who will have to live with the consequences? In this case, the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael councillors who bulldozed this plan through the council made their priority very clear. As a public representative who became aware of irregularities and undue influence being used by certain councillors, I felt I should stand up and be counted. If I felt that something wrong had happened, I had a duty to those who had elected me and to myself, as a person who has always stood up for proper, open discussion and debate. The Minister says the best way to obtain the right decisions — decisions which encourage sustainable development — is to ensure they are made in an open, transparent way that can be measured against standards. Notwithstanding the decision that was taken, transparency is required in the plan I have outlined.

The people are disillusioned because of what they see happening in the tribunals. It is easy for certain people to put the message across that all public representatives are the same and they are all at it. I, as a public representative and a member of the Labour Party, and my colleagues in the Labour Party at local and council level, were never involved in any skulduggery or corruption. We will continue to stand for sustainable development and transparency. If the report helps us to identify those people who brought corruption into this process, they should be dealt with. It is to be hoped we can learn from the mistakes of the past and ensure that in the future, people can have confidence in the planning process and that young people will be more prepared to go into politics at local level.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Joe Higgins and Gogarty.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The third interim report of the Flood tribunal, now known as the Mahon tribunal, was an indictment of the rampant corruption that existed in the area of planning and development in the Dublin region. As the report deals specifically with Dublin, I will discuss the consequences of corruption for the larger Dublin area. My comments are in sympathy with the victims of George Redmond — those citizens who continue to suffer because an official put his own greed ahead of the welfare of citizens. The legacy of George Redmond and his cohorts is the vast estates, lacking in both infrastructure and amenities, which sprawl across the western and northern edges of the city as a direct result of the corruption which led to bad planning. These estates are plagued by many social problems. Large estates were built with no amenities or outlets for young people. The human cost of this cannot be calculated, nor can the cost to the taxpayer. The people who continue to suffer because of the actions of Mr. Redmond, Mr. Lawlor and others cannot be ignored. Corrupt officials such as George Redmond made large personal fortunes on the back of the misery of ordinary citizens, who continue to suffer to this day from decisions that were taken in the past.

It is more disgraceful still that the actions of Mr. Redmond and others were well known within the political establishment, yet nothing was done. This fact is being ignored by the present coalition. The Government must take action as a matter of urgency. It must improve conditions for people who live in these estates and make funding available to ensure proper facilities and amenities are now put in place. It must also address the loss suffered by these communities over the last decades as a consequence of the actions of Mr. Redmond and the inaction of the political establishment.

The role played by the endemic corruption of the last 30 years in the current housing crisis cannot be ignored. Corruption has had consequences such as driving up house prices through deliberate sleight of hand. Liam Lawlor used bribery to change the address of a development so that a builder could charge and extra €5,000 per house. There are land-holding and rezoning decisions which have never been addressed by any Government. People made fortunes as a result of inside information and corrupt politicians got away with it. The list of those who have appeared and are due to appear at the Flood and Mahon tribunals is a testament to the extensive nature of the corruption in this State. If this Fianna Fáil-PD Government is sincere and wants to show us it has moved away from the corruption of the past, it must prioritise addressing the social consequences of that corruption. They must prioritise resolving the housing crisis.

I reiterate a request made by my party and me when the first interim report of the Flood tribunal was debated here. At that time I suggested that in view of the role played by the former Minister, Ray Burke, in planning corruption, the remit of the tribunal should be extended to cover all of Mr. Burke's activities, particularly those undertaken when he was a Minister. As Minister, he changed the licensing terms governing oil and gas exploration in 1987. This was a disgraceful U-turn. The terms of the fiscal regime that governs this area have often been questioned in light of the scandalous give-away of our natural resources. They were sold off to multinationals. Given that this radical change took place at a time when Mr. Burke was, as it were, active in the planning process, it is only right that his role in this extraordinary change in the island's gas regime should also be examined.

Scéal náireach agus scanallach atá nochtaithe sa mbinse fiosrúcháin maidir le caimiléireacht i gcúrsaí pleanála i mBaile Átha Cliath. Níl aon dabht ach gur truaillíodh go dona an próiseas pleanála sa gcondae ag lucht mór tógála agus comhairleoirí chondae ó Fhianna Fáil agus, corruair, ó Fhine Gael chomh maith. Fáiltím roimh an méid go bhfuil an lofacht tughta os comhair an tsaoil agu tá fadhbanna móra anois ag baint leis an mbinse maidir le chomh fada agus atá sé ag dul chun cinn agus chomh costasach agus atá sé do lucht íochta cánach agus caithfear na fadhbanna sin a réitiú.

