Report of Tribunal of Inquiry (Dunnes Payments) and Establishment of Tribunal of Inquiry: Motions (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:
That Dáil Éireann:
— welcomes the publication of the Report of the Tribunal of Inquiry (Dunnes Payments),
— thanks the Chairman and the legal and administrative teams for their work in conducting the Inquiry, and
— welcomes the Government's proposal to establish a further Tribunal of Inquiry.
— (The Taoiseach).

Before the debate adjourned last night I was discussing how the Minister, Deputy Ahern, dealt with the issue of the Ansbacher accounts and why it appears the Government is not willing to accept either of the amendments which seek further investigation of these accounts in respect of activities other than payments to politicians. He offered three reasons for his belief that there should be no further investigation of these issues.

The first reason was bizarre. He suggested the issue had not been raised in preliminary discussions regarding the terms of reference of this tribunal and that the Opposition was jumping on a media bandwagon. That seems to betray a very strange understanding by the Minister of the purpose of debates in this House. The purpose of those debates is clearly to listen to one another, to listen to public concerns expressed in the media and to attempt to achieve the best possible terms of reference.

The Minister's view of the role of the media in drumming up wider interest in the Ansbacher accounts than the Government is willing to accept sits uneasily with the lavish and justified praise the Taoiseach offered to journalists whose persistent questioning unearthed the information which ultimately led to the tribunal. The Minister's view is decidedly not reassuring.

The other more substantive reason the Minister offered for not looking into the Ansbacher accounts in another way is that the McCracken tribunal is being encouraged by the Government to pursue the court case in the Cayman Islands. However, it is obvious — the Minister said nothing to suggest otherwise — that the McCracken tribunal is circumscribed by its terms of reference regarding the pursuit of a court case and any subsequent use it would make of information it acquired. Its terms of reference dealt solely with the Ben Dunne case and payments by him to politicians. The McCracken tribunal has no right to look beyond that aspect and no remit to consider issues such as whether offshore accounts, for example the Ansbacher deposits, were used as a systematic vehicle for tax evasion. Its terms of reference do not cover these matters.

I understand the court case it is pursuing in the Cayman Islands relates solely to the point that it is investigating in the public interest, the behaviour of politicians. Its interest in the Ansbacher accounts derives solely from that and the court case it seeks to win in the Cayman Islands relates to possible information contained in the accounts which reflects on political behaviour. The Government's encouragement of the McCracken tribunal to go further is good in itself but it will not deal with the broader issue of public concern about the Ansbacher accounts.

The Minister said the Revenue Commissioners have the power to investigate the Ansbacher accounts. However, he failed to recall the point, as outlined in the tribunal's report, that evidence concerning the accounts which was available in Ireland has been destroyed. The Revenue Commissioners would only have access to information that is available in the country. It is obvious the tax laws of countries such as the Cayman Islands are constructed to ensure that the revenue authorities of other countries cannot draw aside the veil over offshore accounts for revenue pursuit purposes. The Revenue Commissioners do not have the opportunity to pursue this issue further.

I was most disappointed at the way the Minister dealt with this important issue which has been raised by the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party in its amendment. I expected to hear a clear explanation from him regarding how he intends to deal with the obvious public concern that offshore accounts are being used improperly by businesses or individuals. It is important to recall the conclusion the tribunal drew regarding the operation of these offshore accounts. It stated:

This was a very ingenious system whereby Irish depositors could have their money offshore, with no record of their deposits in Ireland, and yet obtain an interest rate which was only one eighth of one per cent less than they would have obtained had they deposited it themselves in an Irish bank. It is not the function of this Tribunal to examine these deposits in any detail, and it may well be that a number of Irish depositors may have been people engaged in international business which was greatly facilitated by having a sterling account abroad which did not require exchange control permission to operate. No doubt there were others who deposited the monies in this way for other motives.

The tribunal clearly sets out that there is an unexplored issue regarding the way the Ansbacher accounts were operated. We know from the tribunal's meticulous description that Irish residents gave money to another Irish agent who had set up accounts offshore, redeposited that money in an Irish bank and took instructions from the Irish resident depositors as to how the money in the deposits ultimately in Irish banks was to be deployed. To all intents and purposes these were Irish accounts but a vehicle was being used to make sure there was no record of the deposits. Two approaches have been suggested in the amendments that have been tabled by the Labour Party and the Independent Deputies. The Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs stonewalled on these issues and did not deal with the amendments proposed, which suggest investigating every Ansbacher account and the motives behind them. That would be an enormous investigative task and also raises the question of why one should investigate one set of offshore accounts for tax evasion and not investigate others.

It also creates a problem regarding the focus of a tribunal. We do not want a tribunal that carries out immensely detailed investigations of individual accounts or seeks to replicate the powers of the Revenue Commissioners relating to individuals. However, a view is clearly expressed by the tribunal and mirrored by public concern that there were mechanisms in place being used by Mr. Traynor, as the effective agent, by which people were using these offshore accounts illegitimately.

