Report of Tribunal of Inquiry into Beef Procesing Industry: Motion (Resumed).

The following motion was moved by the Minister for Agriculture. Food and Forestry on Thursday 1 September 1994:
That Dáil Éireann:
—notes the Report of the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Processing Industry:
—thanks the Chairman for his work in conducting the inquiry and producing the report; and
—supports the Government in its commitment to act without delay to take account of the report's findings and to implement its recommendations.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To add the following to the motion:
"and
(1) calls on the Government to set out a timetable for the implementation of the recommendations contained in the report;
(2) notes the many failures of public policy in the period 1987 to 1989 identified in the report;
(3) deplores the findings of the report regarding systematic tax evasion by the Goodman Group; and
(4) furthermore is of the opinion that the present Taoiseach was wrong in his claim to have been totally vindicated by the report and is in agreement with the view, as stated by the Labour Party, that the decisions in which he was centrally involved as a Minister at that time and which were covered in the report amounted to a policy disaster for which he is accountable."

Last night I made several important points and I am afraid time does not permit me to repeat them even though, for the sake of continuity, it would have been helpful. I mentioned that the issues raised were among the more serious to be debated in this House for many years. The report is about much more than an investigation into the beef industry; it is about how Fianna Fáil exercises power in Government and how, in Government, they blatantly disregarded the primacy of this House, which was misled deliberately, systematically and unashamedly by Fianna Fáil Ministers in the previous Government.

I went on to talk about the key pillars of Government accountability and legitimacy. Both were blatantly ignored. I pointed out that the claim by the Taoiseach to have been completely vindicated by the report was arrant nonsense and only serves to add insult to injury. The reputation of the Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, for politcial judgment and competence lies in tatters. No way is this shown more clearly than in his handling of the export credit insurance.

I outlined the history and the importance of export credit insurance generally to our export trade and I finished last night with a reference to the general election when Deputy Reynolds was appointed Minister for Industry and Commerce on 11 March 1987.

In evidence Deputy Reynolds said that the reintroduction of export credit was

... a decision within the statutory authority of the Minister for Industry and Commerce and I did not discuss it with any of them before I reintroduced it. I carried out my own evaluation and made my own decision.

That is at page 59 of the report. He ignored official advice and held secret meetings to finalise financial commitments involving the State at which no civil servants were present. He admits to not reading submissions and reports. None of us denies the Minister the right to reject official advice but he should at least consider it first and state clearly his reasons for rejecting it. His memory lapses in giving evidence at the tribunal were alarming. He could not recall the circumstances in which he was told about the single largest beef contract in the history of world trade. His manner of making decisions at unrecorded meetings has contributed to a situation where a major action for damages is now being taken against the Irish taxpayer.

Deputy Reynolds, as Minister, exposed his civil servants. They were at some meetings, not at others. How could they have known what was going on? This led to a situation where there was a direct conflict of evidence between two civil servants and Deputy Reynolds at the tribunal in regard to an instruction he was alleged to have given. For the record, Ministers Ray Burke and Séamus Brennan are shown by the tribunal to have had civil servants present at all their meetings with outsiders about export credit insurance. So did the Fine Gael Ministers when in Government. Deputy Reynolds is unique in not doing so. What has he to hide? I await his telling this House.

On 16 April Mr. Ted O'Reilly, the assistant secretary at the Department of Industry and Commerce met Mr. Brian Britton, deputy chief executive of Anglo-Irish Meats and told him that the Minister had decided that Anglo-Irish Meats would be given some facilities in the export credit insurance scheme for trade in beef to Iraq. Ted O'Reilly inquired, inter alia, whether Anglo-Irish Meats imported cattle or meat with a view to subsequently exporting such produce. The reply from Brian Britton was that Anglo-Irish Meats imported a small percentage, that they had subsequently learned it was 34 per cent, of prepared and unprepared meat to make up orders for export that were incomplete. It is clear the Department, even at that stage, were questioning the sourcing of the meat and were receiving indications that all was not well. Inexplicably, that did not lead to a reconsideration of the decision to press ahead.

The gate was now open and subsequently between 12 and 16 April the Minister directed that export credit insurance be made available to all exporters for all exports to Iraq, subject to certain conditions. That was the theory, but in practice the old pals' act was closely observed. The Minister allocated export credit insurance to different suppliers on a differing basis as to the extent and duration of cover without any apparent reason. He said that export credit insurance should be confined only to those traders who had been paid up to date for previous supplies. Then he broke that condition in allocating export credit insurance to Hibernia, as my colleague, Deputy Bruton pointed out in great detail yesterday. He claimed that export credit insurance should be given only to those with a track record in the Iraqi market, but he immediately broke that condition in allocating export credit insurance to Master Meats who had neither contract nor track record, while he denied it to others. Initially Deputy Reynolds was willing to extend export credit insurance to Goodman, Hibernia and Master Meats without proof of written contracts, but he refused export credit insurance to Halal on the grounds that it did not have a written contract.

Contracts might have shown that non-Irish beef was being used, and we can only speculate as to why Deputy Reynolds did not demand a contract from Goodman, Hibernia and Master Meats. He did not bother to seek the advice of the Department of Agriculture and Food or the Department of Finance about the origin of the majority of the beef being exported to Iraq. If he had, as we now know and as the tribunal found, both could have told him that it was not commercial but beef already in intervention whose sale would do little to improve Irish beef prices in the short or medium term.

Deputy Reynolds's view of the national interest in the distribution of export credit insurance was found by the tribunal to be objectively incorrect. Non-Irish beef was being exported under Irish insurance cover and the national interest was not served by this. The report states that while the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Government were entitled to make their respective decisions in the national interest, the national interest would also appear to require, before exposing the State to a potential liability of well in excess of £100 million, a more detailed investigation or analysis of the benefits to the economy of such decisions.

It is difficult to accept that Deputy Albert Reynolds was not told by the Minister for Agriculture and Food or the Minister for Finance about the source of the beef being exported — intervention and non-Irish beef. They were either negligent or he ignored them. The Cabinet confidentiality ruling does not allow the facts to be established. The report shows documentary evidence that the Minister for Finance was aware of the use of intervention beef by Goodman from the early days of the 1987-89 Government, as evidenced in the chapter on section 84 finance, page 285 of the report. As it transpired, by 23 November 1987 when Deputy Albert Reynolds left the Department of Industry and Commerce and Deputy Ray Burke took over, only two companies, AIBPI and Hibernia Meats — Dantean — were issued with export credit insurance policies.

During this time Deputy Séamus Brennan was appointed Minister of State with responsibility for tourism and trade and given responsibility for operating the export credit insurance schemes. All decisions on export credit insurance were delegated to Deputy Brennan except in regard to the export of one product to one country.

The Minister for Industry and Commerce, for his own reasons — I ask him to put those reasons on the record, through one of the Ministers who will reply to these contributions — decided to continue handling applications for the export of beef to Iraq. Why? We await that reply. As I have said, the report on the evidence before it found against the allegations of political favouritism. We must take that as read, even if the electorate, according to The Irish Times MRBI poll, does not. Questions of competence and judgment remain to be answered.

It is when Deputy Albert Reynolds's guard is down and he departs from his script that he gives himself away. Deputy Reynolds told the tribunal that the four years he had spent developing his family business until his return to office in March 1987 had given him such knowledge and experience of the meat trade that he could dispense with all advice against his proposed reintroduction of export credit insurance to Iraq in the spring of 1987. The Department of Finance called that a gamble with Exchequer resources — a Minister for Industry and Commerce gambling with the hard-earned, hard-pressed taxpayers' money. What odds can be calculated on even a reasonable return for the insurance cover on the export of beef to Iraq in the middle of the Iran-Iraq war?

During the passports for sale scandal some months ago the Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds, said he had no involvement in his family business for 14 years——

That is untrue.

——since 1980. He told the tribunal on evidence in 1992 that he had spent the years 1983-87 "developing my business".

Especially in the Middle East.

Before he gave evidence to the tribunal in 1992 Deputy Albert Reynolds, then Taoiseach, swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. There is a clear conflict between the evidence he gave under oath to the tribunal in 1992 and what he had subsequently said.

I hesitate to interrupt the Deputy but there is a long-standing convention in this House——

That we do not tell the truth.

Order, I do not like this kind of snigger.

The long-standing convention is that we do not tell the truth. It appears to be more honoured in the breach on this occasion.

I am not impressed by the Deputies' laughter. I was saying that there is a long-standing convention in this House that Members' families not be brought into discussion here.

There was no mention of family.

We are treated to a selective and very personal view of what constitutes the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Either Deputy Reynolds perjured himself under oath to the tribunal or he subsequently lied in denying involvement in the family business during the 1980s. He cannot have it both ways. An honourable man would resign.

When Deputy Séamus Brennan led a trade delegation to Baghdad for the fifth meeting of the Iraqi-Irish Joint Commission he brought with him a briefing note prepared by the CBF for the Department of Agriculture and Food in anticipation of his talks. When that note was received in the Department of Agriculture and Food it included the following paragraphs, page 544 of the report:

In recent years the product supplied to Iraq has largely been from Intervention Stocks with some APS. The market is mainly for frozen hindquarter boneless cuts. As the stocks of Intervention product decline the market is likely to move towards APS and possibly forequarter cuts as prices rise. The type of beef should not be mentioned to the Iraqis. At present, Islamic slaughter is a requirement of the market.

A principal officer in the Department of Agriculture and Food, Mr. Joe Shortall, removed this paragraph and substituted a new one which stated:

The market is mainly for frozen hindquarters, boneless cuts. In some cases the exporters have availed of the EEC Aids to Storage Scheme prior to export. In view of rising price trends there may be some move towards some forequarter cuts.

As the tribunal report states, it is significant that all reference to the use of intervention beef and Islamic slaughter was excised from the briefing note by the Department of Agriculture and Food. The explanation was that it would give an indication of what would happen in the future rather than what had happened in the past. I find this explanation totally unacceptable — it replaces fact with fiction. It amounts to censorship. The document was from CBF, the bogus paragraph purported to be from CBF — forgery in anyone's language.

At whose direction?

Who instructed Mr. Joe Shortall? In a democracy the buck stops with the Minister, despite Deputy Joe Walsh's refusal under cross-examination to accept this, even though it was put to him eight times by way of question from counsel at the tribunal. Lest the Minister, Deputy Walsh, still has not learned, the buck stops with the Minister.

During evidence Mr. Shortall said he could not say that he had authority specifically from any of his superiors to make the amendment to the document, but he was reasonably satisfied that they, too, would have agreed with what he had done. He said he was satisfied that the amendment to the document would be acceptable departmental policy. He went on to say:

Documents do come to the Department as briefing material and the people finalising the brief will do editorial work on them. It happens all the time.

What type of culture is that in a Department? It is accepted policy in the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry to doctor documents to make them more acceptable or palatable, depending on where they are destined——

They do not do that with farmers' forms.

——a most questionable practice. When replying will the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry tell me when the CBF paragraph was removed from the letter? Was it revisionism designed to save Deputy Reynolds's face and justify his claim that he did not know the source of the beef in question? As the tribunal reports on page 545:

... the amount of intervention beef included in the contracts should have been disclosed to the Minister in order to enable him to evaluate the benefits to the Irish economy of such exports and their entitlement to or qualification for Export Credit Insurance.

The Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry knew the source of the beef; the Department of Finance knew the source of the beef; CBF knew the source of the beef but the then Minister for Industry and Commerce did not know, could not find out and was apparently above advice. All those around him knew the source of the beef yet on day 121 of the tribunal of inquiry, 121 days into hearing evidence, counsel for the State — which included the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry — was still saying to the tribunal that it was difficult, if not impossible, to establish whether intervention beef went to Iraq, in other words half of the £35 million that this tribunal cost was spent on this cover up over the source of the beef. Counsel for the State, which included the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, stated 121 days into the hearing that it was difficult, if not impossible, to establish the source of the beef.

Somebody must have lied to him.

That is exactly it, it beggars belief. Teams of Department of Agriculture officials administer intervention on behalf of the EC, yet 121 days into the tribunal, the source of the intervention beef that got export credit insurance from Deputy Albert Reynolds in the "national interest" was not yet established.

I know the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry has his troubles: he is facing a collapse in beef prices, he interfered with the price of grain in the middle of the harvest and he failed on his promises to pig producers. His lot is not an easy one but as shadow spokesperson I have to do my duty.

I am not the only person who has troubles at the moment.

The Minister, Deputy Walsh, gave evidence to the beef tribunal, having sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, as one swears under oath. He stated in regard to the Goodman IDA plan transcript 56, page 5. Question 11 refers, that he, as Minister for Food, was principally charged with bringing the negotiations on the Goodman plan to a successful conclusion. He described the contacts he had with the IDA, Goodman and members of the Government. He mentioned no contact with the then Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey. On page 17, of the same transcript, he was asked if he had any contact with the then Taoiseach in connection with this development plan either at that time or at any other. He replied:

Again in the Dáil I would regularly be asked what I was doing in the Department of Agriculture and Food and particularly what I was contributing to the development of the economy and it would be difficult for the Taoiseach to meet me in the Dáil or in the House itself and say, how many jobs have you created today.

When asked, apart from informal communications, whether the development plan had been discussed formally with the Taoiseach, he replied under oath:

Not to my knowledge. The Taoiseach had at the April meeting given me a specific job to do and said "return to me or return to Government when you have got agreement on this project".

He was then cross-examined on this evidence and the relevant part of the transcript is at page 51, question 251.

Counsel asked:

All right. You have told me up to now that apart from presiding at a Government meeting (a reference to the April meeting referred to above) and asking you when he passed you in the Dáil, how many jobs have you created today, that the Taoiseach had absolutely nothing to do with this project — is that right?

The Minister, Deputy Walsh, replied under oath: "He hadn't anything to do with it".

It is clear that this evidence on oath by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Deputy Walsh, that I have just quoted is factually incorrect.

I trust the Deputy is not imputing to the Minister that he told lies, because that would be disorderly.

A Cheann Comhairle, can the time for all your interventions be added on at the end? I am listening carefully to what you say.

The Deputy's allegations will be refuted in due course.

Deputy Woods should stay quiet.

On a point of order, a very serious allegation has been made about my integrity.

The Deputy ought not to be intervening in such an unhelpful fashion. Very serious matters are being discussed here.

Yes, very serious.

Unfortunately, this side of the House regards them as serious.

With your permission, Sir, I wish to be allowed to correct this very serious slur on my integrity by Deputy Doyle, if she will give way.

If it is in order, a Cheann Comhairle, to have the time added I would be delighted to give way.

I have intimated that the imputation that the Member was a liar or telling lies——

I went to great difficulty not to say that. Sir, you will add the time?

I take it that the Deputy has not so imputed the Minister.

No, will I reread what I said to clarify matters.

I want to make it perfectly clear to the House — and I do not want to intervene at all——

Time is precious.

This is not a court of law and by tradition the Member must be trusted. Allegations of lies and untruths cannot be condoned and are deemed disorderly.

On a point of order, Sir, a few months ago you called the House to order on this particular point. I took time to check the rulings of former Cinn Comhairle and they do not concur with your decisions.

I am not surprised that the Deputy is seeking to lecture the Chair on these matters but I do not need his help in that regard.

The Chair might listen to Members like me.

Did Deputy Doyle say anything inaccurate?

This is not a court of law. I have no means of knowing these things. I am upholding the normal practice in this House and allegations of lying and telling lies are disorderly.

Twelve million pounds.

This is a meeting of Parliament and not a county council. We should all, including you, Sir, respect the fact that this is Parliament. The Deputy should not be interrupted unless she says something that is out of order which she clearly has not.

I have only one hour whereas the Minister has two.

A Deputy

We asked for a question and answer session where the Minister could answer all the questions.

My rulings on this matter are strictly in line with all those of my predecessors.

May I continue?

On a point of order, Sir, I asked if the Deputy would give way.

I accept the statement of the Deputy in possession that no such imputation of lying has been made against you.

Thank you. However, I will be coming in and I will be refuting them absolutely.

The Minister will have an opportunity of replying later.

It is clear that the evidence given by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry. Deputy Walsh, that I quoted was factually incorrect.

Mr. Haughey met Mr. Goodman on three separate occasions between the change of Government in March 1987 and the Government approval of the Goodman-IDA development plan. The first such meeting was on 9 April 1987 and was described by Mr. Haughey in transcript 127A, page 1, question 1 as "a meeting of Ministers involved in the Goodman project". He went on to tell the chairman of the tribunal that he was "certain" that Joe Walsh was involved in that meeting. The tribunal records, at the end of page 256, that Mr. Walsh was present at that meeting with Mr. Haughey, Mr. Goodman and Mr. Britton. So Minister Walsh knew that it was wrong to say that the Taoiseach at the time, Charles Haughey, had "nothing to do with it".

The second meeting was on 18 May 1987. At that stage the negotiations between Goodman International and the IDA had broken down. Mr. Haughey's intervention was to get them going again. Is it conceivable that the Taoiseach did not report back the results of this meeting to "the principal person to bring this plan to a conclusion", namely, Mr. Walsh? The evidence of the Taoiseach at the time, Mr. Haughey, on the other hand, was that he had reported back to Minister Walsh. What transpired at the meeting on 9 April with Mr. Goodman is all in the transcript.

Mr. Goodman and Mr. Britton met Minister Joe Walsh the day after they met Mr. Haughey on 19 May. Again, is it conceivable that they did not mention to Minister Walsh that they had seen the Taoiseach the day before? Transcript 127A, page 47 refers.

The third meeting was on 15 June 1987. This was the Monday following the IDA's approval of the plan on the previous Friday and the day before the Government's approval. During evidence the Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, accepted that at the meeting he discussed inter alia the details of the media launch of the Goodman plan with Mr. Goodman. Transcript 127A, page 56 refers.

Given those facts how can Mr. Walsh's evidence have been the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? He must have known about all three meetings and I contend he did. Apparently it was not only this House that was misled deliberately, systematically and unashamedly by Fianna Fáil Ministers in the previous Government.

Again, I regret having to intervene but to use the word "deliberately" is highly disorderly.

I will take that out. Apparently it was not only this House that was misled systematically and unashamedly by Fianna Fáil Ministers in the previous Government. Minister Walsh's evidence before the tribunal concerning Mr. Haughey's involvement in the press conference is scarcely credible.

"Necessarily" would be a good word instead of "deliberately".

We will discuss it later over a cup of coffee.

(Wexford): Have you already discussed it?

He gives an account of inviting Mr. Haughey, the day before the launch of the plan, to attend the same launch on 19 May. How could that possibly have been the case? How could the Minister with sole responsibility not have known that two days previously the Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, and Mr. Goodman were discussing the details of the launch. Transcript 56, page 51 refers.

This misleading of the tribunal is a particularly serious matter for Minister Walsh, for the Taoiseach who appointed him and for his ministerial colleagues. I would invite the closest scrutiny of Minister Joe Walsh's evidence under oath during the tribunal hearings and of his at best gross recklessness with the truth. I look forward to him addressing the matter when he comes to speak in this debate——

Why will you not let me do it now?

——and explain on the record the irreconcilable differences between his evidence——

Are you afraid to hear the truth?

——and that of the Taoiseach of the time, Charles Haughey.

A Cheann Comhairle, I am prepared to do that now, with your permission, but Deputy Doyle does not want to hear the truth.

Such standards are completely unacceptable, particularly in office holders. I will wait with bated breath until 4 o'clock on Saturday.

Deputy Doyle should give way.

I will if the time is added on. I have no trouble giving way. Minister Walsh will have two hours, I have only one hour to make my contribution.

I ask the Deputy not to make serious charges of this kind.

That is why we are here.

We are discussing the report of the Inquiry into the Beef Processing Industry and in my definite recollection Deputy Doyle said nothing that does not appear in the report or any obvious inference that may be drawn from it.

No, Deputy, I am not so much concerned with reports——

That is what we are concerned about.

That is what we are debating.

——I am concerned with the procedures of this House.

The Chair does not know what we are discussing. We now know the problem.

The Chair is preventing proper debate.

That is a wholly uncalled for, unjustifiable remark and the Deputy knows it. It is contemptible, Deputy. I am seeking to uphold the dignity and decorum of this House in accordance with its rules and precedents.

A Cheann Comhairle, if Deputy Doyle made any inaccurate or improper comment, is it not possible for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to deal with that? If she did not, however, why will you not allow her make the comment here when it is fair and right that it should be made in Parliament?

Deputy, you know my reasoning for these rules.

What will the Committee on Procedure and Privileges do about those?

A Cheann Comhairle, you should refer back to the rulings of people who have held the Chair.

A Cheann Comhairle, at least ten minutes of my time has gone——

I am sorry, Deputy Doyle, the Chair distinguishes between political charges and personal imputation.

They are all political charges.

I will not and cannot tolerate personal imputation of the kind that has been engaged in.

Read the tribunal report.

A large portion of the report dealt with investigations into various meat processing plants, particularly those of the Goodman group or AIBP. The findings include tax evasion, abuse of EU regulations, misappropriating beef from intervention, seriously damaging malpractices, including the upgrading of carcases, use of counterfeit stamps and reboxing. The tribunal seems to have had considerable difficulty in relation to allegations of institutionalised abuse within the factories. I propose to deal with this aspect in a little detail.

Irish farmers produce some of the best cattle in the world. The workforce in the meat factories are some of the hardest working people in the country, and Ireland has always prided itself on being an honest trading nation. It cannot be tolerated that certain companies, no matter how big, would jeopardise this. To suggest because a company is a major player it has a licence that others would not be permitted is a dangerous step.

Long term, if our country's beef processing industry was to continue with the declining reputation for standards of excellence and quality control, the results would be disastrous. It is contrary to the public interest that it is perceived big companies can be seen to flout the law with impunity. It remains to be seen whether there is a willingness to address this problem.

"Upgraded carcases" is a phrase used throughout the report which has a nice gentle sound to it. In reality it means that the grading of carcases has been deliberately and fraudulently changed by removing correct stamps and designations and the unauthorised restamping of them, using either counterfeit stamps or stamps unlawfully removed from the custody of the Department of Agriculture, for the purpose of wrongfully obtaining payments for inferior cattle. It means that the customers, most notably but not exclusively the intervention authorities, are paying for a quality carcase and they are getting an inferior carcase in its place.

There were two practices which the tribunal dealt with as separate entities and, therefore, comes to certain conclusions that they were not "institutionalised". There appears to be no real distinction in effect between using bogus or counterfeit stamps to upgrade carcases or using the Department of Agriculture's own stamps, improperly obtained without authorisation, to upgrade carcases.

Stamping for the purpose of intervention must be done by an official of the Department of Agriculture with official stamps and for workers to be instructed to remove the official stamps and to replace them with different stamps, using the official stamps, or counterfeit official stamps, for the purpose of passing off the carcase as being of higher quality, is illegal.

In dealing with the allegations in relation to the AIBP plant at Nenagh, the tribunal seems unable to grasp that nettle and state quite clearly that the practice was wrong and in all probability illegal.

Again, the evidence given by Mr. John Lynch, a former boning hall manager, of serious malpractices in the AIBP plant at Rathkeale and the substitution of non-intervention animals for intervention animals, was accepted by the tribunal as correct. Mr. Lynch stated that this practice occurred on most days during the period between September 1990 and January 1991. Similar findings were reported in relation to the AIBP plants at Cahir, Carrigans, Cloghran and Waterford.

The tribunal accepted one of the chief witnesses, Mr. Patrick McGuinness's evidence with regard to AIBP Waterford and goes into some detail in recording that evidence.

In all, the tribunal investigated eight AIBP factories or places under the immediate control of AIBP, viz Eirfreeze, the AIBP plants at Nenagh, Rathkeale, Carrigans, Waterford, Bagnelstown, Cloghran and Cahir. The tribunal found as a matter of fact that "upgrading of carcases" had occured in all of them. The practice was endemic and yet the report comes to the conclusion that the practice was not institutionalised. Strange. Consider the evidence of Mr. Brendan Solan, a former worker at the plant, who, on a television programme broadcast on 22 July 1991, stated that restamping of meat did occur at Cahir and that:

...for about at least two weeks there were guys that came down from headquarters in Dundalk, and they would come into the factory with their own stamps, knives, everything else, and there were sides of meat brought up to the loading bay. They would take them off, start cutting off whatever markings were on them and putting their own marking back on the sides of meat and this went on for about two weeks.

Page 531 of the report refers. Headquarters apparently knew all about it but it was "not institutionalised". In relation to the use of bogus or counterfeit stamps, the tribunal also found that the attempt by senior management of the Goodman Group to dissassociate itself from any irregularities or improper practices in plants under their control was not supported by the facts — page 553 of the report refers. On page 556 it states:

The Tribunal has dealt with these five incidents for the purpose of illustrating that, at least, it was not unusual for different plants to order and use duplicate and — or bogus stamps and that the issue was not confined to Waterford during the time Mr. McGuinness was employed there.

The tribunal's findings in relation to the use of the bogus counterfeit stamps throughout the Goodman Group, the abuse of the intervention system throughout the group, the disregard of Islamic slaughter requirements throughout the group and the upgrading of carcasses in all the eight factories investigated was, and I quote from page 567:

...not such to establish that the said practices were widespread throughout all the factories or were practiced at all times and were known to or authorised by the management of the group as distinct from the Plant Managers of the plants concerned.

Goodman did not know, only the plant managers were up to it. If all the practices I have outlined and on which evidence was given during the tribunal and which appear in the report were not institutionalised and were done entirely without the knowledge of the group head office, and assuming that the group does not in any way condone illegal or improper practices, the question must be asked as to what has happened to all the managers and employees whom it was implied by the tribunal findings, and suggested by AIBP, acted illegally on their own initiative? If a bank official had misappropriated over £900,000 of clients' money over 34 days, without management knowing, what would have happended to him? I doubt if he would still be in his job. One must ask whether a company which is a major player has a licence that others would not be permitted. It is contrary to the public interest that it is perceived that big companies can be seen to flout the law with impunity.

Both in the "World In Action" programme and in the Dáil there were many allegations in relation to failure to comply with the contractual requirements of Middle East customers in relation to Halal slaughtering and the type of beef that would be acceptable.

We know from pages 537 to 540 of the report that what was certified for the Iraqi market, among other requirements, was that the beef had to be from male cattle not older than three years, that it had to be less than 100 days from the date of slaughter to delivery, and that the animals had to be killed by Islamic rites.

What was actually sent to them by AIBP and by Hibernia (Dantean) was something considerably less than this, although in many, if not all, cases it was packaged and certified as being of this standard. Total disregard for the customer specifications, falsity of certificates, shameful disregard for the clients' religious beliefs, is readily apparent. What is also apparent is that certainly some of the officials in the Department of Agriculture were aware of this. The tribunal concluded that there was definitely a public dimension and it was not just a matter of private contract as had been contended during the hearing. It reported as follows, page 535:

The public dimension involved arises because of the use of beef purchased from the Intervention Agency to fulfil 84 per cent of the requirement of the contract; the necessity of the Intervention Agency to ensure compliance with terms of ECC Regulation 2824/85; the requirement in the contracts to produce certificates from the Department of Agriculture; the entitlement of the vendor/seller to subsidies by way of Export Refunds: the grants of Export Credit Insurance in respect of some of the contracts and the national interest in protecting the reputation of the quality of Irish beef, which is fundamental to the Agricultural Economy of this country.

I fully support this ruling and the reasons for it, in particular, the contention that it is "in the national interest in protecting the reputation of the quality of Irish beef" seems to be unanswerable.

Having considered and accepted the evidence in relation to the improper use of Halal stamps, the tribunal found that forged Arabic stamps were manufactured for AIBP and used in AIBP plants and in Waterford, Nenagh, Cahir and Rathkeale.

Evidence was considered from various people on the quite unambiguous Iraqi contract. Monsieur Christian Peyron, the Director of Le Controle Technique, international surveyors, and Mr. Victor Broderick, a meat inspector employed here by LCT gave evidence that LCT was the only company in Ireland with a contract with the Iraqi trading companies to inspect and certify meat for export to Iraq.

In his evidence Mr. Broderick agreed that if the system of inspection which he outlined had been implemented, there was no way intervention beef could have gone to Iraq during this period and that "under no circumstances" would he have certified intervention beef as being suitable for export to Iraq in compliance with the contract. Mr. Peyron, when dealing with the use of intervention beef for export to Iraq, stated, at page 541 of the report:

We didn't know. We haven't seen or haven't heard. Had we heard or seen, we would have told Baghdad and stopped issuing certificates.

The tribunal concluded at page 545:

It is clear from the evidence of Mr. Laurence Goodman, Mr. Aidan Connor of Goodman International and Mr. Oliver Murphy of Hibernia Meats Ltd, and as confirmed in the letter dated the 12th day of July 1993 from its parent company CED Viandes and perhaps more significantly the evidence of Mr. Naser Taher of Taher Meats, that the Iraqi customers were aware of the fact that intervention beef was being used to fulfil a substantial portion of the contracts and had waived compliance with the terms of the written contracts.

With the utmost respect to the tribunal, this conclusion is in direct contradiction to the client's agents, Mr. Broderick and Mr. Peyron, and to the already mentioned CBF — Department of Agriculture briefing document and the need for "editing" to remove reference to the source of beef. Neither does there appear to be any evidence from the clients that they were aware of the sourcing of the beef.

If, as suggested in the report, the buyers did not care what they were getting — this is clearly the implication — it offends commonsense that they would arrange for their own people to slaughter and select the cattle, that the Islamic inspectors would go to all the trouble of trying to comply with the requirements and that AIBP factories would to to the bother of either taking the actual Islamic stamp or having counterfeits made and, indeed, that the workers would only do the restamping when the clients' representatives were away from the factory.

There were many allegations made in the "World In Action" programme and by members of the Dáil in relation to reboxing of meat purchased from intervention. The tribunal held that:

A considerable quantity of evidence was adduced before the Tribunal, and a considerable amount of the time of the Tribunal was taken up by the Tribunal in hearing such evidence with regard to the reboxing of meat taken from Intervention, the relabelling of cartons into which it was placed and the removal of stamps from such meat in different plants not only during the normal working hours of such plants but late at night and over the week-ends, not only by the usual operatives in such plants but by a team of operatives from outside such plants, with the inherent implication that such reboxing, such relabelling and removal of stamps was illegal and contrary to regulation.

The reboxing of meat purchased from intervention is authorised under certain circumstances by the provisions of the EEC Regulation 2824/85.

While it attempts to explain it through lack of manpower, the tribunal found that reboxing was carried out in the absence of officials who were supposed to be supervising.

It would appear that the tribunal disregarded a considerable body of evidence with regard to what happened to reboxing operations during inspections, the use of Department stamps which should have only been in the possession of Department officials, wrong dates being placed on boxes and poor quality meat being reboxed. The tribunal found, page 543:

Once the meat is purchased from intervention, the only obligation on the purchaser/exporter is to preserve its identity at all times and to provide evidence that it was considered fit for human consumption. It can as pointed out be recut, have any marking thereon removed and repackaged to suit customers requirements.

Taking the findings of the tribunal regarding the relabelling of meat alone, it is hard to accept in relation to the contractual requirements of the Iraqis that the reboxed intervention meat could have been Halal killed, was killed within 100 days of delivery, when, as it was purchased from intervention, was probably two to three years old, and that the description of the meat was Irish when, in fact, a considerable portion of it, 38 per cent in relation to AIBP was not. Pages 535 and 202 of the report refer.

Why, if the repackaging and relabelling was duly authorised and there was nothing to hide did all the workers at Rathkeale stop and clean up any sign of a reboxing operation on the Saturday when word came through that two Celtic helicopters with French inspectors on board were on their way? The workers subsequently went into the nearby fields to hide and stayed there until they were told over the tannoy system to come out, the coast was clear.

They went to ground.

The tribunal found this was all legal. It is hard to accept that EC regulations provided for the false labelling found by the tribunal or that this type of "repackaging and relabelling was duly authorised".

In relation to the export credit insurance scheme the tribunal found — page 202 — that:

(i) Very large quantities of beef, not sourced or produced within the State were included in shipments of beef to Iraq by AIBPI and Hibernia Meats Ltd. during 1987, 1988. (ii) Such beef was included in shipments purporting to be covered by Export Credit Insurance policies. (iii) Such inclusion was contrary to the express terms of the Declarations made by AIBP and Hibernia Meats Ltd. (Dantean). (iv) Such inclusion constituted substantial abuse of the express terms of the Scheme and the policies issued in pursuance thereof.

Regarding under-the-counter payments and tax evasion the tribunal found that on the evidence it had heard and the admissions made on behalf of Goodman International to the Revenue Commissioners as I have outlined, the allegations made with regard to under-the-counter payments were fully substantiated.

There was a deliberate policy in the Goodman Group of companies to evade payments of income tax by way of under-the-counter payments to employees. The making of such payments was concealed in the records of the company by recording fictitious payments to hauliers and farmers. The records of the company were misleading and calculated to deceive the Revenue authorities in the event of an investigation, and did so deceive them. The system of concealment was common in all relevant plants. It was known to the top management of the group, was undoubtedly authorised by them and, in the words of Mr. Ó Donghaile of the Revenue investigation branch, "was very well and professionally put together and had been organised by a large organisation and it had been organised by professionals"— pages 335 and 336 of the report refers.

In the case of Rathkeale the tribunal found that there had been a substitution of fat for intervention and misappropriation of intervention beef. "Misappropriation is a delicate way of saying stealing. The Assistant Principal of the Department of Agriculture and Food, Mr. Séamus Fogarty, said in evidence that he has examined 34 daily job costing sheets referring to intervention production dates in the AIBP plant at Rathkeale between 17 July 1990 and 7 February 1991. He established that the total loss to the Department of Agriculture and Food as a result of the misappropriation of beef disclosed in the aforesaid documents amounted to £907,170.65, and this on the basis of only 34 daily job costing sheets. More than £900,000 worth of beef was stolen from intervention.

Page 460 of the report states:

From a consideration of this and other evidence, the Tribunal is satisfied that there was a clear, definite and deliberate policy by the management staff employed at AIBP at the Rathkeale Plant, including the Plant Manager, the Boning Hall Accountant, the Boning Hall Manager and supervisors to misappropriate intervention beef, the property of the Minister for Agriculture & Food and apply it for the commercial purposes of the company.

There was evidence that this practice also occurred in other factories in the group. Page 505 of the report states:

This practice of transferring to the Company's own stock meat surplus to the yield of 68% was also prevalent in the AIBP plant in Cloghran/Ballymun.

If one takes the findings in relation to Rathkeale alone and the 34 days misappropriation of non-intervention beef for which we have records, the yield was worth more than £900,000, an average of £26,681 daily. Assuming that the factory worked 240 days per year, the cull from this harvesting of meat, misappropriation of meat, stealing of meat from intervention, would have been in the region of £6.4 million per annum from one plant.

While the tribunal appears willing to accept that no one at head office knew what the hell was going on in any of the eight factories, ordinary people find it exceedingly difficult to believe that a sum of this nature, which was essentially pure profit, on an annual basis in just one of the factories went unnoticed by head office. Whatever Mr. Laurence Goodman is he is not a stupid man.

In relation to AIBP Waterford and intervention, the tribunal found, and I quote from pages 484 and 485 of the report:

The system as outlined above showed a deliberate policy on the part of employees of AIBP to conceal from the Department of Agriculture, as the intervention authority the yield being achieved as a result of deboning of intervention beef, to alter upwards the weights of beef actually weighed in and secure payment in respect of the increased quantity to which they were not entitled, and where necessary to reduce the weights to show the yield which would entitle them to maximum payment in respect of charges for deboning and amounted to a deliberate fraud on the Intervention authority.

The same pattern was repeated elsewhere.

In the Dáil it had been alleged by Deputy Spring that the regulatory and control procedures for the Irish beef industry were not satisfactory and, in particular that the Government had failed in its responsibility of rooting out people who had turned the beef industry into an object of scandal and disgrace. He went on to say that the Government had covered up the illegal and improper activities in the beef industry since 1987. On the same day, 15 May 1991, Deputy Rabbitte alleged that there was official indifference to the climate of fraudulent practices that characterised the Goodman Group.

The attitude of the regulatory authorities may be best instanced by something that occurred at the tribunal. At the end of the tribunal it was clear to everybody that there had been serious abuses at AIBP factories and that AIBP had benefited from it to sums well in excess of the potential costs of the tribunal. In an exercise of unparalleled cynicism, "the State" which represented the regulatory authorities applied for its costs not against AIBP or the persons or companies who benefited by the then readily apparent and in part admitted "abuses" but against Granada television which had brought some of these abuses to light and which had not sought costs against anyone.

Time does not allow me to develop that point much further other than to say it was an act of unparalleled cynicism.

Time only allows me to summarise briefly the findings of the tribunal in relation to the failures of the regulatory authorities.

The Deputy has five minutes.

I have about five minutes in lost time.

There is no injury time.

The findings in relation to the failures of the regulatory authorities include abuse of the export credit insurance scheme, under-the-counter payments to workers, stealing of intervention beef, wholesale abuses of stamping procedures, upgrading and switching of carcases, false labelling, altering Government forms, altering weights etc. — there is a litany of abuses.

In relation to intervention the tribunal said, and I quote from page 463 of the report:

It is a cause for legitimate public concern to ascertain how the activities as described herein and constituting a flagrant abuse of the Intervention System, one of the market support schemes under the Common Agricultural Policy, was allowed to continue for such an extended period ...

This is a most serious criticism of procedures within the Department of Agriculture and Food. In short, the system failed. It goes without saying that as a result tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions of pounds have been wrongfully obtained from or lost to the Irish taxpayers, the EU, the farming community and perhaps others. This was due to the, at best, incompetence of the then Minister, Deputy Reynolds, and his colleagues.

My colleagues have and will deal with the issue of costs in greater detail and I will make two brief points in this regard, the first of which relates to the UFA and the second which relates to Goodman. The tribunal singled out the United Farmers' Association, which represented both farmers and public interests, as the only party which was specifically limited in its costs — it was allowed only 25 days costs for two counsel. It cannot be considered equitable that an association such as the UFA with meagre resources which was trying to assist the tribunal as a willing witness should have its costs curtailed and that a huge company found to have evaded tax, misappropriated beef from the EU, used counterfeit stamps, upgraded meat and altered forms, to name just a few of the many abuses, should get its full costs of many millions of pounds from the Irish Exchequer. The compliant taxpayer will now have to pay more than £35 million for this report and witness a major company getting the benefits of the tax amnesty to make retribution for its multi-million pound tax evasion scheme and at the same time be awarded up to £10 million from taxpayers' money towards its legal costs. This begs many questions.

This report is the most serious indictment of a Minister's conduct since 1970. Mr. Justice Hamilton has collated the most damning evidence as to the mismanagement, incompetance, lack of judgment, recklessness and negligence by a Government and, in particular, by the then Minister for Industry and Commerce and present Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds. This House and the public must now make their judgment, which must necessarily be harsh.

Responsibility for this shambles must rest somewhere. I contend that it rests with the senior members of the previous Administration who were involved in dealings with the beef processing industry. Every layer of Government and administration has been implicated and the direction must have come from the top. There can be no question of this being nobody's fault. The Taoiseach claims he has been fully vindicated. All the report states is that the case in relation to allegations of political favouritism has not been proven. It is a sorry situation if the head of Government and, at the time, the Minister most intimately involved draws comfort from that. For the rest, the report is a damning indictment of his stewardship in the then Department of Industry and Commerce and of the stewardship of the main party in Government of which he was a member at the time.

We are witnessing the sorry spectacle of a marriage of convenience in which the man responsible for this abject failure of policy is kept in power by one of the chief proponents of this tribunal and critics of his action. If, as alleged, the Director of Public Prosecutions has been asked to investigate allegations raised in this report, as he should, I hope he will not confine his investigation to fall guys and minor players of Government administration in the beef processing industry: time will tell.

Much has been made of the lack of final conclusions in the Hamilton report. The report is a series of damning conclusions on the behaviour of certain Ministers. It is scarcely credible of the Taoiseach to bring in his own verdict on the report. His verdict reminds me of a quotation from a speech made in Parliament some 200 years ago:

If you acquit them you must do so in the defiance of proof, in the face of fact and of your own conviction; your resolution in their favour will be a ridiculous outrage upon demonstration, not unlike the verdict of a Welsh jury that said to a judge: "My Lord, we find the man that stole the mare not guilty".

I should like to share my time with Deputy Haughey.

Is the Minister in the half hour category?

Is that acceptable and agreed? Agreed.

I am pleased to respond to this motion on the report of the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Processing Industry.

I join my colleagues in thanking Mr. Justice Liam Hamilton and his staff for their dedicated and professional work.

I will deal briefly with the misrepresentation and distortion represented here this morning by Deputy Avril Doyle under the section dealing with the day to day detailed negotiation of the IDA development plan. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Deputy Joe Walsh, will deal with these allegations in detail later although he made it quite clear that, in his discussions, he dealt very specifically with day to day negotiations which were entirely his responsibility. Therefore Deputy Doyle's allegation is quite inaccurate. Deputy Charles J. Haughey, in his contribution to the tribunal in Volume 1, 127A of the evidence dated 4 October 1992 replied to question 277:

I am saying to you that I would not be aware from day to day of the detailed negotiations which would be taking place. They would be a matter for Joe Walsh and the IDA. That was made very clear in the report of the tribunal. Yet Deputy Doyle endeavoured here this morning to distort the position, to misrepresent it and make further allegations.

The evidence is there.

That is absolutely disreputable behaviour from the Deputy and her party.

The tribunal report is a detailed and complex document which exposed serious irregularities and illegalities this Government will not tolerate in sectors of the beef processing industry. The Government has given a clear and unequivocal commitment to accept its findings and implement its recommendations. The challenge now is to ensure that the safeguards and controls to protect the reputation of our beef industry are in place.

The central question addressed by the tribunal was whether or not there was any substance to allegations of a corrupt relationship between a beef company and the Government. The tribunal clearly finds that this was not the case.

Opportunistic allegations of political favouritism, impropriety, and golden circles all have been firmly dismissed by the tribunal as baseless.

No, they have not been proven; the case is not proven.

Indeed the tribunal found that there is no evidence to suggest that either the Taoiseach or the Minister for Industry and Commerce at the time was close to Mr. Goodman or that Mr. Goodman had any political associations with either of them or the party they represented.

The electorate do not believe that.

Other allegations foundered in the same way. The tribunal found that serious allegations were baseless and was satisfied that this investigation was not hindered by any person in authority, political or otherwise, and was a completely independent investigation.

The tribunal is satisfied that the Minister for Agriculture and Food was not involved in any way in either the investigations or the prosecution in respect of matters arising from it.

The tribunal also found that no evidence was adduced before this tribunal which, in any way, sought to support the allegation and all the evidence was to the contrary.

Those are but a few of the findings of the tribunal on the allegations made, many of them in this House. It is clear from these findings that a great deal of time, effort and taxpayers' money were devoted to the investigation of wild and unfounded claims of political and administrative corruption which were rejected by the tribunal.

The tribunal found that allegations about under the counter payments have been fully substantiated and there was a deliberate policy in the Goodman group of companies to evade payments in this way, that the company records were misleading and the abuse was common in all relevant plants.

I am concerned that employees' legitimate entitlements under the Social Insurance Fund were put at risk by the practice of making under the counter payments from which appropriate PRSI contributions had not been deducted. In pursuing a deliberate policy of tax evasion, which did not include the return of appropriate PRSI contributions, it is clear that the Goodman group attempted to obtain unfair competitive advantage while failing to honour its responsibilities to the fund.

Did Deputy Pat Rabbitte bring the hard evidence he apparently had of under the counter payments to the attention of the Revenue Commissioners, an action which might have spared much of the cost of the inquiry? I am publicly acknowledged as being to the forefront in tackling the black economy and abuse of workers' PRSI fund. For example, in recent years we saved some £297 million for the taxpayer in enforcing PRSI compliance, stamping out fraud, abuse and unwarranted claiming. Nobody, workers, employers, Members of this House, carries a brief for unscrupulous people who exploit workers and taxpayers' hard earned funds. This partnership Government has been forthright and open in pursuing those who would defraud the taxpayer, under-cut competitors and jeopardise jobs.

Will Deputy Rabbitte account in this House for his apparent failure to respect the legitimacy and delegated authority of the Revenue Commissioners?

The tribunal focuses our minds on how the public interest is best served and on the working relationships between senior public servants and their political masters. In our democratic society Ministers are elected representatives of the people. We have a duty to establish and pursue the best interests of the people. The Civil Service provides advice and information to the best of its ability and to the highest possible standards, but the ultimate responsibility and authority for determining where the public interest lies is held by the relevant Minister and the Government. By law, the Minister of the Government must decide, approve or authorise, which is what the Taoiseach did as Minister for Industry and Commerce.

Since the publication of Mr. Justice Hamilton's report members of the Opposition continue to trawl the wreckage of their baseless, political allegations in a desperate attempt to give new credibility to claims which have been thoroughly discredited by the tribunal. We listened to allegations made here this morning by Deputy Avril Doyle.

The tribunal found quite clearly that allocations of export credit insurance were made on the basis of special ministerial or Government decisions and were specified in writing by the Minister and related to No. 2 Account business to which normal commercial considerations did not apply and which was operated by the Minister for Industry and Commerce in the national interest. The tribunal also found that the basis for these decisions was that they were in the national interest and the determination of the requirements of the national interest in these matters is a matter for the Government and the Minister for Industry and Commerce.

Intervention beef is not in the national interest. Non-Irish beef is not in the national interest.

The tribunal also found that his decisions were not based on improper or political motives. Clearly the Taoiseach has been vindicated by these findings. Taking decisions in the national interest is what Government is about. I do not expect the Opposition to appreciate leadership and dynamic government.

That is a new word for it.

The Fine Gael led Government of the 1980s was characterised by indecision, procrastination and inactivity — at a cost to the taxpayers.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Cleaning up the mess.

I need look no further than the irresponsible behaviour in not implementing the EC directive providing for equal treatment in matters of social security. The delay from 1984 to 1986 in implementing these measures by way of retrospective legislation has already cost taxpayers' some £30 million and they may yet be facing a bill for a further £365 million. If women had been given their full rights in accordance with the directive, even as late as 1986, the cost would have been less than £20 million.

That is Labour for you.

This was a real policy decision of the then Minister for Finance, Deputy Bruton, who lectured us so much yesterday. The tribunal showed that lobbying is part and parcel of the business of government. It is normal and legitimate for business people to lobby for support for their development plans and initiatives. The single most common problem encountered by industrialists and developers is indecision, buckpassing and lack of urgency encountered in dealing with the State agencies which are there to help and promote their business. When a business person or industrialist sets out on a major expansion and job creation programme, they should get comprehensive support, in the public interest. Bona fide investors are entitled to our support.