The third interim report of the Tribunal of Inquiry into Certain Planning Matters and Payments correctly labels as corrupt payments made to procure decisions which would enrich landowners and developers. In the planning tribunal the veil has been lifted just a little on the insatiable greed driving some officials, many developers and many politicians from the right wing parties. In 1997, there was a mood among the Irish people to have an investigation into this corruption in planning. Seven years later, however, there is growing cynicism and weariness about the long drawn-out nature of the tribunals and the huge costs to the taxpayer. When we now speak of tribunal millionaires, we do not mean the wealthy developers and business people who have to explain themselves to the tribunal but also a group of lawyers who have become millionaires through the level of fees which they have been awarded, many of them from taxpayers' funds.

In the 1980s and 1990s, corruption was endemic among some of those who had key roles in the planning of the greater Dublin area. Corruption was rife in particular at the murky interface where developers dealt behind closed doors with councillors from Fianna Fáil and many from Fine Gael. I believe that it was known at all levels of those parties that this corruption existed but neither the leadership nor anybody else associated with those parties moved to root out this corruption. How serious is Fianna Fáil about the issue of corruption when developers are seen explaining payments and murky dealings before the tribunal in Dublin Castle and an hour later, following a helicopter trip, they can be seen moving comfortably around the Fianna Fáil enclosure at the Galway races, treated apparently with the same respect by Fianna Fáil Ministers as are the owners of million euro stallions, which they continue to exempt from tax?

There is still a sickening double standard and hypocrisy on the part of the establishment in this State with regard to corporate corruption. While a few prosecutions have been mounted for planning corruption, the shadow of a garda has never fallen on the plush carpets of the boardrooms of the major banks in connection with the systematic taxation fraud in which they engaged, amounting to €1 billion or more. Much less has the hand of a garda touched the collar of a director or chief executive of one of those banks. By contrast, however, 22 working class people found themselves jailed last autumn within days of mounting a peaceful protest against the dishonest stealth taxation policy of the Government through refuse taxes.

Those involved in corruption must be swiftly exposed and brought to book. The root of corruption, speculation and building land, must also be dealt with by bringing building land into public ownership and rooting out speculation. Furthermore, the terms of the licensing of companies for oil and gas exploration must be investigated in the context of the role played by the former Minister, Mr. Burke. There must be an explanation for why the fabulous natural wealth off our shores has been given to major multinational corporations for nothing as a result of the changes Mr. Burke engineered.

How much time do I have?

It is not enough time, one could speak for five years about the corruption that has occurred. In case some of my Opposition colleagues are wondering why I am sitting on the Government backbenches, I want to see if I can talk about planning and keep a straight face. Unfortunately, I cannot. However, I will try to bring some sense to the Government backbenches.

This issue is not simply about what happened previously and the revelation of the scurrilous activities of Mr. Ray Burke, other Fianna Fáil Deputies and Mr. George Redmond. George Redmond will, no doubt, read the reports of this debate tomorrow from a borrowed newspaper and still be oblivious to his involvement. His only response will be: "Oops, I got caught and they were all doing it".

What lessons have been learned? The Mahon report is damning about Mr. Redmond's involvement with the Forest Road lands and payments by Mr. Bailey to Mr. Redmond in 1988 and 1989. The only payment that did not fall within the tribunal's definition of corrupt payment was the payment of £15,000 at the Clontarf Castle Hotel in July 1989. It was compensation for not appointing Mr. Redmond as a consultant.

My colleagues have dealt with other aspects of the report so I intend to focus on the fact that county managers and assistant county managers can, within weeks of their retirement, get onto the cushy gravy train provided by developers. It is happening everywhere. The city manager was apparently oblivious to the carry on of Mr. Redmond. Another individual, Frank Kavanagh, within weeks of retiring from South Dublin County Council, rang me up. He said:

Hi, Paul, Jim Mansfield is doing a development in Citywest. It is a tourism golf development. Would you be interested in supporting it?

Surprisingly, I said:

It is out in Saggart where half the place is built already. It is well worth supporting. Of course, Frank, I will support you.

