Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 2 Nov 1993

Vol. 435 No. 3

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Report on Tara Mines Limited.

Pat Rabbitte


7 Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the terms of reference of the study commissioned by the Department of Energy in the mid-1980s under the Agreement and lease with Tara Mines Ltd.; the action, if any, that was taken following the receipt of the report; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

The purpose of the study to which the Deputy is referring was to enable the then Minister for Energy to assess the extent of the compliance by Tara Mines Limited with the provisions of its agreement and lease dated 19 September 1975. The mine at Navan had then been in operation for about seven years.

The Minister deemed it appropriate to exercise his right to examine the accounts, financial statements and records of the company because it was a major project in which the State had a 25 per cent shareholding and was entitled to royalties, dividends and taxation therefrom. It was a matter of concern to the Minister that, at the date of commissioning of the report, no such royalties or dividends had been received by the State.

I am, as I have already indicated in this House, precluded by the confidentiality provisions of the agreement and lease from making public the contents of the report. Therefore, I am unable to comment meaningfully on any specific actions which may or may not have been taken following its receipt and consideration. However, it is a matter of public record that a demand for payment of £4,788,970 in royalties, based on the profits of the company as calculated by the Revenue Commissioners for Corporation Profits Tax purposes, was issued to Tara Mines Limited on 6 March 1987. While the company disputed this figure at the time, the matter was resolved amicably by virtue of an agreement of 30 June 1989 on foot of which Tara Mines Limited, inter alia, paid $16.1 million in full and final discharge of all past and future royalties due to the State.

I am sure the Minister will have read recent press reports of claims that millions of pounds were extracted from Tara Mines Limited which were not accounted for, including alleged payments to former Ministers for Energy.

The Deputy should be very circumspect in relation to making charges against any Member of this House.

I am being very circumspect. Would the Minister say whether there were concerns relating to what were described at the time as the lavish expense accounts of Tara Mines Limited which gave rise to the commissioning of the study and whether the study examined the expenditure by Tara Mines Limited? What was the outcome of that investigation?

Deputy Gilmore is not correct in what he has stated or in the allegation he has made. There is no evidence available to me or our Department which would substantiate any of the allegations to which he has referred or which have been referred to in the press. The lavish expense accounts to which the Deputy referred has nothing whatever to do with the initiation of the report. The report was initiated because the Minister of the day, on the advice of the Department, felt that Tara Mines Limited should be making its proper contribution to the State. In order to calculate what that contribution should be, the study was initiated and it considered, in totality, many other aspects also.

The Minister stated that the report examined accounts of Tara Mines Limited. In the course of that examination, was there any investigation regarding the concern of the State directors on the board of Tara Mines Limited that information was not being made available to them about payments being made by the company? Did the study examine that and did it establish any evidence of such payments having been made?

It would appear that Deputy Gilmore is asking specific questions about what may or may not be contained in the report. We are precluded, by virtue of the fact that this case is before the courts, from commenting on this report. The courts have decided that the report cannot be made available to the other party in the court case, rather extracts only. I cannot comment specifically on any aspect of the report.

The Minister has very carefully avoided saying what is in the report. Since the question addresses itself to the terms of reference of the study, will he say whether those terms of reference required an examination of the accounts with particular regard to the payments to which I have referred which were not accounted for?

I refute any insinuation that I am avoiding any aspect of this report. As legislators, we are all obliged to respect the decisions taken by the Judiciary. In these circumstances I am obliged to do so.

The Minister did not answer my question about the terms of reference.

I have no control over answers in this House, Deputy.

(Limerick East): Will the Minister confirm that the present Tánaiste was Minister for Energy at the time?

At which time?

(Limerick East): At the time the study was commenced. He was gone before they reported on 7 March 1987.

(Limerick East): Will the Minister confirm that the Tánaiste was Minister for Energy at the time the report was commissioned? Secondly, will the Minister confirm that there is no reference in the report to payments made to individual politicians? Was the report commissioned before or after the discovery of the £5 note printing plates in Gardiner Street?

The answer to the first question is yes. I cannot comment on the second question as I do not have any information on any activities in that regard.

Question No. 9 please.