Are the rest not?

Lobbying is not a reserved privilege for environmental activists or farming, industrial and trade union interests. Parents lobby their TDs and Ministers with their concerns about schools. Local communities lobby for improvements to roads, measures to tackle crime and better facilities. Individuals lobby their TDs for support in their dealings with public and private bureaucracies. What we must ensure for the future is that lobbying is recognised and that it is open and transparent.

Certainly, the tribunal put our public service under microscopic scrutiny. Inadequacies and inefficiencies in certain aspects of their business were exposed. The Civil Service has served the people well since the formation of the State. Throughout our history high standards of integrity, competence and impartiality have been the hallmark of the public service. I now want to see it develop into a more open, accountable, dynamic and urgently responsive and supportive service for today's customers. The current search for excellence and customers service in the private sector must be matched by similar developments in the public service.

There is no better time than the present to re-examine the mission of each Department of State and see how it is strategically placed to pursue the programme for Government. Now is the time to establish strategic targets for senior management and the yardsticks by which progress will be measured.

The Taoiseach, in his strategic management initiative launched last February, charged each Government Department and office to undertake a fundamental reappraisal of activities. The purpose is to ensure that Departments contribute to the greatest possible extent to overall national development, are serving their customers well and using their resources effectively. These issues are no less important in the provision of social welfare services for which I am responsible to the Oireachtas.

My Department touches almost every family in the country in one way or another, discharging some of the most essential public services of all. As the Minister responsible, I am constantly vigilant to ensure that my Department is working in a focused and effective manner.

In response to the Taoiseach's initiative, we have established a new and separate strategic management division. Each action programme is being fine tuned with a clear focus on priority issues and objectives in the interests of our customers. It is all about the establishment of a process which will ensure that Departments take the broad strategic view and the interaction with other public agencies when making future decisions. I am convinced there is a huge reservoir of untapped talent and ability within our public service. Strategic management will give an opportunity to middle management to take on real authority and responsibility with accountability in serving the public interest.

A great deal can be done to meet the need for better information identified by the tribunal. Our Dáil committees have been strengthened and can be developed further. Ministers can examine the standards of material supplied for replies to parliamentary questions. This is increasingly important with new technology and greater mobility of staff within the public sector.

Our committees, if they are to gain the confidence and support of the public, must become more professional and objective in the conduct of their work. Rather than exploiting and exaggerating every apparent minor mistake or perceived inefficiency of the Minister or the public service, we must recognise and acknowledge constructive developments and achievements. The 90 to 95 per cent success in achieving our objectives should not be set aside for the short term political advantage of highlighting the 5 per cent difficulty incurred. The same new standards of professionalism and objectivity must apply to statements made and matters raised under privilege in Dáil Éireann.

There is a serious and costly down side to the type of baseless political allegation brought to light by the tribunal report. They were not supported by the facts and do little to strengthen public confidence in the integrity of politicians who go about their business honestly, diligently and with a commitment to the ideal of public service which is above reproach. It is also particularly disturbing, for example, that so many similar discredited claims were made under the protection of privilege afforded to Members of the Oireachtas but apparently without due regard to the responsibilities which flow from a right so important and fundamental to our democracy.

Every Member of this House has the right to inquire into matters of legitimate public concern but there can never be any justification for using the right of privilege — to level wild, unfounded and distorted charges simply to discredit political opponents — or to abuse the right of privilege by involving individuals outside this House in political point scoring when they are not in a position to vindicate themselves.

We should never again need a tribunal like this. We must find new and less costly ways of examining matters of legitimate public concern while, at the same time, ensuring that the taxpayer is properly protected from the enormous expense which inevitably follows from such a complex and lengthy tribunal of inquiry.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): With higher standards.

The public tribunal became necessary because the people wanted independent reassurance on these important issues of major public concern. Neither the Progressive Democrats, who were then in Government, nor the Opposition, would, for political reasons, accept anything other than a full public tribunal. There was another way and there is now another way for any future such inquiry. This would involve a new type of inquiry or investigation presided over by a High Court judge with powers analogous to those which have already been used very successfully by inspectors appointed by the Minister for Enterprise and Employment. People or corporate bodies against whom allegations are made would have an opportunity to respond to them. New legislation would be required to provide these extra powers but that could be done quite simply.

It is easy to forget that, when Fianna Fáil returned to Government in 1987 the country was a shambles. We forged a new and lasting consensus with the social partners to put the economy on a sound footing and ensure that everyone, especially the less well off, received their fair share of the higher growth. We introduced sweeping tax cuts to put more money in people's pockets and did what was needed to raise the living standards of all those who depend on social welfare. We made the difficult choices and took the hard decisions needed to bring this country back from the brink of crisis.

Some commentators, in the media and in Opposition parties, want to continue the debate for the most obvious and partisan political or personal reasons. Enough is enough. The tribunal has finished and made its report. Let us get on with implementing its findings. Let us now put the people and the country first. Many improvements in our systems have already been made. The tribunal's remaining recommendations will be implemented. This was already a commitment of the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste in forming this partnership Government.

It is also the time to put an end to petty point scoring politics laced with exaggeration, recrimination and character assassination, and to turn instead to a more professional, objective and credible style of politics. This tribunal could have far-reaching benefits if it marks a turning point in our attitudes, our understanding and our performance in the public service.

Let us be singularly dedicated to the pursuit of enterprise and job creation at home and abroad. That is what our young people require from us. We must not be found wanting.

I urge all parties in this House to support the Government's motion.

The publication of the report of the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Processing Industry marks a watershed in Irish politics.

For the past 15 years Irish politics has been dominated by campaigns of personal vilification which acted as a substitute for credible and effective policies. This came to a head after 1987 when the then Government and individual members of it were subjected to questioning of their integrity and propriety in the discharge of their public duties. The particular campaign was no doubt fuelled and motivated by envy at the success of that Government in the effective management of the Irish economy.

It is essential to recall the circumstances in which the Government decided to support the plan from Goodman International. When the Fianna Fáil Government came into office in 1987, it took over a devastated economy which was, in fact, approaching national bankruptcy. This was brought about by a Fine Gael-Labour Government which included a member who was one of the main accusers responsible for the establishment of this expensive tribunal. That Fianna Fáil Government started successfully to restore the public finances, promote economic development and support viable economic projects.

This was the background to the campaign of unparalleled viciousness against the then Government and its members. The campaign culminated in a series of allegations against individual Ministers responsible for the monitoring and development of the beef industry.

I commenced by saying that the beef tribunal report is a watershed in Irish politics in that for the first time an inquiry examined political allegations of impropriety against Government Ministers. Politicians were now forced to put their allegations before the tribunal and answer for them. In this situation the same politicians had to withdraw many of their accussations and, indeed, many of the other allegations which were subsequently examined by the Tribunal were also found to be groundless.

As Dermot Gleeson stated to the tribunal:

The politicians ... had come to the Tribunal like lions baying for blood, posing only to have their pictures taken at the door but when the light of scrutiny was put upon them they crept away like mice through cracks in the floor.

Many of the accusers built their political career by engaging in the vilification and smearing of their opponents.

That is no way to refer to the Tánaiste.

I have dealt with them before. Indeed, one Deputy even founded a political party based on this strategy. Political assassination was the objective and the beef industry became the political football.

One of the recurring themes of this infamous series of accusations was that Larry Goodman had special access to the then Taoiseach and other Government Ministers and that he benefited from political favouritism. This has been specifically rejected by the tribunal. It has been shown to have been a baseless malicious political allegation and other allegations of favouritism, impropriety and golden circles were all firmly dismissed.

The main winner from this tribunal, apart from the barristers and lawyers, is the media in general. It is indeed extraordinary that, because of the political circumstances of the day, the Oireachtas established a public inquiry at the instigation of a British television programme which made many unsupported allegations, which were subsequently repeated in Dáil Éireann. The "World in Action" programme adopted a tabloid style which was irresponsible, inaccurate and deceptive. Government Ministers were seen impaled on meat hooks and Larry Goodman was described as "Europe's biggest killer". This programme was a vulgar drama. It was not an informative documentary.

Subsequently the media here reported the debate mainly from the point of view of the then Taoiseach and his relationship with Larry Goodman. As time passed political circumstances changed and issues raised previously by the media were then dropped. A new focus was pursued and this now centres on our present Taoiseach. All this makes for sensational reading and certainly sells newspapers but it does nothing to explain the truth to the general public.

I wish to deal specifically with Mr. Justice Hamilton's extremely legalistic view that the Government and the IDA removed a performance clause from the grant agreement and this was done wrongfully, having regard to the provisions of section 35 of the Industrial Development Act, 1986.

Another legal opinion can be brought forward to support the view that the grant agreement still included a performance clause. The Government's decision stated that Goodman International Limited would make its "best endeavours" to attain specified annual job targets consistent with the overall job targets to be attained. I am informed that the term "best endeavours" is one that can be legally enforced by reference to precedent in contract law. Here was a clause that Goodman International Limited would have to specify in advance the number of jobs it expected to create each year and that it must make its "best endeavours" to achieve that. It could be proved at any time, using objective criteria, that the company was not making its "best endeavours" and in that event the grants would not be paid.

Who wrote the Deputy's script?

I wish to raise a point of order.

The Deputy is being very disingenuous. The tribunal did not draw attention——

I beg your pardon, Deputy Haughey, Deputy Rabbitte wishes to raise a point of order.

Is it in order for the Government to challenge the findings and matters of law of the chairman of the tribunal? Am I correct in understanding this is the position the Government is adopting?

Deputy Rabbitte please, this is not a point of order.

The Taoiseach referred to Deputy Haughey as a legal illiterate.

Deputy Haughey to complete his speech uninterrupted.

Deputies opposite should not participate in the debate, they should hang their heads in shame.

The tribunal did not draw attention to the fact that a jobs performance clause still remained in existence.

There is no doubt that Goodman International Limited was justified from a commercial point of view in believing that the original performance clause was impractical. Withholding grants for a building programme involving seven projects would disrupt the entire operation. In addition nobody could predict with accuracy the number of jobs which would be created each year and anything could go wrong which could temporarily throw the plan off course.

Even with the removal of the original performance clause the taxpayer is assured that neither the IDA nor the Government behaved in a reckless manner. The clawback provision remained firmly in place despite representations from Goodman International to have this amended. In addition, the IDA also had protection if the payment of money were linked to fixed capital investment by Goodman on a year to year basis. Finally, the Government also insisted that the overall target of 664 new permanent jobs be adhered to.

It should be noted, however, that the provision of employment in the short term was not in any way the main benefit to be procured from the Goodman plan. The plan represented an entirely new strategic reconstruction of the Irish meat industry which would transform it into an internationally competitive industry producing high quality, ready to use products, for the supermarkets of Europe. It involved getting away from the old carcass trade and would result in the production of products with the maximum amount of value added. A major expansion of employment would eventually follow, but the main benefit would be the vastly increased contribution that the new modernised beef industry would make to the Irish economy.

It should be pointed out also that the legal advice available to the IDA when its representatives met on 15 March 1988 to consider the recent Government decision was that the Government had the power to make this decision and they accepted it.

In Mr. Justice Hamilton's "legalistic view", the Government behaved in an ultra vires manner. Governments regularly behave in an ultre vires way unintentionally, but do so for the right motives and in the national interest. In general Ministers are people of integrity, accountable to the Dáil and, ultimately, the electorate. Governments must act decisively on the basis of the best legal advice available to it. In this case the objective was no less than the transformation of the Irish meat industry. An additional motive was to protect the taxpayers' money by the inclusion of other clauses.

It is ironic that, regardless of the tribunal's report, no jobs were created under the plan, no grants paid out and no damage was done to the economy. This demonstrates clearly that the clauses agreed on were stringent and effective.

Nevertheless Mr. Justice Hamilton's view given in the luxury of hindsight is a landmark decision regarding the relationship between the Government, the Oireachtas, the IDA and State-sponsored bodies generally and these issues should be debated another day. Seán Lemass said that RTE should be an instrument of Government policy.

Another Taoiseach said the IDA should also be an instrument of Government and I support that outlook. Indeed Deputy O'Malley took a similar view in his dealings with the IDA in relation to the De Lorean project.

This tribunal proved very expensive. The costs are indeed a scandal and many would question whether it was necessary. That there were irregularities in the beef industry is beyond question. There is no doubt that there was widespread tax evasion by meat companies and that abuses took place in relation to meat shipments and their handling at individual factories. I support the view that the report should now be sent to the DPP and others for examination and action in relation to departmental structures, policy and legislation.

Nevertheless, there are procedures to deal with such irregularities — the Revenue Commissioners, departmental veterinary inspectors and the Garda Síochána all have sufficient legal powers to deal with such abuses. Some say that the tribunal has paid for itself by exposing the irregularities in the beef industry. This is simply not the case. Even before the tribunal had commenced its business, the departmental inspectors and the Revenue Commissioners were at work in stamping out fraud and claiming outstanding taxes.

I hope that in this debate, the accusing politicians will apologise for their false allegations made under Dáil privilege. The only winners were the legal people who were awarded full costs by the chairman. It is my strong view that the legislation which governs tribunals should now be changed to allow the chairman to impose penalties on those found to have made false accusations.

I argue, however, that the tribunal has done a great service in exposing the baseless allegations made by some of their public representatives and the type of political activity in which they engaged. The accusers have now been cruelly exposed. Public inquiries are expensive and when the political climate prevailing at the time of the establishment of the tribunal is long past the people will be left wondering about its astronomical cost and will still be paying for it.

I now call Deputy Michael McDowell. Perhaps he would indicate the length of time he wishes to speak.

I will speak for half an hour.

I will not dignify what I have just heard with a detailed reply save to say that it amuses me on each occasion to hear some speakers ram some of the favourable findings of the tribunal down the throats of others and in the next breath criticise the tribunal by attacking some of its findings when it suits them or suggest it was a waste of time. Listening to what I have just heard, it struck me that there must be a microchip loose in some word processor because totally incompatible and opposite views were expressed and zipped together with the common theme of rewriting history in respect of an individual who is no longer a Member of this House. I compliment the Deputy on his achievement.

History will look after that.

I know it will. The Minister for Social Welfare, Dr. Woods, does not have any culpability for what happened even though he was a member of Governments that were culpable. I completely accept he is blameless in respect of all the matters on which I will speak.

While listening to the way the debate developed yesterday I became increasingly filled with a sense of anger and shame. The lengthy contributions by Members speaking on the facts of the matter were necessary. It was important to put on the record the catalogue of political corruption, breach of trust, injustice and damage consciously done to this State and its people by a small group of influential people, politicians and businessmen who trampled down the law and departed from every acceptable standard in the pursuit of money and influence.

The way in which Deputy O'Malley wryly reflected that all this is probably of no consequence to a number of people in our society is probably true. To judge from some people in the media, those who seek and insist on accountability in our democracy are nothing but trouble-makers, begrudgers, character assassins, opponents of enterprise, saboteurs of agriculture, economic vandals or anti-employment. The same litany of descriptions for those who seek accountability in relation to this matter were applied with equal largesse to those who seek and will achieve accountability in respect of the sale of citizenship for investment in the Taoiseach's firm. We are not anti-enterprise or anti-job creation, we just want accountability. We do not moralise, but we seek democratic accountability for the way in which power is exercised in our society.

There are not any signs that the position will change despite the breast-beating of the Tánaiste yesterday. Despite his rhetoric, his feigned attitude of subdued anger with the Taoiseach and his disappointment about the damage done to the partnership trust, his silky, self righteous words do not betoken any firm purpose of amendment. The Tánaiste is sustaining in office the person singly most responsible for the series of events with which this report deals.

The proof of the pudding will be in the eating. Will any of the top brass of the Goodman organisation, who engaged in a massive criminal conspiracy to defraud the Exchequer and taxpayers and who, because of that, are open to be tried, convicted and sentenced to any term of imprisonment up to life imprisonment, darken the District Court door? Will any of them spend a night in jail and hang their Armani suit on the back of the cell door in Mountjoy? They will not. Not a single person will be brought to account for the most substantial and highly organised tax evasion in this country. Throughout the debate not a single Minister, Government backbencher or member of the Labour Party has deigned to criticise, attack, rebuke or reprimand the top management of the Goodman organisation for the greatest single revenue crime committed and discovered in this State. Is that not strange?

The Deputy must have been absent during my contribution.

The Minister said it must not happen again and I do not include him in this, but none of his colleagues who had dealings with the man at the centre of the tribunal, had him as a guest at a daughter's wedding or invited him to various functions said what he did was utterly wrong, that what he attempted to do with his colleagues was reprehensible and, on that account, he disqualifies himself from the inside track which the Goodman organisation at all times enjoyed.

Is the Minister not ashamed of his colleagues?

If a few pounds, say £10, of taxpayers' money was illegally drawn by way of social welfare benefit the offender would be sent to Mountjoy, therefore, the person who misused £10 million of taxpayers' money should repay it.

Let us hear the Member in possession without interruption.

I make no imputation against the Minister present because I excuse him from any culpability in this regard.

Saint Michael of Assisi.

In the courts I have seen poor individuals whose dishonesty has led them to be prosecuted and imprisoned for diddling the dole. I see in this report a finding by a judge of the High Court, the President of the High Court no less, that the top brass of the Goodman organisation carefully, and with deliberate intent, established and put in place the greatest single revenue crime that has ever been detected in this country and they are not apparently accountable for it.

In relation to taxation the finding of the tribunal was that the system of concealment was common in all relevant plants, was known to the top management of the group that includes Larry Goodman, his brother Peter Goodman, Brian Britton and all the people who took part in the top management of that group was undoubtedly authorised by them — and that is a criminal conspiracy — which in the words of Mr. Ó Donghaile of the Revenue Investigation Branch was "very well and professionally put together by a large organisation and had been organised by professionals". That is the finding of fact which damnifies the Goodman organisation from top to bottom because that organisation, which sought every concession from the taxpayer that could be given, and obtained many that should not and ought not have been given, which looted the Exchequer to get money in the form of section 84 loans, which looted the Exchequer to get money by way of export credit insurance and which looted the Exchequer by stealing intervention beef in its plants around the country, which spared no effort to avoid considering new ways of stealing from the ordinary people of this country, was afforded, in return, by a small group of politicians every single conceivable privilege and advantage. Even now when all this is exposed not a single member of the Fianna Fáil Party will say it was a disgrace, that the people involved should be prosecuted now and that, while they are awaiting prosecution, they should be treated as any ordinary Joe Soap would be treated and put in a position where they no longer enjoy the trust, the company of and access to the highest political circles.

Did they not get an amnesty?

All they have received by way of comment on their tax evasion is a legislative pat on the back from the Fianna Fáil and Labour parties, a pardon, in effect, for what they have done and a statement to them that they can take their tax evasion and keep it and that they need not be subject to revenue penalties or even interest on what they have stolen from the ordinary people of this country. That is the yardstick. That is the standard of behaviour with which we are dealing here.

I want to turn back the clock to 1987 when I was elected to this House as a green and open-eyed innocent. In my first speech I supported Ray MacSharry's first reforming budget. However, during the remaining two and a quarter years of my term of office as a Deputy for my constituency I became more and more clear in my mind that the Goodman organisation was being treated by that Government in a way which gave rise to grave suspicion. This man and his organisation, which organised systematic frauds on the Irish Exchequer, was given facilities at Baldonnel to park his aeroplane. This man, through his subsidiary, Food Industries, was engaged in the acquisition of the Sugar Company from the Government at the time. I remember sitting where Deputy Rabbitte is now and I was accused by the former Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, of being the nastiest piece of work that had ever come into this House for pointing out that at that time he was personally aware of the efforts of the Goodman organisation, through Food Industries, to take over the Sugar Company.

On another occasion Deputy Harney telephoned me on a Friday evening or a Saturday morning. She was to participate in the "Saturday View" programme in the aftermath of the famous press conference about the development of the beef industry to which much attention has been paid during this debate. We discussed what might be the implications of the decision to invest vast sums of IDA money in the Goodman organisation. At the time we were not aware that they were to get five or six times per job what anybody else would normally get from the IDA for indigenous investments of this kind. We were not aware at that time either that all these infractions of the law had taken place. We were not even aware that the Government had decided to act illegally in relation to the IDA. We just felt that there was something slightly odd, giving rise to a query about a situation in which, with a static beef herd in this country, vast moneys — between £100 and £200 million — were to be given to the Goodman organisation in circumstances where it would, in effect, concentrate the beef industry under Mr. Goodman even more than it was already concentrated. Discussing this matter, we queried in our own minds whether it would increase employment, not just move it from one plant to another and streamline and concentrate this economic power in one man's hand.

I mention all that because the next day Deputy Harney expressed in very reserved tone those views and that this was perhaps not an unqualified advantage to the Exchequer.

And the Minister opposite, Dr. Woods, was with me on the programme.

The House might find it interesting to know that on the following Monday Mr. Goodman came down to Dublin, went to Deputy O'Malley's office and demanded, in the most hot-tempered and arrogant way that Deputy O'Malley should publicly distance himself from those remarks and publicly repudiate Miss Harney's remarks. That was the kind of man he was. He left Deputy O'Malley's office with a flea in his ear. That is the crucial difference in all this; despite the fact that he had distributed his largesse to a number of political parties, he left Deputy O'Malley's office that morning with a flea in his ear, told that no such retraction would take place, that the remarks were fair and proper and that we would not be bullied by a man in his position.

It is curious to note that no member of Government has ever criticised that man for organising this massive tax fraud. No member of the present Government, not even the Minister for Agriculture, Mr. Walsh, have gone on record and said that man's behaviour is disgraceful, criminal and ought to put him into a bracket where he must be dealt with with great circumspection by any Department of State.

He gave it back to Fianna Fáil which they think is the same as the Exchequer.

I put all those points on the record simply to establish that far from the programme of character assassination now alleged by a number of the Fianna Fáil contributors to this debate what we had was a group of people on the Opposition benches from 1987 to 1989 who sensed that something very wrong was beginning to emerge as palpable and who articulated their own concerns at the time. They were accused of sabotage and called the nastiest pieces of goods who had ever crawled into the House. They were vilified for querying the correctness of what was going on. In many respects they were starved of information which could have vindicated their position by Fianna Fáil Ministers who gave deceitful and lying answers to simple straightforward questions which were put to them in this House.

I want to instance in particular what happened to Deputy Pat O'Malley. While he was trying to reconcile beef exports with official figures and export credit insurance figures, naive man that he was, he asked the Department of Industry and Commerce to assist him in reconciling these matters. He was dealt with by one civil servant in that Department who deliberately misled him. When this came to the attention of one of the man's superiors in the Department a congratulatory memo was sent for having confused Deputy O'Malley. Ministers came into this House and told Deputy Des O'Malley he was reckless to say that foreign beef was being used to satisfy exports to Iraq. Deputy Burke is in the House, and the record seems to demonstrate that far from being reckless, the Department at which the Deputy was then Minister knew full well that what Deputy O'Malley was saying was correct.

In the summer of 1987 a Minister put through this House in record time a Bill on export credit insurance. Not once did he tell the House why he was doing so. There was a programme of active concealment from this House that the increases in export credit insurance limits proposed by the Fianna Fáil Government were for the purpose of sustaining the Iraqi beef export scam. More importantly, all the proposed increases had already been promised to the Goodman organisation. Let us compare those facts with what was happening in this Chamber, where Opposition Deputies were querying the behaviour of the Goodman plants in terms of scams relating to reboxing and recartoning of beef. The then Deputy Barry Desmond was vilified in public and threatened with defamation proceedings, RTE was stapled to the floor if it offered criticism and Opposition Deputies who merely asked questions were deceived. We are asked to believe that this man who, it has been proven, was at the centre of a criminal conspiracy to defraud the Exchequer, was not on an inside track. I completely reject that.

The findings of the tribunal report demonstrate and underline, to a point which cannot be contradicted, that this House was systematically deceived by a Government that conceived it to be its duty to facilitate in every way, even to the point of illegality, the Goodman organisation's ambitions and plans and to disregard every protection and safeguard that existed in law to protect the Exchequer, to disregard expert advice and Cabinet procedures and to trample down the checks and balances between the Department of Finance, the Department of Industry and Commerce and the Department of Agriculture and Food to get their snouts at the trough, to get their hands on the loot. That is what happened and nobody can characterise it differently now.

Mr. Justice Hamilton saw it as his duty simply to report the facts. It is correct that he did not draw political inferences from those facts. He is the fact finder; we are the judges. It struck me when listening to the exchanges between Deputy Doyle, the Ceann Comhairle and the Minister this morning that we are, even at this late stage, being told we cannot draw adverse inferences which reflect an imputation on anybody because that is not our function. The words were used by the Ceann Comhairle in this House, not for the first time — I think, to Deputy Rabbitte —"you are not in a court of law now". I laugh when I hear that phrase, especially coming from the Ceann Comhairle because if this House were a court and was fitted out with a jury box instead of a Press Gallery, if the evidence that was presented here yesterday in the speeches by Deputy Bruton, Deputy O'Malley and Deputy Rabbitte were put to a jury and if they heard the threadbare, self-serving and utterly facile defence tendered by the Taoiseach, the foreman of the jury would stand up and say: "we do not need to retire, impose sentence now".

However, we live in a different world, a world of spin doctors, of brass-necked perversion of the truth, a world in which any political stroke that can obfuscate the findings of this report seems to be acceptable to a large number of people. People like myself who try to seek accountability have the sinking feeling that we are like condemned men scratching a message to posterity on the wall of our cell. That is the sinking shameful feeling I have here.

Deputy Spring proposed that five wise and eminent people are to be given the task of making sure this never happens again. I do not claim that everybody in this House is a seat of wisdom, but there are 166 Members of this House who have been given the function of making sure it never happens again. They do not need the assistance of five wise and eminent people, one of whom the Tánaiste has in pectore already selected. We do not need that; we can see full well what is wrong, and I will point it out.

Civil servants and Ministers — this also applies to the public service — who engaged in the decision making, for instance, in the Department of Agriculture and Food and took the steps in that Department which gave rise to a number of the problems which finally emerge in this report would never have dared act as they did if they thought for one minute that the files they were altering, forging and so on would come to public attention. None of them would have dared do what they did if they had known there was a real system of accountability, a real chance that their behaviour would have been investigated. None of them would have, for instance, congratulated one of their colleagues for deceiving and misleading a Dáil Deputy who asked for simple factual information if they thought that memorandum would be put in front of the public gaze and that they would be asked to account for the reason they behaved in such a manner. The reason that happened is, as Deputy O'Malley said yesterday, that this House has for so long abased and subjected itself to the Executive arm of this State in the most crawling and humilating way.

This House could have a system of committees which could have investigated the export credit insurance controversy within an hour. If such a committee existed Deputy Reynolds would never have considered attempting to make the decisions he made. We could have a system where Opposition Deputies are entitled to request that files be produced before committees. There could be a system whereby no Minister or Cabinet would ever attempt, for instance, to subvert the role of the IDA because it would know there was a committee which might, on a tip-off from a member of the IDA Authority, request it to produce papers, including the memorandum from the Secretary of the Department of Industry and Commerce informing Deputy Reynolds that what was going on was illegal. For as long as we refrain from exercising the function that the Constitution confers on this House of being the body which keeps the Executive accountable, situations of this kind will be possible. In response to Opposition demands that Ministers should come with their civil servants before committees of the Dáil it has been said that is impossible, Ministers are accountable and responsible under the Constitution to the Dáil as a whole. If that represents the Attorney General's genuine opinion he should resign, because a child at primary school would know that the House can delegate what it can do to one of its committees. If that is not the opinion of the Attorney General but merely a political smokescreen to avoid Ministers coming with their civil servants to be made accountable to committees of this House, then what is lacking is political will. The Tánaiste, in particular, in suggesting his group of five eminent men, avoids what we all know is the remedy for this problem. The Tánaiste if he wanted, could insist on proper accountability.

This debate could be the start of genuine accountability by this Government but it will not be, because the Tánaiste has already decided to prop up in office the man who made all the basic decisions at the behest and request of and for the direct benefit of one man who is proven by this report to have been at the centre of the greatest criminal conspiracy to defraud the Revenue authorities of the State and who even to this day the Taoiseach will not criticise.

We do not know all the facts. We do not know yet why all these decisions were made. We know the reasons offered have been rejected by the tribunal. The tribunal has, as Fianna Fáil speakers have said, found no evidence of impropriety but what evidence, if there was to be direct evidence could one expect to find — empty brown paper bags, confessions, diary entries and bank records? All one can do is operate on the basis of circumstantial evidence. The inference I draw from the facts set out in the report of the tribunal — and I apologise to no one for it — is that the Government during 1987-89 behaved improperly at the behest of a few powerful individuals. If I did not believe that was the case and if I thought these people had merely made mistakes I would await an apology to this House from Deputy Reynolds for the errors he made. I would wait with baited breath to hear one word of criticism of the Goodman organisation from some senior source in Fianna Fáil.

We have never heard it and I dare say we never will because the reality is that they were bought and stay bought. They know that Goodman knows where the bodies are buried; they dare not even rebuke this man because they know in their hearts that he has information on them and that he would bring them down like a group of skittles if the truth ever emerged.

I join with other Members in thanking the President of the High Court, the Honourable Mr. Justice Liam Hamilton who acted as sole member for the detailed report dated July 1994 which he has made available to Members following the resolution passed in this House on 24 May 1991.

I welcome the portion of the report dealing with my period in office as Minister for Industry and Commerce. I am proud that as the report outlines, at all times I took every measure to protect the interest of the Irish people.

Four key issues which I dealt with are covered in the report. I stopped the provision of export credit insurance to Iraq; I established the investigation into the sourcing of Irish beef; with my colleague the Minister for Agriculture and Food, it was agreed that the Department of Agriculture and Food would decide on the apportionment of available cover among competing claimants in the beef sector in future and I took every measure including sending senior officials to Iraq to recover overdue payments.

I was appointed Minister for Industry and Commerce on 24 November, 1988 and during the days and weeks following my appointment I was briefed by Department officials on the position then applying to the many functions, activities and responsibilities of the Department. The position pertaining to the operation of the export credit insurance scheme as it applied to Iraq was brought to my attention shortly after my appointment. The report on page 159 shows that, in the memorandum dated 12 December, 1993.

I was briefed that my predecessor Deputy Reynolds had decided on 21 October that the following additional cover would be provided in the Iraqi market:

(a) A rollover of the existing cover held by AIBP (liability under the Scheme, IR£76.75m) and Hibernia (liability IR£23m) as outstanding maturities were paid.

(b) Additional cover for AIBP and Hibernia up to a maximum liability under the Scheme of IR£80m and IR£20m respectively and,

(c) Additional cover for non-beef exporters up to a maximum liability under this Scheme of IR£20m subject to increase should demand necessitate such.

I was also informed that Deputy Reynolds's decision was conveyed informally to AIBP and Hibernia.

On the day before I became Minister Deputy Reynolds received approval for an increase of cover for Iraq of £100 million and on the basis of his decision I was informed that the most equitable solution would be for a one-sixth reduction all round which would result in AIBP having cover for £66.66 million; Hibernia, £16.67 million and non-beef companies £16.67 million, making a total of £100 million.

I was briefed also as stated on page 161 of the report that there had been "... a build-up of pressure for export credit for beef exports to Iraq in the very recent past...." The seven companies had a total contract value of IR£380 million and with 70 per cent cover our exposure was £266 million. In addition there were three applications from non-beef exporting companies in respect of contracts with a total value of £12.76 million which, granted on the basis of 70 per cent cover, would require an additional £8.042 million. That was what I faced on my appointment as Minister for Industry and Commerce.

I carried out an assessment of how I would proceed to deal with the fund which was available. I was not prepared to allocate it in the manner which had been indicated by Deputy Reynolds. This issue was raised during my evidence to the tribunal and to which transcript 110A, page 4 refers:

I never felt bound by my predecessor's decision. That was his indication as to how he would deal with the 1989 contract, if he had remained Minister for Industry and Commerce. I carried out an assessment of how I was going to proceed to deal with the fund which was available. But I was not prepared to allocate it in the manner which had been indicated by my predecessor.

Having had a series of meetings, including a discussion with the Taoiseach, Mr. Charles J. Haughey and the Minister for Agriculture and Food, Michael O'Kennedy, I instructed an official of my Department as reported on page 166 of the report.

...to contact each of the said seven companies and inform them that:

In response to your application for Export Credit cover for the Iraqi market, the Minister wishes to inform you that on production of a signed/confirmed contract, he is prepared to consider your application as sympathetically as possible, within the overall limit of national cover established for that market which is limited. The Minister wishes to emphasise that the above should not be taken as a commitment to automatically grant the cover sought having regard to the constraint outlined above.

The only three companies who responded to the Department claiming to have signed contracts in Iraq were AIBP, Hibernia and Taher. I was briefed at a meeting on 6 February 1989, as stated on page 180 of the report that:

(3) delay in payment from Iraq had now exceeded 5 months and while a small payment of just over £lm. had been received within the past week, the total amount overdue at this stage was in the region of £60m;

Having regard to that I said that I was not prepared to make any decisions in relation to the issue of new cover or the rolling over of existing cover until the Iraqi payment position clarified it to my satisfaction and that I could not issue any further cover in Iraq until such time as the Iraqis made payment. As it transpired, not one penny of the £100 million which had been allocated and confirmed by the Minister for Finance on 23 November to my predecessor, Mr. Reynolds, or of any rollover was allocated to any company and no export credit insurance in respect of any new contract, other than approved by my predecessor, Mr. Reynolds, for 1987-88 was approved during my time in the Department. This fact has been clearly accepted by the report and was so even as far back as the day I gave evidence at the tribunal. On page 4, Volume 110A of the transcript of proceedings. the counsel for the tribunal, Mr. Eoin McGonigal, senior counsel, asked: "I think during your time as Minister for Industry and Commerce no further Export Credit Insurance was apportioned to any company?"

During yesterday's debate, Deputy O'Malley referred to the issue of financial guarantees and I quote from Volume 110A of the transcript of proceedings of the tribunal where I answered this matter when it was raised: They were viewed by my officials as an administrative tidying up and the contract had been issued in 1987 and in 1988, they had known that they had been issued at that time and they had no reason for bringing them to my attention. There is a record there that there was a meeting with the ICI and my department and there was in their view, obviously no need for it to come near me.

There has been considerable comment about the actions of the 1987-89 Fianna Fáil Government in regard to export credit insurance but even since the report was issued I have not seen it published that the system of allocation was changed by a Fianna Fáil Minister, in consultation with a Fianna Fáil Taoiseach and the Fianna Fáil Minister for Agriculture, nor have I seen a comment that it was a Fianna Fáil Minister who put a stop to what was going on as far as cover to Iraq was concerned. Maybe it does not suit the political bias of some of the so-called expert commentators on this subject.

In relation to the sourcing of the beef covered by my predecessor, Mr. Reynolds, by letter of 12 December 1988, a little less than three weeks after I went into the Department of Industry and Commerce, Mr. Rafique of Halal Meat Packers raised the question that some of the beef could have been sourced outside Ireland. By further letter of 22 December 1988 Mr. Banks, chief executive of the Insurance Corporation, raised a similar question relating to a disparity which emerged between official statistics for Irish exports to Iraq and the value of shipments recorded under the scheme.

I directed an immediate examination to be undertaken into the question of whether non-State sourced beef had been used to fill Iraqi contracts the subject of export credit insurance. This examination began before Christmas and on 11 January I established an investigation under Mr. Fisher of the consultancy unit of the Department of Industry and Commerce. The co-operation of the Department of Agriculture and the Central Statistics Office was very helpful to this investigation. At the meeting of 6 February, to which I referred earlier, the matter of this investigation was discussed — page 181 of the report refers. I directed "that the investigation continues as a matter of urgency and with absolute confidentiality". The final report of the investigation was concluded on 27 June 1989 and showed, in relation to AIBP, that "of the insured tonnage 18,938 tonnes (38 per cent of tonnage declared for insurance) were sourced outside the jurisdiction of the Irish Republic". In the case of Hibernia, 1987-88, it stated: "of this 14,866 tonnes, 2,680 tonnes were sourced outside the State (18 per cent of tonnage declared for insurance)"— pages 184 and 185 of the report refers.

During the course of the Fisher report it was necessary to carry out a detailed verification exercise covering some 7,000 separate documents and to consult with the Department of Agriculture, the CSO, ICI and the two beef companies — page 186 of the report refers.

As can be seen from the tribunal report and as outlined in the report it was me, a Fianna Fáil Minister, who established the investigation into the sourcing; we had nothing to hide.

The recommendations of the tribunal on export credit suggest that the views of the Minister for Agriculture and Food be obtained in considering applications. I could not agree more and in my view this is the way matters should have been handled all along. As the report shows, in consultation with my colleague, Michael O'Kennedy, such a system was being put in place — page 177 of the report refers.

Paragraph 3 of a memorandum entitled, Export Credit Insurance Cover for Iraq January 1989 states: "The Department of Agriculture have indicated their willingness to decide on the apportionment of available cover among competing claimants in the Beef Sector".

Page 182 of the report states: "It has been the intention of the Minister for Industry and Commerce at this stage that there should be greater involvement by the Department of Agriculture in the allocation of cover of export credit insurance for beef exports but his plans in this regard were not proceeded with in view of the decision to in effect suspend cover."

I was very concerned about the position in regard to payments as it was evolving by the end of January 1989. A total of £61.2 million was overdue at the meeting of 6 February in my Department — page 181 of the report refers. I instructed senior officals in my Department to go to Iraq to attempt secure further payments. In fact that visit did lead to a partial improvement in the situation. For example, in January and March 1989 repayments totalling £8.2 million fell due but payments totalling £14.3 million were received and similarly in April 1989 when £3.5 million was due and £4.1 million was received. Again, £5.9 million was received in May but £12 million was due. In June £6.4 million was due and £11.3 million was received.

As well as the delegation to Iraq, the Minister of State in my Department wrote to his opposite number in Iraq. He had been dealing with him in the context of the Joint Iraqi Commission. I was not satisfied with the payments, and I took Iraq off cover on the 6 February 1989.

Since the publication of the report a number of newspaper commentators, particular some columnist in The Irish Times, conveniently ignored the role that I have outlined in relation to the key questions of defending the taxpayers' interest. They have concentrated their attacks on Dáil replies and in some way suggest that if different answers were given in the Dáil there would have been no need for a tribunal. I am sure other colleagues will speak on the answers they gave in the Dáil. I would like to take this opportunity to make myself clear. I have been a Member of this House for 21 years and never have I knowingly misled the House or given improper information in my roles of Deputy, Minister of State or Minister. I have had the privilege of serving in office for many years. I have been asked for and given information during Question Time and debates in my political career. Sometimes the cut and thrust of debate in this Chamber on some issues has been without quarter, sought or given, on either side but I never knowingly misled this House and never will.

Let me turn to some of the allegations that have been made. Great play was made by Deputy Desmond O'Malley and former Deputy Pat O'Malley that I should have used the word "default" rather than "overdue" in relation to outstanding payments from Iraq. When these charges were being made in the Dáil I was pursuing, through my officials, as already outlined, the Iraqis for payment and money was coming through. I was also conscious of the sensitivity of the Iraqis to newspaper coverage of the issue and was briefed accordingly through Córas Tráchtála.

It is interesting to note that the great emphasis put by Deputy O'Malley on the word "default" when he was a Deputy in April-May 1989 and in the tribunal was not the approach he took when he became Minister in September 1989. I will quote a letter dated 4 September 1989 to Mr. Mohammed Hamza Al-Subaidi, Minister for Transport and Communications in Iraq which was on Department of Industry and Commerce headed notepaper:

Excellency,

I am writing to you following my recent appointment as Minister for Industry and Commerce in the spirit of co-operation which has marked relations between our two countries. I hope that these relations will continue to be characterised by the warmth and spirit of co-operation which has marked them to date.

In this context I would like to seek your help in resolving a specific difficulty that has arisen with regard to the payment overdue to Irish exporters from Iraq. As you are aware, in recognition of our close economic ties, the Irish Government has under special arrangements, provided export credit insurance facilities for trade with Iraq since 1983. Cover for the Iraq market has been increased steadily until at the end of last year it represented over 40 per cent of the total worldwide insurance liability under the Government's export credit insurance scheme.

You will be aware that much concern has been expressed in Ireland about delays which have arisen in the settlement of some of the outstanding debts due to Irish exporters. I am conscious that this matter has been the subject of contacts which took place at official level earlier in the year. We are especially appreciative of the efforts which have been made by you and by the Iraqi authorities to accelerate the repayment of these overdue amounts.

While substantial payments have been received from Iraq since the end of last year, payments totalling IR£58.5 million are currently overdue to Irish companies. I enclose a detailed list of all these amounts, including Letter of Credit reference numbers. You will see from this list that some of these payments are now almost 12 months overdue and that, in the absence of immediate substantial payments, a large number of sizeable claims could be made over the next three months against the Irish Exchequer. I am sure you will appreciate the difficulty this situation poses for the Irish Government in agreeing to any further release to credit facilties to Iraq.

I appreciate that other Ministers may also be concerned in this matter and I would be grateful if you could bring my letter to the attention of those of your colleagues who may be in a position to secure a resolution of this problem well in advance of any possible claims against the Irish Exchequer.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurance of my highest consideration.

The letter is signed "Desmond O'Malley T.D., Minister for Industry and Commerce".

As colleagues will have noted, there is great emphasis on the word "overdue" but not a mention of the word "default". Who misled the House — Deputy O'Malley before the general election or Minister O'Malley after he became a member of Government? In his speech yesterday Deputy O'Malley poured scorn on the regime in Iraq but that was not his attitude when he wrote in such cringing terms in September 1989.

Discrepancies in the contracts of beef sourced outside the State were the subject of Dáil questions in April-May 1989. I informed the House then of the existence of the investigation being carried out by Mr. Fisher and his group. As far as I was concerned then and now, at the time of the questions the report was not completed. There were interim reports but the final report was not completed and did not become available until 27 June 1989. I was not prepared to speculate on its contents but I had nothing to hide as I established the investigation which covered a period prior to my becoming Minister for Industry and Commerce. It is interesting to note that in a Dáil reply on 1 November 1989, Minister, as distinct from Deputy, O'Malley referring to the outcome of the Fisher report outlined the actions he had taken in the light of the report. He had discussions with the Attorney General, etc., and went on to say at columns 1008 and 1009 of the Official Report of 1 November 1989:

It will be clear from the above that this is an extremely complex matter and one that has demanded careful assessment and a considerable level of consultation. This is especially true in relation to the legal dimensions.

I share the then Minister O'Malley's view of the great care needed in dealing with this matter and he had the final report available to him. Compare this with his attitude and that of his colleagues who sought to have me comment on an investigation which was still in progress at the time. It would have been irresponsible for me to do so and, if I had, I could have rightly been accused of misleading the House but I refused to do so.

The question of the companies having contracts at the time of their applications which were granted by my predecessor Deputy Reynolds, have been commented on. When I replied in the Dáil to this matter I did so on the basis of information prepared in good faith by my departmental officials. It was delivered by me in equally good faith. This matter was raised with me in the tribunal when I was giving evidence on 7 July 1992. I again replied, on the basis of advice, that the first two companies had firm contracts at the time of their application. AIBP's contract was dated June 1987. Its application was dated 31 August and Hibernia applied first in June 1987. While they did not have a definite contract until November, the point has to be made that their application continued to be considered as such until the policy was put in place in March 1988. I was replying to the Dáil for a period during which I was not Minister in 1987-88. I had no reason to question the accuracy of the information given by the Civil Service and I gave the information in good faith to the Dáil.

During the course of the day on 7 July when I gave evidence to the tribunal I was concerned to ensure that this issue would be clear. With that in mind during the break in the afternoon session of 7 July I took the opportunity to again check the matter with the departmental officials involved and they stood over the information they gave me and that I gave to the Dáil. I informed the tribunal accordingly. If there are other answers that is for others. I gave the information as given to me. I double checked it and gave it for a period for which I was not Minister in 1987-88.

The question of confidentiality was raised in the Dáil in April 1989. I replied that it has always been the practice not to divulge information pertaining to the operations of individual companies. This, of course, was twisted as if there was something to hide. How different from the approach of Deputy O'Malley in reply to Deputy, now Minister, Taylor in December 1990 who pressed for information regarding firms. Minister O'Malley replied:

I think that has always been regarded as commercial information. I do not want to put people in the position that if they take out export credit insurance in a normal way their affairs are going to be discussed in this House. I do not think it would be fair to them.

In reply to Deputy Deasy on 15 November 1990 Minister O'Malley said:

I can tell the Deputy, however, that since 1983, approximately 13 companies have held export credit insurance for Iraq at one time or another. It has never been the practice to disclose the names of companies availing of the scheme or to give details of the amount of cover they received. This is confidential information relating to the commercial operation of the companies concerned. Its disclosure would be inappropriate and would not be in the best interests of the companies concerned.

I share Deputy O'Malley's respect for commercial confidentiality and make no suggestion of a cover-up. It is a pity he and his colleagues were not so generous but I am sure he now accepts the tribunal report which shows that the allegation of a close relationship between Fianna Fáil Ministers and the Goodman organisation was untrue.

The suggestion that if different Dáil answers had been given there would not have been any need for a tribunal is patent nonsense. Anyone familiar with the political climate at the time, with allegations flying from Deputies Spring. Desmond, Rabbitte, O'Malley and others will realise that information, while helpful, was a side issue to their attempts to destroy the then Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, and bring down the Fianna Fáil Government. Those who suggest that Dáil answers would have made any difference ignore the fact that one of the principal groups involved in the allegations, the Progressive Democrats, joined the Government in 1989 with Fianna Fáil and it was not until 22 months later, as a result of the "World in Action" programme, that the tribunal was set up. During those 22 months the leader of the Progressive Democrats was Minister for Industry and Commerce and had total access to all the files — export credit, IDA — and could have requested any others. He and his party knew all the facts.

It is interesting to note that the Progressive Democrats' concern for the general public and their "principled" stand in Government in calling for the tribunal to be established did not extend to leaving the Government. When that Government, of which Deputy O'Malley was a senior member, refused to allow questions to be answered in relation to Cabinet discussions by former Government Ministers including me, even though I made it clear to the tribunal I was more than willing to do so, the Progressive Democrats hung on in Government. This issue was brought to the Supreme Court and Deputy O'Malley and the Progressive Democrats continued to sit in that Government. The principled thing would have been for them to leave even if it caused a general election, which it did eventually, not on a matter of principle but because of personal abuse heaped on his head over his actions and performance.