The Deputy appears to be departing from the content of the report.

This is relevant, it ties into the report.

I ask him to speak to the report and not to introduce any other names that are not involved.

One of the findings of the report is that there is no recommendation about former city and county managers having a period of leave before they can work for developers. Inside information is being traded on an ongoing basis and, in some cases, being prepared before they leave. If an official is working hand in hand with a developer and leaves, with a vast reservoir of knowledge, to work as a private operator, there are strong grounds for questions to be asked. I call on the Minister to take whatever action is necessary to prevent people in local authorities from working, in any capacity, for developers for a period of three years after their retirement. Otherwise there will be chaos.

The local authorities are in chaos. When the vote about Citywest was taking place, I asked if any members had a conflict of interest. Of course, Mr. Colm McGrath still voted in favour of Mr. Mansfield's development. This is happening throughout my constituency — Quarryvale, Adamstown, Laraghcon in Lucan and Palmerstown. The land map of my constituency is like grafitti on a city centre wall on the Sunday morning after the Saturday night and embossed by a ring of puke. There are no facilities and no coherent planning. That is due to the likes of Mr. Redmond, as outlined in the report.

I am sure we will read about more corrupt individuals in the next couple of years as the Mahon tribunal continues its deliberations. Are Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats sincere about learning the lessons? The Minister says he supports the work and findings of the tribunal. Will he do something to ensure there are no more tribunals or, at least, minimise their number by tightening up the legislation, imposing fines on people who have conflicts of interest and do not claim them and providing for large fines and imprisonment for former city and county managers and senior executives in local councils to ensure they do not work for developers and share their knowledge? If I was trying to get a planning extension on my house I would have great difficulty getting to talk with planners. Lessons need to be learnt within the body politic from Mr. Redmond's activities. I have a few short words for the Minister: please, learn the lessons.

It is nice to see Deputy Gogarty has joined the Government benches.

He is preparing for the next Government. I think he is in about the right spot.

I wish to share time with any other Deputy. It is a ten minute slot and I intend to speak for about five minutes. I cancelled appointments elsewhere to speak in the House and I hope it is appreciated.

I agree with much of what Deputy Gogarty said. Significant corruption clearly exists in local government. The tribunal's report makes for sorry reading. The report deals with a senior official who faced the courts and paid the penalty. He was a powerful man in terms of his brief and the planning permissions he granted. His peers and his community trusted him. They invested in him the credibility and authority of the planning system. He abused and corrupted the system and reduced it to a shambles. Every day, reports reveal more people are dragged into this disgraceful story.

What is the Government doing about this situation? I found nothing new in the speech given by the Minister of State. Reference is made to the Ethics in Public Office Act, but this has been in existence for some years. Declarations of interest have also been required for some years. There is nothing which will fundamentally change the way planning is done in this country. The Minister of State claimed he is waiting for the tribunal results and its recommendations, but surely the Government is not bereft of its own recommendations on how things should change.

The most significant area of corruption exposed by the report concerns rezoning. I cannot see why the Government has not introduced legislation to separate planning applicants from councillors and officials when these decisions are being made. The planning process is supposed to be a quasi-judicial system. The county manager operates in the manner of a judge while the jury consists of the elected members. If that were in a court of law, one would not have, as happens at present, lists of applicants for rezoning going to every councillor in the country, developers knocking on doors and making phone calls or other people acting on their behalf. Such actions would not be tolerated in a court case where nobody is allowed approach the jury or make representations.

A clear distance should be evident between the elected members, officials and the applicants. The only way to ensure this, is for rezoning applications to be made to the council in writing and, if needs be, the developers can be invited to discuss their plans further. The process needs to be done in an open, transparent way in public. We are all aware that people knock on doors, make phone calls late at night and early in the morning and generally apply pressure. This should no longer be acceptable in our democracy. That is the fundamental issue the Minister of State needs to address.

Files are produced when a planning application is made. However, no phone call records are available. One does not know who rang and what it was about. The law should be changed to provide that information on any representation would be put on the record, be it from a councillor or anybody else. A summary of the information given in phone conversations with councillors and others should also be kept. This would get around the system of the nod and wink in planning matters. Everything must be transparent and a matter of public record, obviously in summary form in many cases. In that way we will achieve true transparency and openness.

I agree with Deputy Gogarty that, on retirement, whether early or not, officials of a local authority, be they county managers, engineers or planners, should not be allowed to work in that administrative area for a minimum period of one year after they have ceased working there. In the private sector they could well deal with files and issues that previously concerned them. They may even have written the reports or commissioned them. A clear distance must be evident. The excellent officials, engineers and so on who retire can work in other administrative areas if they wish but not in the one in which they earned their bread for the best part of their working lives.

I call on the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to instruct the three county managers of Fingal, South County Dublin and Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, the successor councils to the former Dublin County Council, to pursue the repayment to each council of all moneys lost to them by the corrupt activities of George Redmond, as set out in the Flood-Mahon tribunal report No. 3 published last month. The corrupt activities of George Redmond cost Dublin County Council, its citizens and ratepayers a fortune. It is appropriate that whatever steps are necessary should be taken to recover this money and to recompense the communities short-changed by the corruption clearly set out in the report. It is deeply regrettable that the Minster of State has not offered any mechanism for the public to be recompensed for the losses incurred by them as a result of the corruption of George Redmond and the others named in the report.

George Redmond is now in jail having been found guilty by a jury of serious corruption during his service as an officer of Dublin County Council. Mr. Justice Flood has released to the public his conclusions after an exhaustive and detailed public tribunal of inquiry into Mr. Redmond's finances and affairs. In chapter three he concluded that, for many years, Mr. Redmond lodged money to his various accounts amounting to many multiples of his council salary and that this money was received from developers and builders operating in the County Dublin area, especially Fingal. He concluded that the value of these payments for each year represented the value of a substantial house given to him free of charge. Let us imagine that in today's money. The value of a substantial house in Castleknock, Swords or any part of Fingal was received by Mr. Redmond every year, free of charge. A substantial house in Castleknock today is worth perhaps €700,000.

He did not get it for nothing. He made sweetheart deals to facilitate different builders and developers. Their names are well-known. Many of them are regular drop-in callers to Fianna Fáil hospitality tents where the Taoiseach did not appear to have a problem rubbing shoulders with and glad-handing people whose activities are the subject of Mr. Justice Flood's devastating conclusions. The judge set out in great detail the different services Mr. Redmond offered to his patrons and concluded that the county council lost large sums of money through the actions of Mr. Redmond in his corrupt efforts to set up things for these builders and developers. Chapters three and four of the report set this out.

The developers saved a fortune from lower development levies and charges and rewarded Mr. Redmond accordingly. He received 10% of what they saved from these activities. Chapter six concluded that Mr. Redmond provided information to a developer in return for payment. In chapter six, paragraph 11, the judge concluded that payments made to Mr. Redmond by a named developer were corrupt payments designed to take advantage of decisions he made in his capacity as a local authority officer.

The report runs to many pages and every one is an indictment of Mr. Redmond and all his works. I am certain every official who works for a county council is as horrified as I am about the sorry tale of Mr. Redmond's activities.

In the case of Fingal County Council, the manager should now take immediate action to remedy the injustice and the loss that has been caused to the council. The lands described in the report are now part of County Fingal. The development levies and charges were money properly and legally due to provide services to people and businesses in Fingal. Huge sums were lost in those years because of corruption. This money should be recovered now. The Revenue Commissioners insist on unpaid tax being paid with interest and penalties. I suggest that the managers of Fingal and the other old Dublin county councils adopt the same aggressive approach. Furthermore, I want the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to instruct and empower them to do this.

We are owed this money by the developers who bought Redmond. Redmond himself owes us this money. It would be a crass injustice to Fingal taxpayers and ratepayers to allow these people to get off scot free and to keep their corruptly gained moneys and advantage. The Criminal Assets Bureau should be involved to recover these moneys, as should the Garda and the courts. The Government should not delay the long-promised corruption assets bureau any longer. There should be only one response to this report; we make the guilty parties pay and pay and pay.

The Minister is silent on the question of Mr. Redmond's large pension. Why should the average pensioner live on a relatively modest pension while someone like Mr. Redmond, who has been identified and found guilty of corruption, continue to enjoy a large pension far in excess of what other pensioners enjoy?