It was a matter of principle.

That was in relation to him. What about the rights of the public?

It was an important principle.

What about the important principle——

There was an important principle involved.

No interruptions, please.

What about the important principle of the right of the public to know about Cabinet discussions when Deputies Molloy and O'Malley were members of that Cabinet?

Why did the Deputy resign——

I was not in the Government.

The Deputy is trying to distance himself from——

Acting Chairman

I ask Deputies to restrain themselves and to allow Deputy Burke to proceed without interruption.

The position of the Labour Party, its role in the allegations and its refusal to substantiate them given the opportunity in the tribunal speaks for itself. As a Fianna Fáil backbencher I know I share the view of many Fianna Fáil supporters who are heartily sick of the posturing of the Labour Party and some of its key personnel, its Chairman and others who publicly agonise as to whether members of the Fianna Fáil Party are suitable people with whom to be associated. I reverse the equation — are we being tainted by our ongoing association with Labour? The opinion polls seem to suggest that we are suffering both as a result of this Coalition and other matters.

As to the so-called expert commentators who, with the benefit of hindsight, suggest that as Ministers between 1987-89 we should have spent our lives examining every comma and detail of every piece of paper that went through our Departments, I have nothing but contempt for them. They forget that when we came to Government in 1987 the country was on its knees after the FitzGerald-Spring Government of 1983-87. We brought about a national consensus in the agreed Programme for National Recovery, we tackled the spiralling public sector bill, brought about the beginnings of tax reform and created a climate of hope for the future when all we had inherited was despair. To read those commentators now one would assume that Fianna Fáil is the devil incarnate, only kept slightly on the right course by the attentions of its pets in politics. I refute this assessment of a party which has served this country well and honourably and which has been responsible for much of the progress today. Much work remains to be done and it will benefit from a Fianna Fáil Government, but will the country really benefit from the efforts of the hypocrites?

I have some things to say about the Labour Party but I have to reflect on whether my criticisms will be as withering——

They will pale into insignificance.

——as those of the erst-while backbenchers, including Deputy Burke, who singled out the Labour Party for special criticism.

I was astounded at the Taoiseach's contribution. Having read the report, not having made any allegations and having no vested interest, I believe he had some serious charges to answer. Given that he had not allowed a question and answer session I thought there would be a contrite nature to what he had to say. The message being sent out of this House is that if one is brazen enough and has sufficient brass neck one can get away with anything. This debate represents a new low in political standards.

In relation to the Labour Party, there is no lump of manure big enough which it is not prepared to swallow when, as we now know, at 4 p.m. tomorrow it will vote against the very words it articulated when the report was published. In time this debate will be seen as a watershed in the lifetime of the Government and as a low water mark of Labour's acceptance of Fianna Fáil's standards in office. The message the Labour Party is sending out to the public is that they should forget about ethics in Government, it is staying in Government that counts and everything else is secondary. The Tánaiste did not even insist on a question and answer session. As we all know, if he was sitting on this side of the House he would be leading the charge of condemnation against the Taoiseach and would have put down an amendment or a motion of no confidence in him. The public knows he is a fraud and a hyprocrite and they will not be merciful in passing judgment on him.

The blind date which led to the political marriage of Dick and Albert has had the final shutter removed and we can now see that the misbehaviour of the Taoiseach between 1987-89 is comparable to the ministerial conduct in 1970. The Government now represents a "Gortnaclune" farce which is no longer funny and whose characters are becoming increasingly seedy.

Obviously there will be repetition in the debate but on the basis of the facts of the report, not the conclusions, I wish to analyse the criticisms of the ministerial conduct of the Taoiseach. Those who are fatigued by the length of the report and the time it took to put together should concentrate on Chapter Six, the largest chapter — it runs to 200 pages — dealing with export credit insurance. Even within the very narrow parameters set out by Mr. Justice Hamilton that the tribunal was a simple fact finding operation we can see on what the Taoiseach has been indicted. First, his concept of the "national interest" was found to be objectively incorrect. He is so brazen that in reference to the national interest he argued that he acted in the national interest, even though that was simply the title put on the export credit insurance No. 2 account.

Second, when one reads through the transcripts of evidence — I refer in particular to that of Mr. O'Reilly, a senior civil servant in the then Department of Industry and Commerce, dealing with export credit insurance — there is no doubt that what was called the "managed policy" effectively and undeniably excluded beef processors other than Hibernia and Goodman. There is no logical explanation for this unfairness. Halal and Master Meats never had a contract to sell beef to Iraq, yet they got £10 million in cover. Other companies who had contracts were denied cover because they did not have a track record or because their payments were behind. There was total inconsistency in what was a managed policy. Some applicants were refused cover on grounds which did not apply to others. I believe Halal and Taher were very badly treated. A track record in beef dealings was required for some companies, yet other companies did not have to have such a track record then or at a subsequent stage.

Third, he gambled — there is no other way of saying it — with Exchequer resources to the extent of £98.65 million, a gamble which came unstuck. From March 1987 — he became Minister in April 1987 — to November 1988 he increased the Iraqi ECI ceiling from £70 million to £250 million. There is also the Cabinet meeting of 4 September and his decision not to implement the detailed terms of Government decisions on cover for Iraq, and this within hours. The maximum cover for any contract was to be 70 per cent but Goodman was offered 80 per cent. The maximum credit period was to be one year and Goodman was offered one and half years. The premium was to be 4 per cent and Goodman was charged 1 per cent, a difference between £5.3 million and the £1.3 million he was effectively charged. The claims waiting period was to be one year, for Goodman that was reduced to six months.

I cannot but conclude that that was unprincipled, improper, wrong and totally unjustified in the circumstances. He was reckless and careless to the extent that he did not check the origins of the beef for export credit insurance cover, if we accept his constant thread of evidence to the tribunal and subsequently, even though there is a very substantial amount of evidence to show that he must have known. If we accept him at his word, as the tribunal did, it transpires that 84 per cent of Iraqi beef was sourced from intervention and that 38 per cent of Goodman beef and 18 per cent of Hibernia beef was obtained outside the Republic. This resulted in the benefits to the Irish economy, our beef industry, on export credit insurance cover decisions being, as the chairman of the tribunal said, illusory.

All of that is contained in Chapter Six of the report. I have to say that, if the most junior executive in a business gambled in that way on the basis of such weak evidence and analysis, he would be dismissed immediately. The then Minister deliberately rushed memoranda to Cabinet that effectively limited or avoided scrutiny by the Departments of Finance and Agriculture. Indeed, I have to say that his ministerial system has been shown to be remarkable; he did not have civil servants present at certain meetings. I asked former senior civil servants what is the normal procedure, the normal convention in relation to having civil servants present at such meetings. They responded that there are two principle occasions on which they would not be present. One is when a Minister would be speaking to a party colleague, the other when speaking to a foreign dignitary or visiting political personage; in all other cases it would be conventional practice to have a civil servant present. And the very meetings from which civil servants were absent will form the crux of the case in Goodman v. the State in relation to the voiding of export credit insurance cover and the case for £159 million of export credit insurance cover that was voided by former Minister, Deputy O'Malley. That begs the question: what protection does the State have because there is no third party witness in the form of a civil servant to verify what was transacted at those meetings.

I greatly fear that the decisions, the manner in which the present Taoiseach, then Minister, conducted himself was in direct conflict with the spirit and principles of the accounting officer procedures laid down in the Constitution, through which the Committee of Public Accounts system and the Comptroller and Auditor General work, that is, that the Secretary of a Department is accountable to this House for all moneys expended by his Department. How can they be so accountable when his minions, his representatives, were not present at such meetings?

Then we have the extraordinary memory lapses the present Taoiseach divulged to the tribunal; in fact it seems he suffers from severe amnesia which, alone, renders him unfit to hold his high office. The tribunal was unable to ascertain when he became aware of the largest beef contract in the history of world trade for $134.5 million. He was unable to explain how he was able to tell civil servants of forthcoming applications for export credit insurance cover coming into his Department. Yet, in his evidence to the tribunal, he could not explain how he knew about these before any formal documentation reached his Department. His familiarity with the affairs of Goodman International and its subsidiary, AIBP, has proved inexplicable and remains an unsolved mystery.

If we want to ascertain exactly how the present Taoiseach, then Minister, operated with Mr. Goodman, of all the insights contained in the report of the tribunal, page 64, which contains an internal memorandum from Larry Goodman to Brian Britton, his right hand man, dated 6 May 1987 tell it all. It states:

Pls. contact Brian with following message:-

He is to phone Albert Reynolds, at home if necessary, and before next cabinet meeting as we understand Gov Decision will be given on his proposal to open up and increase facility for Iraq. Advise A.R. that we will require a very substantial amount for here, i.e., if they are to give 50 per cent. We will require 5Om or if it is 33 per cent we will require 33m advise A.R. that I will contact him immediately on my return. Suggest Brian diplomatically remind A.R. of discussion with me on restricting cover to us as the only continuous supplier to this market.

It is of critical importance that Brian contact A.R. today (Wed) re. above. A.R. telephone nos. are as follows:

(i) Dublin (Flat)

(ii) Office (Longford)

(iii) Home

Let us call a spade a spade here; it is as if A.R. was on the payroll of Mr. Goodman. Those are the type of instructions and dispatches one gives to someone to whom one is capable of giving instructions, someone who responds to instructions. According to the files, at this time A.R., his old pal, Al, was in fact telling people that cover had not been agreed to be increased, that there was no question of other beef processors being told that the door was open. That internal memorandum unearthed by the tribunal shows the relationship between Mr. Goodman and the present Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds. I beiieve no Minister should be in that subservient position.

We come then to one of the most serious allegations made against the present Taoiseach, which is the way he ignored critical advice which had been accepted previously by Ministers Noonan (Limerick East) and Ray Burke who preceded and succeeded him in the Department of Industry and Commerce.

Let me paint the picture here. A general election occurred in 1987, when the Dr. Garret FitzGerald Coalition Administration had been defeated and in came Fianna Fáil. For some time, the files would show, Mr. Britton and Mr. Goodman were banging down the door of former Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy Michael Noonan (Limerick East) to obtain more cover for their beef contracts for Iraq. He had resisted that pressure, had said it was off cover for any more deals, because he had read the memoranda from the Insurance Corporation of Ireland and the Department of Industry and Commerce. What did that memorandum say? It pointed out that Saddam Hussein was in charge; obviously, it was a military dictatorship and that this Iran/Iraq war inexorably was draining the resources of the Iraqi Government. Such a memorandum may have stated that the principal asset of the Iraqis was oil, the price of oil was falling, within the Arab world Saddam Hussein was being perceived with ever growing mistrust and that the Iraqi Government — they had a State purchasing system for their beef — was defaulting and rescheduling many of their debts. There was no one with a proper grasp of the overall situation; certainly there was no other beef exporting country knocking down the door to sell to this person of such dubious credit worthiness. Yet, the present Taoiseach, then Minister, in his first decision put beef back on cover, particularly for Mr. Goodman.

When one talks about the present Taoiseach, then Minister, ignoring advice it is like trying to push the tides out on the seashore, the advice was overwhelming. It is inexplicable how he sought to ignore such advice and never at any stage put a note on any memorandum in his Department as to why he sought that advice. His factual favouritism for Goodman knew no bounds. The internal memorandum I quoted was an intriguing insight into the relationship between Mr. Goodman and the then Minister, Deputy Reynolds. It is clear that Mr. Goodman had instant access to all the private telephone numbers of Deputy Reynolds and was able to dispatch instructions authoritatively to him. There is no explanation why, when Deputy Reynolds took over in the Department of Industry and Commerce, he handed over every aspect of export credit insurance cover to one of the new Ministers of State responsible for trade and marketing, Deputy Séamus Brennan, with the exception of cover for the export of beef to Iraq. Why? When the Minister, Deputy Reynolds, was asked whether he had any special knowledge of the Iraqi situation which meant he should have retained that brief he said he had no particular knowledge of it. Why did he do it? One can reasonably conclude it was because of his contacts with Goodman. The evidence given by John Swift, the Ambassador for Iraq on 13 and 14 May, clearly shows that the Irish Government interest was equated with the Goodman interest. Apparently the Iraqi buyers put a major premium on who has official approval and who is accompanied by diplomats representing the Government. All the Goodman delegations were accompanied by diplomatic personnel and in some cases politicians. The clear impression was given that Goodman's interest was synonymous with the Irish Government's interest.

Leaving aside the facts established by the tribunal about export credit insurance, we come to the illegal cabinet interference whereby section 35 of the 1986 Act was breached in the IDA fiveyear development plan for Goodman — £25 million in grant aid and £5 million in other soft financial assistance. For the Government to say that because money was not paid out there is no wrong, is rather like saying that in the Falls Road or in the Shankill if a sniper misses it is all right. It was undeniably wrong.

The author of this policy disaster is the Taoiseach. Thanks to Deputy Spring and the Labour Party, Deputy Reynolds is now Taoiseach. The Labour Party cannot have it both ways. It cannot maintain that Deputy Reynolds, during 1987-89, did not conduct himself properly, decry his behaviour and retain him in office. This hypocrisy is unacceptable and there is every indication that the public see it as such.

In The Irish Times MRBI poll last weekend only 26 per cent of people canvassed believe the Taoiseach is totally vinidcated. On closer examination of the poll we find that, at the time of the leaks row, when people were asked whether they believed Mr. Reynolds's version of the report only 9 per cent said they did and 62 per cent disbelieved him.

The Labour Leader's stance against this Opposition amendment may result in the political bouquets for our rose of Tralee turning into wreaths for his political obituary. If he were in Opposition now he would be leading a charge seeking Deputy Reynolds's resignation. Yet, yesterday all he seemed to be concerned about was the leaks row. What a change, what a volta-face in his position since he was in Opposition in the late 1980s.

The cost and the contents of the report need to be considered separately. Payments to date allocated by the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry amount to £7.3 million. I understand that figure covers the State's legal team and the tribunal's legal team but as Mr. McGonagle is due some extra money perhaps we should say £7.5 million. Estimates vary as to the final cost. In his contribution yesterday the Taoiseach said costs would be between £35 million and £40 million. I do not believe the tribunal will cost that though I expect there will be little change out of £25 million. A total of 73 legal teams have been awarded costs, almost in full, in all cases. This sum is absolutely unacceptable and we must identify how the costs got out of control.

Some hasty incorrect conclusions have been drawn about tribunals per se. People who have said Dáil committees could have conducted this type of investigation have not taken their researches too far because the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921, was enacted due to the failure of parliamentary committees. In politically contentious inquiries, the committees produced two contradictory reports, a majority report and a minority report drawn up on partisan political lines. There was no guarantee that there would be political consensus as to whether the Taoiseach was right or wrong or about any ministerial conduct.

The parliamentary questions system has been proved faulty. The Ceann Comhairle and the Committee on Procedure and Privileges must revise it. There is an immediate requirement to include State agencies under the aegis of a Minister in the scope of questions. Sending a letter from the Ceann Comhairle's office saying that the IDA. Coillte Teoranta, or whatever, is not answerable to the Dáil is wrong.

We must acknowledge that the Haughey constitutional case resulting in entitlement to legal representation in cross-examination bestows basic rights on accused persons. Therefore, the operation of tribunals rather than the principle of tribunals needs to be studied.

The first major mistake of Mr. Justice Hamilton was that he did not appoint a legal team to represent the public interest and told all other teams they were there to represent their self interest and therefore they should be confined to periods of representation only dealing with direct involvement, cross-examination or examination of their own participants' witnesses so that, in effect, what was everybody's business at the tribunal was nobody's business.

Fianna Fáil cannot divert attention from Deputy Reynolds by attacking the cost of the tribunal. It was their Attorneys General who approved the scale of fees. At the outset Mr. John Murray agreed a sitting day fee of £1,890 and a non-sitting day fee of £1,050. Many members of the legal profession to whom I have spoken are astonished that this level of fees was agreed and, more particularly, that they were not renegotiated.

I understand that fees in a High Court sitting for a senior counsel at that time was, approximately, £1,500 to £2,000, and hence we have the figure of £1,890 but the average High Court sitting is for three or four days. It is common practice, if it exceeds several days, that the fee can be renegotiated and a discount obtained on the basis of what is called the "refresher fee". An attempt was not made to negotiate a reduction in this case which continued for 231 days. When the fees were agreed it was not envisaged that it would continue for that number of days. Yet, no attempt was made by successive Fianna Fáil Attorneys General to renegotiate.

This is not the first tribunal we have had: we have had the Kerry Babies, Whiddy and others. There was no previous agreement to pay for non-sitting days. How was the figure of £1,050 arrived at? There was no basis for it and it was totally unjustified. The chairman proved overgenerous in his levels of representation and attendance.

On the Tánaiste's comments yesterday about what I said over the weekend, I did not allege that the Tánaiste would get £1 million. I said his legal team would be awarded over £1 million and that his team were at the tribunal for over 200 days at the direction of his brother, Donal Spring. I stand over that figure and note that the Tánaiste has not refuted it. I believe it will be well in excess of £1 million and yet he produced no new evidence or witnesses. Basically, he got into the witness box and said he had nothing to add to the allegations he put on the record of the Dáil. It is inexplicable that his counsel should have been present for more than 200 days at a cost of £5,000 per day when the Tánaiste gave evidence for only three days.

In his speech yesterday, the Tánaiste stated that "...Deputy Bruton did not make his allegation about IDA interference until 1991". That is not true and if he had a team working at the tribunal he should have known that allegation was first made in 1987 at the time of the press conference and repeated many times afterwards. I fail to understand why Susan O'Keeffe is being sent to jail while others who would not produce their witnesses will receive legal costs of more than £1 million. The contrast could not be greater.

Given that Goodman International was found guilty of tax fraud, which was common knowledge to the management in all plants, why should it have been awarded costs? In the case of the Whiddy tribunal Gulf Oil was not awarded costs and this is a similar case. The Dáil should have had some scrutiny over the matter. A blank cheque, as it were, was given to the tribunal and the Attorney General and filled in in spates.

On taxation matters, I condemn Goodman International in the strongest possible terms. Many arguments were made against the tax amnesty, but it was introduced to bring in hot money from abroad and to widen the tax base. The money in this case was under investigation both by the Revenue Commissioners and the tribunal and a tax discount was given. That was unfair having regard to the manner in which other people must pay penalties and are harshly treated in certain circumstances. I fail to understand how Stokes, Kennedy and Crowley could have signed the Goodman accounts for the years 1987, 1988 and 1989. The Minister for Finance should refer the recommendation in respect of auditors to the Tax Advisory Liaison Committee. I welcome the commendation in the report of the staff of the Customs and Excise and the Revenue Commissioners because they were proven to be independent and impartial.

The volume of the report, the indigestibility of many of its details and the length of time it took to compile has switched off public attention. In a nutshell, people cannot separate the wood from the trees. However, what is laid bare is the interaction of business and politics that was improper, reckless and unwise. The fact that nobody had taken responsibility is a cause of deep frustration. It is as if it does not really matter. It is illogical and impossible for everyone to have been vindicated. Ultimately, the Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, must take political responsibility for his actions regarding export credit insurance and the IDA in terms of Goodman International. Given that he is not prepared to accept this, the onus falls on the Labour Party to insist on that. In the final analysis, given that party's failure to account, the electorate will pass its verdict and that can only be a harsh one.

I wish to put on record that it is very strange that not one member of the main Government party, Fianna Fáil, is in the House for this debate.

I welcome the publication of the report of the tribunal of inquiry and I particularly welcome this opportunity to speak in this debate on the findings of the tribunal. This debate marks a significant chapter in the ongoing saga of the beef tribunal. Thousands of column inches of reportage and commentary have been devoted to the beef tribunal and issues surrounding it over the past few years. The political life of this country, and the political colour of this House, has been affected by the beef tribunal. Despite all that, however, this debate does not mark the final chapter of this saga. That will not happen until all the issues raised by the beef tribunal have been properly and fully addressed.

As I speak to the House, we are experiencing a period of optimism unparalleled in the recent history of our country. The events of the past 48 hours have given us a real reason to believe that we are at last entering a phase of reconciliation between the communities on our island. We might finally have a reason to believe that our democracy, founded over 70 years ago, is reaching a stage of maturity which will allow the full potential of our country to be realised.

There are other aspects to our democracy which must also be developed and matured. The report before us today has raised serious questions about the way in which some aspects of our democracy works, or should I say do not work. This must be a matter of serious concern to us as Members of this House.

On a very basic level the report has exposed flaws in the way information is gleaned by elected representatives about business being conducted in Government Departments and about Government policy. It is a damning comment by the chairman of the tribunal that it would not have been necessary to conduct it, had parliamentary questions been properly answered in the first place. I agree with the view of Deputy Yates that this House has a duty to take the necessary steps to rectify that position in our Standing Orders and procedures so that full information can be given.

The report of the tribunal exposes many gaps in information and accountability. The lack of information given to Members of this House when they asked reasonable and legitimate questions on important matters of public concern created the need for a tribunal. There was the almost inexplicable failure to share information between the Departments of Agriculture and Industry and Commerce both at ministerial and administrative level in relation to the source of beef exports. Deliberate cover-ups and falsification of information in the various tax frauds and intervention frauds were disclosed by the tribunal.

Our public institutions have been characterised by a culture of secrecy. We must change this culture of secrecy both by reforming the rules of this House and throughout our public institutions by creating a truly effective and accountable democratic system. To create a mature and effective democracy we must have the confidence to let in the light and provide a free flow of information between the institutions of the State and its citizens.

The findings of this tribunal underlie the importance of introducing freedom of information legislation. There is no other way that the core issues of this report can be satisfactorily resolved. It is time, and this report has displayed the necessity in a graphic fashion, that our democracy was shored up and strengthened by the enshrining in our Statute Book of a right to information, of a right to find out how decisions are made and how they affect us. Only then can we say that our democracy is an accountable one.

I particularly welcome the commitment given by the Taoiseach in this House yesterday to the introduction of freedom of information legislation and I look forward to steering it through this House. I also look forward to support from all sides of the House for it and to a full and open debate so that we enact the best possible legislation. I will return to the issues surrounding freedom of information legislation later.

In Opposition, my party levelled serious charges about irregularities and fraud in the beef industry, about tax evasion, and unhealthy closeness between business and politics and about lapses in decision-making and secrecy in the conduct of public affairs. The evidence marshalled by the tribunal in its volumes of evidence and in its report speaks for itself on those issues. We have seen proof of systematic fraud, abuse and tax evasion. We have seen major policy lapses, putting public money at risk, and secrecy when legitimate questions were asked in this. House.

As the Tánaiste said yesterday, in the 1987-89 period what Larry Goodman wanted, Larry Goodman got. To anyone reading the report the tone of the letters from the Goodman organisation to public servants were notable. Goodman expected the State apparatus to jump to his bidding. He wrote draft letters to which he expected replies from public servants conferring benefits on his organisation. If nothing else, the tone of those letters illustrates the close relationship that existed between the Goodman organisation and the Government of the day.

We believe Deputies of all parties who raised these questions uncovered issues of urgent public importance. Important lessons have been learned about how the conduct of public affairs can be improved. My party made implementing those lessons and tackling policy issues which arose during the tribunal hearings a cornerstone of its negotiations of the Programme for Government. In that programme, the Government committed itself to implementing the following, namely, the findings of the tribunal report, the disclosure of political donations, ceilings on election spending and State funding of political parties. The ethics legislation with disclosure of interests of those in public life for holding public office, Oireachtas reform, including a committee system and powers for committees to compel witnesses to attend and the freedom of information legislation is to be considered.

Substantial progress has already been made on this programme of reform. The ethics Bill is at Committee Stage. Substantial improvements in the accountability of Government and administration to the House have been made through the committee system. That will be further strengthened when legislation on privilege and compellability of witnesses before Dáil committees. which is at an advanced stage, is enacted.

The Electoral Bill which deals with issues of political funding will be published shortly. I do not accept that the level of contributions made by the Goodman organisation were representative of normal political contributions. Work is also well under way in preparing freedom of information legislation.

One of the key lessons of the tribunal is the need for greater accountability in respect of public money. Our mechanisms in this area are being improved and strengthened. The Comptroller and Auditor General Act, which I had the pleasure of introducing, provides for the greater accountability for public money, in particular, value for money audits and the examination of control systems. I pay tribute to the work of Deputy Gay Mitchell, the then chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts which did much of the groundwork on that Act. The Minister for Finance and I recently launched new guidelines for product appraisal and the assessment of public capital spending aimed at strengthening systems for the stewardship of public funds.

Just as our partners in Government have been critical about what they consider to be policy failures of the 1982-87 Fine Gael-Labour Government — we heard a particularly robust contribution on this from Deputy Ray Burke — my party has been critical of the policy failures of the 1987-89 Fianna Fáil Administration. The report, which I studied carefully, gives a fascinating insight into the workings of the Fianna Fáil minority Government in power from 1987-89. However, the insight is disturbing. It displays at best a sloppy approach to decision-making and at worst an appalling failure of the system of accountability crucial to the proper working of our system of Government at the highest level.

The events of those years have been examined in great detail by this tribunal and I do not intend repeating them. However, I am concerned at clear flaws exposed in how policy decisions were arrived at in the context of the events set out in this report. It is the role of civil servants to advise and the role of Ministers to make policy decisions. While Ministers and civil servants can and do disagree about what is the best decision in a particular instance, both Ministers and civil servants are in positions of public trust and have a duty to ensure that the decisions they make or on which they advise are informed by the fullest possible consideration of the issues and of relevant information. No system of decision making is perfect and the advice given to Ministers, or the decisions they take can, and often are, proved wrong. However, it is vital that systems are in place to minimise the likelihood of wrong decisions by ensuring that all reasonable information and argument is put on the table as a basis for making the final judgment.

It is part of the role and duty of the Civil Service to spell out for the Minister if in its view a Minister's proposal could, for example, be illegal, unwise, put public funds at undue risk or represent poor value for public money. We rightly value the independence of our public service, and Ministers should expect the Civil Service to tell it like it is and not in the way they believe the Minister wants to hear it.

In the report we read of how the Minister for Industry and Commerce of the period stated that in making decisions relating to export credit insurance he was not made aware of certain facts pertinent to the decision, namely, the source of the meat exported to Iraq.

Ultimately, the Minister decides how to act on the advice given. Even if the Civil Service sets out myriad reasons for not doing something, the Minister can, if he or she chooses, proceed and ignore all the best advice available. That is not necessarily a bad thing. Public policy can require that a Minister will act against advice given. That is his or her prerogative and must remain so. Ministers are ultimately accountable to the electorate for their actions. Ministers who hold a position of public trust have a duty to the public to ensure that when making decisions they explore every avenue and consider all available information and aspects of a problem. The decisions they make is the prerogative of the democratically accountable Minister rather than that of the Civil Service.

The decisions taken in relation to export credit insurance involved very substantial sums of public money. The public has a right to expect that such decisions would have been made only on the basis of the fullest consideration of the issues involved and on considering all available information. It is simply not good enough that decisions involving such a large amount of public money should have been made without either a detailed evaluation of the benefits to the economy of insuring beef for Iraq or without allowing time for the Department of Finance to furnish the Government with a written assessment of the merits and financial implications of the proposals. Certain procedures are normally followed when a Government makes a decision. A sponsoring Minister or Department prepares a draft memorandum for Government for circulation to relevant officials of Departments who are entitled to put their observations in writing.

Those observations and the comments on them of the sponsoring Minister or Department are incorporated into a final memorandum circulated to Government. In all cases the Department of Finance must be circulated with draft and final memoranda for Government. Those are time honoured procedures of successive administrations. Their purpose is to ensure a proper rounded evaluation of proposals before Government from people on different sides of the table so that the Government in making decisions has the advantage in written form of the wide advice, information and benefit of the experience of the public service. Those procedures are in place for a reason, namely, they allow for a full examination of a decision, the study of its implications and for other Departments to comment on it. That did not happen in this case. It is simply not good enough that public policy involving public money of such magnitude should have been made in that way.

The apparent total absence of communication between the Department of Agriculture, the beef specialists and managers of the intervention stock, and those responsible for export credit insurance, where all the action related to beef, defies credibility. I find it extraordinary and deeply worrying that Departments and Ministers, which should have been in contact with each other on a matter involving a huge sum of public money, according to Mr. Justice Hamilton's findings based on evidence to the tribunal, did not apparently talk or write to each other on these matters.

Déjà vu.

How did this happen? How did it happen that the Department of Industry and Commerce was not in touch with the Department of Agriculture to ask basic questions surrounding the details of a decision committing a huge amount of public money? It seems extraordinary that this did not happen and points to a serious weakness in the manner in which the Government of the day operated. If it was simple carelessness, then it is carelessness bordering on the unforgivable. If it was inefficiency or bad management, that too must be criticised. However, it points to a serious failure in the way our system worked during that period. In effect, the system failed.

We need more programme managers.

The Labour Party has been criticised for introducing a system of programme managers to assist us in our job of Government. One of the weaknesses we identified was the need for a system of effective interdepartmental communication and a way of getting behind "turf wars", which can impede not only communication between Departments but cross departmental action. We have been proved correct in our decision to advance with this system. It has greatly improved interdepartmental understanding, the flow of interdepartmental information and provides a most useful troubleshooting role when turf wars threaten to break out.

Have they got any passports?

The Minister, without interruption.

Almost every contributor to the debate has spoken about the lessons that must be learned from this report. Most agree that the central issues identified in the report are accountability and openness in public life in addition to the need to strengthen our democracy. The task of opening up Government and creating a greater level of accountability has already started. We have made concrete progress on implementing and learning the lessons of the tribunal proceedings.

The Government was run into a cul de sac this week.

I have listened, not only during this debate but in the weeks since the report was published, to criticism of the Labour Party, and particularly of its Leader, for being in Government with the party which ruled alone from 1987-89. Fine Gael can be free, as from 1987-89 to support Fianna Fáil in office, and the Progressive Democrats from 1989-92, to join them in office without being contaminated with the "sins" of Fianna Fáil but there is a different test for the Labour Party. Exclusively in Irish politics, the Labour Party is seen as collectively responsible for decisions it had no part in taking by a Government of which it was not a member.

I have listened to this criticism, which sounds like a long-playing record stuck in a groove, from the Opposition benches since this Government was established.

What about the amnesty? Who was responsible for the amnesty?

Fine Gael, under Deputy Dukes with his "Tallaght Strategy", effectively ensured that the minority Haughey Government of 1987-89 stayed in office.

The Labour Party did not have the guts.

The Minister, without interruption.

Without the silent compliance of Deputy Dukes and his party, that Government would not have ruled, never mind ruled alone. What changes did Fine Gael secure as the price of its support? What legislation did it leave on the Statute Book? What changes were made? What does Deputy Dukes say now, knowing that the Government he shored up risked hundreds of millions of pounds of public money?

When I look at Deputies Harney, O'Malley and Molloy, I cannot help but remember that they easily justified entering Government with their one-time arch enemy and how Deputy McDowell, from outside the House, ensured that the party stayed pure and had it every way. Apart from clean air and a high moral tone tuned to the highest possible pitch, I cannot recall a long list of that Government's achievements. They talked much and did little.

The Progressive Democrats put nothing on the Statute Book to tackle cosy relationships between business and politics. I do not recall that Government, for example, instituting an agenda of reform designed to introduce for the first time a register of members interests, a system of declaration of interests by senior civil and public servants with an independent commission to oversee it. In a telling comment in the debate on the Ethics Bill, Deputy O'Malley justified his inaction in these areas by saying legislation was unnecessary as long as he remained in Government; the one man guardian of faith and morals.

That sounds similar to the Labour Party

I do not recall the last Government coming near to a system of disclosure of political donations, or openly discussing a freedom of information Act.

The Labour Party in entering Government did so on the basis of securing a clear commitment to reforms and a detailed programme for Government. This programme has committed the Government to making substantial changes in how politics is carried on here. We have been most satisfied with the progress which has been made to date and with how both partners in Government are implementing the commitments they made under that programme.

Transparency and openness have been top of the agenda of this Government since it took office. We did not wait for this report to introduce the Ethics Bill, which is at Committee Stage. When passed, we will finally have a system whereby Members of these Houses will register their interests. We will also have a system where senior public and civil servants will declare their interests. This legislation will mark a turning point in how we conduct our business in this House, as will freedom of information legislation. I take this opportunity to welcome the commitment given by the Taoiseach in the House yesterday to such legislation.

Will it start with the Cabinet?

I am determined to ensure that it becomes a reality during the lifetime of this Government.

Will the Minister do a U-turn?

Freedom of information legislation, even if it was not in the Programme for Government, would be a natural consequence of the findings of the beef tribunal report which clearly exposed the consequences when information is not shared and is not made freely available.

On a basic level, the fact that parliamentary questions did not yield information on discrepancies between figures on exports of beef to Iraq and the level of export credit awarded leads one to naturally inquire about the need for a greater flow of information between the institutions of the State and its citizens as represented by Deputies in the House.

Are there any more cousins?

On a wider level one must ask a simple question: if full information had been publicly available, would the tribunal have been necessary? Would it have been possible for Deputies or journalists to gain access to key documents without the need for a tribunal?

To continue the logic, would certain decisions have been made if the parties to the decision had known that the public could gain access to the documentation relating to it? Would the knowledge that the information surrounding the decision could become public property have had any bearing on how the decision was made?

Already in my office a great deal of preparatory work has been done on freedom of information legislation. Discussions have been initiated with Government Departments on the practical implementation of such legislation and the changes which might be required. I have also examined how such legislation is operating in other countries and how we might ensure that we introduce the best possible system. We have much to learn from best practice elsewhere, how other jurisdictions have reconciled and balanced the right to information and the right to privacy and how they have balanced the right to know with the need to protect the decision-making process. I look forward to steering this legislation through the House.

I referred to a culture of secrecy extant in our society, and endemic in some of our institutions. We do not like people knowing our business. This is fine on one level; everyone is entitled to a level of privacy. However, decisions made by Government and by State institutions should be open and transparent, if only to encourage greater confidence in the decision-making process itself.

There are other reasons too. The principle of freedom of information is founded on a belief and confidence in openness, in the belief in the automatic right of the public to information which affects them, based on a notion of democracy which puts the public first, and the institution second.

Our system of administration and of government which we inherited from Britain has been imbued with the culture of secrecy, the culture of the Official Secrets Act. While there have been important moves towards greater openness in some areas, which I welcome, the cloud of official secrets colours the administrative system. Freedom of information will require a fundamental cultural change in the public service, but I have no doubt that it is a challenge which those who serve the public are well capable of undertaking. We must move from a system which protects information and seeks to shield decision makers to one whose philosophy is of openness.

A particularly important element of such openness is to give the individual citizen access to all relevant information of his or her dealings with the State. I want to see a culture which volunteers information to the individual on his or her rights without waiting to be asked. I want to achieve the conferring of a statutory right on all citizens of access to information on their affairs held by public institutions.

In drawing up proposals for freedom of information legislation, I am taking the time to ensure I get it right. I want a system which works because those who operate it are committed to the principle of openness and where access to information is as user friendly as possible. I have looked at other jurisdictions which, on paper, have freedom of information but where access is so complex and convoluted that citizens have to go through intermediaries or commercial organisations before they can assess the information to which, in theory, they are statutorily entitled. I do not want access to information to be a theoretical right; I want it to be a real and operational right and I want to ensure that we make whatever changes in administrative practice are necessary to make that a reality. There are practical issues to be addressed from reorganisation and classification of filing systems to ensure access is meaningful — so that people know what information is there so that they can exercise the right to access — to a system of adjudication where information is withheld.

There is a considerable number of issues raised by freedom of information which will have to be fully discussed in the preparation of any legislation. One of these is the issue of privacy.

In many jurisdictions, Canada, for example, the freedom of information legislation is complemented by statutory provisions on personal privacy. The law on privacy has already been referred to by the Law Reform Commission and I look forward to its report. Given recent trends in media reporting in Britain, it is no surprise that there is a call for privacy laws there. We have not yet reached that stage, but it is not surprising, that there is considerable concern here about the implications of allowing free access to information to our media on the personal affairs of citizens. Access to information has to be balanced by an appropriate right to privacy for individuals in relation to the conduct of their personal affairs.

Freedom of information legislation will place a responsibility on the media, and only they can answer the question as to whether they can carry it. Allowing access to information does not confer some sort of licence to use that information in an irresponsible way.

We know the power of the fourth estate. We have an example before us in the tribunal of the need for fourth estate, for vigilant journalism that will go after stories and investigate where there is cause for investigation. Many Members have commented on the irony of arresting the messenger, the whistle-blower, while those whose wrongdoings Ms Susan O'Keeffe highlighted have not yet been brought to book. What went on with regard to tax amounts to a criminal conspiracy to defraud the State and I want to see those concerned brought to justice.

I welcome the Tánaiste's commitment given here yesterday to examine the appropriate legislative response to the O'Keeffe case and to what in common sense, if not in law, appears to be a travesty of justice. It is probably ironic that in the week we mourn the late Mr. Kevin O'Kelly we find another journalist faced with arrest for the same reason he was arrested.

The wider question of journalistic privilege calls for careful examination. Privilege implies it would be responsibly exercised, and there is certainly need for in-depth study and wide debate about how the issues of privilege and responsibility would be balanced. These issues are certainly not academic in the context of increasing tabloidisation and the competition offered by UK newspapers who have different values from the great majority of Irish journalists and who are in direct, cut-throat "dumping" competition with the products of Irish journalism.

The O'Keeffe example could possibly more properly be seen in the context of so-called "whistle-blowers", who release information where there is a compelling public interest. The Swedish Constitution, which awards considerable rights to the citizen in relation to access to information, protects "whistle-blowers", as does the US Civil Service Reform Act, 1978.

Freedom of information legislation and the enshrining into law of the right to access to information is now a standard feature of most modern democracies. Sweden introduced this legislation in the 1770s. Throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s we saw countries such as Norway, Canada, Australia and new Zealand successfully introduce freedom of information legislation. We have a lot to learn from the successful implementation in many of these countries, particularly those countries of the new commonwealth which are modelled on our tradition and system of government.

Closer to home the Treaty on European Union includes a specific provision on access to information. Last December the EU published a code of conduct concerning public access to Council and Commission documents. It is worth noting the restrictions which have been placed on access. EU institutions can only refuse access to any document the disclosure of which could undermine the protection of the public interest, individual privacy, commercial secrecy or the union's financial interests.

Probably one of the first questions on the agenda in considering freedom of information legislation is the question of exceptions. While in general I hope that exceptions to the general right to know would be as few as possible, one must accept that there are times when governments have a legitimate right to keep certain types of information confidential. It is common in other jurisdictions to exempt national security and matters relating to the economic interest of the State, for instance, as well as commercially sensitive information.

There must also be careful consideration of how access to documents relating to policy advice is dealt with. It is important for good government that policymakers and civil servants should be free to debate alternatives in the fullest possible way before coming to decisions. It would not be reasonable to allow such premature disclosure which would simply play into the hands of powerful lobby groups. Different jurisdictions have adopted different solutions to this important issue. In Canada, policy advice is exempt from freedom of information, while in New Zealand, when Cabinet decisions are made, all documents are made available. There is naturally concern among journalists and the public about possible abuse of exemptions and the fear that documents could be placed in an exempted category simply to hide them. An appropriate system of appeals against a refusal to provide information would be important in preventing this.

Careful thought and much planning will be required before we change our system and implement this legislation. Already the Data Protection Act and the National Archives Act are in operation and are to a limited extent operating the principle of access to information by the citizen. As I said, I want to get this right. I want to ensure it is workable and that we deliver in spirit and in practice as well as to the letter of the law. I am prepared to take the time and the trouble to ensure that we deliver effective legislation.

Complex and important issues will be raised by the enactment of freedom of information legislation. Having heard from all sides of the House about a wish to learn the lessons of the tribunal, I look forward to co-operation when this legislation comes up for discussion.

Much has been made of the cost to the taxpayer of the tribunal. Statements were made that efforts should be made to ensure that there be no more tribunals. We have already heard in this House criticism of the tribunal and the way it conducted its business and drew its conclusions. We have every right to comment on the findings. However, we placed our trust in Mr. Justice Hamilton and while the tribunal mechanism is by no means perfect, it is nevertheless an important one. We need to have such a mechanism available to us from time to time, whether it be to look at the beef industry or at cases such as the so-called Kerry babies case. The criticisms about the costs and the level of fees were well made. As we criticise policy failures in the 1987 to 1989 period which put public money at risk, we must also look critically at the failure of policy which resulted in the tribunal becoming such a costly exercise to the taxpayer, effectively an open-ended cheque.

The tribunal marks an important stage in our development. I am confident that the political culture it looked at and the way decisions were made from within that culture will never be witnessed again, not only because one of the main characters has left the political stage but because of our determination to learn the lessons of that time. If that is the result from this tribunal, it will have been worth the cost.

The tribunal has produced evidence, which was drawn together in a particularly compelling way by Deputy John Bruton yesterday, that the Taoiseach when Minister for Industry and Commerce in the 1987 to 1989 Government conducted export credit policy in a totally arbitrary way. He conducted that policy in a way which was in many respects, as is clearly shown by the report of the tribunal, in contravention of the decisions of the Government of the day, and which diverged in important respects from those decisions. He conducted it in a way which exposed the State to the risk of heavy cost, some of which risks subsists even to this day.

The then Minister for Industry and Commerce conducted that policy in a way which was totally at variance with all the advice given to him, which he was entitled to do, but without, until yesterday, making even the slightest attempt to produce a coherent or convincing reason for ignoring that advice and without any attempt to indicate what insights, information or basis for hunches he has for acting in a way contrary to the advice. He claims, and this is perhaps one of the most frightening parts, to have conducted that policy in ignorance of a number of key pieces of information. There is no evidence, and he has not tried to produce any, that he made even the slightest attempt to take steps to secure that information. It is very worrying that one should go about one's business in that way.

Having listened to the remarks made by the Minister of State, Deputy Eithne Fitzgerald, who indulged her penchant for giving lessons as if in a high babies class in school, I am moved to remark that there are some habits which I would recommend to those in Government which in our culture do not seem to be too easy to establish. In my own case, for example, on any document which came before me for a decision, I took care to write my reaction to it and the basic reason for that reaction. Apart from any benefits it may have in later years — I do not claim they will be huge — when we get freedom of information——

For historians.

I would not even aspire to that. When we get freedom of information, those notes will give a certain insight into the reasons for particular decisions. It was a quick and economical method in its use of time for reminding one why one took a particular view at a certain time. That way of thinking was, and is, totally foreign to the Taoiseach, the then Minister for Industry and Commerce between 1987 and 1989. The assembly and presentation of information unearthed by the tribunal as presented to the House yesterday by Deputy John Bruton, in particular, and Deputy O'Malley reveal a breathtakingly reckless approach by the Taoiseach to this important policy area. Until he spoke in the House yesterday, he gave no explanation or justification for his actions. Having listened to him, I must conclude that he would have been as well off to have left it at that because the attempts he made to explain and to justify his policy simply compounded the situation and left me with the frightening feeling that he has no understanding of the seriousness of what has been revealed by the report of the tribunal.

If the compelling case set out in the House yesterday by Deputy John Bruton does not accurately explain and interpret the current Taoiseach's actions at that time — this is what the Taoiseach would like us to believe — the only other conceivable explanation why the then Minister for Industry and Commerce conducted that policy at the material time is that he did not have the slightest idea what he was doing but blundered about erratically and arbitrarily at the behest of people outside of the Government without the slightest inkling of the extent to which he was being manipulated. Either Deputy John Bruton was right yesterday or else the then Minister, Deputy Reynolds, acted as a puppet for people outside Government between 1987 and 1989 when he was in charge of export credit insurance policy.

Nothing the Taoiseach said yesterday indicates that he has changed in any way in his approach to major policy decisions. His speech ran to 33 pages, took over an hour to deliver, yet explained nothing. If we set that speech beside the serious matters dealt with in the tribunal's report, we must conclude that it was glib, flippant, frivolous and tendentious. In short, it was at about the level one would expect from a part-time political hack on the back of a lorry in safe Fianna Fáil territory during the course of a by-election. It was not the reaction to a serious report one would expect from a serious Head of Government. The more I look through it, the more appalled I am by the way the Taoiseach presented the few points he tried to highlight.

In his speech the Taoiseach — a man giving the Government's reaction to this serious report — began a diatribe of cheap political jibes at the expense of Deputy John Bruton. They had nothing to do with the subject of the report and, in the time honoured tradition of such jibes, dealt only with the surface issue and not with the substantial concerns. Later he spoke about what he believes to be the accusations against him when he said: "the only crime I am now being accused of, is that of having disregarded such advice in the past". If the Taoiseach really believes the only accusation levelled against him in this report is that he ignored advice, he does not understand the situation or has deliberately ignored it. He brings to mind the doggerel from the Kipling verse —"if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs", then you obviously do not understand the situation.

In the course of his speech the Taoiseach used words which a Taoiseach who understands what is going on could not possibly use in light of all that has happened. He said:

When Fianna Fáil set out in 1987 to restore confidence in the economy, the beef industry was identified as a key area with obvious potential for growth and job creation. A host of reports on the industry throughout the 1980s had emphasised the importance of building up strong players who would be able to compete internationally.

The Taoiseach regurgitated that as justification for saying that he was vindicated by the report. He referred to Fianna Fáil's effort to identify the beef industry as a key area in the restoration of the economy. We know — and Members from the Government side of the House have reminded us of the fact during the post couple of days — that the great beef development plan came to nothing. Nevertheless, the Taoiseach says it vindicates him from the accusations made prior to the beef tribunal inquiry. The man is totally out of touch with reality.

The Taoiseach went on to speak about what happened to the beef development plan. He said: "What is sometimes lost in all the confused criticism is the simple fact that the five year plan for the beef industry never actually went ahead". That fact is not lost in the confused criticism. It is lost in the Taoiseach's confused mind. This speech was made by a Taoiseach against whom serious allegations have been made backed up by this weighty report. This is his defence. This is supposed to be the reason why he claims that he has been vindicated.

The Taoiseach said on his failure to make an attempt to assemble the information to which the Minister of State referred earlier:

There is no doubt that this breakdown between Departments constituted a policy co-ordination failure. Recommendations in the report, coupled with changes already effected, will close off such weaknesses.