These tribunals are vital to clear up our democracy. Deputy O'Dea is often wheeled out by Fianna Fáil to say that no one is interested in or cares about the tribunals. Mr. Justice Flood is owed a debt of gratitude. However, I wish to refer to what other Deputies have referred to. Much of this is still going on. I received 43 threatened actions from the combined Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael councillors on the old Dublin County Council because I had the temerity to suggest that money might be changing hands in the carry-on described earlier by Deputy Seán Ryan. The carry-on was disgraceful; one would not see such wheeling and dealing at the Ballinasloe horse fair. People would pull at one's coat in the corridors of the council building, imploring one to vote for this, that or the other motion. People were running from the council chambers to Conway's pub. It was as if there was an umbilical cord between the pub and the chambers of the old Dublin council.

Anyone who has been subjected to the threat of legal action will know what I went through. My family and I had to endure the threat of highly paid legal guns going after me because I dared to suggest that the behaviour was deeply improper and that the public would think money was changing hands over these deals. How naive was I?

I am deeply concerned at what is still happening in Fingal. No sooner do various senior managers and planners retire, than they commence work with the developers and landowners. This is deeply inappropriate. It is one of the reasons people wonder if they can have confidence in the planning process. The Government has a responsibility to clean this up. There is a significant amount of work to be done if we are to retain the confidence of the people in the planning process. So far, the Government has run away from it. The Minister of State must tell us what he proposes to do to recover the moneys lost to the taxpayers and ratepayers of Fingal County Council.

At times is seems as if the Flood and Mahon tribunals have been hanging over the political and planning systems for an eternity. The public interest has flagged and is reflected in the attendance at the hearings at Dublin Castle. The Taoiseach has only himself to blame for the circumstances where the Gilmartin module is only now being scrutinised seven years after the tribunal was established. It is an outrageous delay. I am not sure if the Statute of Limitations applies to this tribunal.

The tribunal has been underresourced, particularly when compared to inquiries in other jurisdictions. The tribunal has taken one year, when it sat for only 85 days, to deal with the Burke module. This clearly indicates the level of commitment. The Bill that came before the House yesterday may allow the presiding judge to provide for parallel modules. When will the tribunal finish? It has been an ongoing saga and has been well illustrated in re-enactments on Vincent Browne's radio programme. It has become a comedy of sorts. It is regrettable that this has been allowed to continue in such a manner.

We are indebted to Mr. Justice Flood for his hard work and for bringing to justice the people who hindered his work. It would be regrettable if any decision on costs arising from the Mahon tribunal were overturned on the grounds that it must honour the established practice that the judge who tried the case decides costs. This would be outrageous. Sadly, in spite of the importance of a prompt Government response to this challenge, it is no surprise the Bill that came before us yesterday did so more than six months after the resignation of Mr. Justice Flood and 18 months after the publication of the second interim report of the tribunal.

When one notes that there are only five or six lawyers working full time on this and up to €34 million has been collected by the CAB and the Revenue Commissioners, one will see the tribunal has been self-financing. In the interest of the body politic and regarding the perception of politicians, there is no reason this has been allowed to continue. The regrettable drip, drip nature of the system is like Chinese water torture.

Despite the delays and the bureaucracy, the tribunal's report is proof that the system is worthwhile. It is important that the Government gives more resources to Judge Mahon so that he might take on different modules. It has been seven years since the tribunal was established. The tribunal spent a year dealing with the Ray Burke module and another year dealing with the Century Radio module. Even though modules are effective, when one looks that the manner in which the Hutton and Saville inquiries were dealt with, the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the tribunals will be questioned.

The Government has allowed the cancer of corruption to affect the body politic for too long. While many names have been mentioned and many people have been brought before the inquiry, there has been little action. Barring Mr. Redmond, nobody has gone to jail as a result of this. The extent and level of accommodation Mr. Redmond provided was outrageous. Many iconic moments and images associated with corruption have entered the public mind: blank cheques, brown paper bags and the excellent reconstructions on the Vincent Browne show. However, it has become a subject of comedy throughout the country. The level of debate and re-enactment is enjoyed by many people. We in Fine Gael, along with the Government parties, have allowed everyone involved in politics to be tarred with the same brush.

There is the Ethics in Public Office Act, to which everyone has signed up at council level. I am certain that the welcome legislation with the solid declaration of interest and so on will be very important. I would be disappointed if it were not complied with by all elected councillors and Teachtaí Dála. However, I believe they are complying; it is a strict code of conduct. It is a great honour to be a Member of Dáil Éireann and represent one's constituents in the national Parliament. However, it is equally important that what happened in the 1980s and 1990s be swiftly brought to a conclusion.

The Government's response has been disappointing. There has been a neutering of the Freedom of Information Act 1997 and a refusal to change the culture of secrecy, spin and silence. That is regrettable because the Freedom of Information Act 1997 was an effective tool to see what was going on. I know that Deputy Durkan has spoken on this theme on numerous occasions. It has very much been silenced. Even this week, the Government is intent on rolling through electronic voting, despite the dubious nature of the awarding of the public information campaign to a company headed by a former Fianna Fáil general secretary and rubber-stamped by a ministerial political appointee. All these matters are important. I am not saying that the Minister is not doing his job correctly, but when one sees what is going on in politics and the level of transparency, a cloud is engendered. Whether the aspersions cast are political or created by the media, they exist.

Did that come out through a request under the Freedom of Information Act 1997?

No, it did not, but——

No, but did that not come out through a request under the Freedom of Information Act 1997?

Yes, it did.

Then what is the Deputy's point?

The point that I am making is that——

The Freedom of Information Act 1997 is still in place.

That was a point of order. It was suggested that there was some malice behind it in this House.

Allow Deputy Perry speak without interruption.

The issue is the level of restrictions on the Freedom of Information Act 1997. That was an exception which came out clearly because the point of sale material had to be withdrawn. Let us be honest about it. The point of sale clearly indicated that a Fianna Fáil person was voting on the terminal. How could that mistake have been made in this day and age? We are talking about taxpayers' money.

The Government has learnt nothing, but we in Fine Gael might be able to help it. The Fianna Fáil 1997 manifesto said that the party had the opportunity to restore the people's confidence in the process of Government and to address frankly the demands to eradicate all unethical conduct from public life. That stands as an indictment of Fianna Fáil and all the mistrust it has sown among the people. I will spare the blushes of the Progressive Democrats Party which promised to be the moral watchdog of Fianna Fáil.

Its members never even came in to the Chamber to speak.

The watchdog is out to lunch.

It is not enough to say that the House does not trust them; the people do not trust them. They will have their day when the local elections come.


Allow Deputy Perry speak without interruption.

More revelations will come and Fine Gael will be ready and waiting to hold to account everyone who has abused the trust and raided the bank accounts of the people. That is the real issue. People are in a privileged position in Cabinet. It is a fantastic honour to be a Deputy, but to be a Minister is a privilege. Clearly, the mistrust and abuse of power are of unbelievable proportions.

At the Committee of Public Accounts, a major VAT scam involving builders was raised. It allowed them to pocket €25,000 to €30,000 on top of escalating house prices. It was an unbelievable loophole in the taxation system. There is a two-tier political system in this country for those who are in a privileged cartel and can avail of the nod and the wink and the advantages of being in Government. That must stop. It has clearly been abused to the point where it has become a major situation. One must remember that Fine Gael has, regrettably, been in office for only two and a half years since 1987, and that is a very short span.

We have heard about local government reform. I was disappointed to hear today that Deputy Ring lost his case. That was the only reform by the Government. It spoke about local government reform, but all that came was the abolition of the dual mandate.

That and electronic voting.

It is disappointing that nothing came of the opportunity to bring in real local government reform with changes in planning relevant to local issues. It is very much controlled by the county manager at the behest of the Minister of the day. That must change, and one hopes that Fine Gael in office in future will make fundamental changes to local government to bring real power to local members elected by the people.

Better local government could be described instead as worse local government; it can certainly be described as more centralised local government. What Deputy Perry said is true. The only reforms introduced under this heading have been the removal of the dual mandate and electronic voting. These can hardly be regarded as major positive impacts on society. However, they create a centralised version of local government. I can see the day fast approaching when one person, with one computer, will be able to control every local authority in the country, this House, its voting system and the voting system outside it if the present Government has its way. They did that in other countries, for example, in eastern Europe after 1945. They had a more crude system for doing it, but it was the same thing. It was centralised power, authority and local government.

The much-vaunted better local government about which we have heard so much simply means more bureaucracy, centralisation, managers, delegation to managers, internal conferences, and interminable meetings. When a member of the public goes looking for a member or official of a local authority, they are invariably at meetings, usually a meeting of themselves. They are meeting a group of their own people, despite the fact that they work with them in the next room.

We will ring you back.