That is an effort by the Taoiseach to shift the blame for the lack of information and lack of any attempt to assemble the information, from himself to the Civil Service. However, he was the person who ignored advice. He was the person who made no attempt to seek advice or to access information already available in the system of Government memorandum as outlined by the Minister of State, information that should have come through the normal process when preparing a matter for presentation to Government.

The tenor and content of the Taoiseach's speech were further proof of his unfitness for Office, then or now. If the Labour Party really subscribes to the values and a principle which it so loudly and frequently professes, it should immediately terminate the tenure of the present Taoiseach. However, that will not happen. The Tánaiste made that clear yesterday in a curiously muted speech that only came to life twice. On the first occasion the Tánaiste complained rather petulantly about the way the Taoiseach had treated him when the tribunal report was issued. It is the kind of complaint made fairly often by the Tánaiste. In case he did not notice. there were two other incidents this week about which he might complain.

The Taoiseach's speech on the ceasefire contained a nasty little elbow in the face for the Tánaiste. He backhandedly congratulated the Tánaiste for having the good sense to get involved in something which had started before he was appointed to Government; in other words, "Dick, you are not really responsible for what is happening". The other elbow in the face was contained in a point made by the Taoiseach yesterday and which he thought was an assault on Deputy John Bruton — an uncomplimentary and partial remark about the Dublin Gas episode in the mid-1980s. The Labour Party, in particular, does not want to be reminded about what happened then. However, if the Tánaiste wishes to act the spoilt child and complain about bullies treading on his toes he should not remember those two incidents.

The Tánaiste's speech was enlivened for the second time yesterday, not on a matter of high morality but when he made a botched attempt to score a cheap political point against Deputy John Bruton. He chose very boggy ground where the Tánaiste is far more vulnerable than Deputy Bruton. There were many fine sounding phrases about what must be done to rectify the problems that emerged from the tribunal's work. However, they do not convince me.

The Minister of State's remarks today do not convince me either. First, this much vaunted ethics Bill — this wunder-kind of the Labour Party — is irrelevant to the type of conduct engaged in by the Taoiseach when he was Minister for Industry and Commerce from 1987 to 1989. Even if that misbegotten Bill had been law at the time it would not have prevented that conduct which now stands indicted. I smiled a little when I heard the Minister of State voice her intention to introduce a freedom of information Bill and give her solemn assurance that she will take the time to get it right. I have a feeling that we will have a repeat of the ethics Bill which will not deal with the problem. The mountain will labour mightily and bring forth a mouse. If time permits, I will refer to that matter again later.

The tribunal report shows the utter cynicism of the Haughey Government in launching the famous beef development plan. Many Members of the House will recall the circumstances of the launch. The star role was played by the Taoiseach who, in evidence to the tribunal, claimed that he did not have much to do with it. The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Michael O'Kennedy, must not have had the proper progressive image required because he was pushed to the sidelines and the Minister of State with responsibility for food, Deputy Joe Walsh, was brought into the limelight. He has tried to tell us that he did not have much involvement with the genesis of the plan.

The head of the flagship company, Mr. Goodman, was corralled and managed at that launch to make sure he said only the right things and in a way that suited the Government's purposes. That launch took place before the final agreement was signed. At the time of the launch there was still a doubt regarding an important part of the package. The whole question of loans under section 84, one of the key aspects of which was never subsequently resolved, was apparently important for that plan. The whole event was a PR exercise, designed to produce an early boost for the image of that Government. It is incredible that the Taoiseach should have tried yesterday to introduce that as a part of his defence, his apologia pro vita sua in his claim that he has been vindicated.

That launch was also in direct contravention of an agreement made between the Minister of the day, Deputy Reynolds, and the IDA about the announcement of major job projects. None of what was promised at the time ever came about. Let us not forget that what was promised was the expansion and modernisation of beef processing capacity, the construction of new plant and an increase in employment. What has changed? The present Government seems to have a penchant for jumping the gun on job announcements as Deputy Ferris, whom I was happy to meet the other day in good health, discovered and as the current Minister for Enterprise and Employment found out to his embarrassment also. This crowd of latter day saints are inclined to do the same thing, to jump the gun on these job announcements.

It is an appalling indication of the degradation of the Labour Party that the Tánaiste should yesterday have tried to accuse Deputy Bruton of not attacking the perversion of the role of the IDA that went with that whole event until some considerable time afterwards. Deputy Bruton was the first Member of this House to draw attention trenchantly and publicly to the unseemly haste with which this project was bundled through the IDA and through the Cabinet. Later he was the first to draw attention to the scandal of what had been done to the IDA performance clause.

He did those things at the time with my approval and support. My support for him at the time went as far as having a very confrontational meeting with Mr. Goodman and Mr. Britton in July 1987 during the course of which I said to them, among other things, that they were not the target of what Deputy Bruton was saying — the target was the gross impropriety of the Government's actions at that time with regard to the whole project. That the Tánaiste seemed to be uninformed of the very well reported statements made by Deputy Bruton at the time of the 1987 launch, and subsequently about the illegal interference with the performance clause, is a very eloquent comment on the performance and competence of today's Ministers and their multitude of special advisers and programme managers.

The same Tánaiste who deprecated point scoring later in his speech, as the Labour Party often does, went on to make a very clumsy attempt to score a point off Deputy Bruton about comments made in the immediate aftermath of the 1989 general election. The Tánaiste, and other members of the Labour Party who were in this House at the time, should know that the Tánaiste abdicated any responsibility to play any role in putting a Government together at that time. I suspect that it was because the cosiness that had been developing between the Labour Party and the Fianna Fáil party under Mr. Haughey had not quite gone far enough at that stage, although it subsequently proved to be strong enough to weather the torrent of mutual abuse that we heard before and during the 1992 general election and to blossom finally into the unnatural union that we see before us today.

I remind the House that that cosiness went so far during the course of 1991 that the then Deputy Haughey assured Deputy Spring in the House that Deputy Spring was the only one who was allowed to trespass on Deputy Haughey's good nature. Nobody but Deputy Spring was entitled to do that. An interesting project for political historians when we have this famous freedom of information legislation would be to track the development of that cosiness between the Labour Party and Fianna Fáil from 1987 to 1992. One of the kindest things I could say about the Tánaiste's speech yesterday was that much of it was on about the same level as the Taoiseach's.

The tribunal investigated allegations of serious tax evasion by the Goodman companies and found them to be substantiated. One feature of that part of the report is worth reflecting and commenting on in the light of the argument that has raged about the confidentiality of sources used by both journalists and Members of this House. Arguably the most useful information given to the tribunal in its investigation of the tax evasion was that given by Mr. McGuinness who had appeared on the "World in Action" programme in May 1991. That evidence was given publicly first on television and then to the tribunal by a person who was himself directly involved in the activities under investigation.

It is also worth noting that Mr. McGuinness' allegations about tax evasion were fully substantiated. That was an area of the company's policy in which he was directly involved. Allegations he made about matters in which he was not directly involved were either not fully substantiated or not substantiated at all. I make these points because we are going to have a debate quite soon about the confidentiality of sources and we should know what is involved. There is food for thought there for Deputies and others who publicise allegations based on information from sources that cannot be regarded as primary sources, whether those sources come into the light of day or remain under the cloak of anonymity.

Two other aspects of the investigation of tax evasion are worth pausing over. The first is that it was not until the tribunal undertook a persistent examination of the allegations of the malpractices alleged that senior management in the Goodman group finally admitted what had been going on, even though the report makes it abundantly clear that the practices in question were put in place with their full knowledge and at their instigation.

The second is that the checks carried out by the group's auditors which led to their discovery of the malpractice were very simple ones which could have been carried out by the Revenue Commissioners. It seems, in fact, that the first breakthrough by a member of the audit staff was made when he simply went to check the telephone number and the address of one of the firms to which these fictitious payments were pretended to be made according to the records of the company. There is surely a lesson there for the Revenue Commissioners, one that I would like to hear the Government's comments on.

The tribunal found that a series of abuses of EC support schemes had taken place in the beef industry. I do not intend to go through these in any detail but there are some points that it would be useful to look at. It is useful to point out, for example, that all of the information contained in the tribunal report about these abuses was produced and provided by the Department of Agriculture and by the Customs service from the results of investigations which they had carried out or are in progress.

There was a variety of abuses. Some of them were clearly deliberately fraudulent in nature; others were what may be termed inadvertent. It is important that those of us commenting on the report of the tribunal, and drawing lessons, should make that distinction. There is a world of difference, for example, between putting heart meat into cans that should have contained prime quality beef, which is clearly an abuse, and the practice of using continuous wrapping to wrap certain cuts of meat, which is easier to do, and more efficient in the plant that what should be done but that is a technical infringement.

Who is giving out about this?

Although all the pieces of meat are clearly separated, it is not separation which the rules require per se, it is separate wrapping. These abuses range, therefore, from the deliberately fraudulent to the inadvertent and any action taken must take account of this range.

Regarding one of the more lurid allegations, which was found to be totally without foundation, that the Department of Agriculture had conspired to prevent a Commission investigation on the grounds that it was carrying out an investigation itself, it is interesting to note, and very little has been said on this in the course of this debate, that the comment by the EU Commission on the system set up for the review of the 1988 APS scheme reveals that it was a useful approach, one which had not been conditioned by any allegations or, as far as I am aware, by any previous demand from the Commission. However, we should aim for a scheme which gives rise to zero abuses.

There are two more general points which deal with some of the argument as to whether there should have been a tribunal, its cost and so on. The first is that allegations that actions are taken as a result of political closeness are, by their nature, unproveable. Others in this House are far better qualified than I am to comment on this, but it appears to me, considering the matter as a layman and having listened to lawyers over long periods——

It can never be proved.

——that intent can never be proved. Those who felt they needed a tribunal to prove and substantiate these allegations — if that was their mind at the time, and such mens rea cannot be proved either — were naive. The only way intent can be proved is if those accused of intent incriminate themselves. Those, therefore, who wanted this tribunal established to substantiate this political allegation were knaves, fools or naive, or all three.

The second point is that the tribunal came up against the doctrine of Cabinet confidentiality. In this respect, I will make an allegation which I will never be able to prove, but it is properly political. The then Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, who laid the draft terms of reference of this tribunal before the Dáil, knew that at some stage the tribunal, given the nature of the allegations, would come up against the question of Cabinet confidentiality and it is my guess, having known the man for quite some time, that he had a fairly shrewd idea of how that argument would turn out, whether it arose in the tribunal or went to the courts. Given this, I would be astonished to find that I am the only person in the House who took that view. Therefore, a few more people in the House need to explain their mens rea, as it was in 1991, when those terms of reference were passed.

Time sharing between the Minister and his colleague is satisfactory and agreed.

The philosophy at the centre of the debate over the beef industry has been over how the future of nations are built. It has been between the cautious and the visionaries, between those who believe in intellectual abstractions and those who sponsor innovation and competition.

Competition?

The 1987-89 Fianna Fáil Party Government——

The Minister for anti-intellectual Government speaks.

The Minister of State, without interruption. The House should not forget the time factor, especially where Members are sharing time.

The 1987-89 Fianna Fáil Government took action to begin to lead people towards the future for which they had given up so much. We make no apologies, and neither do I, for supporting innovation and innovators.

If the Irish nation is to enjoy the 2lst century, then all Governments must support those who innovate and compete effectively. It is not realistic for Government to be expected to provide all companies in all circumstances with similar support. Those who innovate should get the support. The "me too" followers who copy innovators do not deserve full Government support which innovators deserve. In this respect the export credit debate has been initiated by those fascinated by molehills of envy, rather than the mountains of opportunity.

Ireland has developed as a result of vision and courageous decisions in the past. The development of Ireland for all of our people, wherever they may be, continues to require that vision and courage in the future. The future does not belong to the fainthearted and it never did.

It is important to put the beef export credit decisions into the political and economic context of the time. It is only in the export credit area that the political issues arise. The issues of tax evasion, of bad factory practices, of an industry's standards are all important. However, they are administrative matters for which the State has well established laws and enforcement agencies which should have dealt and must deal with them. These include the Revenue Commissioners, the DPP and the development agencies. It is wrong to draw all these issues into the political arena and to juxtapose such issues with discussion on export credit allocations, which obviously belong in the political arena.

I wish to put export credit allocation decisions into the economic and political context of that time and of that Government. I do so because these decisions can only be fully understood against the backdrop of that period of Government, 1987-89 and onwards, and that Government's economic strategy.

When the Government of the former Taoiseach, Dr. FitzGerald, left office in 1986, the Irish economy was flat, overtaxed, depressed, without business confidence and totally without any spark of development or interest in development taking place. The Fianna Fáil Party — doubtless one will draw jeers for this kind of comment, but it is worth stating — has always enshrined a developmental strategy at the heart of its philosophy, and consistent with this, on coming into office in 1987, we set in motion a series of development strategies across all sectors of the economy.

A development strategy was put in place in financial services. This drive to develop the financial services industry led to the establishment of the International Financial Services Centre, a risk about which many were sceptical. We knew there were substantial risks attached to it, but, to date, some 260 companies have been approved, 1,400 jobs have been created and a further 1,600 expected. These projects have also made a significant contribution to the Exchequer. Allegations of a figure up to £100 million have been wildly used as possible State exposure, not losses, in the beef debate.

To be fair in our assessment of Government risk taking we must now salute the risk taken in our decision to establish the International Financial Services Centre. The 1994 estimate of corporation tax coming to the State from the IFSC this year will be about £100 million.

Similarly in tourism, the Government embarked on a national plan to double tourism numbers. Major infrastructure investments and marketing strategies were commenced including the exciting Temple Bar project, which some people also considered too risky. Four Ministers were appointed to spearhead economic strategies in areas of high potential such as forestry, marketing, science and technology and food.

The growth and orientation of that new Government was captured in the annual report of the IDA for 1987, which stated: "1987 was truly remarkable for the speed and extent of improvement in the business environment in Ireland". The report goes on to say:

within one year of the new Government's accession to office in March 1987, business confidence had been restored as Exchequer borrowing was cut from 13% of GNP in 1986 to 8% in 1988; and costs to industry had been reduced sharply.

These are not the words of some defensive Minister fighting his corner. They are the words of the IDA in its annual report.

Within months of this new confidence, major companies made decisions to accelerate investment in Ireland — Intel, Fruit of the Loom, Motorola, Saehan Media, are but a few examples.

The Taoiseach drove his Ministers to produce development projects in all these areas. Numerous Sunday Cabinet meetings were held to develop concepts, investment programmes and identify ways to stimulate projects and investment. One may be tempted to jeer if I say it was vintage Fianna Fáil at work; identifying projects, putting programmes in place, getting the economy moving again.

In this context the Government decided to accept a development plan put forward by Ireland's largest beef processor. After years of speeches from all sides of this House about the need to develop the food industry, at last a Government, with the first ever Minister for Food, took the sector seriously.

At the end of 1987 the Government's plan for a food and drink development strategy was published. It sought to build an export led competitive and innovative food sector, to change our emphasis from the age old preoccupation with production to a new concentration on marketing and winning export sales. The beef development plan sought to wean us from production quotas, cattle disposals, dairy surpluses, live cattle exports and defensive stagnant ideas like that. It sought to build high added value exports and win customers worldwide. It sought £350 million new exports and 5,000 new jobs over a five year period. It planned to move the industry from a commodity to a value added one, from carcase to pack, from quotas to sales. Such a national policy, without major innovative companies to implement it, would have remained on the shelf and would only be academic.

The Goodman company was, in the opinion of the IDA, of such a scale and capacity that it was logical for it to be in the forefront of this new policy. The great pity for the nation, in many ways, was that this IDA supported Goodman plan did not materialise as envisaged. It is not for me to defend the Goodman group — and I certainly condemn the tax evasion practices referred to in the report——

The Minister is the first person on that side of the House to do so.

——but revisionism must not set in. The company was hailed by all at that time for its work in leading the development of a major industry. It deserved and got the IDA and the Government's full suport, including support with export credit, for no other reason than that of national interest. The tribunal Chairman concluded:

There is no evidence to suggest that his (A. Reynolds) decisions were in any way based on improper motives either political or personal.

The key conclusion is that wrong motives were not ascribed to the Minister in his decisions to develop these key industries.

Ministers are obliged to make decisions and these decisions are on the public record and can be assessed by all. The Taoiseach said the quality of his decision making compares very well with others and I agree with him. He revolutionised our telecommunications industry — his decisions to invest in fibre optic ensured a state of the art network leading to thousands of jobs in data processing and telemarketing. He worked decisively for the development of the Dublin-Cork gas pipeline. His support for small business led to a thriving number of small companies operating today. His drive helped encourage quite a number of multinational firms to invest here. Deputy Reynolds took the risks to secure an end to violence in Northern Ireland and to win world wide support for progress there. The decisions he took on export credit — and I had first hand knowledge of this working with him as his Minister of State during that period — were honestly taken with this same determination to get the job done to build a strong export led beef industry as part of that Government's overall economic revival programme. The report does not indicate anything else.

Why was the Minister misled when he went to Baghdad?

The Minister without interruption.

I have answered enough questions from counsel in the tribunal.

The Minister was lied to. He says he knows everything.

I do not say I know everything and I do not want to be cross examined on the tribunal again. This debate has often been propelled by intemperate language, spurious allegations and, in many cases, improper inneundo, despite the chairman saying there was no case to answer, by the Taoiseach in particular. That type of debate resulted in the establishment of a tribunal which will cost the taxpayer over £35 million. The tribunal found that the allegations made were not supported by the facts. The cost of the tribunal is significant against the losses Government might at worst face in providing export credit insurance. In the light of these facts, the wisdom of establishing the tribunal should be considered before this debate closes, so that we will not repeat these mistakes.

This episode has clearly shown that grave damage can be done when a matter is debated in too narrow a context and dominated by a fevered frenzy of escalating allegations. In such an atmosphere the essential discussion to develop effective national policies between the cautious and the visionaries breaks down.

In future we need to maintain better dialogue between all Members of this House if successful strategies are to be developed by successve Governments.

I thank the Minister for sharing his time with me. Since the beef tribunal report was published, we have witnessed a concerted effort by the Opposition, which has been unworthy of them to say the least. They and their formidable allies in some sections of the media have joined forces with one aim in mind: to bring down Fianna Fáil and the Government. They will, of course, fail as usual. The master plan is a pathetic proposal designed to split the two Government parties culminating in the election of an unholy alliance of Fine Gael, the Progressive Democrats and Democratic Left. The mind boggles.

Recently I had great pleasure addressing the Parnell summer school in County Wicklow. The theme of the seminar was ethics in Irish politics. As part of my contribution I mentioned that I had no objection, as a politician, to being subject to a code of ethics. Most honourable professions are bound by similar obligations. In our case, it is important that we are not seen to be influenced by a conflict of interests in this House.

However, I remarked that media commentators should also declare certain interests, particularly their political allegiance. Many of these people are of the highest professional calibre and integrity. However, it must be said that they are in a powerful position to influence their readers on how they think and vote. I shall return to this point as it is relevant to the debate.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Will the Deputy shoot the messenger?

As I said, it has already been regarded as fair game in certain quarters to have a go at Fianna Fáil by personally attacking its leader of the day, even if it means tearing his character to shreds. This is usually done by innuendo or barefaced lies after the fashion of the late, unlamented Dr. Goebbels — if you throw enough mud, some of it is bound to stick.

To undermine the Taoiseach, the first plan was to accuse him of lining the pockets of an alleged friend and political associate. Since the eminent judge scuttled this plan Mr. Reynolds is now accused of the horrendous crime of not taking advice from civil servants. If this offence is ever enshrined in law, our hard pressed taxpayers will be delighted because we will no longer have to pay Ministers to make decisions about anything. We will not need any Deputies or Senators and corruption and skulduggery will vanish from the land.

If Sean Lemass had taken advice Shannon airport would never have been built. If Donogh O'Malley had taken advice many thousands of our people would never have progressed beyond primary school. If Charles Haughey had taken advice we would have been spared the "squandermania" derived from giving our senior citizens free travel and other benefits which they so richly deserve. Finally, if Albert Reynolds had taken all the advice he received he would have dumped John Hume in the Foyle long ago and we would not be celebrating today what is regarded as the most significant political event in our history since 1922.

I do not believe for a moment that the Taoiseach ever made a decision which he did not sincerely believe was in the national interest. Indeed, I would say that about any Minister of any party over the years. To say otherwise is to suggest that Ireland has spawned Ministers who deliberately set out to sabotage their country for personal or other gain. Many of us may have made mistakes but he who never made a mistake probably never made anything.

The Taoiseach has rightly been acclaimed around the world for his contribution to the peace process and for the skill and persistence which he showed in the period leading up to Wednesday's ceasefire. In the circumstances, many people listened with amazement and disbelief to Deputy John Bruton's contribution yesterday. He said he did not propose to attack the Taoiseach personally and then went on to say that not only was Deputy Reynolds not fit to hold his present office but that he was not fit to hold any office. If this is not a personal attack I do not know what is. Fianna Fáil has had five leaders to date. In the unlikely event of Deputy John Bruton ever achieving a fraction of anything which one of them achieved, then perhaps someone somewhere might actually pay some attention to what he might say.

Mr. Justice Hamilton rightly consigned the corruption allegations to where they belong. We are now down to charges of incompetence and poor judgment. The Taoiseach was very competent indeed when he reminded us of the great incompetence of a Government of which Deputy John Bruton was a member when he flung hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money down the drain. Do you remember the day when they abandoned all the Irish ships and crews in foreign ports? I challenge Deputy John Bruton to defend in detail the actions of his party in relation to these matters. Perhaps we should set up a tribunal to determine who exactly was responsible for such a criminal waste of money.

The Opposition parties were dancing with joy recently on reading the results of a so-called opinion poll in The Irish Times. I say “so-called” because I do not think that I have ever seen a poll which was so flawed in the manner it was conducted. There were questions on the tribunal which were clearly designed to produce a predetermined result.

Another question produced a response which invalidated all the other answers as far as the tribunal was concerned, 70 per cent of the respondents said that the public had not been properly informed about the tribunal report. I suspect that the remaining 30 per cent were equally uninformed. Yet, the headline in The Irish Times which accompanied the poll results loudly proclaimed that a sizeable majority of the public had given the thumbs down to the Taoiseach. This, despite the fact that a huge majority acknowledged that they were not sufficiently aware of what was in the report. MRBI is a reputable firm but it slipped up badly on this occasion and The Irish Times was a little mischievous in the manner in which the poll was reported.

I mentioned at the outset the influence exerted by political commentators. In the opinion section of the same issue of The Irish Times which published the poll results, the page was dominated by such impartial correspondents as Dr. Garret FitzGerald and Mr. Dick Walsh. The political credentials of the former are well known. Those of the latter are less so. However, Mr. Walsh told a friend of mine some years ago that he was reared with a siege mentality in a Fine Gael household surrounded by de Valera's supporters — shades of the Alamo. These two highly impartial writers were charged with the responsibility of informing the self confessed 70 per cent who missed out on Mr. Justice Hamilton's report.

Mr. Larry Goodman has been described by some people in terms which would make Count Dracula tremble. He is the head of a very large organisation which played an enormous part in the development of an industry which employs many thousands of people, directly and indirectly. Whether he can be held responsible for every action of every employee is a moot point with which I am not qualified to deal.

However, it is worth remembering that not many years ago the great majority of Irish cattle left this country on the hoof, thereby passing all added value and employment to foreigners. The beef processing industry was primitive in comparison to today. Larry Goodman probably did more than any other individual to put Irish beef directly on the food shelves of Europe and elsewhere. I am not personally acquainted with Mr. Goodman so I have no interest to declare, vested or otherwise but I strongly believe in giving credit where it is due. Before we pull a man down we should be sure that we can replace him with someone better.

I partake in this debate as a spokesperson for the Green Party during a very unusual session of Dáil Éireann. The very welcome ceasefire of the IRA met with understandable comments about not being too euphoric and thankful to the IRA given the mayhem, bloodshed and suffering which still continues in spite of that ceasefire. I agree with that sentiment. The suffering and wrongdoing must be borne in mind.

However, in this debate on the beef tribunal report, we heard from the Government benches how Fianna Fáil and Labour have learned lessons, are on the road to recovery, have taken stock of what the tribunal brought up and will embark on a new path. That is also welcome and one hopes it will come to pass. It is, however, important to ensure these lessons are well learnt and that mistakes are not made again. In so doing I will address the beef tribunal as critically as necessary.

As Mr. Martyn Turner, cartoonist for The Irish Times, observed on 31 August, this debate on the report is full of “serious resignation issues”. Predictably, he says that a current or former member of the Cabinet will not resign; it is the public who are resigned to the inevitable whitewash which this debate has been designed by the Government to be.

Instead of the Taoiseach being questioned, two Ministers, Deputy McCreevy and Deputy Cowen, have been sent to the media to bat for the boss. When asked on one radio programme how Opposition questions would be answered in the absence of a question and answer session, Deputy McCreevy feebly fought to reassure us that Government speakers would try to work answers into their speeches.

If this happens it will be the first time in my experience in this House. I often asked questions in debates on Bills and for other special reasons and did not receive answers in the Minister's speech. Usually the Minister's speech is reassuring, designed to allow him or her to run for cover and not to face the awkward questions put by the Opposition.

Given this is the tradition it is beyond me to understand why we could not at least, by way of compromise, have had a list of questions invited from Opposition spokespersons which could have been answered in a methodical and matter of fact form when the Taoiseach or the Minister who was to reply could address in summing up the debate. However, that was not possible.

This is the ultimate example of running for cover without addressing the issues in question, not to mention failing to give a practical response. Is it not ironic that the basic reason identified for this tribunal was the lack of answers, bad answers and answers which left too much to the imagination of the public, leading to the allegations which culminated in the tribunal? Hence the whole debate over these three days does not offer reassurance. Instead it allows evasion — of blame, of accountability, of cross-examination, of speedy changes in law and of justice.

Immaculately prepared scripts have been handed out by Ministers using the resources at their disposal. The one deserving most attention is that by the Taoiseach. In it, a number of sweeping statements were made, some referring to the report and some deductions of what the report contained, made from the Taoiseach's point of view.

The Taoiseach quotes the report as saying there was no way his decisions were based on improper motives, political or personal. That statement can be made now because a court case was taken to protect Cabinet confidentiality. We are not able to obtain a considerable amount of what would have been sought as evidence, so the Taoiseach made the statement without bearing in mind the circumstances in which he is making it.

He further quotes from the report: "There is no evidence to suggest that either the Taoiseach at the time or the Minister for Industry and Commerce at the time was personally close to Mr. Goodman".

Cabinet confidentiality means we cannot know if this matter arose in Cabinet and we can neither reassure ourselves nor deny it. If a Minister can say categorically that this was not discussed at Cabinet it would be reassuring and legal to produce evidence to back that statement. For all we know, the Taoiseach in his then role as Minister could have spoken to Cabinet about the debt of Fianna Fáil and the importance of making friends with people who had money to spare. How can we know and how can we deny it?

The Taoiseach later says baseless attacks have been made on other people's integrity without proper evidence, which represent a lowering of standards in public life. At least Members of this House can defend themselves, with the benefit of media attention. However, it has been said that civil servants' advice was not taken because of the suspect judgment used but civil servants are not allowed to redress the slur that their judgments were not sound.

The timing of Ms Susan O'Keeffe's impending arrest will either intentionally or unintentionally dissuade a number of civil servants from speaking out, although they may have felt they should publicly state their views on the matter. They can see what happened to a journalist who courageously tried to defend something which has been often mentioned here but rarely defined; namely, the national interest.

The Taoiseach makes the proud statement that the integrity of the Fianna Fáil Administration has been investigated in extraordinary depth by the beef tribunal and has not been found wanting. Again it is possible to do this because of the Supreme Court judgment which, unfortunately for those making these claims, was not a unanimous verdict.

It is interesting to note what Mr. Justice O'Hanlon said at the time of the judgment on Cabinet confidentiality. He suggested that if a Government came to power with the sole purpose of enriching its members at the expense of the public purse, the Attorney General's action on Cabinet confidentiality would ensure this corruption could not be exposed. We have to live with the doubt this judgment has produced, as neither I in Opposition nor Government Ministers, by virtue of this Supreme Court ruling, can assure us one way or the other. We are left in this unsatisfactory limbo.

The Taoiseach later states that the accusers have failed emphatically in their principal objective, that of proving political corruption. The question which again arises is how are we to know this. How are we to know the conversation did not suggest that the Government was a minority Government over £3 million in debt, that there could be an election any minute, that the Government had been beaten on a number of occasions in the Dáil and would have to prepare for the next election? This is all covered up by Cabinet confidentiality.

The Green McCarthyite on hallucinatory drugs.

A change in the law would be far more useful than a comment like that. The Taoiseach said the tribunal will ultimately cost the State between £35 and £45 million. I agree that the salary scales of a number of the legal representatives was in stark contrast to the level of income of most people and there is a gross risk for society borne out by that salary scale. I am surprised that the Taoiseach has not measured the inclusion of tax returns, PRSI and PAYE paid by the barristers or the staff working for them for the long duration of the tribunal, not to mention the revenue which is to accrue to the State from Mr. Goodman on foot of various tax charges. If that were done the estimate certainly would not be around £35 or £45 million. This looks very much like a case of misleading the Dáil into accepting a figure which has no basis in reality. If we were to look at the tax returns to see the reality, the Taoiseach would be found to have misled the Dáil.

The Taoiseach singled out Deputy Rabbitte for criticism. He said that no strained interpretation of the report's words was needed by him or anyone else to see that Deputy Rabbitte's allegations were considered damaging and wasteful. However, from what I have read in the report, it appears that Deputy Rabbitte's allegations led to the collection of a considerable amount of outstanding revenue which is of benefit to the Government in operating the finances of the State.

That public servants were under a cloud was also adverted to by the Taoiseach. This and the arrest of Susan O'Keeffe, the Irish journalist in Manchester might dissuade civil servants from speaking out and dispersing that cloud of innuendo and suspicion for fear of being slammed in jail under the law as it stands. The Taoiseach said that Ireland had an oversupply of hindsight decision makers. Unfortunately, we cannot be 100 per cent informed given that the law prevents us knowing all the relevant information in assessing the situation.

The Taoiseach gave his view of democracy when he said that elected politicians bear the responsibility for taking decisions, that civil servants advise but Ministers ultimately decide. However, a very limited view of democracy is at work if that is what the Taoiseach thinks. To me and to my Green Party colleagues democracy is about empowering people to take decisions and to be responsible in their own lives. It is not about taking power from people whether civil servants or elected politicians. Democracy is about making decisions at the lowest effective level and not behind closed doors at a level removed from the population at large. The simplification of democracy is again borne out when the Taoiseach asks if the people want political leadership or bureaucracy. It seems we are being presented with two choices. Had the Taoiseach adopted that approach in the search for peace in the North we would have an impasse. The view in the North seems to be that the choice is a united Ireland or remaining a fully integrated part of the United Kingdom — no other option was mentioned. We must have the maturity to look beyond the foreboding choice between bureaucracy and what amounts to government by diktat. We need freedom of information so that we will know why decisions are taken by political leaders. Until we know that there will be no change in the system and we are likely to see a repeat of the tribunal exercise to get the facts.

The national interest has been mentioned a couple of times in this debate and I am still waiting for a definitive explanation of that. Adolf Hitler had one definition of what the national interest was and I hope nobody in Government is likely to adopt that. The Taoiseach said all his decisions were made in the national interest and not for any corrupt or improper motives. I have often heard it said that Fianna Fáil regards itself as a national movement. I wonder if it equates the national interest with the prosperity and success of Fianna Fáil in which case the national interest could excuse quite a considerable amount of profiteering.

The Taoiseach spoke about the cost of the tribunal which is understandable except that he has overestimated the final cost. He also said: "Of course the Goodman claim against the State is still there but I cannot understand those who insist on inflating the value of that claim". The millions of pounds being claimed by Mr. Goodman's organisation against the State sounds worthy of far more serious consideration than being dismissed as being "still there" as if it is of no consequence. That will be the real nub of the expense in regard to this tribunal. That factor must be dealt with and not dismissed, as it has been by the Taoiseach in his speech.

The late Senator and poet, William Butler Yeats, seemed to have in mind a position similar to that in which we find ourselves in this debate, in his poem coincidentally titled September 1913. Who can say he did not have a premonition of this Government's response to the Report of the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Processing Industry when he wrote: “What need you being come to serve, But fumble in a greasy till. And add the ha'pence to the pence, and prayer to shivering prayer, until you have dried the marrow from the bone”. Whatever about Yeats being able to pre-empt such an expose of mismanagement, irresponsibility and deceit, not just in matters relating to beef but in the whole workings of Government, the founder of Fianna Fáil, Éamon de Valera would surely have felt totally betrayed by the Fianna Fáil of today and by what is referred to in the report. The founding principles of Fianna Fáil have been discarded like the offal from a boning factory.

Those founding principles of Fianna Fáil would have much more in common now with the seven principles of the Green Party, Comhaontas Glas, than with the present Fianna Fáil. I assume that Fianna Fáil still has principles — Deputy McDaid mentioned a code of ethics for politicians — and I ask Ministers to please outline these principles. If a member of the public wished to become a member of Fianna Fáil what principles would they be asked to abide by? I hope that question will be answered because it is of general interest to the public. Perhaps the Minister opposite or the Taoiseach will answer it.

Exactly 50 years ago this month Eamon de Valera stressed the importance from a national and social point of view of the maintenance on the land in economic security of as many families as might be practicable. That was an important objective for Fianna Fáil at that time. In 1994 there is a reversal in the trend of people living on the land, with the associated problems of crime in the city, overcrowding and suburban sprawl, which includes land rezoning in County Dublin. Fifty years later we see a completely different party under Deputy Albert Reynolds, but still called Fianna Fáil. The present Fianna Fáil is no longer the champion of the small to medium-sized farmer; it is the champion of multinationals, of those who are wiping out vibrant rural communities, buying local co-operatives, forcing people to leave the land and emigrate or crowd into this and other cities.

This is not a report on an agricultural inquiry in isolation. It is a mirror for anyone with vision to see where this country is being led. Having read much of the report and listened to a number of the contributions, it seems that for Labour and Fianna Fáil anything goes as long as it appears to be right from a public relations viewpoint and as long as those making the statements can keep a straight face. Why were agricultural spokespersons mentioned as the people with key positions? Agriculture is only one small part of this whole debate. The report needs to be considered much more broadly if anything is to be learned from the tribunal.

It is very interesting to note that only one farmers' association had any real input into the tribunal, and it was not the biggest farmers' organisation, or even a large farmers' organisation. It was the United Farmers' Organisation, an organisation that has put much work into serving its members. By comparison with other farming organisations it is almost a voluntary organisation. That body participated very reluctantly, as will be borne out in the transcripts of evidence. Minimal information was made available to the UFA, which is surprising given that it represents farmers who are very interested in the tribunal.

I have heard it said that the members of the United Farmers' Organisation believed that, as is said in polite farming circles, they got the mushroom treatment. They were not welcomed as main players in the tribunal because basically the tribunal was not so much about considering what way agriculture could develop as it was about protecting the backs of those who can afford to have their backs protected, considering the expense involved. Why was the UFA the only farming organisation that took part in the tribunal and why was minimal information made available to it? These questions should be answered by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Deputy Walsh.

The real findings for this assembly relate to how the country is run. What is the national interest? I hope that question will be answered definitively. Indeed, what is the State? That question became quite confused as the tribunal proceeded through the weight of evidence given. What is the role of the State? I hope these questions will be answered even though there is no question and answer session.

It may surprise the Labour Members of this House that those who voted for Labour in 1992 were led to believe they were voting for the movement of Connolly, Larkin and Thomas Johnson, the organisation set up to protect the working class, regardless of whether they were in paid employment, from the unscrupulous barons of industry and agriculture. However, in this Government it is the barons who are getting the best of the support from Labour. The people who put their trust in Labour have sadly seen that trust betrayed. Instead they see the Taoiseach telling Labour to jump and Labour asking how high they should do so.

Government allows us to measure in any instance the accuracy of the seanfhocal, briseann an dúchais trí shuile an chait. It is in the revelations of this tribunal and the response the Government gives to it that we will see what that "dúchas" really is. When one removes the caveat that no evidence has been found, as claimed by the Taoiseach, a broad sweeping statement that does not bear up, the beef tribunal is a profound statement about Irish politics. Irish business and the relationship between them. It is an indicator of the arrogant attitude which both of these sectors of Irish life adopt to the citizens of this country on whom they depend for much of their livelihood. It is an indictment of the sorry way in which once great political parties have betrayed their founders and original principles.

The fault lines in our society are deepening. Current leaders prefer to issue threats and writs to those in the media, to tell blatant lies in the Dáil and to hide under the cloak of Cabinet secrecy — and the promises made during the last election are certainly not in line with the status quo that operates.

May I caution Members? The Deputy may make political allegations but he is borduring on personal imputation. The use of the word "lie" in this House has long been deemed to be disorderly and not acceptable.

I withdraw the word "lie". I listened to what the Ceann Comhairle said this morning when he used that word.

The Tánaiste talks of changes in the legislation relating to the tribunal being made as soon as possible. That is just not good enough —"as soon as possible" has become a political euphemism for continuing to talk until people are no longer interested or until it has left the public consciousness. That does not wash. We now have programme managers and they are supposed to set out timetables for dealing with legislation. It is possible in an emergency, because it has been done before, to have legislation brought before the House and passed very quickly. When it comes to finding out how the Dáil works, it is important to make changes now rather than having to wait until "as soon as possible".

The waste Bill which I have been looking for since I entered this House was first promised to be introduced last Christmas; it was postponed to Easter, then prior to the summer recess and now again it is supposed to be imminent. That is not good enough when it comes to stating the facts of the matter. Much of the responsibility for this sorry state of affairs is rooted in the obsessive search for centralisation, which has overtaken the main political parties and opinion makers in this country. Centralisation has been shown to encourage tighter controls in the hands of fewer people and by doing so raises the spectre of and temptation to corruption. Wealth is created in fewer hands, the environment is degraded by concentrated areas of pollution, people are thrown out of work on the grounds of so called rationalisation. I do not think the Government would admit that this is the agenda but when one looks at the facts it is hard to see otherwise.

The opening of TEAM Aer Lingus was greeted with euphoria — the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, Deputy Cowen had not yet been appointed Minister — and was seen as heralding the brave new world. The TEAM building at the roundabout on the approach to Dublin Airport symbolised Dublin North turning the corner to prosperity. The bubble has burst. Unfortunately the building, if it does not become operational again, will be a constant reminder of the failure of Government policy to forecast events and work in line with it. The wash bav was turned into an extra hangar such was the optimism about the level of business. As I know from local knowledge it could more usefully have remained a wash bay.

Almost every Bill introduced in the Dáil gives the Minister more power for which he is less and less accountable, given that spin doctors and programme managers make decisions together with the elected representatives. When this technique is applied to the beef tribunal it is euphemistically called "selecting winners". Are these the criteria still in operation? Has the broken-up or broken-down IDA been informed of a change in criteria? The public deserves not just a verbal response but deserves to see the implementation of policy changes in view of the lessons learned.

Almost every speaker. Government and Opposition referred to the very disturbing fact that other countries, particularly Britain, have had to make television programmes that highlight injustices in this country. The Granada television programme which prompted the setting up of this tribunal was not the only one. There is a pattern and it has been shown once again by the programme on blooding rabbits, the abuse of wildlife such as badger baiting. All of these television programmes were made by investigative journalists working outside Ireland. It is a worrying trend that Irish investigative journalists are not making programmes that rock the boat. I appreciate that charges were brought in the case of the blooding of rabbits which is some indication of a response to the television programme, but there is no general investigation unless it is completely covert and is subject to Cabinet confidentiality. It was simply a stop gap to try to calm public concern in the hope that public opinion would move on.

I question the involvement of senior politicians in making decisions that do not rock the boat and I fear that we will continue on as we are in spite of the injustices shown up by the media. The discussion on the cost of the tribunal is designed to throw the public off the scent by highlighting the expense of looking deeply into our affairs. If we had proper reform in the Dáil to allow proper questioning and answering we would not need it. RTE must look into its own heart to see if it can fan the flames of courage before it merely becomes a Government propaganda machine and a training ground for future Government apparatchiks. Certainly one of these apparatchiks has helped his former RTE colleagues and other areas of media reportage to dig themselves into a hole of compliant endorsement by their unquestioning parroting of the Taoiseach's attempt at whitewash before his partners in Government had even read the report. Such was the break for sainthood that one wonders whether the Taoiseach had read it.

Having listened to many of the contradictory statements issued since by Members of this two sets of backbenchers opposite I wonder how many of them have read the full report. It is not an easy report to read. I appeal to the genuine investigative reporters in print, audio and visual media to rediscover their vocation and serve the long term interest of their readers, listeners and viewers by resisting the many pressures being imposed on them by this Government and its supporters in the golden circle.

It was very sad to hear of the death of Kevin O'Kelly and it was ironic that he died on the eve of this debate given that he could identify with the strangulation of journalistic talents having regard to his involvement with the law. I remember Kevin O'Kelly in particular for his religious programmes and for his broadcasts at the time of the Apollo space programme in 1969 and before and after that time. There is no doubt that for many people he was somewhat of a folk hero in broadcasting terms due to his reporting on the historic Apollo space programme. It was probably the nearest we ever got to having an Irish person involved with the space programme. That is in stark contrast to his treatment under the legal system which is a sad indictment of the type of Government which unfortunately still obtains today.

A healthy democracy displays a lively tension between the rulers and the ordinary citizen. The Green Party, An Comhaontas Glas, realises that the media in Ireland is subjected to sustained attacks worthy of Goebbels — this is not the first time Goebbels has been mentioned in this debate, in fact he was mentioned by a Government Minister — orchestrated by people in power here. The huge burden of rates and VAT undermines the financial base of the print media as does the writs and threats which create a climate of fear and, when all else fails, the warrant for arrest of one of the people most courageously responsible for the expose on how things are done here.

The media is definitely under threat and is being choked by Government paranoia. I hope the Government realises what will be the result of this consistent policy. The end of the road is easy to see if people look further afield than Ireland. The British media is making great inroads into Ireland, particularly in the print media at the expense of Irish newspapers. It will replace Irish newspapers if the policy continues of leaning on the media to prevent any full debate on matters relating to Government or to the way the State operates. As a forest that has been cut down is replaced by ragwort it will be replaced by the low standards of media practices that operate in Britain. The Government is not doing itself any favours by allowing the Irish media to be destroyed while the British media take advantage of that policy.

We need to change the law in a number of areas. Other Deputies have referred to this. We need immediate change in the Official Secrets Act and laws on defamation and freedom of information. Unfortunately, the rot has set in and it will not disappear until these changes are made.

The Green Party, An Comhaontas Glas, calls on Government parties to indicate immediately their willingness to introduce legislation to protect a journalist's right not to reveal his or her source of information. If the Government is serious about acting on the findings in this report, legislation to this effect should be passed in this emergency sitting of the Dáil. If this is not done we and the people can assume that talk of enacting the tribunal's recommendations, the good intentions regarding Bills for freedom of information and all the promises of accountability are merely pious aspirations. By the time they come, the darkness of Cabinet confidentiality, self censorship, fear and intimidation will be too thick for the light to penetrate.

I am not asking for anything unreasonable. We only have to go back a couple of years to see examples of needs being met when they were identified — by the Government of course. In 1990, when Mr. Goodman and his banking and financial supporters were about to lose control and money, the Fianna Fáil led Government of the day, without any problem, stepped in and recalled the Dáil to bail out both camps because of a perceived urgent need. If the Government feels this matter is urgent, I do not see why the same cannot be done in 1994 with the publication of the beef tribunal report.

In 1993, we had a scandalous example of the Government using its power when a group of ordinary citizens, who won their case against the Office of Public Works, caused the Fianna Fáil led Government and its Labour lackeys to ram legislation through the Dáil to protect them from that court decision. That was an abuse of power and it is grossly unfair that a group of ordinary citizens who put their money on the line are still paying and will continue to pay for their courage in challenging the State. What about their costs? The tribunal costs were awarded at the expense of taxpayers and, according to the tribunal, there is justification for that. That is a matter for the court but it is in stark contrast to costs not being awarded to members of the Burren Action Group who, not for personal gain but simply because they felt their community and the areas they were living in were under threat from an unthinking Government policy as implemented by the Office of Public Works, have been left carrying the financial can for their courage in taking court action. They are not being bailed out.

The tribunal report substantially supports most of the results of Susan O'Keeffe's research. Surely it is not necessary to know the sources of the information other than to know whether it is true. Under British law, Susan O'Keeffe would not have been arrested. Indeed, in the USA the arrest of Susan O'Keeffe would have been a gross infringement of the freedom the press enjoys. I wonder will the Tánaiste raise that matter with President Clinton — I doubt it. The public has a right to know the truth; the press has a right to print the truth and the Government has a duty to ensure that investigative journalism continues, a duty sadly neglected by this Fianna Fáil-Labour Government.

The investigation of land rezonings is another example of the Government's unwillingness to uncover scandal. This Government has been unexpectedly presented with a last opportunity to drag itself out of the mire of sleaze and distrust into which it has sunk. When the rezoning allegations were made gardai were appointed to carry out an investigation but there was no immunity for witnesses and no co-operation that would elicit the evidence required. It was simply a frustrated exercise and naturally the witnesses and the evidence dried up as soon as there was any indication that charges could be pressed.

Unless the Government seizes this opportunity, the motion before us today will be proven to be just another cynical exercise and no amount of public relations rhetoric by the Minister, Deputy Eithne Fitzgerald, at the let in the light conference will disguise the fact that she and her Government partners are quite content to dance in the shadows. Those shadows are created by the flames leaping around the person who is to be martyred in this charade, Susan O'Keeffe. I beg the Government to drop the prosecution of this journalist for doing an honest day's work and a beneficial job for the country while others are getting away scot free. It is humiliating for the country. In spite of her talent she is forced to work in Manchester and as if that is not difficult enough she must face the wrath of Irish law. I beg the Government to take urgent action on the matter.

The original allegations made in the Dáil were a mixture of incompetence and sharp practice on one side and political and personal favouritism on the other. The tribunal found that the balance of the tone of the allegations and the substance thereof is more on the side of incompetence and fraud rather than an political and personal favouritism. That many Members on the Government benches are pleased with that balance merely shows us that as in “Animal Farm” those who should be protecting the ordinary person have now become the same as the people we need protection from. It is time once more for the ordinary citizen to reclaim this country from the circle of sleaze.