They will ring back in perhaps six weeks. I will deal with something that relates to where we are going. We are on the subject of better local government, but that means more centralised local government, authority, power and control. That leaves the way open for worse things to happen than we have seen. The Flood report should be able to illustrate that it can never occur again and that we will never again see a situation like that which we have talked about, with its corruption and bribery. The lesson for us all should now be that we do not have a centralised system where one, two, three or four people can control everyone's mind and, as a result, determine policy in their own way and in their own time.

How do we prevent a recurrence? What has been put in place since to prevent one? The only legislation is the Ethics in Public Office Act and the Standards in Public Office Act. There has been nothing more. Incidentally, the regulations pertaining to local authorities are not nearly so stringent as those pertaining to the Oireachtas. I do not know why that has been the case, but it must be asked why it was done like that. After all, the abolition of the dual mandate removed the Oireachtas Members from the zoning of land and anything to do with that. How can it now be the case that there is a relaxed system regarding how the Electoral Acts affect local authority members and a rigid one regarding donations and the use to which they are put? There is a huge difference.

It is the same.

It is not the same.

While the expenditure rules are different, the rules on donations are the same.

Yes, in theory a person running for election can spend as much as he or she likes.

It is recorded, open, transparent and visible.

Why do the same rules not apply to the Oireachtas? Why should there be a difference between elections to local authorities and elections to the Oireachtas?

The constituencies for Deputies are of equal size, whereas a person standing in a local election in Dublin could require a quota of 3,000, while a candidate could be elected to a town council with 100 votes.

Should I give the Minister of State a shovel to dig an even bigger hole? I have never heard such an explanation and if it reflects the thinking behind Better Local Government and the regulations appertaining to local elections, I am sad and sorry because we will have problems.

I will give the House another practical example. While we all accept that the regulations which apply to the Oireachtas are fine, why should it follow that expenditure on elections to local authorities should be open-ended, provided it is recorded? How does one prove the amount is precisely as recorded given that a report into the figures recorded for the various elected Members following the previous general election indicated that they varied significantly? I presume we all read the legislation and regulations in the same way. I do not accept the notion that local and national elections be treated differently. Leaving it open to local authority members to spend as much as they like on elections, which some of them will do, leaves it open to question whether we will be able to prevent a recurrence of the circumstances which gave rise to this debate.

Once political or financial corruption takes place in the kinds of circumstances addressed by Mr. Justice Flood, there is no way the average member of the public can get fair play. Regardless of whether corruption involves money or political favours, it eliminates fair play from the system and leaves the individual out in the cold. It does not matter how big the tent at Ballybrit, how convivial the atmosphere or how much champagne or other beverages consumed there, it does not take one whit from the fact that once one goes down the road of political favouritism or providing a return for financial contributions, the system becomes seriously defective. The third interim report is a crystal clear example of the manner in which business was conducted at the time under examination. Suggestions have been made, however, that favouritism continues to prevail, which would be a serious problem if it is the case.

I do not wish to cast aspersions on the Minister of State or his party, but when a party has been in power for all but two and half of the past 20 years, it poses a serious problem for the country. What amazes me is that the Fianna Fáil Party received a mandate from the people, given that the allegations in question were in the public arena at the time and were widely known and discussed. Court cases, court challenges and so forth were under way so how do we explain the election result? With due deference to my colleague, Deputy Seán Ryan from north county Dublin, the electronic voting in Dublin and Meath could have been part of the problem. I presume the electronic voting had no effect on the election result so it would not be fair to go down that road. We will deal with the issue of electronic voting on another occasion.

Young people today face a serious problem in that they cannot understand the reason they are unable to buy a house. The reason is that the majority of houses are bought by investors for whom significant tax concessions are available. They move in quickly and snap up new houses which come on to the market. It is not unusual for a block of apartments to be sold over a weekend for €240,000 or €250,000 each. In one recent case, not far from my constituency, the unit price increased by €80,000 during a weekend. Despair descends on young people when they see this kind of thing going on and they automatically conclude that something is wrong. I am deeply upset and discouraged at what I see happening, particularly given that the public, for some reason I cannot determine, saw fit to give the Fianna Fáil Party an overall majority and would have done so had Tarzan not climbed up a pole and warned the oncoming multitudes of what was about to happen.