Was there a follow up of the evidence given regarding the production of beef according to Islamic ritual? The conditions are laid down in the report. The beef must be from male cattle not older than three years. There must be less than 100 days from kill to delivery and the animal must be killed according to Islamic rite with full bleeding. I am not an expert on bovine anatomy but it is surprising that the report did not include the evidence concerning such cruelty as bashing out the teeth of cattle to make them appear younger than they were. I wonder is that what we call the national interest. How far do we go to turn a quick buck? Will we have ethical standards? Will we force people to be accountable for the cruelty and the crimes that came to light in the tribunal?

Is the Deputy blaming the Taoiseach for that?

I hope the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, Deputy Cowen, will ask RTE to seek apologies from Mr. Goodman for the statements RTE carried on the basis of false assurances and statements from Mr. Goodman. I hope the Minister, Deputy Walsh, backs up his assertions on improved monitoring and inspections at meat plants by providing facts and figures for the last ten years and states whether other areas of monitoring and inspection are being neglected. Why was the UFA the only association representing farmers at the tribunal?

I wish to address my final comments in this debate not to the Ceann Comhairle, though his venerable office has shown itself to be in need of advice particularly in the way it acted coming up to the creation of the tribunal, nor to those who form the Government of this beautiful country. I do not even wish to use the occasion directly to address the Taoiseach whose judgment and political priorities did so much to make the tribunal necessary.

Will the Deputy address ET?

I would address the Taoiseach if he were present.

The Deputy, without interruption.

The Taoiseach fulfils a second role in addition to his role in this House, that is as Leader of Fianna Fáil — a party which in terms of electoral support is back to where it started in 1927. In the meantime the population has done two unique things; it has declined in number and what remains of it has become even more concentrated in the city of Dublin at great social, environmental and economic cost. Fianna Fáil has had its day and in this debate we have glimpsed how that was forged and executed. It is a dying party and that is a good thing. Change and growth in human development is as necessary for the well-being of a healthy, organic democracy as it is in the intimacy of each of our lives.

At least we are organic.

Is the kind of carry on that was investigated by the tribunal likely to be a model for the means by which such a densely populated planet might hope to feed its human population without destroying anything that makes life as we know it worthwhile?

Would the former secretary of the Green Party agree with that?

We are a small, fertile, beautiful country with enormous potential but we have been stuck in a rut of party politics, growth, economics and factionalism. I am but one Deputy. However, I represent the tip of an iceberg that has formed in the waters of society. Knowing that to be the case, I appeal directly to the voters and citizens of Ireland. Our present lies exposed around. Our destiny lies before us. You whose responsibility it is to mould and shape the character and style of this Assembly, your opportunity is coming probably more quickly than you imagine. For your own sakes and for the sake of a decent, humane and habitable world, seize that opportunity and, in the wake of all you have heard in this debate and in the exchanges that preceded it, vote this rotten Government out.

Comparisons on the historic significance of this debate have been made with the arms trial of 1970 and as far as the charges against Deputy Reynolds are concerned they are valid. However, the historical setting of this debate is more reminiscent of the Treaty debate in the autumn of 1921 where it was those who rejected the interpretation by the Dáil majority of what the Treaty represented, namely the prototype Fianna Fáil Party under Mr. de Valera, who eventually came to mould and shape the character of public life in this State through their exercise of the responsibility of Government for a generation commencing in 1932.

Similarly it is those who reject the interpretation of this equally profound reflection on the administration of our public life who will shape the mould and character of how the duties of Government are exercised in this State in the lifetime of the present generation. Nobody rejects the corrupt and materially self-serving practices set out in this report more radically than do the Green Party. From the protection of self-declared infallibility by Government Ministers by the operation of the anti-democratic whip system——

The Deputy has a whip system in the city council.

——to the willingness to offer preferential terms of trade to barbarous regimes, to the encouragement and support for monopolistic business practices, to the ethics of pastural meat production in a hungry world——

The Deputy accused us of factionalism.

——the Green Party espouses a radical, coherent and humane alternative.

(Interruptions.)

The Deputy should be in the Green Party.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Ahern. The contribution we have just heard shows that many in the Opposition hoped the beef tribunal inquiry and the tenor of the allegations made would afford them an opportunity to try to reinforce a stereotype of what my party represents, to denigrate the contribution we have made and allow them call us corrupt and make serious allegations stick. This they have not succeeded in doing, much to their chagrin. We still hear the same old tried comments from people, some of whom, thankfully, seem to be near the end of their careers.

Few people believe that the longest running tribunal of inquiry in the history of the State was required to investigate whether certain criminal convictions, which were a matter of public record, has occurred, whether beef exports were sub-standard or whether a specific lorry load of beef was part of an export refunds scam — the so-called carousel of Deputy Rabbitte's imagination. Issues such as whether beef exports to Iraq were from intervention stock or commercial beef and whether beef declared for export credit insurance was eligible under the scheme, and which issue will ultimately have to be decided by the courts anyhow, hardly required the expenditure of a sum we are now told will be in the region of £35 million. Issues such as these were not the raison d'être for the tribunal. All of them, many other issues which occupied so much of the tribunal's time and cost so much of the taxpayers' money, were and are matters properly to be investigated by the appropriate State authorities. If a crime is committed, it is for the Garda to investigate, if a cross-Border export scam is going on, it is for the Customs Service to detect and if beef exports are substandard, it is for the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry to take the necessary action.

Of course, many of the allegations were of incompetence or inefficiency by the same State authorities. Months and millions were spent at the tribunal with allegations of under-staffing, slipshod procedures and downright neglect. However, even allegations of this type did not, and do not, justify holding a tribunal of inquiry.

Tribunals of inquiry are established and conducted under the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921, and the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) (Amendment) Act, 1979. A tribunal is established when both Houses of the Oireachtas resolve that, as is stated in section 1 of the 1921 Act. "it is expendient that a Tribunal be established for inquiry into a definite matter described in the Resolution as a matter of urgent public importance."

The working of the 1921 Act, the pre-independence Act, as the subject of a Royal Commission established in Britain in 1966 and chaired by a judge of the Court of Appeal, Baron Salmon. The Salmon Industrial Commission carried out a very extensive review of how the Act had worked in Britain. It stated that in some instances where a tribunal of inquiry was established the type of investigation undertaken could have been carried out satisfactorily under other Acts. For example, the commission referred to the inquiry into the loss of a submarine which could have been investigated equally satisfactorily under the Shipping Casualties and Appeals and Rehearing Rules, 1923. It also found that some of the issues which had give rise to tribunals of inquiry were "minor local" issues which were "certainly... not of such public importance as to require the exceptional procedure" laid down under the 1921 Act. However, the commission concluded that there are from time to time "exceptional cases" which do justify the "exceptional inquisitoral powers conferred upon a Tribunal of Inquiry under the Act of 1921". However, having regard to those "exceptional inquisitorial powers", and to the risk to the citizen of having his private life uncovered and of having baseless allegations made against him, it went on to say: "the Act of 1921 should never be used for matters of local or minor public importance but (should) always be confined to matters of vital public importance concerning which there is something of a nationwide crisis of confidence."

Some would have us believe that there was a nationwide crisis of confidence in May 1991 when the beef tribunal was established. What lay behind that crisis was not the persistent and at times legitimate questioning of aspects of the beef industry by many Deputies but rather the most grave and serious allegations by a handful of Deputies of corruption and impropriety in the relations between the then Government and one beef processor, Larry Goodman. Two Deputies in particular had masterminded and made those allegations — Deputies O'Malley and Rabbitte.

What about Dick?

He was sorry afterwards.

Then came the "World in Action" programme which brought those allegations onto the centre stage, not only in this jurisdiction but throughout these islands.

To read media comments on the tribunal report one could be forgiven for believing that the reason we had a tribunal in the first place was to investigate whether the then Minister for Industry and Commerce knew, or ought to have known, that beef exports to Iraq were ex-intervention stock and not commercial beef, whether the Government of the day erred in law in directing the IDA to alter a clause in the Goodman plan and whether there was a lack of communication between Government Departments or State agencies such as the Garda and the Custom Service. The goal posts have been moved as a result of the tribunal's findings and the substantial and grave allegations which necessitated the tribunal are now being disowned by their makers and ignored by sections of the media.

When I listened to Deputy O'Malley yesterday I wondered whether I had totally misunderstood the thrust of his allegations. Unfortunately for him and his current efforts to distance himself from his original claims, now repudiated, the record is clear. Deputy O'Malley did not confine himself to making allegations against Mr. Goodman or his company, nor to criticism of the effects of the policy as regards export credit insurance in 1987 and 1988. He specifically alleged that the provision of export credit insurance on the sale of beef to Iraq in 1987 and 1988 "constituted a substantial abuse amounting to a fraud on the taxpayer". He specifically alleged that the granting of that cover "was an act of blatant favouritism" having the effect "of strengthening further the position of Goodman (to whom members of the Government were extremely personally close)."

Deputy O'Malley now maintains that, in alleging blatant favouritism to the benefit of a person to whom members of the Government were extremely personally close, he never meant to suggest that anything improper or corrupt was involved. Of course, Deputy O'Malley is well known to all of us for the Christian way he deals with perceived flaws in political opponents and as one never automatically jumps to the worst conclusion.

If Deputy O'Malley is correct — that in making these allegations he never meant to impugn the character of the Minister who made "the provision of export credit insurance which he described as constituting "substantial abuse amounting to a fraud on the tax payer"— does it not follow that he does not believe it would be grossly immoral and improper for a Minister to do something amounting to such a fraud? If Deputy O'Malley is right — that in alleging "blatant favouritism" by Ministers to benefit a person to whom those Ministers were extremely personally close he was not impugning those Ministers' integrity — does it not follow that he sees nothing wrong in such behaviour? It is unusual to see him in retreat from any outcrop of the high moral ground. Deputy O'Malley asking us to place a charitable interpretation on what he meant by those allegations is akin to a rattlesnake urging that its sting was not meant to be venomous.

Of course, the reason he is now backtracking is that the tribunal utterly and unequivocally rejected his allegations of "closeness" between Government Ministers and Mr. Goodman and of political corruption and impropriety. Yet these were precisely the type of allegations which necessitated the establishment of the tribunal in the first place. Deputy O'Malley now maintains that the tribunal was necessary to, for example, establish that his allegation that non-Irish sourced beef was correct. Yet when the tribunal was established he already had in the Department in which he was Minister the findings of an internal departmental consultancy unit which had clearly established the source of the beef. The source of the beef was no longer in dispute: as I understand it, the source of the beef was admitted by AIBPI — by then it could hardly be denied — and the real issue was whether AIBPI's inclusion of non-Irish sourced beef entitled the State to void the export credit insurance policies.

Deputy O'Malley built a political career based not on achievements on his own part but on traducing his opponents and betraying his colleagues. Having transformed his talent for character assassination and personal scalp-hunting into an entire political party he finally targeted one victim too many.

Every time the Minister starts——

I refer to the Taoiseach whose political corpse——

Every time you start——

The Deputy will have a chance to contribute.

The Minister without interruption.

I refer to the Taoiseach whose political corpse was to be beneath the next headstone in the graveyard of those brave enough to refuse to worship at Deputy O'Malley's high altar of hypocritical, moral rectitude or who were foolish enough not to respond to his importuning for political funding.

Shame. Talk about the tribunal.

Excuse me, I am talking about the tribunal.

The Minister, please, without interruption.

I will repeat the sentence in case it was not picked up for the record. I refer to the Taoiseach whose political corpse was to be beneath the next headstone in the graveyard of those brave enough to refuse to worship at Deputy O'Malley's high altar of hypocritical, moral rectitude or who were foolish enough not to respond to his importuning for political funding. I stand over that remark. Of course, the real verdict on Deputy O'Malley was passed by the people of Munster in June last. No doubt he will linger on a little longer, drawing the pension he once disavowed, and seeking the directorships he imagines he deserves, perhaps still endeavouring to poison the rest of us now that his sting has been drawn.

Deputy Rabbitte's allegations of political impropriety fared no better. With regard to all allegations whereby the Taoiseach's character and motives were impugned, he has been entirely exonerated. One might have thought that would have been the end of the matter but, unfortunately, it is not. We heard Deputy Sargent earlier continue to say that the caveat that no evidence was brought forward still meant there was some doubt in relation to the matter.

What about Cabinet confidentiality?

If Deputy Sargent wants to read the tribunal report on the matter of Cabinet confidentiality — I presume the Deputy believes in the separation of powers under our Constitution — Chief Justice Finlay in the Supreme Court decided that Cabinet confidentiality goes to the fundamental machinery of Government. Of course, what is involved in Cabinet confidentiality is not the decisions or the documentary evidence pertaining to those decisions but the discussions leading up to those decisions. That is a matter which has been adjudicated on by our courts whom I respect. If Deputy Sargent has a problem with that he should take it up with somebody else. but those are the facts of the matter.

That is the Minister's problem, not mine.

In relation to export credit insurance, Chapter Six, page 234 the tribunal states clearly:

The basis for these decisions was that they were in the "national interest" and the determination of the requirements of the national interest in these matters. In relation to the raising of ceilings for export credit insurance cover that is a matter for the Government.

The question of the allocation of export credit insurance cover within those ceilings is a matter for the Minister for Industry and Commerce of the day. Those are the people who decide; that has been accepted by the sole member of the tribunal; that is the position. If the Deputy wants to go behind the findings of the tribunal, to the millions of pages involved in the overall assessment which the sole member of the tribunal has properly undertaken, that is up to him. But I take what is read; I take what is said. If somebody is exonerated and vindicated, so be it.

Deputy Sargent throughout his contribution posed the question: what is the national interest? The determination of the requirements of the national interest in these matters, in relation to the raising of the ceilings, is a matter for Government and their allocation a matter for the Minister for Industry and Commerce of the day. Deputy Sargent may disagree with that assessment, he may disagree with decisions taken. That is fine, that is called democracy; he will not go to jail for it. But the actual determination of these matters, as stated by the sole member of the tribunal, as I have outlined it, is contained in the report in black and white; that is the position. If the Deputy wants to go into the findings of the tribunal or engage in some other weird debate about them, that is fine but those are the facts and realities.

The tribunal was impeded.

Another issue which has arisen in which the public might have some interest in relation to the overall investigation is in respect of the IDA grant, the whole part of the plan for the food industry. Here I will put the findings of the tribunal on the record:

(i) the Five Year Development Plan 1987-1992 in respect of its Beef operations in Ireland was produced by Goodman International Limited at the request of the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) and with its encouragement and there has not been established any basis for the allegation that "the Authority" did not and were not able to properly assess and evaluate the merits of the plan;

(ii) the concept inherent in the plan had the full support of the IDA as it was in accord with their development policy;

(iii) the plan was also in accordance with the policy of the Government in regard to the development of the food industry and job creation;

The Government had decided to support the plan and encourage and assist in negotiations. These findings are important to show that this development plan originated with the IDA and had their full support and that the then Government only became aware of it when they took up office. That disposes of the suggestion that this plan had been originated by the then Government and was imposed by them on the IDA. The tribunal also found that there was no political pressure on the IDA by the then Government in the support and assistance given by them in the negotiations. Indeed the tribunal also confirmed that the support and assistance given to this plan did not mean that the then Government or the IDA would not support a similar plan from another beef processor. These findings should be fully accepted as demonstrating that the then Government and Ministers concerned acted entirely properly and with objectivity to advance this development plan, already in gestation when they assumed office in 1987, and which held such promise for the growth of the beef industry and for employment within that industry.

When one goes through the evidence given at the time in relation to that issue, the sole member of the tribunal does find that there was an error in law under the 1986 Act in relation to the issues he brings forward at the end of that section of the report. Of course, he also mentions the fact that the 1986 Act, in his view — that is that of the sole member of the tribunal — was "unduly legalistic". Unfortunately, the insinuation being advanced is that the Government knowingly acted in bad faith.

If one looks at the evidence of Mr. Padraic White, the then managing director of the IDA, he pointed out to the tribunal that the authority had not considered the full draft agreement up to that point, that is 15 March — that is contained in Volume 52B, Question 533, page 101. The legal aspect, that is to say the consideration of section 35, did not take up more than about a quarter of an hour at this meeting according to Mr. McCabe. Written advices from Mr. Darley were obtained on 14 March and these were circulated to the authority members — Volume 52A, Questions 207 and 208, page 50. It is important to note that, according to Mr. White, the authority reviewed in detail all aspects of the grant agreement which would be intact after the removal of the annual job performance clause and that, having seen all the powers which remained with the authority, they were satisfied that the agreement safeguarded the taxpayers' interests — Volume 52B, Questions 575. page 110. According to Mr. White, no previous grant agreement had such a range of powers built in from the authority's point of view — Volume 52A, Question 190, page 47.

The tribunal had been provided with a copy of the grant agreement. Mr. White pointed out that no grant payments could be made until the company could demonstrate £2 million of spending in accordance with the plan. There was provision for an annual review which could result in the authority withdrawing its support. The authority could also take action if there were any material contraventions from the plan. Finally, there was the claw-back clause which operated at the end of year five and year eight — Volume 52B, Questions 698 to 701, pages 134 and 135.

Mr. White had told the tribunal that he had no doubt that the project should not have been let die simply because an annual performance clause was not included in the grant agreement; he said that at Volume 52B, Question 714, page 137. Indeed Mr. White was not alone in that view. As mentioned already, Mr. McCabe regarded the claw-back clause as a more important safeguard than the performance clause. He also admitted that, if faced with a situation in which the plan would not go ahead unless the performance clause was removed, probably he would have accepted the agreement without the performance clause — Volume 52B, Question 865, page 165. In all of this it is important to point out also that in August 1989 Mr. Bruton raised the issue of the removal of the performance clause with the Taoiseach and the IDA — Book 14 (3), page 360 — having previously written to the Taoiseach. Mr. Padraic White responded to this letter on 20 December 1989 stating:

... the agreement fully meets the authority's objective of getting "value for money" for the State's investment and safeguarding the interests of the taxpayer in the event of non-performance.

Mr. Nugent, on behalf of Mr. Bruton, suggested to Mr. White that the comments in his letter of 20 September 1989 in some way contradicted the conclusion of the authority of 1 March 1988. This suggestion completely ignores the evidence that the meeting of 15 March fully considered the grant agreement in the context of the original performance clause being removed and came to the view that the agreement safeguarded the interests of the authority and the taxpayer.

Those are the facts of the matter; those are the findings of the tribunal. Of course, I accept that the sole member of the tribunal took a decision in relation to that section 35 intervention — before which he says it is an Act which is "unduly legalistic"— I accept that point but it was not made in bad faith or, as has been attempted to be portrayed, an attempt to impose a Government-backed plan, and second, it did not have the effect of withdrawing the essential safeguards that would be prudent and necessary when engaging in such a major operation. The proof of the pudding is that the taxpayer did not lose money in relation to that market.

I thank the Minister for allowing me the opportunity to contribute. I apologise to anyone who may feel I am prolonging this debate further. As a Deputy for Louth, of which Mr. Goodman, his family and many of his workers are constituents, I should say a few words. To my knowledge Mr. Goodman never attended a Fianna Fáil function in Louth. Since becoming a member of Fianna Fáil in my early 20s, neither he nor any member of his family attended a Fianna Fáil meeting. To my knowledge neither he nor his company made any contributions to the local Fianna Fáil organisation. I met Larry Goodman once. Many people on the far side of the House are trying to make connections between Fianna Fáil people and Larry Goodman. The only connection I could possible have is that my father, as a teacher, many years ago tried to teach Larry Goodman before he left school at 14.

Does the Deputy eat beef?

In 1987 my town — Dundalk — was known nationally as a town for sale because of a dithering Government which had preceded that election. That is irrefutable. The 24 hour rule was on the blocks but the Fine Gael-Labour Government decided it was too dangerous to touch. That 24 hour rule was introduced and, as Deputy Harte will testify, transformed the economy in Border areas, particularly in the town of Dundalk. There was also a proposal to introduce urban renewal for County Louth, for Dundalk and Drogheda. Indeed, in 1986 a Fine Gael Minister was asked in this Chamber to bring urban renewal to County Louth and he dithered.

Fianna Fáil has been virtually in Government in this country since 1931, uninterrupted.

We introduced it and it has been a success ever since. Deputy Dukes came to see the situation in the Border counties in those years. He had a cup of coffee, returned to Dublin and did nothing about it. The Goodman plan was lying around for years. When we came into office we tried to implement it.

A Cheann Comhairle——

Deputy Harte must not interrupt. He must allow the Member in possession to utilise his time without interruption.

I call a quorum.

This five year plan was intended to bring new hope to our constituency.

Sorry, Deputy, a quorum has been called.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

A couple of years ago large numbers of people were employed at the port of Greenore. That is no longer the case, largely as a result of what happened in this House over a couple of years. I take no pleasure in saying that people in this House were responsible for adding to that problem. Instead of added value in that industry, particularly in my constituency, all we have is the export of live cattle from Greenore.

Without wishing to repeat some of the allegations made by previous speakers, it was alleged that Larry Goodman was virtually able to close the port of Greenore. In this regard the report of the tribunal states at Chapter Thirteen, page 366: "The Tribunal accepts their evidence in this regard and there was no basis whatsoever for the suggestion that the Goodman companies were subjected to a lesser degree of Customs inspections...". Apart from the fact that the allegation in that instance put pressure on the Goodman industry it also put pressure on those people employed by the customs and the port owners, Aodoghan O'Rahilly and his company.

Like most people who read the newspapers I was taken by one headline this morning from the speech of the Tánaiste which said: "whatever Goodman wanted, Goodman got." How can the Tánaiste, Deputy Spring, reconcile that with the speeches of the Taoiseach and the Minister for Transport. Energy and Communications, Deputy Cowen, earlier that not one penny of taxpayers' money was spent on the implementation of the plan. One may say that was because we caught it on time. In that case perhaps Deputy Spring can explain, and liaise with my constituency colleague. Deputy Bell. why it was necessary for Goodman officials to contact the four TDs of County Louth after the launch of the plan to try to arrange a meeting with the then Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Deputy Joe Walsh — who had responsible in this area. Why was it necessary for us to attend a meeting to impress upon the Minister the need to relax the conditions in relation to the plan? We were promised a headquarters with 500 more people employed in our constituency. Nothing happened as a result of that meeting and, in fact, the result was extremely negative. Why then did Deputy Spring say here yesterday: what Goodman got, Goodman wanted? That is not the case as the report makes it clear that there was no evidence to suggest that either the Taoiseach or the Minister for Industry and Commerce at that time was personally close to Mr. Goodman or that Mr. Goodman had any political associations. In fact, the tribunal also stated: It is clear that he had similar access to the previous Taoiseach, Mr. FitzGerald et al. There is no evidence of closeness. That speaks for itself.

In relation to Members making allegations under Dáil privilege, I was brought up to believe that a person is innocent until proven guilty. It is reprehensible that a Member should make allegations about a person without being prepared to stand outside the gates of Leinster House and make the same allegations. The fact that they do it under Dáil privilege indicates they have something to hide, that they are not totally sure of the allegations they are making. This is why it is high time——

Is the Deputy still speaking about Deputy Spring?

Please, Deputy Harte.

——that some people in this House examined their conscience. People made allegations here and repeated them at the tribunal. When it was found by the tribunal that the majority of those allegations were untrue, in regard to political connection, they were not men enough to come into the House and admit they were wrong. Of course, they achieved their aim. Like Deputy Sargent, they tried to suggest that the Fianna Fáil Party is on the way out. Deputy Sargent frequently accuses other Members of the House of being factional and each time he rises to speak he prefaces his remarks by stating that he is a member of the Green Party and before concluding his speech today he gave us an election address.

We must have moral courage. Some Members of the House went to the tribunal and made allegations, others have been the silent majority for many years, but many of those who have spoken out should examine their conscience and speak the truth in this House.

It is heartening to note that there are some members in the Fianna Fáil Party still prepared to speak their minds and show some bottle. I may not always agree with what they say but at least Deputies Ahern and Burke had the courage to get up and speak their minds. It is a pity there is no life left in members of the Labour Party to enable them come in here and honestly put their views on the record.

I was informed that earlier today a Minister told a national newspaper that if it published some of the comments made in the House today he would take legal action against the paper. Anything said in this House is covered by privilege and some Members may feel they have the right to intimidate other Members but, in general, Members of the House will not be intimidated nor will the press.

I resent that the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs did not take the opportunity yesterday to defend his civil servants who were attacked in this House. That is without precedent. The Association of Higher Civil Servants should seek a meeting with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to have those allegations withdrawn.

The tribunal report states that there is "no basis" for the allegation made about the Revenue Commissioners. The report states repeatedly that there is "no evidence" to support the main charges against the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy Albert Reynolds — now Taoiseach. It does not state that there is no basis for those serious allegations and clearly illustrates that, in the main, they are correct. There is no evidence because the normal Civil Service witnesses were excluded. Also, Fianna Fáil Ministers have repeatedly attacked those who made the allegations, including the Tánaiste, Deputy Spring, but without naming him. It is clear that the current temporary little arrangement will be ended as soon as Fianna Fáil have the noose around the necks of members of the Labour Party; they already have them standing on the trap door. We are heading for a general election in the near future and a wipe out of the Labour Party whose members do not have the cop-on to see where they are being led. In that regard, I draw their attention to the result of the by-election in Dublin South Central where that party's vote was cut by two-thirds in 17 or 18 months. I draw their attention also to the result of the Labour Party vote in the European election in this city and county. There are few Members who would be as willing as I to work closely with the Labour Party and for that reason I wish to inform its members that they are being led up the garden path.

In the debate on the nomination of Taoiseach on 12 January 1993, at columns 611 and 612 of the Official Report, I stated:

There is a role for Parliament in its own right. I hope the proposals in the Government programme that deal with parliamentary reform will be carried through. We, the Members have the power to decide, Government gives us nothing, civil servants give us nothing, it is up to us to decide what we want for ourselves. This business of toeing the party lines so that one, two, three or a handful of Members enjoy all the rights is nonsense. It is time the Members of the House took that power back.

I have been a Government backbencher in this House, I have been elected to the House on six occasions and know how Governments operate. Those with the power will keep their seats because they will have purchased them by using the power at their disposal. It will be backbenchers who will lose seats, particularly those whose votes ballooned in the last election. They will lose them because they do not have the bottle to come into this House and speak their minds. Fianna Fáil will gain.

Deputy Mitchell has not gained much with his bottle.

Deputy Mulvihill should not make the mistake of standing against me, he would then see who would gain.

The Labour Party is letting people down. This is not the party which Frank Cluskey or Brendan Corish headed. At least some Fianna Fáil members have the bottle to come in here and speak their minds.

Democracy and accountability are words the meaning of which are not known to the majority of the Members of this House. I will commence my speech with a biblical sounding quotation, a reading from the "Book of Allegations". On 15 May 1991 Deputy Dick Spring, the Leader of the Labour Party in Opposition, told the Dáil

The Government covered up the illegal and improper activities in the beef industry since 1987. The refusal to reveal any detail of investigation, the failure to investigate thoroughly the complacency about control and the willingness to take action amounted to a cover-up.

On 28 August 1990 he said: "The pursuit of Goodman monopolistic ambitions over the last couple of years would not have been possible without the support of the Fianna Fáil Government". Despite the high cost of the tribunal, it was necessary to have an inquiry since the allegations made by Deputy Spring and others were denied in the strongest and most personal terms. The report is not a literary masterpiece, but it clearly supports the main allegations and anybody who claims otherwise is trying to make liars of those who made the allegations. Deputy Dick Spring has his shortcomings, but he is not a liar. This report did not vindicate the Minister for Industry and Commerce, now Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds, as claimed.

I hope Members will not mind me quoting the new catechism, but when seeking a definition for the word "truth" some of us, at least. might look to it for guidance. The new catechism states that "A lie consists of speaking a falsehood with the intention of misleading". It goes on to state: "It is for the Civil Authority to defend and safeguard a true and just freedom of information". The civil authority in this case is guilty of gross dereliction of duty, to put it at its mildest.

The Tánaiste, Deputy Spring, and those of us who see this scandal for what it is, must stand up and be counted. When listening to the Taoiseach. Deputy Reynolds, one would do well to recall the words of the clown in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night: "Words are grown so false that I am loath to prove reason with them". The Taoiseach should be reminded of the words from Henry VIII: "Truth loves open dealing." Where was the open dealing in this case?

The tribunal report is, without doubt, the most serious indictment of a Minister's conduct since the 1970 Arms Trial. The report justifies the description of Deputy Reynolds, now Taoiseach, by Deputy O'Malley in relation to export credit insurance as "reckless, irresponsible and unwise." to this might be added the allegation of guile and sharp practice.

In short, the nub of Deputy Albert Reynolds's impropriety when he was Minister for Industry and Commerce is as follows. In 1986 Saddam Hussein was operating a war economy with oil prices falling. Deputy Michael Noonan was Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Goodman Group was selling beef into the war region. The banks told the Goodman Group that they would not continue to give them a facility unless they were covered by export credit insurance, in other words, unless the State and its agents were to give insurance cover for losses suffered.

The Goodman Group tried to put pressure on the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy Michael Noonan, but, having taken advice and being told that it was a bad risk, he refused to increase insurance cover.

Deputy Albert Reynolds, when Minister for Industry and Commerce, reversed all of this. The Cabinet increased the level of cover to a 30 per cent maximum, in other words, to 30 per cent of contract value.

Following various meetings, without the presence of civil servants — a practice with few if any precedents, as civil servants usually attend all meetings with Ministers except Minister to Minister meetings and ministerial meetings with party colleagues which are of a political nature — the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy Reynolds, told his civil servants that more applications would be coming in for insurance cover. He did not say how he knew this or why they should be prepared for it. It remains unexplained how he knew that an application for new cover would be coming in from the Goodman Group.

Within days he and his Department gave different terms than the Cabinet had agreed, for example, regarding premium to be charged and period of credit. Why did the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy Reynolds, tell the Government that conditions for export credit insurance for Goodman International would be tougher than they actually turned out to be?

The then Minister Reynold's Memorandum for Government, submitted to the Cabinet in September 1987, set out specific terms under which he proposed to cover a $134.5 million contract for Goodman. The tribunal report finds that Minister Reynolds sought Cabinet approval "on the basis that cover would be granted on those terms" but then gave the cover on "substantially better" terms, saving the Goodman Company over $4 million in premium payments — a gift — with no gain to the State.

Furthermore, when the tribunal sought to establish if information concerning the origin of the Goodman beef for Iraq was mentioned at Cabinet by either of the then Ministers Reynolds or O'Kennedy or if such information was in their briefing material, the Attorney General, now serving as adviser to a Government led by the Taoiseach. Deputy Reynolds, went to the courts to prevent the information being made available to the tribunal.

The payout by the taxpayer so far is alleged to be £8 million, as Deputy O'Malley, while Minister for Industry and Commerce voided the insurance cover based on the small print in relation to the use of non-Irish meat. Goodman Group is now suing the State and if it wins the State may have to pay a figure of between £120 million to £200 million — many people have referred to the figure of £159 million — to the Goodman Group. The established effect of decisions taken by Deputy Reynolds, as Minister for Industry and Commerce, was to expose the taxpayers to possible liabilities of £98.65 million without any independent or professional assessment of the position before putting the taxpayers at such risk. Deputy Reynolds, now Taoiseach, has never explained what induced him to make such a reckless decision.

I am indebted to Fintan O'Toole in his article in The Irish Times of 31 August 1994 for the manner in which he crystallised a number of questions which need to be answered by the Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds. As Mr. O'Toole points out, the tribunal report found that the then Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy Reynolds, laboured under a complete misconception when he gave insurance cover to beef exports to Iraq. Apparently he believed that the risks were worth taking because the exports would put money in the pockets of Irish farmers or at least this is what he would have us believe. The real position was that much of the beef came from outside the State and most of it was from EC intervention stock so that its economic benefits, as stated in the report, were “illusionary rather than real”. The risks, however, were all too real. The Iraqis did default on the payments. The benefits were not there.

In that article, Mr. O'Toole stated:

‘To understand the full import of this finding, it is necessary to understand just how easy it would have been for Mr. Reynolds to find out that the beef was not what he assumed it to be. In the first place, he read a telex from Baghdad which told him about intervention beef being exported under his export credit cover, but failed to attach any significance to it because, as he told the tribunal, "that was not the focus of my attention."

Second, the whole question of the shortage of cattle supplies in Ireland was under constant public discussion in this period, and was discussed with Mr. Reynolds by the IDA. Third, the fact that intervention beef was going to Baghdad was published openly in October 1988 just as Mr. Reynolds was deciding to commit huge amounts of extra cover to Iraq. And fourth, the Department of Agriculture knew all along about the source of beef and was able, when asked by Mr. Reynold's successor, Mr. Ray Burke, to produce detailed information on it within a week.

Since the report finds that this information was easily available to Mr. Reynolds and that "the national interest would ... appear to require" that he should have sought it, his explanation for why he failed to do so will be central to the debate."

On pages 215 and 216 the tribunal report states:

While the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Government were entitled to make their respective decisions in "the national interest", the "national interest" would also appear to require that before exposing the State to a potential liability of well in excess of £100m a more detailed investigation or analysis of the benefits to the economy of such decisions which involved:-

(i) the allocation of 50% of the amount of Export Credit Insurance cover available for all exports worldwide to one particular destination, and

(ii) such risk to the Exchequer if default in payment were made should have been carried out. Such an investigation, if made, might and in all probability would have disclosed that a large portion of the beef to be exported was intended to be sourced outside the jurisdiction and an even larger proportion had been or was intended to be purchased from intervention stock and that the benefits to the Irish economy, arising from such exports, were illusory rather than real.

Why did the then Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy Reynolds, not ask about the source of the beef and why did the then Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy Joe Walsh, not tell him?

Throughout 1987 those two Ministers worked closely on the IDA-Goodman development plan. According to the tribunal report, the Department of Agriculture and Food was fully aware of the fact that large quantities of intervention beef were going to Iraq.

Another question which requires an answer from the current Taoiseach is how did the then Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy Reynolds, discover that Goodman International was going to apply for insurance cover on a $134.5 million contract in August 1987? Was he inspired by the Holy Ghost?

Page 209 of the tribunal report states:

Though, as stated by Mr. Reynolds, "the size of the contract was so economically significant for the beef industry" and was the largest ever negotiated in respect of the export of beef, and Mr. Reynolds was aware of the fact that the application was going to be made prior to the receipt of the application in the Department of Industry and Commerce, no satisfactory evidence was available to the Tribunal to establish the circumstances in which the Minister for Industry and Commerce was informed of the application prior to its receipt in the Department or of the necessity to have it dealt with with such a degree of urgency that the Department of Finance and the Department of Agriculture and Food did not have an opportunity to express their observations on the matter in the Memorandum for Government.

Neither the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Mr. Reynolds, the Taoiseach, Charles J. Haughey, who was to deal with the matter in Cabinet, Mr. Goodman, nor Mr. Britton have any recollection of who informed Mr. Reynolds that the application would be made.

Furthermore, the Government unlawfully and improperly intervened with the Industrial Development Authority while its then sponsoring Minister, Deputy Reynolds, not only stood by and cheered them on but was clearly in cahoots with the de facto owner of the company which was to benefit from these unlawful directions. I charge him of being in cahoots since it is quite clear that not only did he leave his home, office and Longford telephone numbers for Goodman company representatives to phone him at will but he met with them without the presence of civil servants — all of this in connection with the largest single beef contract in the entire history of world trade. The Taoiseach told the tribunal in evidence that he could not recall the circumstances in which he was told about a deal of such magnitude. Yet he exposed the State to £98.65 million of liabilities without any real benefit to the economy.

The tribunal does not know why the then Minister Reynolds rushed the beef cover increase through Cabinet or how he knew this was going to be urgent, but it is clear how he knew. One company had the inside track. That company had the then Minister's home and personal office telephone numbers. Its owner was, around that time, parking his jet at Baldonnel — a military airport — with special permission of the then Head of the Government.

Who really knows what information changed hands or what deals were really done behind closed doors with these insiders without civil servants present? The tribunal does not say that no improper act took place. It says, in many parts, "there was no evidence". How could there be evidence when witnesses were deliberately excluded and exchanges were verbal? Note the language used by the tribunal on the allegations made about the Revenue Commissioners — the tribunal stated "there is no basis" for these. It did not say that there was no basis for allegations made against Deputy Reynolds, it says over and over "there is no evidence".

The report finds no evidence of closeness between Goodman and the Government of the day. Did anyone seriously expect that it would, any more than Deputy Spring, whose naïvety seems to know no bounds, expected to find evidence of wrongdoing on the Masri file? However, the public are not fooled. They believe that there was a closeness between Goodman and Minister Reynolds and Taoiseach Haughey and, having regard to the fact that the Government on two separate occasions exceeded its powers to interfere improperly with the IDA on behalf of Goodman and then colluded to ensure that Goodman competitors were denied access to the Iraqi market, any responsible person must assume that Goodman had a special relationship with the Government.

Deals where Ministers meet people in private without the presence of civil servants and which subsequently cannot be adequately explained are not recorded on files — they are more likely to repose within the confines of white Hiace vans or other such locations.

It is typical of Deputy Reynolds's behaviour that the current Taoiseach should seek to claim that the report had vindicated him when he was the only person in possession of that report. To quote a recent editorial in the Church of Ireland Gazette:

Mr. Reynolds may have been the first to claim he may have been vindicated, but his quest for three short days of vindication may have misfired, and it appears they will be followed by weeks of closer scrutiny ... The paying public still does not know whether the Cabinet discussed or made a decision in the national interest in June 1988 to confine cover to two companies from State-backed insurance for beef export to Iraq. Mr. Reynolds told three civil servants such a decision was made. But there is no record of such a decision, and five of the Taoiseach's Cabinet colleagues are quoted as saying "the matter was never discussed".

This editorial also calls on the Tánaiste, Deputy Spring, to act on the proposal he made in Opposition for legislation allowing Governments to reveal the contents of Cabinet discussions where it is accepted that disclosure is in the public interest. The Tánaiste must press now for this legislation and make it retrospective so that we can know the truth about Cabinet decisions. It is an appalling abuse of the constitutional requirement of accountability that the law agent of the Government went to the Supreme Court to prevent Cabinet information from being provided. Contrast this with the British spy catcher affair when the Cabinet secretary went on the witness stand and later had to admit to being "economical with the truth". He nonetheless was capable of being cross-examined and having his economy exposed. This did not happen here.

To add insult to injury the current Fianna Fáil Minister of State with responsibility for Commerce. Deputy Séamus Brennan, in an article penned by The Sunday Tribune following the publication of the beef tribunal report wrote:

The real cost to the taxpayer is the tens of millions of pounds spent on the tribunal itself. This is not a criticism of the tribunal, but rather a criticism of the politically motivated allegations that resulted in the spending of so much time, energy and taxpayers' money.

It is inevitable that those parties who called for a tribunal are trying to justify their original positions.

If the Tánaiste, Deputy Spring, did not take exception to those comments then he should have taken exception to the comments of the Taoiseach on RTE radio following the presentation of the tribunal report when he said that "outrageous political allegations which have been made" have been thrown out by the tribunal. Similar comments were made on radio by the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, Deputy Cowen. Yesterday in the Dáil the Taoiseach several times rubbed the noses of the Labour Party in it and, in particular, Deputy Spring. He said "the fact remains that if political integrity had not been impugned there would have been no tribunal". Later he said "to make baseless attacks on other people's integrity without proper evidence in itself represents a lowering of standards in public life". There is page after page of attacks on the Tánaiste. The Taoiseach aid:

The entire democratic process has suffered greatly as a result of the conduct of some in the lead up to the tribunal and while it was in session. The manner of the attacks on personalities has cast a cloud over public representatives.

This would not happen if Brendan Corish was alive. This would not happen if Frank Cluskey was alive. It would not happen if Dick Spring was alive politically — politically Dick Spring is dead. What has happened to the Labour Party with its proud history is that it has allowed itself, like Alanna McCree's dog, to go a bit of the road with one party and a bit of the road with another and find itself compromised by keeping in power a Government and a Taoiseach who has clearly been indicted by a tribunal set up at its request. I find it sad to make comments of this kind. I do not share with some members of the Labour Party a socialist belief, but I do share with many others in the Labour Party whom I do not believe for one minute are socialists but who are decent ordinary people, as many of the socialists are, the common belief that we are here to serve the ordinary people, particularly those on the lowest rung. What do they see? They see their voluptuaries going off in big jets, living great lives. Do you three think you are going to keep your seats at the next election? One of the three will come back, the other two will be gone out of here and it is the party over there that will gain at their expenses because the Labour Party has lost its way.

I find it very surprising that this report only in one place uses the word "unethical". That is a criticism I would have of those who drafted this report. Not only unethical but words like criminal, deceitful, reckless, guileful, dishonest and fraudulent might well have been used to describe what happened. What will history say of those Members of the Dáil who have the ultimate power of sanction over those they accurately accuse should they fail to use such sanction? A future reviewer of these events will ask what happened next. This cannot be the end. It cannot be business as usual. This country needs decisiveness to lift us from a moral morass. When our citizens see the head of Government justifying acts which gave rise to this tribunal of inquiry they know that something is rotten in the state of Ireland.

I have one further quotation from Julius Caesar which the Tánaiste and the Labour Party should ponder this week. For they are not to be taken as a timorous team. They must eviscerate those who conducted public affairs in the manner shown by this tribunal report:

There is a tide in the affairs of men Which taken at the flood leads on to fortune;

Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

On such a full sea are we now afloat

And we must take the current when it serves

Or love our ventures.

I do not want to see a Labour Party which has no influence in a Government or a parliament of this country. I believe the Labour Party has a major contribution to make but it is time it found its way. Grins do not appear on the Official Report but the people who grin in the Labour Party when that is said are those who will be saddest when this Government, led by Deputy Reynolds, dissolves this Dáil and goes to the country at the earliest opportunity, which is what it will do as soon as the Labour Party is compromised enough. That tide is at its flood. We must not let it ebb away. It is time for the ship of state to chart a new course with a new crew, and Fianna Fáil must no longer be allowed to captain that ship until they at least show that they are no longer with the pirates.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Upon and Shortall.

I am sure that is satisfactory, Agreed.

Before I commence my statement I would like to refer to the previous speaker's concern about the Labour Party. When the Labour Party seeks advice for the next general election, whenever that may be, we certainly will not go to Fine Gael. The record shows that Fine Gael lost ten seats in the last general election while the Labour Party gained 17 seats. Consequently, we will not seek advice from the Fine Gael Party.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. The Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Processing Industry undertook the most extensive examination of our system of government and administration. It was a huge task, time consuming and frighteningly expensive. The report has given an insight into the internal workings of one of our largest industries. Drawing up that report and attempting to make sense of the vast amount of evidence presented to the tribunal was a huge task and the end result raises issues about which there is much public concern and anger. Was it worth the money? That is the question on the lips of many people this week, particularly those who cannot imagine in their wildest dreams what it would be like to earn as much money as that earned by the legal teams involved in the tribunal.

It was high time that the corrupt practices uncovered by the tribunal were brought to light and halted. Barry Desmond and Deputy Dick Spring spoke out fearlessly about a practice that was costing the Exchequer millions of pounds. If the beef tribunal puts an end to that practice it will be money well spent. Every fair-minded person is infuriated by tax evasion — there can be no doubt there was deliberate and widespread tax evasion within the beef industry during the period under inspection. Every pound of tax revenue lost through evasion is collected from somebody else, usually from those in the PAYE sector who always end up carrying the can. They are well aware of that because their pay packets are savaged by taxation. The people we represent need to be assured that there is not one law for big business and another for the ordinary worker who does not have the benefit of accounting and legal advice in determining his or her tax liabilities.

It is up to us in Government to ensure that this scandalous abuse of the system of administration never happens again. We need to tackle the issues identified by the tribunal and proceed with our agreed strategy to bring greater openness, transparency and accountability to public life. The very least the public deserve is a positive and constructive response to the findings of the tribunal. They deserve to be assured that there is a healthy and open relationship between Government and the various interests in society. They have a right to expect that fraud and tax evasion is stamped out and that the full rigours of the law are fully applied to those who engage in such activity. They also have the right to expect that the spending of public money will be properly monitored and controlled.

I was very disturbed by the revelations concerning employment practices in the Goodman plants. I object in the strongest possible terms to hiring young people, students and others to be paid minimum wages with no limits on the numbers of hours they work. Such exploitation is unforgivable. I object to intimidation by members of the Opposition, notably Deputy Ivan Yates, who suggested that Deputy Spring would benefit financially from the tribunal. That is completely without foundation, as Deputy Spring already explained to the House — he went to considerable lengths to establish who represented the public interest at various stages during the tribunal.

I wish to express concern that Susan O'Keeffe, the journalist who worked on the "World in Action" programme which set this process in motion, seems set to suffer for her decision to protect the identity of her sources. If she had made false accusations in the programme and if the tribunal heard evidence to suggest that, it would be fitting to bring her before a court of law to answer them. However, I disagree fundamentally with the notion that we should prosecute the messenger because she is honourable enough to protect the people who gave her the message.

Why did the Opposition Members chose to ignore the fact that huge sums of money have been netted by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in political donations from beef processing companies in recent years? The report shows that Fianna Fáil received a total of £374,700 in contributions from beef processing companies in the nine year period up to 1991 and Fine Gael received £138,550 in half that time, between 1987 and 1991. The report states that such contributions in no way affected or related to the matter inquired into by the tribunal. However, it is high time that the whole area of public donations was opened up to scrutiny in the public interest.

This debate has been overshadowed by the IRA ceasefire. As in many walks of life, in politics timing and luck play their part. The fundamental reason the frauds and malpractices considered in this report arose derives from the environment that characterises the Irish beef industry. It is an industry of low standards, poor technology, little long term strategy and little technical capacity. It is that type of environment which allowed the malpractices and fraud to develop. I do not believe those types of malpractices or frauds could have occurred in the dairy industry, which is in sharp contrast to the beef industry in terms of its capacity and its contribution to the Irish economy.

I do not intend to go into the details of this report to any great extent — I do not have the time or the information to do so — but I wish to refer to a few side issues relating to the report and its publication. The report and the manner in which it was published will certainly increase tension between the partners in Government, and that is probably a good thing. In many ways there has been an element of complacency, an excessive emphasis on harmony which was unrealistic. The stories given to the media and reported on are unreal. It is unrealistic to expect anyone to believe that there is a harmonious relationship between two parties which come from different backgrounds. The Labour Party and Fianna Fáil are different parties, and nobody should create the impression that the position is otherwise. We come from different cultures and traditions, we have different policies and we represent a different viewpoint. It is very important that people should not be under any illusions about that. The publication of the tribunal report and the incidents surrounding it emphasise that, and that is welcome.