I cannot understand the reason corruption in Dublin and elsewhere continued without detection for so long. I made a similar comment on another matter yesterday. I am surprised that for a long time no action was taken on foot of reports I know were made. I am not suggesting that all zoning was corrupt or was approved under pressure — much of it was correct — but the process was brought into dispute by the mere fact that it was surrounded by questions about corruption. I would love to have more time to address these matters.

The Deputy may continue because not a single Fianna Fáil Party backbencher is in the House.

I would have preferred if even a few of the watchdogs from the Progressive Democrats Party had been present for the debate to show their moral support and demonstrate that they are still watchdogs and not, as my colleague suggested, a smaller version of the larger party.

As no one else is offering to speak, I call on the Minister of State to reply. He has five minutes.

May I go beyond five minutes?

He will have to keep going or I will speak again.

The Minister of State's contribution is confined to five minutes.

I thank Deputies for their contributions on the Third Interim Report of the Tribunal of Inquiry into Certain Planning Matters and Payments. I repeat that the Government has always fully co-operated with the workings of the tribunal and has acted to ensure that it is thoroughly and comprehensively resourced to do its work. Deputies will agree that it is in everybody's interest that all the facts surrounding allegations of corruption are revealed. Establishing the truth of what took place in the past is essential if we are to restore public confidence in the system and in ourselves, as public representatives. It is necessary to ensure that allegations and rumours do not continue to circulate because they affect those of us who are innocent of wrongdoing.

We all agree that the third interim report is a valuable contribution. It is clear in its comments and comprehensive and unequivocal in its findings on George Redmond. Several Deputies suggested that the Government has been mean in providing resources for the tribunal. This is a most unfair allegation which I utterly repudiate. The Government has responded positively to all requests from the tribunal for resources.

Has it introduced legislation to allow the three judges on the tribunal to sit separately?

It is proceeding through the Houses.

Where is it?

I brought it through Second Stage yesterday.

The tribunal has cost €31 million to date and is staffed by an extensive legal team and a 48 strong administrative staff. This report shows that the tribunal is more than capable of doing an effective job of uncovering acts of corruption. To date, the legal fees of the legal team amount to €17.5 million. Other legal fees to non-tribunal counsel amount to just over €1 million and administrative costs amount to just under €12 million. The Government has made all resources available to the tribunal.

I wish to comment on some unfair points made by some Members. Deputy Allen spoke about the leaking of information on the next phase of the tribunal and I agree that such action is scandalous. It is wrong to leak that information and obviously somebody is doing it to get his or her own spin out first.

The Minister of State should look behind him. We know who the experts are.

I agree with Deputy Allen that we should find out who did it. The information should be released by the tribunal and people can then judge it.

Hear, hear.

Deputy Allen suggested that the wrongdoers should be exposed and punished, and I agree with him.

Deputy Seán Ryan and I were members of Dublin County Council. In my 16 or 17 years on Dublin City Council there was never any suggestion of that. The Deputy was there. I never received a cheque from a developer either. However, in a flippant way, the Deputy used to receive little cheques from a trade union of which we were both members. I was envious because I could not get them even though I was an activist at the time. That is just a private joke between Deputy Ryan and myself.

Would the trade unions not support the Minister for State?

The Deputy asked questions about a current matter in Donabate and mentioned 84 acres and 200 acres——

It was 84 hectares.

I do not have the current information on the matter. I am not too knowledgeable on that matter. I welcome the comments made by the Members. I agree with the other speakers that many wrong things happened and that is being put right. Much has happened with regard to the rules for public representatives. Some speakers made good points about the issue of planners or managers retiring or changing jobs and that is an issue that has not been included in the code of behaviour. It could be a question of stopping a person's pension which may be right and proper action in one case but people would have concerns and reservations about it. It would need to be negotiated with the trade unions. People could be left in limbo——

Will the Minister of State answer my question about his senior Minister instructing the Fingal County manager to seek to recover the moneys lost to the council?

In reply to Deputy Burton, that is one way of dealing with it but there is no point in having a tribunal and allowing those who received money to keep it. The action is being taken by CAB.

I meant the managers.

CAB has recovered approximately €30 million to date and it will actively pursue those people——

Will it go after the developers?

Yes. CAB deals with any money which is deemed to be corrupt. The Government is using other measures to plough back resources for facilities and amenities in west Dublin. For the sake of everyone, we must get to the bottom of that and take all possible action. Some people have been found guilty and many more need to be discovered. Public life must be put right for the sake of everyone.