In the period leading up to the publication of the tribunal report some people sought to give the impression that the Labour Party would remain in Government forever because it is afraid of a general election, but that is untrue. There is no purpose in being in politics if one is afraid of the consequences of an election. There are worse things in political life than leaving Government, than facing and fighting general elections. If a general election must be fought I and my colleagues in the Labour Party will stand our ground, fight our corner and let the public decide whether we have done a good job. The suggestion that we are running scared of a general election is untrue but I think most people would accept that at such a momentous time in Irish history a general election would be undesirable.

I wish to refer to some of the remarks made by the Minister, Deputy McCreevy, in his speech yesterday. He spoke about an opinion poll last Saturday in an unnamed newspaper which is easily recognised as The Irish Times. The Minister said there would be no point in holding an inquiry of this type “if the result can be undermined and sabotaged by the addition of a few hand-picked and highly selective questions at the end of an opinion poll”. The Minister referred to people commissioning an opinion poll with a purpose, suggesting the tribunal's vindication is not accepted by the people. That interpretation is grossly unfair to the polling company. MRBI, and to The Irish Times.

The poll was conducted in accordance with internationally accepted standards and this was made clear in the report that accompanied it. The standards are those of the marketing society of Ireland and of the corresponding European marketing society. Surely The Irish Times and the polling company are entitled to research and publish a poll conducted in accordance with normal procedures on a major controversy which has the potential to bring down the Government. I believe The Irish Times provided a public service in doing so. This was objective research commissioned and carried out in a proper scientific manner. That approach is in sharp contrast to the opinion columns which represent basically the opinion of one individual. The Minister for Tourism and Trade, Deputy McCreevy's attitude to the poll is effectively to kill the messenger. It is worth noting that the questions asked in the poll did not relate as to whether the public accepted the report's findings. Is the public not-entitled to hold a view on the closeness which existed between Mr. Goodman and the Government of the 1987-89 period? Is the MRBI not entitled to ask questions about it in accordance with standard practice? Is The Irish Times not entitled to publish the results of a poll commissioned in that way?

There has been a great deal of talk about the cost of the tribunal. No doubt it was expensive and cost approximately £35 million, which amounts to £30 for each working person. However, the time to speak about the cost of the tribunal is not now but when it was being established. I was a Member of Seanad Éireann at that stage and I cannot recall anybody mentioning the cost then. There were precedents, for costs, for example the Kerry Babies Tribunal ran considerably over time and cost more than was estimated. At that time nobody spoke in these terms and, of course, the tribunal was established by the unanimous vote of the Dáil and Seanad.

One of the fundamental reasons for the tribunal was the lack of frankness of replies to parliamentary questions. There is urgent need for a change of attitude to the provision of answers to parliamentary questions. It is totally unacceptable that civil servants are complimented for the sparsity of information provided in draft answers to parliamentary questions and for giving answers that put those who have tabled the question off the scent. That is all right in terms of short term political opportunism but its long term effects are very damaging and it should be rectified.

Management of the news of the report during the August weekend was totally unacceptable and to quote the Tánaiste "trust was breached by that act". This was a totally unacceptable development in the art and science of spin doctoring. We have about as much of it as we could be reasonably expected to take. The fact that this backfired will I hope put a stop to the advance of spin doctoring which is becoming a plague and is a menance. I agree with my colleague Deputy Kemmy who said this country cannot be run by PR. Politics to some extent has to have substance.

That the tribunal was established is an indication that the Dáil is not functioning as effectively as it should. For anybody concerned about democracy that has to be a worry. If the Dáil functioned properly, this tribunal would never have been set up. We have to think long and hard on the implications of that reality which is in harmony with some current innuendo about politicians. There are suggestions that in one form or another politicians are involved in low life. Politicians are easy meat for attack from certain quarters. Let those who indulge in those attacks think long and hard about the alternative to our political system. It might not be any harm for some of them to consider how that would affect them. The alternatives to democracy are not at all inviting when compared with how we conduct our business, imperfect as it may be.

I warmly welcome the report of the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Processing Industry. Although the debate has been overshadowed by the welcome developments in Northern Ireland, the report is immensely important and places a huge onus on Members to act on its findings. The tribunal report provides a vivid picture of Ireland at a particular moment. Just as the picture of Dorian Gray, it has revealed a hidden face this time of a whole system which — if not actually sold to the devil — has become a byword for greed, gross incompetence, and, in some respects, outright corruption.

The picture unveiled is of one part of the public sector prevented from doing its job properly by political pressure, of another unable or unwilling to comply with specific provisions of the law and of yet another unequipped and unable to detect fraud. That picture also reveals in the private sector a company and a group of individuals, whom many will feel justified in calling corrupt to the core, in which greed could hold sway unchecked because its best friends were those who should have had most regard for the public interest. Finally we see in that picture an aspect of our democracy which is a tarnished and ugly vision. We see Ministers who, by omission or design, led this House to misleading conclusions. We see the system of parliamentary questions vitiated by strategies designed to confuse, obscure and conceal information which public representatives are entitled and even obliged to seek. We see the distortion of a political system by those in power claiming to serve the national interest but instead fostering their own.

This brings us to the question of what is the national interest. Some people are able to look into their hearts to discern where that interest lies and fortunately for them it very frequently coincides with the interests of friends and constituents. No reasonable person can fail to question whether it is in Ireland's national interest that a company such a Goodman International should receive such favourable treatment, to the disadvantage of others, from those who already knew of serious allegations of fraud and tax evasion against the organisations they were so keen to assist.

The track record of Goodman International already included the conviction of a deputy chief executive for a crime committed on behalf of a Goodman company as well as a series of investigations by Department of Agriculture. Food officials and customs officers who had discovered serious irregularities. This information had been given to Ministers of the day by their civil servants. Why was it in the national interest that such preferential treatment be given to a company found to be trading recklessly and which was clearly trying to establish monopoly control in the meat industry? How is the national interest served by policies serving primarily the interests of a small number of corrupt business people? This report will, I hope, focus our attention on defining or redefining the concept of national interest and when we come to the forthcoming legislation on the electoral Bill and to the continued debate on the Ethics in Public Office Bill we must decide how those who are required to act in the national interest are to be made answerable to this House and to the nation.

The tribunal report also focuses our attention on the importance of the promised freedom of information Bill and the need to tackle the ethos of secrecy and of secretiveness which characterises our system from the Cabinet downwards.

The report shows vividly the failure of different arms of Government and different agencies of the State to communicate properly with one another, how they squabble over access to information instead of working together in an atmosphere of openness.

Cabinet confidentiality, as at present understood and interpreted, has failed this country. Nothing in our recent history has more vividly demonstrated the need to bring an end to our culture of secrecy than this report. We must now insist on bringing about that transparency and openness to which we have paid so much lip service. The citizens of this nation, and the electorate which sends us here to legislate and to represent them effectively, must be given access to information about the decisions taken in their name and, supposedly, in their interests. In this respect, I welcome the Tánaiste's commitment given yesterday to address this whole area.

To bring about this change, this openness and transparency, it will take more than legislation but, as a legislative assembly, we must play our part in the process and clean up our own house, so to speak. In that regard, the crucial nature of the Ethics in Public Office Bill becomes clear. Few people will have read the thousand and more pages of the tribunal report, and few will have had the opportunity to plough through the detail of its observations and findings, but while they may not know all those details, they do know when they are being badly served and when they are being made fools of. What is transparent is that there was something seriously wrong throughout the period covered by the tribunal's investigation.

Few changes have taken place in the way this House operates to alter the perception of those who — sometimes unfairly — are driven to conclude that our political system is dishonest and even corrupt. We cannot afford much longer to ignore the fact of that perception, and it is vital that we address both the root causes and the procedural factors that help sustain a view which is so debilitating and, ultimately, so destructive of true democracy.

The implementation of the findings of the tribunal will only go so far towards changing that damaging but not wholly baseless perception. The speedy enactment of effective ethics in public office legislation is a vital step which I, and hopefully all of us, look forward to seeing in the very near future.

The tribunal report gives us a picture also of a number of individuals who seemingly have the fast track to decision makers and takers, open access, it would seem, at every opportunity. When there was a problem, legislation was changed, grants were made available, access to a Minister was immediate. The extent to which this happens, particularly in the period covered by the tribunal report, is totally unacceptable. The net result was the encouragement of corruption and the flouting of legislation passed in this House. Again, this highlights the need to change the way we do our business and the need to do our business openly and in an above board manner.

While the tribunal report indicated that there was no direct evidence that political contributions, made by Goodman International and related companies to a number of political parties, made any substantial difference to the decisions taken in their favour, I think few people in this country would believe that they did not have a major bearing on the events that subsequently transpired. During the period 1987-1989, sums amounting to a staggering 10 per cent of the annual running costs of Fianna Fáil were donated by meat companies. This included £175,000 from Goodman International, £75,000 from Hibernia Meats and £60,000 from Master Meats.

Two other meat companies, Taher and Agra, made substantial contributions in June 1988 to Fianna Fáil, both of whom were then looking for export credit cover. It must have seemed obvious to these companies that there was a mechanism for receiving the necessary cover. No direct evidence was required by them, nor was it required by Halal who, following a donation of £25,000 to Fianna Fáil, made an application for export credit insurance only 12 days later. Their previous largest contribution had been a mere £1,000. I find it difficult to understand how the public are expected to believe that there was no relationship between political contributions and the receipt of export credit insurance and other favours, while the major meat companies, through their actions, believed the opposite. While Mr. Justice Hamilton found this level of political donations to be "normal", I suggest that if this is normality, we must change it rapidly.

In addition to this, there was a close connection between the then Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, and Larry Goodman. The two men met on 13 occasions between 1987 and 1989 and shortly after these meetings a series of Government decisions was taken in favour of Goodman International companies, all, I might add, at the taxpayers' expense. I will now detail some of those meetings. On 3 April 1987 Mr. Goodman met Mr. Haughey; on 16 April export credit insurance was restored for Iraq. On 16 May 1987 Mr. Goodman met Mr. Haughey; on 20 May the IDA plan terms were eased. On 4 March 1988 Mr. Goodman met Mr. Haughey; on 8 March the performance clause was to apply only after five years. On 21 May 1988 Mr. Goodman met Mr. Haughey; on 8 June export credit cover was increased from £300 million to £500 million. Perhaps this is merely a whole series of coincidences but I find that difficult to believe and so will many others. It is difficult to understand how we can be asked to believe that there was no relationship between political contributions and decisions taken in favour of the Goodman Group, when one considers that the professional Civil Service advice was against these decisions and that it pointed clearly to the corrupt practices that were taking place.

It is now time to tackle the whole issue of political contributions and expenditure in politics. The forthcoming Electoral Bill also takes on a new meaning following the release of this report. No longer can it be acceptable that donations to political parties can be made in secret, and no longer can we allow unlimited contributions to political parties. The introduction of State funding will help some way towards this end, but we must also look at the excessive amounts spent on political campaigns. We must be one of the few countries in Europe who do not strictly regulate and restrict this expenditure. Unless this level of openness and transparency is brought back into the area of political funding, it will not be possible to restore public trust and confidence in politics and politicians.

In conclusion, I believe this report compels this House to introduce, at an early date, reforming legislation, the absence of which has been starkly highlighted by the tribunal's findings. These reforms include an Ethics in Public Office Bill with real teeth, an Electoral Bill, a Freedom of Information Bill and the urgent need to address the constitutional restrictions governing Cabinet confidentiality. I look forward to the early passage of these long awaited reforms.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Carey.

I am sure that is acceptable and agreed.

I listened to some of the contributions from our colleagues in the Labour Party, and I believe it was Deputy Upton who said that we need not be concerned about the Labour Party, that if it is in the national interest, they will not be found wanting in leaving Government and, if necessary, causing a general election. Having listened to the debate over the past two days and having read the beef tribunal findings, I do not believe the Labour Party will ever get a better excuse for leaving Government, unless the Government is prepared to change its leader and some of the Ministers serving in it. I do not say that as a personal attack on any one individual.

In his contribution yesterday, the Taoiseach seemed to think that the only reason the tribunal was set up was because of various allegations that were made. I believe the tribunal goes much further than that. It is really about the way in which the affairs of this country are run by those charged with that responsibility and how those people in charge are accountable to those who elected us to this House. It is also concerned with how funds are handled and managed.

Under those headings, there is no doubt that those in charge during that period did not perform their duty in accordance with their responsibilities. This is not about attacking Fianna Fáil and whether they received contributions from X, Y or Z, nor about what they stand for. It is the manner in which people who are selected to serve in Cabinet believe they should do their business. When one is appointed a Minister one is not a sole runner. There is collective Cabinet responsibility, which, it is clear from the report, did not exist. One Minister did not know what the other was doing. To say we will have reforming legislation in the future where the Minister for Enterprise and Employment will inform the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry if he feels something wrong is happening in either Department is nonsense. Anyone who served in Government knows that if the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry was aware that large quantities of beef were exported to Iraq something would be said to somebody. Ministers meet on a regular basis and someone would ask whether there was an awareness that the beef exports to Iraq in respect of which export credit insurance had been given was coming from intervention.

We do not need legislation to enable 15 people at the Cabinet table to know what the other is doing. Government memoranda are sent from one Department to another and observations are made before the matter is discussed at Cabinet. Surely if there was a proposal to grant huge sums of export credit insurance the memorandum which would go before the Cabinet would contain the observations of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

In his statement yesterday the Minister tried to convince us that everything he did was in the national interest. He was concerned about the beef industry and farmers' incomes. He wanted to give a boost to the industry. It is clear from the report that there was very little economic benefit in the high risk the taxpayer was exposed to by the granting of export credit insurance when the bulk of the beef was coming from intervention.

From information given to me and from the fact that it has been clearly established that large quantities of beef covered under export credit insurance came from intervention, it is easy to prove that it was not Halal slaughtered beef. The consequences of that are staggering. Under Muslim law if non Halal slaughtered meat is mixed with Halal slaughtered meat in a shipment the whole shipment is deemed to be unclean meat. That would breach the contract as established by the tribunal and it is obvious it was known in the Department of Agriculture. Yet we continued to allow non Halal slaughtered meat to be mixed with Halal slaughtered meat in the same shipment to Iraq knowing that Muslim law would dictate that was a serious breach of contract and that Iraq would not pay for that meat. If the Goodman group succeed in its claim against the Government the taxpayer will have to foot a bill of £100 million. That is the seriousness of what was going on. If this was known is it any wonder the CBF document was doctored in the Department of Agriculture?

If the people who informed me know that Muslim law dictates you must not mix the two meats as this would be a breach of contract surely there was an oligation to inform the Department of Industry and Commerce. Instead of that people deleted information from a document prepared by CBF before it was transmitted to the Department. That alone is sufficient to warrant having an inquiry into how our business is handled by those charged with conducting the affairs of State.

I assure the Taoiseach that the tribunal was not about allegations as he seems to think, rather it was about the manner in which he and his colleagues carried on the affairs of State.

I hope the Minister for Agriculture will address that question when he replies and confirm that the information I am placing on the record is accurate. If it is, the taxpayer is exposed to a very large bill if the Goodman claim against the Government for voiding the export credit insurance contracts succeeds. As I understand it the Iraqis will not pay because there was a serious breach of contract. That is not hidden information. It is a fact. I would like the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry to say if he is aware of that and if his Department was aware of it when it happened.

It is a great pity, having listened to the contributions of the Labour Party, that we will not have a question and answer session tomorrow to make this a meaningful debate. The cease-fire was announced on Wednesday and, unfortunately from the public point of view, the beef tribunal debate proceeded the following day with the result that it has not been covered by the media to any great extent. I listened to the RTE late news headlines last night and there was no mention of the beef tribunal debate.

We spent £35 million of taxpayers' money on the tribunal and its report. We deserve a little better treatment than the Government offered us. There was no reason for not holding this debate next week and letting the ongoing discussions take place on the IRA cease-fire. I am sure the spin doctors were operating in the hope that this debate would quietly disappear and that the public would forget about it. I do not think they will because some of the greatest scandals to hit this country are revealed in it. It also reveals that the Taoiseach's style of management is not suitable to our system of Government. It makes a joke of accountability.

In his contribution, the Taoiseach failed to give any reason for reinstating export credit insurance. He gave no satisfactory answer as to why he exposed the taxpayers to the possibility of such a large bill. He claims he is a businessman and that he has his own style, but we cannot ignore our system of administration and the responsibilities of permanent civil servants who serve the Government of the day and of the Secretary of the Department. the accounting officer, who is answerable to the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Committee of Public Accounts. Attending meetings at which serious decisions were taken but of which no records are kept without a civil servant in attendance is no way to treat the public service, the Civil Service or people who are charged with responsibilities under law.

I do not support such a system. I believe in collective Cabinet responsibility. I accept that at times a Minister will have to ignore advice on the grounds that having discussed the matter at Cabinet a different decision was taken. Such meetings are documented by the Government Secretary and there is an answer. In the case of this charade people met in secret places, commitments were given and large amounts of taxpayers' money were committed to individuals for whatever reason. There is no record of these meetings and the State is now facing a claim by the Goodman group for voiding export credit insurance. There is no record as to why the Minister of the day, the Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds, made his decisions.

I want to say to the Taoiseach that the tribunal was not about vindictiveness, personal attacks or making statements one could not stand over. Rather it was about this Assembly, to which we are privileged to have been elected, ensuring that the Government of the day does its business properly and is accountable to the electorate. Example after example show that shortcuts were taken, pressure was put on the IDA, the law in regard to the IDA was broken, export credit insurance was granted, conditions were changed, favourable rates were granted to one group and cover was given to one group under a different set of circumstances and to others who went about their business in the normal way. I wonder what the public thinks of that style of Government.

Yesterday the Taoiseach tried to defend himself by saying that the report totally vindicated him. The report states the facts and it is for this Chamber to decide whether, based on the findings of the report, the Government was vindicated and whether the Taoiseach, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Deputy Walsh, Senator O'Kennedy and others did their job properly. Successive Fianna Fáil Deputies have attacked those people who dared to question any of the allegations made on the basis that the economy was in such a bad state in 1987 that the Government of the day had to take massive risks and do things which were contrary to standard practice and that this was due to the disastrous Administration between 1982-87. That is a load of nonsense. What they have failed to tell the public is that the 1982 Government inherited a total and utter mess from the previous administrations and that the 1987 Government inherited an economy which was about to come right with low interest rates and low inflation and that it availed of that opportunity to put its own style on things and breach all the normal rules which had been applied over the years by successive Cabinets, whether Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael and Labour.

Many honourable people have served under the Fianna Fáil flag and none of them would have stood over the sort of shenanigans which went on during the period 1987-89. Those shenanigans are enough to turn most of us who naïvely thought that we had something to contribute to public life away from politics. If they can turn people in this Chamber away from politics what do they do to the public? Yet we are being attacked for making unfounded allegations and being jealous and all sorts of weird and wonderful statements have been made on how we should not question any of the facts in this report.

I do not want to repeat the points made by my colleagues — there is no point in repeating speeches, the facts are contained in the report — but I wish to refer to the political aspect of this matter. This has nothing to do with party politics but rather has to do with the way business is done in this Chamber, the way the Government ignore the Chamber, the way parliamentary questions are treated, the way statements are made outside the Chamber instead of in it, the flimsy information we get at committees and during Question Time and the way Opposition amendments to Bills are treated by the Government. Things cannot be changed by the Labour Party saying we need legislation; this is the attitude of people who have begun to think they will be in power for ever and they can do what they like. If anything is to come out of this debate I hope it will be a lesson that we should feel honoured to be elected to this Chamber, we do not own public money but rather have a responsibility to ensure that it is managed correctly and we have an obligation to ensure that we uphold the laws we make and do not treat Parliament as a nuisance.

It is a pity the Labour Party has lost the standards set for it by its predecessors. The very minimum it should have guaranteed us was a question and answer session, yet it denied us the right. It appears that it is going to vote against our amendment which merely confirms what the Tánaiste said when the report was published. I suppose the trimmings of office are too attractive to let go. I am sure the electorate will have an opportunity of expressing its views on this issue in the not too distant future.

My main desire in contributing to the debate was to highlight the inexcusable decision of the then Minister for Industry and Commerce in 1987 to reintroduce export credit insurance for Iraq and the fact that he went against all the sound advice given to him by the people whom we expect to serve us. He owes it to us to tell us the other information he had which justified his decision to go against that advice. My other desire was to ask the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry to say why his Department did not make the then Department of Industry and Commerce aware of the fact that there was a serious breach of Muslim law by the export of non-Halal slaughtered meat which would expose Irish taxpayers to a possible bill well in excess of £100 million.

Sitting suspended at 6 p.m. and resumed at 7 p.m.

I want to make a short contribution and perhaps say some things not said before, really about the order of the Dáil——

——positive things.

Positive things, I hope the Minister opposite might be able to take on board.

One part of the Taoiseach's remarks in the House yesterday is quoted extensively in The Irish Times today as follows:

The public are interested in the bottom line, not in the minutiae that appeared to be so riveting to the commentators.

The editorial today said:

Far from being interested only in the bottom line, what would be more true is that the public has been overwhelmed by the sheer volume of material which has emerged during the investigation of the circumstances in which export credit insurance was granted to Mr. Goodman. The Taoiseach claimed that "the entire democratic process suffered greatly" as a result of the conduct of some of those who brought the charges which led to the tribunal. What would be more accurate to say is that the answers given in the Dáil to legitimate questions fuelled suspicion, and that more openness — as he seemed to concede yesterday — would have helped to head off the inexorable march of events to the expensive tribunal process.

That editorial is quite accurate in calling on this Parliament to render itself more relevant. Indeed, in his report, Mr. Justice Hamilton pointed out that had questions been properly answered in this House, much of the expense would not have been incurred. Indeed yesterday the Taoiseach fuelled that suspicion again by referring to sweeping matters under the carpet.

On the Government side of the House, by and large the real problem appeared to be ignored. You, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, will have been in the Chair for some time in the course of Question Time in this House. In the magnificent publication some months ago entitled Dáil Reform, the Government rightly took credit for opening up this House to the public by having its proceedings televised and broadcast. However, the public can view the empty benches during Question Time which, in this Dáil, are even more noticeable, principally because Ministers indulge in a filibuster right from the beginning. For example, the Minister for Education, on her first day answering questions here, read out five or six pages of a reply to a parliamentary question.

She was new.

She should have learned her lesson thereafter. Neither do I understand why the Taoiseach who also indulged in long replies to parliamentary questions, has now decided to give shorter ones.

It appears one cannot win; if one gives a long answer one is criticised; equally if one gives a short reply one is criticised.

The point I am making is that Question Time is not efficient, that if a Member must rely on a long reply, there is something wrong because there is a limited time available for a number of questions and all procedures in this House must be geared to some type of productivity yardstick.

Surely the nature of the question dictates whether the answer be long or short?

Perhaps the Minister sitting opposite, in replying to this House, does so openly and honestly, but many Ministers come in here believing it to be chic or the right thing not to give a proper answer. The tendency is for people on all sides of the House to praise the public service, but I ask why the public service supply all of this information in this manner?

As the Minister suggested at the beginning, I should be constructive. I want the Committee on Procedure and Privilges to tackle some of the problems that arose in this Chamber which led to the establishment of the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Processing Industry, or what might be described as the beef scandal. If the Minister was allowed two and a half minutes to reply, to question and a time limit was imposed on both speakers it would ensure some balance. I know the Minister is capable of economy with words to put across his policies.

Probably he would say "no" to each question.

Well, if he was reduced to that, I fear the public would not think too highly of him. After all, he has to be re-elected and must be a little inventive. As matters stand the public see a mass of empty benches in this Chamber. This is supposed to be an important debate, yet one person only has constantly listened in this House since it began — the representative of the United Farmers Association in the public gallery. The contributions of all Ministers to date have been just platitudinous. The Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment, Deputy Séamus Brennan delivered a lecture about our economy being flat. I might remind him that he flattened it in 1986, when while he was in Opposition he told the public that money was running out. He could not have cared less about our economy, all he was endeavouring to do was flatten the Government. Let Members consider that and compare it with the responsible support of the Leader of my party, Deputy John Bruton, for the Taoiseach and Tánaiste in the peace initiative. Compare that with what occurred in 1985 when former Taoiseach, Deputy Charles J. Haughey, tried to scuttle the Anglo-Irish Agreement.

I doubt if any more pearls of wisdom will emanate from the other side to ameliorate the effects of this scandal. As yet, nobody on the Government side has shown any initiative in regard to the findings.

If the Government is serious about parliamentary committees it is not evident to date. It had 18 months already within which to introduce the necessary legislation to enable committees to call witnesses but has done nothing about it. Indeed an indication of what it intends is the paltry sum set aside in the Estimates for committees for the year 1994-95. This is merely a further indication that the Government has no intention of doing anything in that respect in 1995. It is damning on all our souls and we will not get anything out of it.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Batt O'Keeffe.

I am sure that is acceptable.

You know better than most people that I have great time for the Deputy from Clare who has just spoken. We have got on very well for many years. This is the first time I have heard an open admission of the disastrous management of the economy in 1985 and the Opposition being blamed for it.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): What about the time up to 1983?

We all owe a great debt of gratitude to Mr. Justice Liam Hamilton for providing us with the final report of the beef tribunal. I do not think anybody, and I include the chairman himself, expected at the outset that the tribunal would take as long, or be as complex as it eventually turned out to be.

The chairman was asked to inquire into scores of allegations. There are I am sure, very few people in the whole country who could tell what all of the allegations are or even half a dozen of them.

Just about everyone in the country could tell you that the one central allegation was a belief in the existence of corruption. The actual word was never used, at least not in the early days. It came disguised as other things, like "closeness", or "favouritism", but the disguise was thin, and everyone knew that corruption was what was really being looked for. That was the single thread holding the tribunal together. People went to all sorts of lengths to prove it. If it existed, in any shape, or form, or colour, then the tribunal would most surely have uncovered it. Anybody who had any relevant information was invited by the tribunal — even through notice published in the media — to go to Dublin Castle and give any evidence they wished. It was a public inquiry. No one can now claim that there was not every opportunity to make their point.

There is an old legal saying — he who alleges must prove. In the main, those who alleged did not prove because they could not prove. After three years, with teams of barristers and solicitors and enough paperwork to fill entire rooms in Dublin Castle — if impropriety by any name existed, the Irish people can be sure that it would have been exposed. They can be sure too that there would have been no shortage of people willing, and waiting, to convey that news.

I will cite Othello by William Shakespeare:

O! beware, my Lord, of jealousy; It is the green-ey'd monster which doth mock

The meat it feeds on; that cuckold lives in bliss

Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger;

But, O! what damned minutes tells he o'er

Who dotes, yet doubts; suspects....

I never knew there was the touch of a poet about the Minister.

Any possible hint of corruption has been completely and utterly rejected by the chairman, in the starkest terms. The integrity of the Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds, and the integrity of the then Fianna Fáil Government have been completely vindicated. The chairman states simply that:

...there is no evidence to suggest that (Albert Reynold's) decisions were in any way based on improper motives, either political or personal.

Nothing could be clearer. Nobody can suggest that it means anything except what is says. Just as the central charge was easy to identify, the central finding is now equally plain. The stones that were gathered to be cast now form the base of his pedestal.

The Minister is probably canonising a saint.

The painful political execution that was to take place this week has turned into a beatification.

I knew the Minister would try to canonise a saint.

How cruel this world can be on the Opposition. Now that the chairman has found no hint of impropriety I find it astonishing that Deputy Michael McDowell would this morning use the word "corruption" in relation to the Fianna Fáil Government, so carefully examined by the tribunal. If seeing is believing then some sceptics would not even look. Deputy Michael McDowell should also be aware that it is a matter for an independent authority to decide, based on the tribunal's findings whether or not any individual criticised in the report should be prosecuted. It is not a matter for Deputy Michael McDowell to find people guilty. It is not a matter for the Dáil to find people guilty. It is a matter for the proper independent authorities to decide whether to prosecute, and a matter for the courts to decide whether they are guilty or not, as Deputy Michael McDowell well knows, or at least, should know.

The report has been sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions. who is entirely independent in these matters of politicians and the Government, and the public can be assured that the DPP will take the appropriate action. Deputy Michael McDowell's intemperate contribution here this morning was reminiscent of the posture and the attitude which gave rise to the tribunal on the first day. The indignation that he shows is about 2 per cent moral, 48 per cent indignation and about 50 per cent envy. It does not need a keen legal mind either to know that Deputy Michael McDowell was legally incorrect on an important matter this morning. He ought to know better. Any child of school-going age, let alone a lawyer could tell him that when the chairman says "there is no evidence", that that is precisely what the chairman means. It does not mean that people are probably guilty anyway. It is well known that the Opposition does not live by words alone despite the fact that sometimes they have to eat them.

Not on bread alone doth man live.

The tribunal will end up costing the taxpayer perhaps in excess of £35 million——

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Do not blame the taxpayer.

——and such disregard for the final report is disgraceful. I listened with interest to Deputy O'Malley yesterday. He said:

the Tribunal has painstakingly and at great expense, established some very uncomfortable truths.

He was absolutely right. Not least among those uncomfortable truths is the truth that the central allegation which drove and motivated the tribunal — Deputy O'Malley's own insistence on the existence of corruption, reiterated by his party colleague this morning — was dismissed. It was rejected by the chairman of the tribunal as having no evidence whatever to support it.

Do Deputy O'Malley or Deputy Michael McDowell accept the findings of the report? Sadly, no, and they have devoted their time to two things. First, they devoted themselves to a selective repetition of evidence already given to the tribunal. Second, they devoted themselves to new allegations which they never advanced at the appropriate time in Dublin Castle.

The function of the chairman in conducting the inquiry was to weigh up the mountain of evidence given, sort it out, accept what was reliable, reject what was not, and having done that, to deliver his final and irrevocable word. This he has done. By what they have said in their speeches, I can only assume that both of the PD Deputies are rejecting the chairman's findings. Whether or not they accept what the chairman has said, that will not change one whit of what is contained in the report. Perhaps I should quote Henry Ford.

Maker of a great automobile.

Who ought to be boss is like asking who is to be the tenor in the quartet. Obviously it is the man who can sing tenor.

Since the tribunal report was published, Opposition Deputies and many commentators have trawled the report in search of anything that could be considered close to an indictment. One of the most damning passages they can find is that while he was Minister for Industry and Commerce. Deputy Albert Reynolds, took decisions based on "his conception of the National Interest". They would like to imply by this that the Taoiseach's conception of what constitutes the national interest must, by necessity, be different from anyone else's. If that is the case then in the light of the events of recent days, I will happily settle any day for the Taoiseach's conception of what constitutes the national interest.

Deputy Bruton in particular has tried to suggest that the real issue was the Taoiseach's competence. He said in the House yesterday, in a conspicuous shot at an easy headline, that the Taoiseach was unfit for the current office he holds. I have a single question for Deputy John Bruton. Who, in the light of recent events, could be more fit for the office he holds than the current Taoiseach?

One swallow never made a summer.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Where is the beef?

Order, please. The Minister without interruption.

Perhaps more than any of the other Opposition Deputies here yesterday or today, I would have thought Deputy Rabbitte might have learned something from the tribunal — expensive lesson that it was. Even the most uninformed on the details of the tribunal and its findings are clear on one fact, and that is, that virtually every allegation made by Deputy Rabbitte was found to be baseless. That was the chairman's choice of word. More people ought to be aware of that. More people ought to be aware too that Deputy Rabbitte was sharply rebuked for the time and expense which needed to be devoted to disproving his baseless allegations. He showed a tincture of repentance yesterday and immediately followed this by making further new allegations.

He would do better to accept Mr. Justice Hamilton's findings on the allegations he already made — a damning assessment of the Deputy's accuracy and judgement. Most people will think twice, I suspect, before listening to Deputy Rabbitte crying wolf again.

The Taoiseach has been criticised for the way he made the earliest findings of the tribunal public. During the tribunal and its aftermath, the Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds was vilified in one of the most extraordinary and prolonged attacks on an individual in public life and nobody cried "foul" then. The attack at times was blatantly personal and not political. The attacks were based on allegations and accusations which have now been proven worthless. They have been shown to have been nothing more than political invective, and there can be no criticism of someone who wants to let people know the simple truth, having endured years of vilification.

Public servants, too, came in for prolonged attack during the course of the tribunal. These were men and women working for the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Agriculture; whether veterinary officers in Waterford, clerical staff in Limerick, or HEOs here in Dublin. Those men and women worked under a cloud of suspicion for the last few years. They have no public voice to protect themselves, and they presented an easy target for someone to score a quick political point with damning allegations about their integrity. They too have waited patiently to have their good names cleared, and in all of the rhetoric, we must not lose sight of the fact that they have been exonerated.

Deputy Rabbitte is very quick off the mark in seeking apologies from others, and in criticising an absence of apologies. Could he not find it in himself, when he had the opportunity yesterday, to apologise for what the chairman describes in the report, as his "serious attack on the independence and integrity of the Revenue Commissioners". Yes, the chairman did make some criticism of some individuals, but that has no bearing on the countless other decent and dedicated people who were tarred with Deputy Rabbitte's sloppily and carelessly handled brush.

The tribunal has been a very long and a very costly exercise. It uncovered serious tax evasion, and it uncovered malpractices in the beef industry. It uncovered flaws in the systems of some Government Departments. These are undoubtedly very important matters, and the recommendations in the report will help to make sure that similar situations cannot arise in future.

We would be fooling ourselves by thinking that these results could not have been achieved in a simpler and more cost-effective way. It has been an expensive lesson, but it will have been a waste of taxpayers' money only if we refuse to learn from it, now that it has been undertaken. We had the tribunal. It is too late now for people to start asking new questions which they would like to have asked, or feel they might have asked. Were we to have another tribunal, I have no doubt that most of those criticising the findings of this one would treat another one in exactly the same way.

The final report of the tribunal was a new starting point — or at least should have been — but the many long contributions from Opposition Deputies in these two days have not treated it as a new point of departure. Rather, they are still concentrating on the evidence as though we did not have the benefit of the actual report, and the benefit of its findings. The people who paid for this tribunal, the taxpayers, deserve better than that.

People are understandably frustrated, and understandably irritated with all politicians in the wake of the tribunal. They have heard the allegations repeated again and again over the last three years. The people know that if corruption had been uncovered, or hundreds of millions of pounds discovered to be lost that they would have heard about it by now, but that was not the case. There was no corruption, or no impropriety. Yes, there was a potential risk to taxpayers as a result of decisions taken many years ago. Every decision carries a risk, but potential risk does not constitute actual loss. It is a risk, and that has to be balanced against the potential gain.

There have been many actual losses to the taxpayers over the years, presided over by other Governments. Deputy Bruton made the decision to sink £100 million into a bankrupt Dublin Gas. There was no tribunal of inquiry into that actual loss. There were no tribunals either into the collapse of ICI, or Irish Shipping, nor were there any inquiries into the actual overruns at Irish Steel and NET. However, we did have a major and exhaustive inquiry into the beef industry. It has been described by a number of people as a watershed in Irish political life.

The events which led to the setting up of the tribunal represented a new low in Irish political life——

It was the Government who introduced the motion.

——and have damaged the way the public perceives all politicians. It is up to us as politicians to restore the public's faith, and the first step in doing that is to accept the chairman's report into the beef processing industry. We elected him as the final arbiter. His word must be final. I move that we accept his report, accept his findings, and work to make sure that such an inquiry is never again needed.

As a member of the Committee of Public Accounts, I am delighted to have an opportunity to contribute to the debate on Mr. Justice Hamilton's report. The findings of the report are final and Fianna Fáil will ensure that his recommendations are implemented. That is our commitment.

The Deputy should try telling that to the farmers at Minane Bridge.

I am sure many Deputies opposite are deeply disappointed by the findings of the report. They were hoping for a stick with which to beat the Fianna Fáil Party but, instead, they have before them a report which vindicates the Taoiseach and leaves his integrity intact.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): What about his competence?

There is no mention of his competence. Who can question that man's competence after the happenings of this week?

One swallow never made a summer.

The report put the spotlight on the individuals who made the allegations——

Conor Cruise O'Brien made the spotlight.

——and that is important because they will be asked to justify their allegations.

I wish to focus my comments on a particular Deputy who was to the fore in pointing the finger and making utterly unfounded allegations.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Do not mention the Tánaiste, Deputy Spring.

I presume the Deputy means the Tánaiste.

This man had subjected others to rigorous scrutiny while never being the subject of that scrutiny himself. I regret Deputy Rabbitte is not present in the House. He is an avant-garde figure and less dour than his pofaced colleagues in the Democratic Left. He is well known for this humour and has an important role as the court jester in the Dáil. He appears regularly in newspapers and other forms of the media——

What about Richie?

Deputy O'Keeffe is a bit of a joker himself.

——so much so that we perceive him as being the Dáil's free floating, sometimes standing and other times sitting sound bite. I am glad the Deputy has graced the House with his presence. He has also been seen as the affable, fumbling Inspector Clouseau of this House, but the Inspector Clouseau that we know generally ends up having the facts right.

Who are we referring to?

Unfortunately the investigator here in the privileged position has not got the facts right on this occasion. The time for jokes has passed. The facts of Mr. Justice Hamilton's report are a damning indictment on Deputy Rabbitte. It cannot be dismissed with a smirk or an easy quip. Virtually all of his allegations were dismissed by the tribunal.

That is nonsense.

Mr. Justice Hamilton referred to the time and energy specifically expended on examining those baseless reports——

As well as on the £12 million account.

I will deal with that later. Deputy Rabbitte's credibility in questioning the integrity of others seriously undermines his own.

Before examining the aspects of the report I ask Deputies to cast their minds back to the first time Deputy Rabbitte made these allegations. I will supply Members with some of the visuals: Pat is in full flight, the chest is out, the outpourings are there with rhetorical flourish and he is throwing accusations like confetti around the Dáil Chamber.

He could not be that bad.

It was a heady time indeed. We now know that most of those accusations were baseless.

We know no such thing.

This begs an important question and one to which I demand an answer. At that time was Deputy Rabbitte aware that he was reading into the record of the House baseless and misleading allegations? If that was the case, it represents the most wanton abuse of privilege that I can recall.

That is not so.

I will now place on the record the allegations made by the Deputy and how they were dealt with by the tribunal. I hope future students when examining and appraising Deputy Rabbitte's contribution will cast an objective eye on it. There were 19 allegations in total.

There were 33.

Nineteen were found baseless——

——and I will refer to them. Nobody trawled wider than the Deputy in making those allegations. Customs officers, tax officials, agricultural officials and ICC officials were all targeted as being party to corrupt or fraudulent activities in what Deputy Rabbitte would describe as the grotty beef industry. In many ways the Deputy is a monument to the ethos that, if the facts do not fit the theory, then change the facts. He lives in a fantasy world where customs officers and revenue officials give the nod and the wink to phantom factories in Nenagh and meat companies cherrypick while the Government tosses double headed coins to allocate export credit.

That is good.

All that information came from anonymous sources and the tribunal found it to be false.

That is not true.

The question on everybody's lips today must be who framed Deputy Rabbitte.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): Who snared him?

To appreciate the full gravity of his unacceptable behaviour it is necessary to consider his allegations and the response of the tribunal to them. On 24 May 1991 he made accusations about grotty repackaging and stamping operations in the Goodman plants.

They are well borne out.

The tribunal report states that the allegations were based on a lack of understanding or appreciation of the export refund subsidy system.

The Deputy has the report open at the wrong page.

Deputy Rabbitte also said that the Goodman Group was engaged in a carousel operation. What did the tribunal find?

It found out about smuggling rotten meat.

It rejected the allegation of a carousel operation and found that while there was illegal importation of meat into the State the Revenue Commissioners had retained a deposit. The incident referred to in Deputy's Rabbitte's speech was not part of that carousel.

So it was a different crime?

Deputy Rabbitte spoke about the failure of regulatory authorities to make allegations of political influence. He said there was an official indifference to the climate of fraudulent practices that characterised the Goodman Group.

That is certainly true.

The tribunal found that this allegation was strongly rejected and that it had not been established there was any basis for the allegation made in the ITV programme.

That was made by the Tánaiste. The Deputy should not confuse me with the Tánaiste and he should not be attacking him.

On 15 May Deputy Rabbitte accused a great many Goodman workers who were on the dole of being paid under the counter.

I want to defend the Tánaiste.

The allegation was partially upheld by the tribunal in that it found there were under the counter payments.

It was £12 million, an allegation partially upheld.

However, it was very critical of the suggestion that the Revenue Commissioners were not dealing with the issue. Regarding Goodman's political connections, Deputy Rabbitte also stated that the Revenue Commissioners turned a blind eye to the type of remuneration packages enjoyed by senior executives and non-PAYE workers. The tribunal took a serious view of that allegation and, having thoroughly investigated it, it not only rebutted it but was strongly critical of Deputy Rabbitte for having made such allegations without any basis.

How does the Deputy explain the £12 million?

The tribunal stated there is no evidence to suggest that either the then Taoiseach or the then Minister for Industry and Commerce were closely associated with Mr. Goodman.

On 15 May Deputy Rabbitte claimed that in regard to the Finance Act the Government made a special arrangement to enable Goodman to avail of High Coupon finance but the tribunal disproved that allegation.

The Deputy should tell the House about the amendment submitted.

On 24 May 1991 Deputy Rabbitte said the decision in 1987 by the Fianna Fáil Government to reinstate export credit insurance was taken against the best professional advice. The tribunal found that decision, like all previous decisions — even those taken by the Coalition Government in 1983 — were taken by respective Ministers in the national interests.

It found it was taken against advice.

It was made in the national interest.

Deputy Rabbitte should stop being childish and listen to the Deputy.

The tribunal report states that the allegations in Dáil Éireann with regard to the operation of the scheme related to the alleged introduction of the scheme in 1987.

The Deputy's remarks are more than a distortion, they are crazy.

The report goes on to say that the former Taoiseach, Dr. Garrett FitzGerald, was part and parcel of that.

The former Taoiseach did not give Larry Goodman what he got from the Deputy's party.

Deputy Rabbitte claimed that on 24 May 1991 conscious decisions were taken to give one conglomerate more than 80 per cent of the available cover. The tribunal found that 75 per cent of the export credit insurance—

It found it was 75 per cent; I was 5 per cent out.

Deputy Rabbitte, please desist from interrupting.

The tribunal report states that cover in respect thereof given by the Minister for Industry and Commerce undoubtedly strenghthened the position but it did not find any particular favouritism. Deputy Rabbitte alleged the granting of export credit insurance was a political decision.

On a point of order, is the Deputy entitled to more time for the continued interruptions?

There was no injury time this morning for our party speaker, Deputy Doyle.

Injury time would not be of any use to the Deputy's party; it would need surgery.

I am enjoying Deputy O'Keeffe's contribution so much that he is entitled to a quorum and, accordingly, I call for one.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

Deputy Rabbitte claimed that the granting of export credit insurance was a political decision, but that allegation was rejected by the tribunal. On 28 August 1990 Deputy Rabbitte further alleged that the extraordinary recall of the Dáil and Seanad had as much to do with integral links between Fianna Fáil and Goodman, but that allegation was rejected by the tribunal also.

That is not true.

I would read the relevant extracts from the report, if time permitted. It was alleged that the Companies Amendment Bill, 1990, represented only Goodman's third choice, but the tribunal found that serious allegation to be baseless.

That is not true. The former Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, admitted it to the tribunal.

Deputy Rabbitte should read Mr. Justice Hamilton's report and not his own.

I read it very carefully.

On 15 May 1991 Deputy Rabbitte stated it had been suggested that Goodman was subject to a lesser degree of customs inspection. Again the tribunal found that there was no basis for this allegation. No evidence was produced before the tribunal. That Goodman had been allowed to cherry pick and had the inside track is a further allegation that was made on 28 August by Deputy Rabbitte. These allegations were also found by the tribunal to have no basis in fact. It was alleged that Fianna Fáil's attitude to Goodman was uncommonly acquiescent. This allegation too was rejected by the tribunal.

What has been the reaction of Deputy Rabbitte since the publication of the tribunal report? He is a slick operator. He manoeuvred and sought to evade scrutiny by claiming that he had saved the taxpayers £12 million, a figure plucked out of the air because is sounded good.

And without your amnesty it would have been £20 million.

Little attention was paid to the Deputy himself. By any yardstick, even the most ethically lax, this is a damning list. To date it has not been subjected to the scrutiny it deserves. I have no doubt whatsoever that Deputy Rabbitte knew that the publication of the tribunal report would not be good for him.

You must be joking.

We have had the multiplicity of media appearances. We heard the spin doctor supremo himself ensuring that he spoke about everything but the things that were found to be baseless. I now hope that at long last we will have an objective view from the media of Deputy Rabbitte's role in all of this. It is important from the point of view of privilege that we as Deputies enjoy in this Dáil.

However, that is only the first chapter. There is another saga to unfold. There are Deputy Rabbitte's own legal fees. I would love to hear what they amounted to. I indicated at a meeting of the Committee of Public Accounts that they would be about £450,000. On that occasion Deputy Rabbitte said that he had not applied for any legal costs. However, the facts speak for themselves. Almost 12 months prior to that Deputy Rabbitte's counsel had applied for his full costs. I would like Deputy Rabbitte also to take a good look at what he cost the taxpayer in getting the tribunal to investigate baseless and false reports.

I got £12 million for the taxpayer.

I reckon that in time, in money and in investigation Deputy Rabbitte has cost the taxpayer millions of pounds.

I read the paper this morning and saw a headline which I thought rather appropriate for the day that is in it. It was in the Irish Independent and the headline was: “Rabbits cause chaos”. The article was about a group of farmers in Mayo who were concerned to wipe out a proliferation of rabbits in that area and have appealed to Minister Joe Walsh to eradicate those rabbits. I suggest that the Deputy ensure that he does not return to Mayo for the time being.

I can assure the last speaker that the Rabbitte in Dáil Éireann will not be exterminated for many a year, whatever about the rabbits in Mayo.

Perhaps he will be moving towards the place where he originated.

I am sharing my time with my colleague, Deputy Brendan McGahon.

No matter what cosmetic exercises the Government do to try to camouflage the findings of Mr. Justice Hamilton, President of the High Court, it will still not acquit the Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, of responsibility for the exorbitant costs which our citizens must now pay up. It is clearly visible to anyone who has read the findings of the report that the Taoiseach, then Minister for Industry and Commerce, was totally reckless and irresponsible and not fit to be in Government.

What page is the Deputy quoting from?

Let the Deputy read it. The report clearly justifies the description of Deputy Reynolds by Deputy O'Malley as reckless, irresponsible and unwise.

Can the Taoiseach explain why he ignored reliable official advice, why he held secret meetings to finalise financial commitments involving the State without the presence of a senior civil servant of his Department? Such procedure is not conducive to the correct operation of a Department by a Minister responsible for same and smells of a banana republic.

£12 million borrowed in four years.

The Minister has the right to reject official advice. He would not be a man I would like if he could not make up his own mind. However, if he thinks he is justified in rejecting official advice, he should at least study such advice and put on record the reason for rejecting it.

How can the Taoiseach justify his statement to the tribunal that he could not recall the circumstances in which he was told about the largest single beef contract in the entire history of world trade? Is it a coincidence that the Taoiseach and Mr. Goodman had a serious lapse of memory during 1987? Furthermore, the report states that on 14 July 1987 Mr. Goodman met with the Taoiseach at the time, Deputy Charles Haughey; again Mr. Haughey stated to the tribunal that he had no recollection of discussing export insurance with Mr. Goodman and, more specifically, had no recollection of being informed by Mr. Goodman about the recent signing of the $134.5 million beef contract with Iraq.

Mr. Goodman stated that he would have discussed all matters that were of importance to him with the Taoiseach, the Ministers and the Cabinet whenever he got the opportunity to do so. He too had no clear recollection of discussing export credit insurance with Mr. Haughey on any specific occasion but emphasised that he would have discussed it whenever he got the opportunity. What other time was more right to discuss it than just a few days after the deal got the green light from the Minister for Industry and Commerce?

Discuss the report, not the evidence.

Mr. Haughey as Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds as Minister and Mr. Goodman all suffered from a lapse of memory. It seems to have been an epidemic that struck the three at that particular time. Of course it is nothing new for members of Fianna Fáil to suffer from lapses of memory. I know that from experience. The decision made by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy Reynolds, (1) to reintroduce export credit insurance in April 1987 in respect of exports to Iraq on a restricted basis, subject to a limit of £45 million, and to stringent conditions as outlined in this report, (2) to seek the Government's approval to increase the ceiling on insured exports to Iraq from £70 million to £150 million as if money were confetti, which approval was granted by a decision of the Government on 9 September 1987 and (3) to seek the Government's approval to increase the ceiling for insured exports to Iraq, from £150 million to £270 million in October 1988 which ceiling was ultimately agreed between the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Minister for Finance as a result of the Government's decision made on 25 October 1988, were made by Minister Reynolds against the professional advice available to him, which advice is set forth in detail in the beef tribunal report.

Deputy Reynolds deliberately rushed to Government the memoranda involving multi-millions of pounds of taxpayers money, in a way that would avoid scrutiny, particularly by the Department of Finance, even though there was no need for any rush in respect of most of those decisions. This undermined the normal safeguard of Cabinet. Deputy Reynolds, in his capacity as Minister for Industry and Commerce, rejected all advice and in doing so took risks described by the Department of Finance as a gamble with Exchequer resources.

Deputy Reynolds's view of the national interest in the distribution of export credit insurance was found by the tribunal to be objectively incorrect. Non-Irish beef was being exported under Irish insurance cover and there was no national interest served by that purpose. A sum of £98.65 million of taxpayers money was put at risk with no benefit to the economy. Deputy Reynolds did not bother to seek the advice of the Department of Agriculture and Food, the Minister who is now listening to me or the Department of Finance about the origin of the beef being exported to Iraq. If he did, both Departments, including my colleague the Minister, Deputy Joe Walsh, could haver assured him it was beef already in intervention whose sale would do nothing to improve Irish beef prices to the beleaguered farmers.

Deputy Reynolds's decision on the allocation of export credit insurance, underwritten by the taxpayer, was arbitrary, inconsistent and entirely inapproprite in terms of its use of public resources. Deputy Reynolds, as Minister for Industry and Commerce, stated that export credit insurance should be confined only to traders who had been paid up to date for previous supplies from Iraq. He then broke that condition in allocating export credit insurance to Hibernia and Master Meats while denying it to others. Initially he was willing to extend export credit insurance to Goodman, Hibernia and Master Meats without proof of written contracts, but he refused export credit insurance to Halal on the grounds that it did not have a written contract. Apparently the contract might well have shown that non-Irish beef was being used, and one could speculate as to why Deputy Reynolds did not demand a contract from this good friend, Mr. Goodman, from Hibernia or Master Meats.

Surely Deputy Reynolds was told by the Minister for Agriculture and Food of the day that non-Irish beef from intervention was being exported under those contracts. Either the Minister for Agriculture and Food and the Minister for Finance were negligent or he ignored them. The Cabinet confidentiality ruling does not allow for the facts to be established. However the beef tribunal report shows documentary evidence that the Minister for Finance of the day was personally aware of the use of intervention beef by Goodman from the early days of the 1987-89 Government. Apparently Deputy Reynolds and Fianna Fáil have tried to justify their actions in extending export credit insurance for Iraq in 1987 and 1988 on the grounds that he was following the same procedure as his predecessors in Government, but that is not true. It is obvious to everybody that Fine Gael in Government, sensing the risks of the Iraqi market, suspended export credit insurance for Iraq in May 1986 on offical advice. Even though the risks had not been diminished in the meantime, Deputy Reynolds reintroduced this cover in April 1987.

It is now clear to everybody concerned that this decision was unwise in the extreme. The bizarre style of Deputy Reynold's handling of the position exposed his civil servants who attended some meetings and not others. How could they have known what was going on behind closed doors? It is no wonder there was a direct conflict of evidence between two civil servants and Deputy Reynolds at the tribunal on an instruction the Minister is alleged to have given. This clearly illustrates the immature style the Minister displayed in all his discussions in connection with the export credit insurance applications lodged before him.

Furthermore the Government acted wrongly and in excess of its powers in changing the performance clause in regard to the IDA-Goodman deal. Deputy Reynolds, as a member of the Government and Minister for Industry and Commerce of the day, had primary responsibility for the IDA. He thus had a responsibility which he did not discharge, to protect the statutory independence of the IDA. It appears that Fianna Fáil, Deputy Albert Reynolds and the former Taoiseach, C.J. Haughey, looked on the IDA——

The Deputy's old friend.

Yes, my old colleague.

He rescued him from the Blaskets.

The poor man was inclined to be led astray. They looked on the IDA as an arm of Government, not an independent statutory body. The beef tribunal found that this approach was wrong in law. Apparently Deputy Reynolds agreed with the IDA chairman that there would be no press conference about the IDA projects until agreements were signed. Within weeks this agreement was broken by a fellow Minister of the Government. Deputy Reynolds, as Minister responsible for the IDA at the time, should have told Minister Joe Walsh that there was to be no publicity for the Goodman-IDA plan until the agreement was signed, but Joe stole the thunder and announced it in style, with Larry Goodman on one side and Charles J. Haughey and Deputy Albert Reynolds on the other.

The Deputy is still able to get ahead of me. I have to be off the ground quickly to keep up with him.

No agreement was signed for a full year after Deputy Walsh's announcement.

I cannot wait for the Cork Examiner anymore.

Misunderstanding that arose from the premature announcement may have contributed to the fact that it never worked.

The general consensus of opinion among the citizens of this country is that the public have got very bad value for money in this beef tribunal inquiry. This massive report of 900 pages has cost every man, woman and child more than £15 per head, not to talk of what it will cost the country in compensation being claimed by certain individuals against the State, even though those individuals are indicated in the report of malpractice in the beef industry. The citizens could end up paying hundreds of millions of pounds in compensation to certain individuals who are suing the State as a result of the incompetence of the Minister, Deputy Reynolds, and the Government of the day.

The general public is appalled by the manner and rate at which legal fees were set by the Attorney General for the beef tribunal hearing. The Goodman Group was awarded costs when the tribunal found allegations against the group to be founded. Gulf Oil did not get costs from the Whiddy Island Tribunal. Why create a precedent with the Goodman Group? There must be some fellowship between the Government and that group.

Another question the public is asking in no uncertain fashion relates the history of tax avoidance by the Goodman Group.

How is it that the group has been afforded by the Government the luxury of a tax amnesty whereas the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry made representations for some people in his constituency who had to pay a mere £3,000 or £4,000 under the tax amnesty but lost the right of settlement because payments to the tax office were in some cases only seven, 14 to 21 days late? The famous Goodman Group can ride roughshod over the taxation code.

They should have come to the Deputy's clinic.

The Minister will have to talk to those people. This demands a thorough explanation from the Taoiseach. Perhaps he might explain the anomalies before we end this debate.

It is quite obvious why the ordinary man in the street finds it hard to believe the findings of the tribunal. The only definite fact is its cost totalling approximately £45 million and that a lady journalist is heading for imprisonment. The poor and underprivileged sections of our community if convicted of receiving an overpayment from the Department of Social Welfare would be penalised but a meat conglomerate which has created the greatest scandal in the meat industry of this country, costing the taxpayer hundreds of millions, is let go scot free for tax evasion. If ordinary people knew what had been going on in the Fianna Fáil Government of that day there would have been a revolution.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

Follow that, Deputy McGahon.

I take an independent line on this issue and I do so willingly. I differ from my colleagues because I represent County Louth——

The Deputy knows the side his bread is buttered on.

Mr. Larry Goodman votes for the other side. I want to be fair and I do not believe fairness has been shown during these sorry events.

I did not come in here to whitewash Mr. Goodman, and I cannot honestly do so but neither did I come in to burn him at the stake. It is unfair that a man who has been vilified to the extent that Mr. Goodman has is unable to defend himself in this House and for that reason I wish to answer from the Goodman point of view certain allegations that have been made. Regrettably many of the allegations were true but many were not. Hysterical accusations were made and Mr. Goodman could not defend himself. We all know that if we throw enough mud some will stick.

It is regrettable that we have had to expend in the region of £35-£50 million of hard pressed taxpayer's money when that could have been avoided if honest answers were given in this House. Unfortunately, the system pertains whether Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael is in Government——

——or even the Labour Party.

Question Time is a joke because of the obstruction, filibustering and other frustrating tactics that are used. This is totally wrong and I think most Deputies would admit that in the House. These allegations should have been handed over to the Garda fraud squad and if criminal charges had to be prepared against Mr. Goodman or his companies, that should have been done. The Irish taxpayer should not have been saddled with a bill of such proportions.

An examination of the report on the tribunal shows that there were about 100 allegations made by Deputies in this House against Mr. Larry Goodman and his group of companies. These allegations were made under the privilege of this House and when the Deputies concerned were given an opportunity to name their sources, they refused with one honourable exception, that of Deputy John Bruton who had the guts to go into court and disclose the source of his information in the national interest. Many of their sources were of the faceless anonymous type, the same sources who fuelled the appalling "World in Action" programme, which was trial by television. If there were accusations made against any Member here, would he or she like to be subjected to the ordeal of trial by television?

It now appears that 97 allegations were found to be baseless, reckless and inaccurate and totally unsubstantiated in the tribunal report. Three were substantiated, two of which resulted in no monetary loss to the State or to the European Union and the third relating to tax was true. Deputy Rabbitte, a man with whom I have a great friendship and for whom I have great admiration — I rate him as one of the top politicians — made more than 40 allegations under the privilege of this House. Thirty eight were wrong and were based on misinformation from anonymous sources in the main, jealous company competitors. The privilege of this House was abused by Deputy Rabbitte wrongfully in his efforts to denigrate Mr. Goodman and his companies. I do not know why Deputy Rabbitte went to the excesses he did, but he did. The appalling abuse of privilege during the debates on the beef industry by Deputies on all sides trying to score cheap political points is to be abhorred. Not in the history of this State has a private individual been vilified in the way that Mr. Goodman has been.

Deputy Rabbitte was not alone and we must remember the double act of Deputies Rabbitte and Spring during the debate of 15 May 1991 which sought and caused the establishment of the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Processing Industry. The Tánaiste, Deputy Spring, made 22 allegations in this House following his briefing by the researcher from the "World in Action" programme. None of these allegations was substantiated and some were not investigated by the tribunal, yet Deputy Spring was represented during the entire tribunal hearing by an expensive high powered legal team that was briefed by his brother. This team was given the job of upholding these allegations which were all found to be unfounded and based on wrong information. We have heard nothing from the Tánaiste or Deputy Rabbitte about these allegations made against a citizen which were found by the tribunal to be unsubstantiated and totally baseless. I was not here yesterday but I understand that Deputy Rabbitte, in fairness to him, later withdrew some of the allegations and accepted that some of the allegations he had made were wrong. I salute him for that.

The Goodman group of companies accept that there was an underpayment of tax and the Revenue Commissioners agree it is £4.1 million. It is worth trying to put this in context. The Goodman group of companies had more than £100 million of tax free reserves which were undistributed. It is a fact that this money was entitled to be distributed free of tax to all shareholders up to 5 April 1990. During that time it was a normal and legal practice for exporting companies to distribute tax free reserves to senior management and directors. Goodman International attempted to distribute some of its tax free reserves to all of its employees down to the shop floor, without exception. Unfortunately, the scheme was not administered correctly. The tax law was broken and this cannot be condoned by me or anybody in this House.

It is important to point out, however, that following an intensive investigation carried out by two eminent firms of auditors, working in close harmony with the Revenue Commissioners, the total amount of unpaid tax identified is £41 million. The Revenue Commissioners, in an unprecedented move, issued a statement to the following effect: "When the unpaid tax is put in context, it is a very small percentage of the £260 million gleaned by the Revenue Commissioners under the last tax amnesty scheme".

The basic difference appears to be that while Goodman International has lost its anonymity, which is part and parcel of the tax amnesty scheme, all the other people who have paid the balance of more than £255 million under the scheme have kept their privacy, and rightly so.

A week after the tribunal report was published, Deputy Rabbitte spent hours broadcasting on every programme that was available. He never once said on those programmes that with the exception of tax, which he consistently exaggerated, all of his allegations were found to be baseless and worthless. I have been informed that he has since done so and I acknowledge that.

A significant point is that not one of Mr. Goodman's detractors in the Dáil or in the media has quoted Mr. Justice Hamilton who, in chapter 5 of the report, stated: "The importance of this industry in the economic life of this State cannot be overstated and the role of Laurence Goodman and the companies controlled by him in its development has been considerable".

When the chairman of the beef tribunal put the beef industry in its proper context and elaborated on the benefits that accrued to our economy by way of the value added and job creation that derives from the export of processed beef rather than from the export of beef cattle, he said:

The Goodman Group has played a significant role in this development and the technical standards of the plants, owned and operated by them, compare more than favourably with meat plants throughout the community:

—The Group slaughtered 2.3 million cattle in Ireland between 1986 and 1991, representing 24.8 per cent of the national kill and 29.5 per cent of the export kill.

—The Group killed its largest share of Irish cattle in 1988 (31%), the year in which cattle prices were at their highest in the period 1986 to 1991.

—Up to August 1990 AIBP had exported Irish beef to 77 different countries.

—Within the European Community, AIBP supplied virtually every major supermarket group, in the United Kingdom it is by far the largest supplier of beef to all the major supermarket groups.

The Goodman group employs over 2,000 people. It has made a significant contribution to the Irish economy. In one year its contribution to GNP was 3 per cent, an enormous amount of money from a firm that had very small beginnings and has grown to be a huge contributor to the Irish export beef trade. It has been gravely damaged, I hope not irreparably so, and the Irish banking industry has been damaged.

I hope that some good will come out of this inquiry. I hope the Goodman company will survive and knowing Mr. Goodman's personal resilience and his ability, I believe it will. He once owned over 200 companies and if he can be accused of anything, he can be accused of greed and of wanting to put his arms around the world. No man can look after 200 companies.

And no man can serve two masters.

I accept that discrepancies occurred and the Goodman company accepts that also. I hope this will not occur again and that a tribunal will not be established in my lifetime, a needless tribunal that could have been avoided if Ministers had been more forthcoming with their replies to questions.

Despite the furore that the beef tribunal and the various accusations caused in this country and internationally, the Goodman company has not received a single complaint from an international customer nor has it lost a customer, which I believe is a testament to Mr. Goodman and the beef he produces.

I wish to make what is basically a personal statement. I do not intend to deal with any aspects of the beef industry, the beef tribunal, the rights and wrongs or the merits or demerits of it. It is rather odd that I should follow Deputy McGahon in my contribution because I intend to speak on what I believe was the wholesale abuse of Dáil privilege which was a disgrace. The cowardly blacking of individuals' names, the taking of reputations by innuendo and the wholly unsubstantiated charges brought this House to its lowest ebb since the foundation of the State. The unscrupulous use of accusation by scatter gun and the apportioning of guilt by association meant that even those with no involvement in the scope of the inquiry were implicated and tarnished, and that applies to myself.

It is a matter of serious regret that notwithstanding the many fine words uttered here about the excellent report of Mr. Justice Hamilton, a number of indivduals were left with no redress following serious inaccuracies and misleading contributions to the tribunal.

In my case I became aware of hostile media reports in May 1992 following the appearance of a former Department of Foreign Affairs official, Mr. John Swift, now no less an Ambassador for this country in Geneva. When Mr. John Swift went before the tribunal, without my prior knowledge and with no legal representation available to me, serious and misleading statements were reproduced in the national media and reported as though they were facts. I was not contacted beforehand for any comment, clarification or rebuttal in what was and remains a scandalous abuse of media privilege and power as well as a serious indictment of tribunals of inquiry and their proceedings. Ironically, I had spoken to counsel for the tribunal, Mr. McGonigle, in advance of this occurrence and was assured by him that no such circumstances could arise, but the following is what took place.

I was greeted with headlines such as "Lawlor's Presence Misled Iraqi Officials". This related to wholly inaccurate comments by Mr. John Swift of the Department of Foreign Affairs regarding my visit to Iraq in 1989 as a member of a visiting parliamentary group. Mr. Swift told the tribunal that the idea that I had been invited by the Irish Embassy in Baghdad to approach state companies regarding overdue payments to Irish companies was "... seriously misleading and dangerous ... so extremely unlikely as to verge on the ridiculous".

I was subjected to a campaign of character assassination of malicious gutter press dimension, yet there was not a shred of truth in these allegations. At considerable cost to my time I compiled and provided documentary evidence wholly vindicating my efforts on behalf of Irish companies at the request of the then First Secretary at our Embassy in Baghdad, Mr. John Rowan. This documentation was factual evidence and was submitted to the tribunal with a request that the record be set straight. I requested representation by the State counsel but was refused and the subsequent publication of the tribunal report did not provide any direct reference to this matter. I seriously criticise Mr. Justice Hamilton, to whom I wrote before the tribunal reported, and brought the following to his attention in a letter dated 25 March 1994:

Dear Chairman,

I am writing to request you to rectify, in the interest of accuracy, a serious wrong done to me at the Beef Tribunal.

As you may recall, Ambassador John Swift incorrectly informed the Tribunal that I had not been requested by First Secretary at the Irish Embassy in Baghdad, John Rohan, when on a visit to Baghdad. to attend meetings regarding:— (a) Overdue payments to small Irish manufacturers in the Clothing Sector and (b) Support for the Aer Lingus subsidiary, PARC, to renew its contract to manage the Baghdad Hospital.

After extensive correspondence with the Department of Foreign Affairs, I eventually received the attached letter ...

I then gave the details. As the matter pertained to clothing firms Mr. Justice Hamilton did not clarify the record. My only recourse is to put on record the factual position regarding the events of 1988 so misleadingly referred to in Mr. John Swift's evidence to the tribunal. There were newspaper reports headed "Lawlor ‘not asked to meet Iraqis'" and "TD ‘not approached'". It was stated:

... no Irish official at the Baghdad Embassy had asked Fianna Fáil Deputy Liam Lawlor to become involved in talks with the Iraqis on behalf of four small clothing firms who were owed money, Mr. John Swift said.

But he said the Department of Foreign Affairs never challenged a Sunday newspaper report in 1989 to that effect. Mr. Swift said it was not credible Mr. Lawlor had been asked by an Embassy official to intervene.

In reply to Mr. Diarmuid McGuinness BL for Deputy Desmond O'Malley, Mr. Swift said that if the Department was to take up every inaccurate statement in the media regarding its activities they would have little time for much else.

Will the Deputy please give the reference?

It is from the Irish Independent. I do not know the date. The Irish Press stated: “Lawlor ‘not asked to meet Iraqis.”’ John Swift, a former official in the foreign trade division at the Department was answering questions about a report in the Sunday Independent and suggested that the trade counsellor accepted the same inaccurate rubbish.

During my visit to Iraq in 1988 as part of a visiting parliamentary group I was approached by the First Secretary at the Embassy, Mr. Rowan, who requested that I attend meetings with officials from the Iraqi Government and State bank. My attendance at these meetings was to assist a small number of Irish exporters in the clothing industry secure payments which were overdue. Among the companies were Dingos jeans of Drogheda and a Mayo company. I supplied documentary evidence to the tribunal and will quote from a letter I received from Dingos:

In October 1988 Mr. Liam Lawlor TD negotiated with the Iraqi Authorities in Baghdad on our behalf in an effort to obtain payments which were due to us for garments supplied in 1986.

These negotiations were at our request and we are pleased to state that some time later the amounts in question were paid

PARC, a subsidiary of Aer Lingus, won a contract for the management of Ibn AI Bitar Hospital in Baghdad against severe competition. The majority of the 300 staff was Irish. During that trip the embassy requested us to visit the hospital to see their excellent work. They used many pharmaceutical and other materials which were sourced in this country. PARC operated the hospital throughout the Iran-Iraq war. The contract was up for renewal and in the opinion of the embassy the Iraqi authorities, while wishing to renew the contract, wanted it to be more competitive. I met the Iraqi Minister, Mr. Hansa, responsible for relations with Ireland and the Iraqi Minister for Health. These meetings related to the bid by PARC for an extension of the contract. I pointed out that PARC operated the hospital during the war at great risk. During my briefing for the meetings I was informed that there was competitive undercutting from other quarters and I naturally complied with the Irish Embassy views on the matter. I subsequently received the following letter from PARC.

Dear Liam,

I refer to your fax of 26 May and the attached copy of your letter to Mr. Justice Liam Hamilton. My apologies for the delay is responding but, as my secretary mentioned, I have been out of the country.

It is really only section 4 of your letter that makes reference to PARC and I am quite happy to confirm that we did seek your assistance in 1988 to make representations on our behalf to Minister Hansa and senior officials of the Ministry of Health during the time that we were negotiating for the renewal of the Baghdad Hospital project.

Seeking that support from a Member of the Irish Parliament who happened to be visiting Baghdad at the time we saw as being entirely legitimate particularly in the light of our competing against strong international competition for a project that was of great importance to Ireland. That support from your good self was readily given and we believe was of significant importance in helping to secure the successful outcome of that bid. I hope this helps to clarify the position regarding PARC. If I can be of any further assistance please let me know.

Regards,

Yours sincerely,

David Hanly,

Managing Director.

These meetings took place at the request of the Irish Embassy. I entered into correspondence with the Department of Foreign Affairs following Mr. John Swift's evidence at the tribunal. I wrote to Mr. Noel Dorr, Secretary of the Department, pointing out what I saw as a grave injustice and inaccuracy. I also wrote to the chairman of the beef tribunal. After protracted correspondence, attempted cover-ups and diplomatic Department of Foreign Affairs gobbledegook and nonsense letters, on 4 September 1992 Mr. Ronan Murphy. Assistant Secretary, wrote as follows:

Dear Deputy Lawlor,

Please refer to your letter 2 September 1992 and previous correspondence concerning the beef tribunal. We have now been informed by Mr. John Rowan, formerly first secretary of the Irish Embassy in Baghdad that he asked you to make representations to the Iraqi authorities on behalf of Irish clothing manufacturing companies and on behalf of PARC during your visits to Baghdad.

That rests uneasily with the evidence given by Mr. John Swift at the beef tribunal, a man who is today an Irish Ambassador. To be generous and not indulge in what I have criticised others for, all I can say is that an Assistant Secretary in the Department of Foreign Affairs was unaware, because of incompetence or inefficiency, of what his colleagues in the embassy attempted to do in carrying out their responsibilities in a difficult capital city, Baghdad.

My character and reputation were dragged through the mud by the wildly inaccurate statements of Mr. Swift prompted by counsel for Deputies Desmond and Pat O'Malley. Former Deputy Pat O'Malley spent one term in this House. He was elected in my constituency and that obviously was enough for the people of Dublin West. All he will be remembered for in this House is his inaccurate attack on me during that period. Having lost his Dáil seat he became special adviser on energy matters with a salary of £25,000 per year courtesy of Deputy Molloy, then Minister for Energy. As regards Deputy Des O'Malley, the people of Munster have spoken and he will probably go screaming vindictively to the political graveyard.

The media will say they were merely reporting the proceedings of the tribunal. Are they not responsible for checking the accuracy of what they print or checking with individuals who are the subject of damaging and unsubstantiated allegations? I believe they are. It is not sufficient for Deputy O'Malley or others to claim that some of their allegations were true as though this justified the unsubstantiated and inaccurate allegations. It is not sufficient for the media to say its coverage was not defamatory when a cursory check of the facts would establish the truth of certain allegations. Allegations become facts. Views which were different from those who sat in judgment were depicted as wilfully wrong, incompetent and corrupt instead of differences in perception or priority. The appropriate authorities must take action in those areas where the tribunal found wrongdoing or illegalities. I omitted to say that I wish to share my time with Deputy O'Keeffe. How much time is left?

The Deputies have until 8.45 p.m.

This morass indicates the uselessness of this type of scatter-gun activity. It is important to exercise our parliamentary privilege with caution and in a responsible manner.

When I was chairman of the Joint Committee on Commercial State-sponsored Bodies false allegations were made against me. When these allegations, made by the former Deputy Pat O'Malley, were investigated by the committee they were found to have no substance. The findings at the end of the report prove that the headlines certain media people tried to put forward on programmes such as "Today Tonight" were very thin.

I wish to refer to the conflict of interest among former Deputies who have become so-called objective political journalists. The Irish Times, which portrays itself as a very responsible, accurate and thoroughly researched newspaper, now employs a former Progressive Democrats Deputy as a supposedly independent political journalist while for the past number of years the Irish Independent has employed the former Deputy Conor Cruise O'Brien as a journalist. The Irish Times also uses the services of Dr. Garret FitzGerald while another newspaper avails of the services of Deputy Michael McDowell. I wonder if these people are doing competent journalists out of a job. Are there not enough journalists available to adequately report the proceedings of public life or are these people double jobbing? There needs to be accurate arms length reporting of public life. Why should people with a certain political slant be employed to report on political matters which should be reported on in an objective and independent way? Unfortunately, there is nothing we can do about this apart from making our views known.

I welcome the opportunity to put the public record straight. I am sorry to have taken up the time of the House referring to matters which were peripheral, so to speak, to the findings of the beef tribunal. Ambassador John Swift should review his evidence and, in light of the information disclosed by his Department, consider the merit of withdrawing it — he was not aware of what his colleagues in the diplomatic service in the Baghdad Embassy were being asked to do. We have a responsibility to ensure that our embassies ask visiting parliamentary groups to fly the Irish flag, visit people and make the case for Ireland and its exports. This probably takes away from some of the junkets. A small clothing company with factories in Drogheda and the west faced closure because of overdue payments by the Iraqi authorities. I am very pleased PARC had its contract renewed. Unfortunately the tribunal was inadequate in terms of dealing with personal situations such as mine.

I thank Deputy Lawlor for sharing his time with me. The beef tribunal was an historical event. The problems in the beef industry date back to the 1982-87 Coalition Government which let the beef and cattle industry deteriorate — we had very few markets or export outlets for red meat.

We never skinned calves.

The Government of the day took it upon itself to develop the food industry and to make beef its flagship. It has to be said there were magnanimous gestures in terms of grant aid and export credit insurance when it was found that there was great potential for the export of red meat.

Since then two developments arose which damaged the meat industry — mad cow disease and the reduction in the consumption of red meat which was said to increase cholesterol levels. The mad cow disease seemed to spread to the Opposition benches where, day after day, many mad cows shouted unsubstantiated allegations across the floor at the Government. One cannot build a house without proper foundations and many of the allegations had no foundation. Those people who made allegations should have come forward and revealed their sources. Talking to people in pubs and door ways is not a proper way to do business. Our standards have to be higher than that and we should have facts rather than innuendo or yarns, of which we have heard plenty.

The truth is better.

The meat industry is a very difficult business — one is dealing with a product which has to be sold when it is fresh. That point was missed. The findings of the tribunal have been marked by hysteria and orchestrated attempts to further damage people in the beef industry, namely the Goodman group. The events in this House prior to setting up the tribunal were nothing short of a disgrace. Using the protection of parliamentary privilege, politicians made unsubstantiated allegations in the House in the knowledge that they could not be made accountable for them. The findings of the tribunal clearly confirm that these allegations were unsubstantiated. Given the flagrant abuse of parliamentary privilege, this House needs to give serious consideration to this protection. It is an affront to decent taxpayers that these politicians should now be awarded an open cheque for their expenses.

There is nothing in the report, which was produced at huge expense to the State, which justifies such a long and costly tribunal. Given the hundreds of tax inspectors who are virtually hounding publicans and small businesses and who have more powers that the Special Branch it should have been possible to detect the tax evasion by the Goodman group and its workers. After all, this evasion of tax was known to the Revenue Commissioners who obviously spoke to their friend Deputy Pat Rabbitte who supplied the information to the House at that time.

Much has been made of the suggestion that the former and present Taoisigh should have acted differently in administering the export credit insurance scheme and in their dealings with Goodman and others. However, it is easy to be wise after the event. Individuals both in this House and outside would do many things differently with the aid of hindsight.

The beef trade is one of our major exporters and is worth approximately £100 million each year. It is a tough and competitive business and few in it have survived. One has only to look at one of the largest food organisations in the world — we all envy it and praise it — which, in spite of making a substantial half year profit, is in a rush to get out of the beef section of its business, Kerry Foods plc, to see the difficulties the trade is in. If the profit margins were high none of these companies would want to get out of the beef trade. We have seen how the IMP organisation almost went into liquidation and how Clover Meats failed miserably. We have also seen how the Fatstock Market Corporation in the UK, which was backed by the British Government, failed to survive. This is an indication of the difficulty of surviving in this business.

The one company which has survived is the Goodman Group. Let us give Mr. Larry Goodman some credit; he employs hundreds of people, has done so over many years, pays farmers on time and always has paid a decent price. Of course the beef trade worldwide is not perfect but ours is better than most, a fact of which we are well aware; in that respect one need only look to South American countries. Yet this House sits for three days, adding a further bill to the already over-burdened taxpayers in addition to the approximate £36 million already wasted.

I can speak with authority about Mr. Larry Goodman. As a farmer I have traded with Goodman, always I have been paid on time, I have had reasonably good kill-outs and there has never been any skulduggery in trading. In addition, he was never aware that I was a politician. I have always found that he has paid honestly, fairly and squarely, while treating customers on the production side and others fairly. All of the nonsense we have heard here, just because he has had a successful business, must stop.

The report itself, which is the opinion of one legal individual will lead to additional red tape, more State contributions, more expense for the already hard pressed taxpayer. I am personally against any extension of the powers of auditors to inform on their clients, which could lead to a knee-jerk reaction. It smacks of big brother spying on people, which appears to be the attitude prevalent here, there being no recognition of initiative. Rather it is a case of everybody looking over their shoulders. While that mentality obtains we will never solve our unemployment problem.

It is ironic that those who have made claims to the high moral ground, with their outpourings of pious platitudes on this and many other issues, are the same individuals who have not created one single job or advanced one single investment to help this country. In this respect I include all the Members who sit on the benches to my left. It appears they have no idea what investment is about or of the risks that must be undertaken. Yet daily they are centre stage in our press, radio and television, subjecting us to their pious posturings, their false moral tones and redundant solutions. Rather than living off the backs of others it is time they too created jobs and wealth for this economy rather than knocking wealth. We are also well aware of the damage done to prospective foreign investors here, how frightened they must be in the realisation that they could be the subject of inquiry when this House would insist on another tribunal of inquiry for no good reason.

For example, there was the famous "World in Action" programme. It is a sad state of affairs when allegations which fail to be substantiated by that organisation can lead to the establishment of a tribunal of inquiry. Yet we had Members on the left, whether on the right-left, or extreme left, come into this House jumping on the bandwagon, creating hysteria, insisting on the establishment of such a tribunal of inquiry and the Govenment having to yield to that pressure.

Some of them are now the Deputy's party's bedfellows.

Deputy Sheehan had a good hearing. He must allow the Deputy to make his contribution without interruption.

I welcome Deputy Mulvihill to my left. This House stands condemned for having cost the taxpayer in excess of £36 million on an unnecessary exercise. At least we must ensure that such an expensive inquiry never recurs. As a gesture, perhaps those in this House who advanced many of the wild and baseless allegations would agree to pay their own costs, the least that might be expected of them.

I look here to my good friend and colleague Deputy Mulvihill, who cannot obtain an ambulance service in Cobh or a bus to the gaelscoil, yet £36 million have been expended on an unnecessary inquiry because his Leader insisted on the establishment of a tribunal.

(Interruptions.)

I want to tell him that there are no tricky people in Fianna Fáil. The founding fathers of this House relied on the great national spirit of our people, Fianna Fáil people, who developed and built this nation.

(Interruptions.)

The Deputy in possession without interruption.

They can take that message back to Deputy Kemmy the Chairman of their party, so that he will not be asking everybody to keep an eye on us. We in Fianna Fáil know our business and conduct it well.

Not without the help of the Labour Party.

With the help of the Labour Party.

Deputy Sheehan's party often shared a bed with them too. They did well out of it and had a pier built at Ballhdehob.

We are still recovering from it.

We would never have witnessed the establishment of a tribunal of inquiry were it not for the story circulating that Mr. Larry Goodman was a friend of Fianna Fáil, that he was a friend of the former Taoiseach, Deputy Charles J. Haughey, that he was friend of the present Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds, and many others. Everybody who made such allegations has failed to substantiate them. Not one shred of evidence was produced to the tribunal of inquiry to show there was anything political in that. It is a sad state of affairs that a company like the Goodman organisation, which this House reconvened some years ago to rescue financially, has been the subject of such criticism, such rumour-mongering. Yet the important thing is that it has survived the test of time. Were it not for the Goodman organisation having had to be rescued in that year, we would have been unable to have had our cattle slaughtered because there would have been no outlets for them had the company gone into receivership. The Government of the day came to their rescue.

I say to those who have been engaging in such criticism that they have been promoting the live export of our cattle because there is now no proper outlet for our dead meat trade. We are aware of what is happening in Germany because of adverse publicity. We are also aware that the Middle East constitutes the only place in which to sell cattle on the hoof, resulting in many jobs being lost here. I say to the people who sat on my left here: that is what they have done, that is why we have many more people unemployed than there should be. We should have a proper meat processing industry but the people on the left, indeed some of the extreme right, were the people respoinsible for irreparable damage to our red meat industry.

Can anybody tell me this evening, or before 4 p.m. tomorrow what has this Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Processing Industry solved? It established one fact, that there was tax evasion, which I do not condone or support in any fashion. There should not be tax evasion. That arose through a weakness on the part of the Revenue Commissioners who, with all their powers to inspect and examine books, failed to carry out their job properly. Yet, at the end of the day, they are seeking more powers. It appears that henceforth auditors will have to spy on their clients. I say to this House: allow the system to work.

I will have to take up Deputy Ned O'Keeffe on his final comments when he suggested that the survival of the red meat industry here is dependent on keeping under cover serious allegations about tax evasion, about fraud, about failure to honour contracts and about breach of promises. It is a terrible indictment to suggest that one of our most important industries is dependent on keeping the lid on malpractice of the extent exposed by this tribunal. It is a sorry pass to see Members on the Government benches end up with that sort of rhetoric at he end of their contributions. Nonetheless, it appears that is the way every Fianna Fáil speaker has addressed this debate. Frankly, their attitude is bewildering. Time and again we hear how the serried ranks of the Soldiers of Destiny came into power in 1987 after the dark ages of their predecessors. These soldiers, with their glinting armour, came along, and for the first time, lifted innovation and competition, as we were told by the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment, Deputy Séamus Brennan. That is the greatest joke of all, particularly when one reads in the tribunal report about the manner is which no fair competition was permitted between beef producers who were seeking to export beef to Iraq.

It is sad to observe Fianna Fáil politicians, whether directly involved or not, being unwilling to face up in any way to the serious issues raised in this report. If we are to believe Fianna Fáil speakers, the proudest achievement of all was the manner in which they brought the Midas touch to the Goodman group. That approach has ended in a shambles in every sense of the word. It has ended in all of the tax evasion problems and in a legal claim facing the Government of up to £159 million. It has concluded in no beef development plan. In the course of all of that, we had the very sorry tale about the manner in which Government Ministers were willing to conduct the business of State.

It is sad to observe that Fianna Fáil may be willing to wallow in self-deception about the importance of their role in encouraging great development in this country, but anyone who reads the report of the tribunal will observe that what is being depicted by Fianna Fáil speakers in this debate to date is a sorry caricature of the events that occurred.

The report of the tribunal reveals a whole series of political acts which are unacceptable in any democratic society worthy of its name. First, the Government failed to respect the rule of law in decisions it took about grant aid to Goodman International. It is pretty fundamental if our Government will not respect the rule of law. The Taoiseach inexplicably and irresponsibly exposed the taxpayer to huge risk, against official advice available to him, and without the due care of analysis of the benefits which, in the event, were virtually non-existent. Only 10 per cent of the Goodman beef insured at substantial cost to the taxpayer would be of benefit to farmers through purchases on the market. All the rest was either purchased overseas or from intervention when Irish farmers had already been paid.

The Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, operated arbitrary criteria in deciding eligibility for Government support which clearly gave unfair advantage to certain companies over others. A whole series of Ministers failed to answer fully in the Dáil and forced taxpayers to expend a huge amount of money in delving into questions that should have been open to scrutiny in the Dáil. Worse still, Ministers plainly misled the Dáil and at no time since have they sought the opportunity to make a personal statement on these matters. The Taoiseach knowingly exceeded the authority given to him by the Cabinet to issue export credit insurance on far more lenient terms than approved by his Cabinet colleagues.

As practising politicians, can we allow this type of activity to be presented as unexceptional and unworthy of censure as the Government motion is asking us to do? I believe we cannot afford to do this. This debate may take place today unnoticed by the public at large because of other events but the reality is we are in the dock as a body of politicians. If we sit back and accept the Government motion we are accepting that all that behaviour is the norm and that it is nothing to get worked up about. These are the political sides of what happened, not the fraud on tax and so on. Public respect for politicians is already at a low ebb. If at the end of this tribunal no politicians are held to account for this litany, then public confidence will be further sapped.

A democracy must abide by fundamental principles. The Government must act within the rule of law, treat its citizens equally, applying the same rules to all and account honestly to Parliament for its actions. The Government must take all due care to ensure that its actions are genuinely in the national interest.

All these principles were breached by political actions revealed in the report. The Government motion does not respond to any of these facts. The tribunal has made no recommendations on these matters because they were not a failure of the institutional arrangements for Government on which they could have recommended, they were a failure of the personalities that occupied political office. Only this House can make a judgment on that matter. We have had nothing from the Government except half truths and studious evasion of the questions raised about its political behaviour to try to gull the public into thinking that these extraordinary actions were taken for the best of intentions. Sadly, no one has accepted blame.

Of course, the tribunal could find no evidence of ill intentions when all the key meetings were held in private, when the reasons for ignoring insistent advice from officials were never stated, when the discussions at Cabinet were shut off by a successful court action. The framers of our Constitution never envisaged that the Dáil would need to investigate such behaviour by way of a tribunal.

It is curiously ironic that one of the responses of the Taoiseach in his speech was that he was committed to a freedom of information Act. It is touching to hear the Taoiseach say that having so convincingly displayed how information about decisions can be concealed from the public.

This debate shows that nothing has been learned by the Government about how politics must be conducted in future. Fault must be admitted by those involved and genuine reforms introduced to achieve fair and accountable Government. In his speech the Taoiseach said that all the outstanding questions would be answered. He went on to say he had foreseen all the possible questions and that they would be answered in his speech. He had scarcely got into his speech when he said: "there are no further questions that remain to be answered. The report's findings stand alone." He has manifestly refused to deal with outstanding questions. Should time permit I would like to put on the record questions Nos. 1 to 10 set out in an article in The Irish Times of 31 August 1994 by Fintan O'Toole. These are worth outlining if the Taoiseach sincerely believes he has dealt with all the questions.

Before coming to those questions I wish to deal with the Goodman application for IDA support. The whole handling by the Government of the Goodman application for IDA support displayed scant respect for the law and completely overturned the role and function of the IDA. The law makes it quite clear that it is the role of the IDA to advise and guide companies contemplating expanding their activities. It is also the role of the IDA to put together the package of grant support for such companies and to decide the conditions that will apply to such support.

The role of the Minister and the Government is separate. The Minister's task is to set out the general policy directives that will govern IDA activities but he is specifically precluded from issuing directives in respect of any particular grant application. The role of the Government is to consider IDA proposals to grant aid specific projects which exceed certain thresholds and to approve or reject those proposals or approve them subject to certain conditions.

The Government's gung-ho approach to the Goodman proposals totally ignored this clear separation of powers that it set out in law. It was the Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, the then Minister for Industry and Commerce, who was the custodian of this law on our behalf and he had primary responsibility to ensure that the relationships set out in law were respected. He manifestly failed to do this.

The Government was scarcely a month in power when it trespassed on the role of the IDA. The former Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, was involved from the start. The report of the tribunal at page 256 states:

On the 9th day of April 1987, the Taoiseach, accompanied by the Minister for Finance, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, the Minister for Agriculture and Food and the Minister for Food, met with Larry Goodman and Mr. Brian Britton.

That statement is at variance with the evidence presented by the Minister of State with responsibility for food, Deputy Joe Walsh, who said the Taoiseach had nothing to do with the application. The Goodman International Beef Development plan went to Government — without IDA knowledge — on 26 April 1987 before it had gone to either the board or the Authority of the IDA. This was a complete reversal of what was provided for in the Industrial Development Act. The Government went further and decided that three Cabinet Ministers — the Ministers for Agriculture and Food, Finance and Industry and Commerce — should take on the role of steering this project through. The tribunal concludes that this could be interpreted as a preemption by the Government of the role of the IDA authority.

By June a package of support had been agreed between Goodman International and IDA officials. The broad heads of the approach to be adopted — not the final grant agreement — were acceptable to the IDA board. Before the proposal could be approved by the IDA authority the Minister of State with responsibility for food, Deputy Joe Walsh, had already started to plan a press launch for the following week. The result was that the media had become aware of the proposal even before the authority met to consider it. This was in breach of an agreement which had been in place between the IDA and the Minister for Industry and Commerce. This agreement provided that there would be no announcement until agreements were signed, which did not happen until nine months later.

While the tribunal accepts that the Minister of State with responsibility for food did not know of this agreement, it in no way vindicates his action. Indeed, such action displays a totally cavalier attitude by the Minister of State to arrange a press announcement for a project which had neither been approved by the IDA authority nor by Government as required. Members of the authority were rightly incensed at the way they had been treated. The IDA authority was not the only one disturbed. Officials in the Department of Finance expressed concern to their Minister about the project being rushed to finality and listed a number of serious reservations about the plan, including the one that finally scuppered it — the inapplicability of section 84 relief because Goodman was using so much intervention beef. This later transpired to be 84 per cent in the case of the Taoiseach's favoured sales to Iraq.

It is to the credit of the IDA that it could objectively assess the proposal despite the enormous pressure put on it by the leaking of the matter by the Minister for Agriculture and Food. It was wise enough to build into its submission to Government a performance clause, making successive payments of grant conditional on the previous year's job targets being achieved, as well as a clawback clause. Those were important conditions which protected the taxpayer's investment. They meant that the final £15 million of grant aid would be paid over only if the jobs were coming on stream — 50 jobs at the end of the first year, 130 at the end of the second year and 242 at the end of the third year. That clause prevented the spending of State money if targets were not reached. It was a much more certain guarantee for taxpayers than the clawback clause alone. The clawback clause meant that the company would undertake to repay grants much later if the target at that stage had not been reached.

These two clauses were an integral part of the package that went to Government for approval on 16 June 1987. It is clear from a Department of Agriculture and Food memorandum quoted in the tribunal that the Government decision of 16th June 1987 on the Goodman programme approved in full the IDA's proposal that a performance clause in standard form relating to job targets from base year 1988 to 1995 should be incorporated into the grant agreement. It was not until February 1988 that Goodman International raised objections to this performance clause.

The IDA replied on 4 March to the complaint by Goodman International offering certain concessions in an attempt to meet some of the Goodman concerns, but insisting on the retention of the performance clause.

What followed was that Larry Goodman met the Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, who supported the dropping of the performance clause. The Secretary of the Department of the Taoiseach, no doubt at the request of the Taoiseach, prepared a memorandum which recommended the removal of the performance clause even though it was explicitly made clear in the memorandum that the IDA did not accept this position. The Government then decided to drop this performance clause. Commenting on this the tribunal concludes, "there is no doubt whatsoever but that the Government on the 8th March 1988 wrongly and in excess of their powers under the provisions of Section 35 of the Industrial Development Act, directed the Authority to remove the performance clause from the grant agreement being negotiated between the IDA and the Goodman Group and that this direction was made either at the instigation of the then Taoiseach or the Secretary of his Department".

The tribunal also found that it is obvious that the authority would not delete the clause were it not for the intervention of the Government. The authority did not seek such intervention and the intervention by the Government whether or not it was originally initiated by the secretary of the Department must have been based on a proposal by the Taoiseach because Mr. O hUiginn's memorandum was addressed to him and no copy documents were provided for the other members of the Government. This was a serious matter.

As soon as notice of the Government decision was issued to the Department of Industry and Commerce, the secretary of the Department, Mr. John Donlon, informed the secretary to the Taoiseach's Department that the Government had no power to amend a grant agreement of the IDA. By sleight of hand, the Government decision was then switched to being a reinterpretation of the decision of 16 June 1987. The tribunal found quite clearly that this reinterpretation was not legitimate. In evidence, Mr. Haughey said that he was not informed that the Government had acted beyond its powers. We do not know whether the Minister for Industry and Commerce also claimed ignorance of this. It is very hard to believe that he did not know of this important comment by the secretary of his own Department on a Government decision directly affecting his own area of responsibility. However, like so many other questions that should be dealt with by the Taoiseach following the report, it did not merit comment in his contribution to the debate. Members of the IDA courageously sought to defend their original decision but the IDA's inhouse legal opinion wrongly interpreted that the Government had the right to act as it had.

Where was the Minister for Industry and Commerce — the present Taoiseach — the custodian of the Industrial Development Act, when the power of the IDA was being usurped in this way? Why did he not speak up against the behaviour of his Cabinet colleagues? Why was it left to the secretary of his Department to take a stand on this matter? The Taoiseach's description yesterday or what the Government has been doing as "merely the removal of an administrative log-jam" is totally at variance with the tribunal's findings. It is a serious matter for the Taoiseach to interpret findings of the tribunal in that manner. That is the sort of thing he tries to sling across the House at members of the Opposition.

The handling of the IDA negotiations also cast important light on the conduct of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy Reynolds, on export credit insurance. The key issue on which negotiations between the IDA and Goodman International had broken down was the high reliance of the IDA offer on section 84 loans. In the IDA proposal section 84 loans were to provide the equivalent capital value of £47 million. Goodman wanted reliance on section 84 enirely eliminated and virtually entirely replaced by grant aid. The nub of the problem for the Goodman Group was that its exports involved purchases from intervention and if these interventions purchases exceeded 25 per cent, they would not qualify for section 84 loans. The present Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, attended meetings with the IDA on this matter on 19 May and with Mr. Goodman and Mr. Britton on 21 May. Deputy Reynolds clearly knew of the very extensive use of intervention beef by the Goodman Group which would disqualify it from section 84 advantages unless a change was made in the tax laws. How could the Taoiseach not recognise the implication that the beef for which he was so merrily giving Goodman export credit insurance was coming from intervention? Such beef carried as much exposure to risk for the taxpayer, but conferred absolutely no benefit on the farming community.

The behaviour of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy Reynolds, in export credit is a sorry shambles. His decisions to expand export credit were made against advice and to facilitate just one company. The Minister's explanation of his decision quoted on pages 206 and 207 of the tribunal report is threadbare. The tribunal finds no satisfactory evidence of why the matter of raising cover of £150 million to satisfy Goodman International was so rushed that neither the Department of Finance nor the Department of Agriculture and Food got a chance to express their observations to Government at the time it made its decision.

The tribunal finds that although the Minister was entitled to make his decision in the national interest, the national interest would require detailed investigation and analysis of the benefits before exposing the State to such risk. Far from doing this, the decision was deliberately rushed and frustrated such analysis by these other Departments. This was at a time when the Department of Finance was stating that it was far too much of a gamble with State resources and when the Department of Agriculture and Food knew that beef was being bought from intervention to go into Iraq.

The tribunal is bristling with examples of how the Minister, Deputy Reynolds, applied totally different criteria to applications by different companies exempting some companies from clearly established criteria and manufacturing unstated criteria to frustrate the applications of others. On the day the Government made the decision to increase export credit relief on the basis of five clearly stated conditions the Minister offered terms in breach of those conditions, ignoring the terms of the Government decision. Even when a civil servant drew his attention to the extent to which he was proposing to depart from the conditions on which the Government had made its decision, the Minister told the official involved to ignore that fact. That is stated in page 81 of the report of the tribunal. The contrast between the behaviour of the Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, as Minister for Industry and Commerce in dealing with export credit relief and that of either his predecessor, Deputy Noonan, or his successor, Deputy Burke, is illustrated clearly by the tribunal and demonstrates the irregularity and unacceptability of such behaviour.

The Government's response to the tribunal is pathetic. No politician is to take responsibility for the abuses of political position which occurred. There will be no question and answer session in this House during which time many of the outstanding questions could have been addressed. I will refer to some of the questions listed by Fintan O'Toole, a man to whom many of us owe a considerable debt for his diligence in covering the proceedings of the beef tribunal.

Why did Deputy Reynolds not ask questions about the source of beef and why did Deputy Walsh not tell him it came out of intervention? It is clear that both Ministers knew at the time the decision was taken that the Goodman International Group was using intervention beef. How did Deputy Reynolds know that Goodman International would apply for cover on a £135 million contract in August 1987? He knew that long before it was suggested there would be a change in the ceiling that then applied. Clearly, the Goodman Group was privy to an insider track. Why did Deputy Reynolds tell the Government that conditions for export credit insurance for Goodman International would be tougher than they turned out to be?

He breached a Government decision. Why did Deputy Reynolds tell the beef tribunal that there was never a policy in 1988 to confine export credit cover to just two companies? He said that in his evidence but the tribunal report clearly states that, on 21 October Deputy Reynolds's interpretation of Government policy was that he was to confine cover to just two companies. Why did Deputy Reynolds tell Deputy Brennan in November 1988 that there was not a policy of confining ECI cover for Iraq to particular companies although it is clear from the tribunal report that Deputy Reynolds had taken those decisions? Why did Deputy Reynolds in his sworn evidence to the beef tribunal insist that the only decision he made on 21 October was to go back to Cabinet to seek clarification of an earlier decision? The report states he made a decision to make explicit allocations of export credit to two companies. Why did the Department of Agriculture and Food doctor a briefing document from the CBF to remove references to intervention beef going to Iraq? Does Deputy Walsh stand over that practice? Why did the Department of Agriculture and Food tell the then Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy O'Malley, in November 1989 that it would be unable to provide information on intervention beef going to Iraq? Why did the Government break the law? Will the Constitution be changed to permit investigation of Cabinet meetings? Those questions are worth reciting because, in some way, they summarise many of the questions the public would like answered.

There are major questions that not one spokesperson from the Government side is willing to deal with comprehensively. We spent a great deal of money on the tribunal. Mr. Justice Hamilton presented the facts. It is for us to make political judgments on the way Government was conducted and yet the Government is stepping back from its responsibility to account for the way those decisions were made. We now have the benefit of the facts and we still do not have the answers.

Another disgraceful issue is the manner in which the Government dealt with the tax amnesty in this regard. It is scandalous that the Goodman Group will benefit from the tax amnesty. That is at the core of what the debate is about, namely, to uphold standards. The tribunal was designed to clear up any doubts about standards in the beef industry.

It is sad that criminal proceedings have not been taken except in the case of the journalist who brought this matter to the attention of the public. I cannot square the tax amnesty, the prosecution of that journalist, the way in which the Government is seeking to present everything that happened in the political sphere as unexceptional with the rhetoric from Labour Deputies. If at the end of the debate the Labour Party sells its principles and votes for the motion, it will have done a serious disservice to standards in the House. Many people inside and outside the House look to the Labour Party to observe a better standard than that. I hope even at this late stage of the debate the Labour Party will see that it can respectably and responsively vote for the motion tabled by the Opposition. It is a modest request of the Labour Party. It does not go beyond what many of its members have repeatedly said about the way in which the tribunal has been handled. I hope its members will take that advice to heart and vote according to those views.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Penrose and Seán Kenny.

I am sure that is agreed.

Thank you, Sir, for allowing me the opportunity to contribute to the debate. Deputy Bruton can be assured that the Labour Party will ensure that the Government will bring about the changes recommended by the beef tribunal in future.

I congratulate Mr. Justice Liam Hamilton on the publication of the Report of the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Processing Industry. It was a mammoth task which involved three years' painstaking analysis of evidence.

The report has given us an insight into the internal workings of one of our largest industries. The publication of its findings has led to widespread public anger, much of it because of the cost involved. The sum of £35 million is too large for ordinary people to comprehend: they feel that the tribunal could not have been worth that much money. That clearly indicates we must not consider tribunals of inquiry as a suitable forum for examining discrepancies in publicly administered money in future.

It was high time that the corrupt practices uncovered by the tribunal were brought to light. Politicians, like the former Deputy Barry Desmond, and the Tánaiste, Deputy Spring, took a stance against the fundamental corruption at the heart of Ireland's beef industry at that time. The findings show that corruption was widespread. Tax evasion infuriates people who see their weekly wages being eroded by tax. Every pound of tax revenue lost through evasion is collected from someone else, usually from the PAYE sector.

As public representatives, we need to take on board some of the lessons learned from the tribunal. It is clear that some procedures followed in the Houses of the Oireachtas are no longer suitable for dealing with the complex issues that come before us. We need greater flexibility to deal with current events in a reactive manner.

I suggest the following areas for improvement. I hope during Question Time Ministers will be more forthcoming in their replies. More time should be available for Private Notice Questions to deal with current events. Changes have been made to the Adjournment Debate but I am sure most Deputies would agree it is not effective. The committee system has been extended but, sadly, the powers held by the committees are restricted.

As chairman of the Joint Committee on Commercial State-sponsored Bodies, I am acutely aware that legislation is needed to strengthen the powers of our committees. In future, effective committees could eradicate the need for tribunals of inquiry. Committees need a legal foundation to grant them powers to send for persons, papers and records. At present if a joint committee receives a refusal in respect of a request seeking the attendance of witnesses or the production of papers all it can do is report the matter to the Houses of the Oireachtas.

Such legislation has been long promised. In 1982, in a special report to the Houses of the Oireachtas the then joint committee recommended legislation providing for privilege for witnesses for the purpose of an inquiry into Údarás na Gaeltachta. In 1984, the committee was informed it was intended to enact the legislation as soon as possible.

Regarding the committees, the current Programme for Government states:

They will also where necessary have general powers of research, investigation and reporting, and will be empowered to send for papers, persons and records. The necessary legislation regarding privilege and the compellibility of witnesses will be introduced as a priority.

I have been in contact with the Minister for Finance regarding the proposed legislation since July 1993, and I hope he will shortly be able to inform the House that it has been completed and will be introduced in the next session.

The lack of powers by joint committees has been demonstrated over a considerable time. On a number of occasions witnesses have declined to appear before a joint committee or persons have declined to supply papers to it. For example, in 1984 Irish Shipping, the Department of Posts and Telegraphs and the Department of Finance declined to supply papers, or to send witnesses as requested by a joint committee.

In 1985 the Department of Energy refused to be queried before the committee in regard to An Bord Gáis. In 1989 the Irish National Petroleum Company claimed privilege because of a law case over a simple matter within that company and refused to come before the committee. Siúicre Éireann and the Minister for Agriculture and Food in 1989 and again in 1991 refused to present themselves to the committee and in 1991 An Post declined to discuss the viability plan. Again in 1993 Telecom Éireann declined to provide the evidence that was requested of it.

I hope the legislation which has been promised will be quickly brought before us because it would enable the House to deal with matters that eventually might find themselves before a tribunal of inquiry.

The people we represent need to be assured that there is not one law for big business and another for the ordinary worker who does not have the benefit of accounting and legal advice in determining his or her tax liability.

This Government has agreed a strategy of openness and accountability in public life. The findings of the tribunal prove that we need to pursue that strategy with vigour. Donations to political parties from the beef industry run to hundreds of thousands of pounds. Although the tribunal found that these donations did not affect the decisions taken by the Ministers concerned, the people deserve to be assured that there is a healthy and open relationship between Government and the various interests in society.

I regret that Susan O'Keeffe now seems set to suffer for her decision to protect the identities of her sources, the people who helped bring the scandals and corruption of the Irish beef industry to light. They could even suffer the same fate. If she had made false accusations in the course of the programme, and if the tribunal had heard evidence to suggest that, it would be fitting that she should be brought before a court of law to answer for it, but should we now prosecute the messenger because she is honourable enough to protect the people who gave her the message? I do not think so.

I want to make one other point that could result in change for all of us in this House. Three of us have been given 30 minutes to debate on behalf of the Labour Party, a party of 33 members. A few of us had a first preference vote that was equal to the total vote secured by the Democratic Left. I do not think it is fair that one should have to rush through a debate like this subjecting backbenchers, particularly those of the Government parties, to such a small allowance of time. I hope the structures of this House will ensure that both sides of the House and all the Members will be treated equally.

I am very grateful to have an opportunity to contribute to this debate which has been described in some quarters as the most important debate to take place in this House in the past 20 years.

All parties in this House are unanimous on the necessity to hold this debate now that the beef tribunal report is to hand. It is only correct and proper that the Members should be afforded an opportunity to debate in full Justice Liam Hamilton's findings. The Government should be commended for reacting swiftly to demands for this debate as it is a matter of extreme national importance.

I would like to pay tribute to Mr. Justice Liam Hamilton for his painstaking work which, because of the unusually broad terms of reference, was rendered even more difficult by the failure of the Houses of the Oireachtas to specify by means of date or time the allegations which were to be regarded as of urgent public importance. Accordingly, some of the bleating about costs in now hypocritical. There was a clear failure in this House to particularise and specify the allegations which were of urgent public importance, and the failure to do so necessitated the tribunal trawling through Dáil Reports for the purposes of trying to ascertain what allegations were the subject of the resolutions passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Over three years ago the Labour Party regarded the allegations of wrongdoing and malpractice in the beef industry as of such importance that we called for the establishment of the tribunal to investigate the beef processing industry. It was, and still is, one of the country's most important industries and it was put at risk by men whose hands and minds were stuck in the greasy till of profit. They paid little or no attention to the effects that their actions were having upon the industry at large.

Despite all the talk about the beef industry I was heartened to note the more than fourfold increase in the sale of vacuum packed beef which has been achieved against a background of falling EC consumption, increased pressure from competing meals, alternative protein sources and the growth in the convenience food sector. It is stated that such a striking commercial performance could not have taken place if the quality of the product were in doubt, that concerns expressed about the quality of Irish meat exports are unfounded, that it is a product of the highest quality justifiably commanding a premium price on international markets both within the EC and worldwide and remains the country's most successful foreign export commodity.

I put that on the record because I thought I heard earlier that the industry had been damaged in some way. I am glad to say that the industry is thriving and will continue to thrive with the various safeguards, regulatory mechanisms and framework which have now been put in place and which will be put in place by the Government.

As somebody who worked in the agricultural area, I recall quite clearly the importance of the Goodman group in agri-industry, and the steady growth of that company to a position of near dominance.

I was shocked by the tribunal's findings of gross irregularities and major malpractice and illegalities at some Goodman plants which seemed to be based on a mythical invincibility which gave it carte blanche to run the company as it pleased with scant regard for complying with the requirements of relevant regulations. The massive, systematic scale of tax evasion left one gobsmacked. One wonders what the compliant taxpayers make of all this as they will have to bear the costs of the inquiry.

The beef industry was substantially dependent upon intervention, a market support mechanism with the aim of underpinning and maintaining farmer incomes, which is absolutely critical to retaining the maximum number of farmers on the land in rural Ireland I am glad to note that due to the efforts of the Government and the Department of Agriculture this dependency is now on the wane as more and more of the beef is being sold on the commercial markets.

It is disappointing to find that a small number of people exploited this valuable system, which inevitably led to abuses, motivated purely by profit and greed. I will not go over the ground already covered by other speakers, but I will say that each and every abuse and illegality must be pursued with the full rigours of the law, as indeed should the perpetrators of such greed and exploitation which has permeated parts of the beef sector where the Director of Public Prosecutions deems it appropriate to do so. I understand from the Minister for Agriculture that a report has been furnished to the Director of Public Prosecutions. It is not the role of a Dáil Deputy to make peremptory judgments on matters which will be considered in full by the Director of Public Prosecutions, who is an independent officer.

The Labour Party's main and abiding interest was to protect the beef industry and the public purse. The tribunal report illustrates the Labour Party was wholly justified in its decision to call a tribunal of inquiry.

The report shed light, in an unprecedented fashion, on the manner in which Government business has been conducted in the past. I believe that this House was ill-served by the manner in which a number of Ministers decided to answer genuine and bona fide questions posed by Members of this House in an oblique and demonstrably obfuscatory fashion. This method of frustrating the dissemination of information quite correctly sought in the public interest through the normal parliamentary procedures must be rejected. Accordingly, if these parliamentary procedures now need reforming, this should be done immediately, in order to ensure the legitimate objective of affording public representatives legitimate information is achieved. It appears from my perusal of the tribunal report that had parliamentary questions been properly answered at the appropriate time, there would have been no need for a tribunal.

I am equally perplexed by the failure of relevant Departments to share important information at ministerial and administrative level in relation to the source of beef exports. Secrecy plays no role in accountability, which is crucial to the proper operation of Government in a democracy and openness in public life.

As a sociological document on the relationship between big business and political parties, the beef tribunal report is a startling and revealing document. In the course of the tribunal it was revealed that Fianna Fáil received a total of £374,700 in political contributions from beef processing companies in the nine-year period to 1991. For its part Fine Gael bagged a total of £138,550 in political contributions between 1987 and 1991. While the report states that such contributions do not affect or relate to the matters being examined by the tribunal, political donations should be open and above board in the interests of the public good. I look forward to the electoral Bill which the Government will shortly publish to deal with the funding of political parties and the question of political donations. Requiring a full disclosure of political donations can only be for the good of democracy.

The Programme for Government states that the Government will accept and implement the recommendations of the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Processing Industry. The Labour Party will ensure that the recommendations will be implemented over a specific timetable.

Many people, rightly or wrongly, have levelled criticism at the cost and the lengthy duration of the beef tribunal. Arguably, judicial inquiries of this nature are outdated and impractical and there is considerable merit in this argument. One alternative method of conducting such an inquiry is through the committee structure of Dáil Éireann, which could be greatly strengthened by appropriate legislation dealing with compellability of witness privilege for people called before committees of the House.

In his speech on Thursday morning the Taoiseach referred positively to the need for a freedom of information Act. Such an Act can only benefit the wider public good. The Labour Party has been in favour of such an Act for a considerable period as such legislation would greatly strengthen and protect our democracy. I note from the speech of the Minister of State, Deputy Eithne Fitzgerald, earlier today, that a good deal of preparatory work has been done on freedom of information legislation. There is no reason why a decision made by Government and State institutions should not be open and transparent. The public is entitled to full details concerning information which affects them. The Official Secrets Act will have to be changed dramatically to allow this important advancement.

Individual citizens will have the right of access to all relevant information in their dealings with the State. Such openness will obviously have implications for personal privacy, and the media will have a pivotal and responsible role in their usage of information gained from free access to information on the personal affairs of citizens.

It was with great regret that I learned that Susan O'Keeffe, whose research for the "World in Action" programme triggered the establishment of the beef tribunal, is facing arrest. If she is arrested and jailed it will be nothing short of an obscenity. We will fail in our duty as upholders of democracy and fair play if Susan O'Keeffe is put behind bars. I sincerely welcome the Tánaiste's commitment in the House yesterday to examine ways and means to prevent the enforcement of legal penalties against anyone who acted in good faith in refusing to name sources to the tribunal. I would ask that the appropriate legislative response be prepared as a matter of urgency. Otherwise we will simply prosecute the messenger for trying to protect the people who gave her the message.

I welcome the publication of the report of the tribunal of inquiry and I particularly welcome this opportunity to speak in this debate which is the most important one in this House in recent years. As I speak we are experiencing an historic movement towards peace and reconciliation between the communities on this island. We are entering a new phase which will strengthen our democracy and allow the entire island to realise and develop its full potential.

The report compiled by Mr. Justice Hamilton is comprehensive and farreaching. It is the most extensive examination or our system of government ever undertaken and it gives us a revealing insight into the workings of industry and business in this State. It requires the careful and considered attention of all Members of this House and all the citizens of this democracy. The report before us raises questions about aspects of our democracy which are of serious concern, which cannot be avoided, and must be addressed and remedied to allow our democracy to develop.

The report exposes many flaws and weaknesses which must be put right. It has shown a democratic deficit in the manner in which information is provided to Members of this House who were trying to glean information about business being conducted in Government Departments and about Government policy. The tribunal chairman's most damning finding concerns the lack of information given to Members of this House when they asked reasonable and legitimate questions on matters of public concern. He stated that the tribunal would not have been necessary if parliamentary questions had been properly answered. The tribunal identified a culture of secrecy which has characterised our public institutions. The report exposes the unbelievable failure to share information between Government Departments both at ministerial and administrative level. The tribunal has disclosed deliberate cover-ups, and the falsification of information in the various tax and intervention frauds which were discovered.

The decisions taken on export credit insurance involved very substantial sums of public money. The public have a right to expect that such decisions would have been made only on the basis of the fullest consideration of the issues involved and the fullest possible information. It is simply not good enough that decisions involving such a large amount of public money should have been made without either a detailed evaluation of the benefits to the Irish economy of insuring beef for Iraq or without allowing time for the Department of Finance to furnish to the Government an assessment of the merits and financial implications of the proposals.

The public has a right to be assured that this will never happen again. It is understandably concerned at the cost of the tribunal and at the level of legal fees allowed. It has a right to expect that fraud and tax evasion is terminated and that the law is applied without fear or favour to those who engage in such activity. It is usually the PAYE worker who has to make up the shortfall for the tax revenue lost through evasion. One man's tax evasion is another man's tax burden. The public needs to be assured that there is not one law for big business and another for the ordinary worker. It is entitled to be assured that there is a healthy and open relationship between an elected Government and the interest groups in society and that there is openness, transparency and accountability in public life. The public has a right to expect that the monitoring and control of activities involving public moneys be effective and capable of responding to any demands placed on it. In Opposition the Labour Party levelled serious charges concerning the irregularities mentioned. The evidence provided by the tribunal speaks for itself on these issues.

The Labour Party entered Government with Fianna Fáil in January 1993 on the basis of an agreed Programme for a Partnership Government. That programme included a commitment to implement the recommendations of the beef tribunal inquiry. The Programme for Government also committed itself to disclosure of political donations, ceilings on election spending, and State funding of political parties, ethics legislation with disclosure of interests of those in public life and holding public office, Oireachtas reform and the consideration of freedom of information legislation. The commitment to implement the recommendations of the tribunal will now be tested by the steps taken by this Government in tackling the issues identified by the tribunal. I support the statement by the Tánaiste, Deputy Dick Spring, in the House yesterday when he referred to the breaking of the spirit of the Programme for Government when the report was selectively leaked when it originally became available.

The findings of the report highlight the importance of introducing freedom of information legislation. It must be a key element of the Government's response to the tribunal to promote transparency and openness, to create confidence in our system of government, to provide the public with the utmost access to information held by Government and to strike a balance between the right to privacy and the principle of openness. I look forward to the introduction of freedom of information legislation during the lifetime of the Government.

Already the Data Protection Act and the National Archives Act are in operation and are, to a limited extent, operating the principle of access to information by the citizen. The ethics Bill which was promised in the Programme for Government is now at Committee Stage in this House. This will require holders of public office and specified public servants to disclose any interests which could conflict with their legislative or decision-making functions. The proposed Electoral Bill will address the public perception of excessive closeness between Government and interest groups and the funding of political parties by commercial interests. The workings of Government must be seen to be impartial and equitable. The State funding of political parties and the disclosure of substantial donations is central in creating accountability and openness in public life. Further Oireachtas reform through the proposed Privilege and Competability Bill will empower the committees of the House to send for documents, records, and persons; and will give greater autonomy to the Oireachtas in investigating issues of public importance. The practice criticised by the tribunal chairman on the giving of minimal information in reply to parliamentary questions requires a culture change at political and administrative level. This practice must be reformed as part of a movement towards openness and transparency.

On the situation regarding the journalist, Susan O'Keeffe. Leaks to newspapers are commonplace, but nobody gets prosecuted. It is ironic that a journalist who was seeking to expose wrong-doing is, apparently, the only person to be charged.

The tribunal marks an important milestone in the development of our democracy. The political culture it considered and the way decisions were then made must reformed.

I would like to share my time with Deputy Tom Foxe.

I am sure that is agreeable. Agreed.

I have listened with interest to a great number of the contributions made in this special Dáil sitting to consider the beef tribunal report. I found many parts of the debate nauseating. Deputies who, in many cases, have not read the report to any great extent, came in here and read out, poorly I might add, scripts written by spin doctors, obviously without knowledge of what was contained in them. After 19 years in this House I find it sickening that on this the one occasion when politicians, irrespective of their political persuasion, could stand up for themselves and deal with the matter in a political sense in this Chamber, they have chosen to approach the debate in such manner. It is all the more appalling that, having flagged three weeks ago at a meeting of all the Whips that we regarded it as fundamental to the debate, not only in the interests of politicians but of the people outside, three-quarters of whom do not believe the publicity generated by the Taoiseach to date concerning the report of the tribunal, that there should be a question and answer session here dealing with the political ramifications as distinct from the personal or moral judgment of any individual assigned to ministerial office and that no such session is allowed. It is appalling that in a true and open democracy the Government has refused to answer to its peers on the legitimate claims and questions which should be answered in a political sense in this Chamber.

On 30 August 1994 I received a reply from the Government Chief Whip formally refusing our request for a question and answer session. He said:

As is normal practice in motions being debated in the Dáil, the Minister responding at the end of the debate will reply to any questions raised and so there will not be a specific question and answer session.

This is indicative of the debate so far. The Taoiseach in the course of his contribution said "There are no questions still to be answered". A sixth class child observing this charade would understand there are hundreds of questions that need to be answered politically, not for the sake of the Government but for the democratic system that we the elected Members represent and for the electorate to whom we must answer. It is nauseating that Ministers and the Government as a unit with collective responsibility would refuse to answer questions arising from the political ramifications of what occurred a number of years ago.

The Taoiseach, we were told, looked forward with enthusiasm to this debate and the Tánaiste for years has expounded on the necessity of accountability in public life. Yet we have a situation where one complements the other. The Taoiseach did not mention the Labour Party in his contribution. The Tánaiste criticised but in a nice way and said that the Government did bad things previously but that he would continue on the same road. Let me remind Members of what Deputy Spring said on 17 October 1991, column 845 of the Official Report:

We have had secret agreements with beef barons as well as a number of much publicised deals.

This is the same deputy leader of Government who promised trust in politics and openness for the people.

He repeated that yesterday.

I wonder will the answers be given by the Minister who winds up the debate or does that Minister really understand the flavour and complexity of the beef tribunal report presented by Judge Hamilton, including the vague references in it? I note the Taoiseach quoted the late US President, Lyndon Johnson, a man whose operations in the White House were doubtful on a number of issues.

There ought not to be references of that kind to the late President.

I am not sure he can come back to me at this stage.

That is not the point.

I was going to contrast his presidency with the great President Lincoln who said "democracy is of the people, by the people, for the people" but this charade is not either for, of or by the people.

Not in this House.

In response to a question from the then Deputy Keating the Taoiseach said on 7 April 1987 "I will answer any question from the Comptroller and Auditor General's Office". This Government has failed to bring into this House the legislation to deal with compulsory attendance of witnesses at committees.

The Minister responsible for that area is present.

If the Committee of Public Accounts, which has the backing of the Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General, puts down a series of questions I wonder if the Taoiseach, who looked forward with enthusiasm to the debate and who alleges he has been entirely vindicated, will go before that committee and answer legitimate questions of a political nature. When commenting on public accountability, Deputy Spring said on 17 October 1991, column 850 of the Official Report:

I want to make it very clear to the Taoiseach that I have no apology to make to him, his Government or anyone else in this House for my attendance at the tribunal and for my interest in ensuring that this Oireachtas is represented. In fact, given the patent nonsense which is being uttered by Minister after Minister throughout this debate, the tribunal may be a far more meaningful forum than the Dáil over the next few months.

I wonder about the change of mentality in people who put their necks on the line in the interest of democratic rights but who changed their tune so completely after achieving high office.

Deputy Spring, continuing, said:

When the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Industry begins its detailed work, it will have to examine two key questions. The first of those questions involves the issue of whether or not there has been wrongdoing within the industry itself, under a number of headings — headings like fraud and tax evasion, to name just two. The second, and equally important issue concerns the relationship between the beef industry and politics. The questions raised by these issues must be answered because they go to the very heart of parliamentary democracy ...

He concludes, column 851 of the same volume:

Maybe after all this, the politicians who are now praising themselves for their vigilance and the need for vigilance will finally have self respect and decency to come into this House and apologise to people, ... and others, that they maligned in this House when they rightly raised matters of criminal activity in the beef sector.

It is the Labour Party that keeps this Government in office and it is the Labour Party that can remove it from office. It is the party who must judge whether the criteria laid down by the Tánaiste prior to entering Government are still satisfied.

Regretfully, Sir, I have to give notice that there is no method of sanction in this House other than the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, which you chair honourably, that can censure any Deputy for stepping beyond his or her remit in making allegations, claims of statements in this House. A number of months ago a Fine Gael Deputy, Deputy Jim Mitchell, made certain allegations in this House for which the Taoiseach threatened him with removal from the chairmanship of the Committee of Public Accounts. You, Sir, are aware of the lengths and extremes to which we went to ensure that verbally at least Deputy Mitchell put forward a statement which was compatible with his remit and moral duty as a representative of this House.

What happens to people who have committed the ultimate political sacrilege, who have walked into this Chamber, having been given the seal of office and a remit by the President, and who knowingly have been sparing with the truth, who knowingly have been inaccurate or economical with the accuracy of the information they gave to the House?

The Deputy may not attribute falsehood in that manner to any Member of this House.

It could be his own he is talking about.

It could be——

It is a long-standing rule.

We have never been ashamed to do something about discipline——

I will deal with Deputy Power. If we had a proper political forum here there would be an obligation upon those in the Opposition, who have made allegations which cannot stand up, to withdraw them also. One does not need to be Colombo or Sherlock Holmes to deduce from the statements made here over the past three days that certain people with red files in their hands did not give a full and overall answer to questions they were asked. I hope at least to investigate the possibility of dealing with this through the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. That is the only committee which can in any way censure Deputies who have stepped out of line in terms of their remit as public representatives.

I find it nauseating that this Government, with a majority unprecedented in the history of the State, did not have the guts to answer political questions in a peer to peer relationship with their fellow elected representatives. This is a slur which will not go away from this Government. It will spread like a cancer upon the Ministers of Government and will be the main catalyst in their ultimate downfall.

I wish to thank Deputy Enda Kenny and the Fine Gael Party for affording me time to contribute to the debate on this report.

I welcome the report. It should be good; it cost £36 million. The beef tribunal was set up originally to investigate allegations of illegalities made against factory owners, staff members of those factories, the Revenue Commissioners, certain politicians and various Departments. The allegations referred mainly to abuse of practices under which money was provided by the EU to meat processors. My fear at that time was that highlighting such malpractices would inflict untold damage on our beef trade. Fortunately, my thinking was incorrect because that has not come about and it is most unlikely to do so.

The beef industry is our greatest industry. That industry, in addition to live cattle exports, accounts for £1 billion of exports annually. In 1973, shortly after we joined the EC, the responsibility for operating the intervention system fell to the Minister for Agriculture. His functions were to purchase beef directly and indirectly, to pay grants such as APS, aids to private storage, and export refunds to farmers. In the 19-year period from 1973 to 1992, Ministers for Agriculture spent £8.5 billion on such purchases and aids.

Approximately 12 months ago there was much talk in this House concerning the £8 billion that we were to receive from Europe. That figure was reduced to £7.1 billion, then £6.4 billion and I am not sure what the figure is currently. Bearing in mind the outrage that was expressed at the prospect of not receiving the full £8 billion originally promised, one can get some idea of what the beef industry has contributed to this country during that 19 year period.

Of the £8.5 billion paid out by the Minister for Agriculture and his staff, a mere .04 per cent was found to be disallowed by the EU. That is a record any Department could be proud of either in this country or in any member country of the EU. The Department had at its disposal then, and continues to have, approximately 80 staff members for administration, 60 veterinarians and 234 agricultural officers. Their functions were to inspect the meat in the factories of which there were 50, and in the cold stores, of which there were 20, in addition to inspections on the deboning line.

Those inspections were originally carried out by staff who were permanently placed in the meat plants during working hours but as time went on it was discovered that that was not the most effective system. The interpretation of the myriad of EC regulations caused quite a problem. Almost on a daily basis there were requests for clarification of certain regulations. In October 1990, therefore, an inquiry team was established which proposed another system for carrying out inspections incorporating some of the old system and introducing ad hoc unannounced meat inspections in factories or deboning halls. This system was found to work extremely well, so much so that other EC member states complimented Ireland on its system of inspections and felt it should be copied as a model by other EC countries.

The primary responsibility for implementing those regulations rests with the operators, the factories and the meat plants but it rests also with the Department of Agriculture which must ensure that such compliance is effected. In recent years there has been a massive increase in the amount of work to be carried out by the Department inspectors. Between 1989 and 1990, the amount of beef going into intervention increased from 77,000 to 230,000 tonnes. Similarly, in the deboning halls, the amount of beef deboned increased from 59,000 tonnes in 1989 to 214,000 in 1990. That represented a massive increase in the workload and if any criticism can be made of the Department of Agriculture, it is that it was short staffed for far too long a period.

In recent times the live cattle trade attracted much criticism, not without due reason. However, the criticism had a certain validity. As a result the Department in conjunction with the factories thought it wise to diversify. Rather than export carcase beef it was decided to process more beef at home which would generate jobs and money.

In the eight year period which ended in 1992 the amount of beef exported in vacuum packs increased from 25,500 tonnes to 113,000 tonnes, a five-fold increase. I had feared an adverse reaction resulting from setting up the tribunal but those figures indicate there was no backlash. Our beef is of prime quality. If any shadow of doubt hung over the beef trade exports would not have increased on such a scale. A minimal number of complaints was received from other countries.

Over the last 12 months there was a change in the Common Agricultural Policy. In the past the trend was to purchase beef for intervention. Over the next four years the amount of beef going into intervention will be reduced by more than 50 per cent. In 1993, 750,000 tonnes of beef were sold into intervention but in 1997 that figure will be reduced to 350,000 tonnes. There will be an extra half a million tonnes of beef for which markets will have to be found. As there will be less reliance on intervention there will be fewer opportunities for fraud. Upgrading the inspection system is on going and in future there will be better communications between the gardaí, departmental officers and customs officials.

As regards the tribunal, some of the allegations of fraud made against factory owners were upheld as were allegations of fraud against staff members in those factories. Allegations of malpractice against the Revenue Commissioners were refuted as were allegations of malpractice against politicians. Allegations of an over-close relationship between politicians and certain people involved in fraud were refuted, although it was recognised that where a relationship existed it was not an unduly close one.

The tribunal criticised the Department of Agriculture for its inadequate number of staff. That can easily be rectified by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry recruiting staff in the near future. The chairman of the tribunal made some unpalatable remarks about this House. He said that if questions asked here had been answered in a more forthright and thorough manner there would have been no need for the tribunal.

The allegations of tax and intervention frauds upheld by the tribunal should be pursued and investigated and the full rigours of the law brought to bear on those found guilty.

The report of the beef tribunal chaired by Mr. Justice Liam Hamilton has examined in detail the actions of all those connected with the export credit scheme 1987-89, and the background to those actions, as well as investigating the operations of beef factories and other allied activities. It is thorough and painstaking documentation and analysis of a complex web of activities and it deals in detail with all the allegations made at the time, some founded on the rock of truth and others on the hot air of privileged speculation.

The report includes many recommendations which seek to remedy the obvious failings of systems and procedures as well as patent abuses of regulations and of the taxation system. It is of the utmost importance that these recommendations be implemented in accordance with Mr. Justice Hamilton's advice and that is the Government's intention, as outlined in the Programme for a Partnership Government.

As well as dealing with factual abuses that came to light at the time, great efforts were made to enmesh the Haughey Government of that period in claims of "golden circles", "favouritism" and "back-room deals". During the inquiry into these matters certain politicians sought to impugn the integrity and motivation of the Taoiseach and, as if the matters dealt with by Mr. Justice Hamilton were not enough material for this important debate, there are those who continue to create further scenarios and subplots in a drama that already had more than its quota of both. It is clear to any fair-minded person and it is stated clearly by Mr. Justice Hamilton that the Minister for Industry and Commerce at the time, now Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds, acted in the national interest at all times and those who watched his actions as Minister for Industry and Commerce, Minister for Finance and latterly as Taoiseach, know full well that his motivation is of the highest calibre. The fact that succeeding Cabinets have also worked to the same the high standard may not make Deputy Reynolds exceptional but there can be no question about his motives, motivation and conduct. They were, and continue to be, of the same high standard.

While there may have been a breakdown in policy co-ordination along the way, the aims and objectives of the then Minister and his Government were always to build up a viable food industry, to stimulate and strengthen the agricultural sector, to increase our exports and provide downstream employment. With the benefit of hindsight, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and all the consequential events. post hoc arguments have been advanced to impute incompetence and ministerial action in direct contravention of departmental advice. Much has been made of this.

Civil servants provide back-up information and advice for Ministers but, at the end of the day it is the Minister who must make the decision, and stand up and justify that decision. That is the Minister's job.

Answer the questions.

This is merely fulfilling the task for which we were elected to Dáil Éireann, and exercising the trust that bestowed on us by the Taoiseach of the day. Our decisions are informed by our own experience, by briefing from within and without the Department, from Cabinet discussions and information that comes to us from delegations, submissions and representations. In my Department I have often been castigated for listening too much to my officials; the Taoiseach has been castigated for the opposite. The files in the Department of Finance tell many tales of Ministers who took departmental advice and Ministers who disregarded it. I will not tell tales out of school and cite cases where acceptance of advice would certainly have been the better option. As Minister you give it your best shot, and by that you stand or fall. However, I want to instance one case when a Minister for Finance went against all the advice offered him. It refers to the occasion when it was necessary to put a value on the Greencore shares for flotation in April 1991. All the advice given to the Minister was to value the shares at between £2,20 and £2.30. In spite of much pressure to opt for that range the Minister held out right to the very end and finally got agreement at £2.35 per share. That Minister is now Taoiseach.

I was a member of the Government at the time of the Goodman plan and I can assure the House that all our efforts were directed towards developing a value-added quality beef industry which would deliver a much bigger segment of the continental market for Irish-produced beef and consequent increased employment at home. There was never any question of favouring any particular individual or company. Rather the entire emphasis was to deliver an increased market share in the shortest possible time.

Before going on to deal, in detail, with the major issues connected with my brief, I want to refer to two other issues that concern me. I would like to deal first with the cost of the tribunal. The House will already be aware that I have expressed concern at the rates applicable to attendance by counsel at hearings. It seems extraordinary that in this age of deregulation and competition there is what seems like a virtual cartel system applying to legal fees. My Department has already issued instructions to all Departments in this regard and will continuously review the matter with a view to minimising such costs. I will return later to the question of the overall cost of the tribunal.

The second issue that concerns me is the question of the assignment of costs. I know that the chairman of the tribunal has under law the power to assign the costs of the tribunal to the State. However, I have some difficulty in accepting that the costs of companies which have been found by the tribunal to have practised large scale tax evasion should be borne by the State. I find this most difficult to accept. In these circumstances I will be vigorously contesting the extent of the cost and will be seeking substantial reductions on the grounds that, in certain instances at least, the extent of the legal representation was unwarranted.

I now want to deal with those aspects of the beef tribunal report which refer directly to my Department and to the role and functions of the Revenue Commissioners with regard to customs and tax enforcement. The report makes one specific recommendation in relation to the duties of auditors to report tax evasion to the proper authorities. I will deal later with that recommendation. I would like to say at the outset that I welcome the findings of the tribunal in these areas.

In its various findings the tribunal has upheld the independence and integrity of the Revenue Commissioners, rejected the allegations made against the Customs Service and endorsed the tax settlement reached with the Goodman Group in 1991 in relation to tax avoidance schemes. The tribunal found that tax evasion took place on a substantial scale. This is a matter of great concern to me and the Government, as all tax evasion is, but it accepted that the nature of the tax evasion scheme made it difficult to detect in the ordinary course at the time. It found that no special favours were done by my Department in the Finance Acts to prefer one particular firm.

I would like to deal with the very serious allegations which called into question the long-respected and valued independence, integrity and capacity of the Revenue Commissioners and their officials. These allegations were made in the ITV "World in Action" programme and in both Houses of the Oireachtas and suggested that the Revenue Commissioners and their officials had turned a blind eye to Customs fraud and tax evasion, had made wrong judgments in settlements with certain companies and were the subject of political influences.

In the first instance I want to emphasise that the Revenue Commissioners and their staff provided the fullest assistance and support to the tribunal in investigating the allegations made. The report of the tribunal acknowledges the assistance and support provided and singles out some of the officials concerned for special mention. The report concludes that all the relevant allegations were without foundation.

As regards Customs operations, the tribunal, in rejecting all the allegations made, found that the operations were detailed and thorough and that suggestions that they were subject to outside influence from any source are completely without foundation. The report indicates that there was no basis for allegations that the Revenue Commissioners had turned a "blind eye" to the activities of the Goodman Group in relation to tax evasion. It further states "unreservedly" that the tribunal is satisfied that the Revenue Commissioners did not make a wrong judgment in agreeing to a settlement on certain income tax and corporation tax avoidance matters with the Goodman Group in 1991 and concludes that the settlement reached was a fair and reasonable one.

Since the foundation of the State, and for reasons that have stood the test of time, the Oireachtas has taken responsibility for the administration of customs and tax law out of political control and vested it in the hands of appointed commissioners. The independence of the Commissioners in relation to individual cases is a vital principle which has helped to foster the confidence of the public in the administration of the tax system. It is against that background that I welcome the findings of the tribunal in rejecting these particular allegations. Given the gravity of the allegations some more detailed comment is warranted. I will first deal with Customs matters and then move on to comment on the questions of tax evasion and avoidance.

The Customs service plays an important role in controlling and checking exports of CAP goods entitled to export refunds. The Customs control system is designed to constitute an effective check on the accuracy of declarations made by traders and to deter and detect irregularities. Irregularities discovered are reported to the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry which is the paying agency for CAP purposes.

A number of allegations about Customs were examined by the tribunal. These concerned customs' inspections on the Border and at Greenore port, an alleged carousel operation and alleged collusion between AIBP and Customs — the so-called "master plan"— to frustrate an investigation at Waterford-Ballymun plants.

In relation to inspections on the Border and at Greenore, the report of the tribunal states that there was no basis whatsoever for the suggestion that the Goodman companies were subjected to a lesser degree of Customs inspections than other commercial operations — page 366.

The tribunal also accepted that the incident portrayed as being a "carousel operation"— whereby meat is exported on which export refund is paid, secretly reimported and then re-exported to claim yet more export refunds — was not part of a carousel scam. Contrary to the allegation that no action was taken in respect of the incident, the tribunal acknowledged that a very thorough investigation was carried out by Customs which established the facts of the case — page 375. The tribunal was satisfied that this investigation was not in any way hindered by any person in authority, political or otherwise, and was a completely independent investigation. I should add that in this case a deposit of £10,000, which was required by Customs prior to release of the truck involved, was retained by Customs.

In the case of Waterford-Ballymun, the tribunal rejected the allegation of collusion between AIBP and Customs to frustrate the investigation as completely and utterly without foundation — page 404 — and concluded that the Waterford-Ballymun investigation carried out by the Customs and Excise authorities, with the assistance of the Department of Agriculture officials concerned, was detailed and exhaustive.

Much was made of the delay in the Gards Fraud Squad obtaining a copy of the Customs and Excise report of this investigation. Some delay arose because a written request from the Garda authorities for its release went astray and was not received by the Customs authorities. The report was given to the Garda authorities after a copy of the original letter requesting its release was given to Customs. The tribunal report found nothing sinister in this delay. I should add that new arrangements were introduced in 1991 to ensure that the Garda Fraud Squad is alerted at an early stage to any fraud possibility arising from Customs investigations. Contacts are established directly between Customs and Garda so as to ensure that there is no unnecessary delay in commencing criminal investigations.

While the operation and control of the aids to private storage, APS, scheme is a matter for the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, beef placed under this scheme may also be placed under Customs control for export refund purposes. The 1988 APS scheme was subjected to a joint investigation conducted by Customs and Excise and the Department of Agriculture.

Having examined all the evidence presented, the tribunal was satisfied that the joint sampling operation carried out was detailed, thorough and exhaustive. On the basis of the findings, penalties in excess of £3.6 million were imposed by the Department of Agriculture on the companies that were found to have breached the regulations — page 437.

I would also like to draw the attention of the House to Table II set out in pages 586-591 of the tribunal report. This table outlines the more serious irregularities uncovered in the beef sector between 1980 and 1991. Apart from the Customs investigations I have already dealt with, this table shows a further 18 irregularities involving 17 companies where Customs personnel were involved in the detection or investigation of the irregularities. The amounts involved amounted to in excess of £4 million.

The findings of the tribunal confirm that the Customs controls have been operating well. Nevertheless, the Revenue Commissioners have informed me that they are fully alive to the need to keep the effectiveness of the controls under review and to introduce changes were found necessary.

Following a management review of the overall organisation of Revenue after completion of the Single Market, a number of new measures were introduced early this year to further improve the management and control of Revenue's operations in the export refund regime: first, a more streamlined management and reporting system has been introduced whereby overall responsibility for the proper implementation of CAP rules on export refunds has been assigned to one assistant secretary in Revenue; second, a systems audit function has been set up in head office to provide a greater focus on the integrity of control arrangements. Staff assigned to this work carry out ongoing critical review of CAP control systems to verify, as far as possible, whether controls in place are fully effective, to identify weaknesses, and to make improvements where appropriate; third, staff in head office have also been assigned responsibility for carrying out regular inspection visits to customs stations throughout the country to confirm that the control system is being implemented properly by the control staff. This complements local supervision and fourth. Revenue is represented on the new committee established by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry to oversee the audit programmes for CAP operations.

These measures demonstrate a strong commitment by Revenue to provide and maintain an effective Customs control system for beef eligible for export refund and to detect and pursue irregularities in co-operation with the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

A number of allegations were made about the £4.5 million settlement on tax avoidance matters which was concluded by Revenue with the Goodman Group, during the period of its examinership in 1990-91. The allegations suggested that the Revenue wrote off tax on under-the-counter payments, gave a special £4 million concession, and agreed not to take proceedings in respect of large scale tax evasion.

I am glad to note the tribunal "unreservedly" rejected the allegations made and found that the Revenue Commissioners did not make a wrong judgment, that there was a real issue as to the extent of the Goodman group's liability in respect of income tax and corporation profits tax and that the settlement reached was a fair and reasonable one having regard to the circumstances.

The 1991 settlement related to tax avoidance schemes — dividend companies etc. It did not apply to payroll tax evasion involving under-the-counter payments which had not been disclosed at the time, which Revenue had not become aware of in the course of its ordinary operations and which were unearthed directly as a result of the evidence supplied to the tribunal, and the subsequent comprehensive investigation undertaken by the Revenue.

They will benefit from the amnesty now, of course.

I will come to that later. Following receipt of information from the tribunal in August, 1991, which indicated that untaxed payments had been made to employees under the guise of bogus haulier payments, the Revenue