There are legitimate reasons for using offshore accounts and we cannot point an accusing finger at everybody who has one. If one has legitimate offshore activities and a company earning income overseas, it is quite legitimate to open an offshore account and to have the dividend generated by that company overseas managed in a low tax location such as the Cayman Islands. That is legitimate.

However, it is not legitimate in Irish law for an individual to stash away his income in that way. Companies are entitled to manage their affairs, but an individual resident in Ireland is taxed on his worldwide income. We must look further into these Ansbacher accounts, not in a way that opens all holders of offshore accounts to scrutiny but in a way that examines the mechanisms and the way in which those mechanisms were being used illegally, as I suspect in some cases. There is a need to investigate this seriously and a need for recommendations to be made to deal with it. The financial institutions involved need to look beyond the minimalist approach they would take with these accounts. There is an obligation to look beyond an Irish-based person giving instructions about certain deposits to see if nonresidents are operating these accounts. The tribunal must look at the mechanisms behind the Ansbacher accounts and how they were managed and come up with recommendations on how tax evasion may have been perpetrated through this and how we can deal with this in the future. Then we can remedy this potential problem with our tax code.

That is why we feel the mechanism should be examined by the tribunal rather than every offshore account. That is not called for at this stage. In many ways that is a key issue and it is important that the Government returns to this issue today because when the dust settles on this debate and people look at how we conducted it, the remaining and lingering questions will be whether there is systematic tax abuse of offshore accounts and if the Dáil has taken proper action to ensure such abuse is addressed. As it stands, the Government is seeing, hearing or speaking no evil and it must address this issue if it is serious. The best way to proceed is that which we have outlined in our amendment, although I would have expected the Government, with access to financial advice and the advice from the Revenue Commissioners which it has at its disposal, to have been able to advise the House on the merits of the two amendments tabled — one by the Labour Party and others and the other by Fine Gael, which we will press.

Fine Gael is pleased to support other amendments tabled. I suspect there will be some confusion later today as we reach these amendments and I would like to signal Fine Gael's view on a number of them. We support the need to look at the issue of Glending Wood in County Wicklow. We have seen the repeated involvement of those central to the McCracken tribunal in this case. It is important to allay public concerns and include this issue, which figures in amendments Nos. 16 and 20 and which Fine Gael will support, in the investigation.

Fine Gael is pleased to support amendment No. 22 in the name of Deputy Spring which is worthy and picks up on the recommendations from the McCracken tribunal. Many Members on both sides of the House feel there is further work to be done on what action will be taken in the future. Yesterday the Fine Gael Party Leader outlined a number of necessary changes in our corruption laws and in other areas of law to remove the corruptibility of the system. Deputy Spring's amendment sets out for the tribunal the need to look beyond what happened and to what will be done about it in the future in areas such as company law, the independence and operation of the Revenue Commissioners, the Central Bank and so on. Fine Gael is pleased to support that amendment.

We have some doubts about amendments Nos. 25 and 26 which appear to seek to remove the private phase of the investigation. I, like the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs, Deputy Ahern, see merit in the private phase of those investigations. The reasons outlined by the Minister are cogent and provide the tribunal with the opportunity to sift through evidence in private without names coming into the public arena if there is no evidence of wrongdoing. It also allows it to operate in a way where people are not forewarned of a possible investigation into their affairs which might be undertaken. From the point of view of not breaching natural justice for those who are innocent and of being effective in pursuing those who are guilty, the private phase has merit.

There is merit in amendment No. 29, which Fine Gael will support. If someone is found to have failed to co-operate with the tribunal and costs are generated as a result, those costs should fall on the individual or individuals who create them. Fine Gael does not support the suggestion that we should investigate each person who availed of the tax amnesty and seek to reopen their affairs to determine if any may have made payments to a political party. While it would be a fruitless task to pursue so many cases, there are also the limits set in the amnesty law in relation to confidentiality of the tax amnesty which remain intact. We cannot unpick them at this stage.

I take no pleasure in reading the sad account of Mr. Haughey's style of leadership as outlined in the McCracken tribunal. I have shared a constituency with Mr. Haughey for all of my political life and I know the respect in which he has been held by many constituents. However, a very bleak picture of Mr. Haughey's style of leadership has been portrayed. His belief in an entitlement to lead a lifestyle which he did not earn seems incredible. His willingness while in high office to have agents dispatched to raise money from wealthy businessmen to support his lifestyle was a serious flaw. The persistence of this behaviour even at times when there was huge public concern about the golden circle and the potential influence of wealthy businessmen on decision making defies belief.

Mr. Haughey's intimate knowledge of the tax laws side by side with blatantly ignoring his tax obligations is a sad testimony to his style. This was followed by the provision of misleading information in writing to the tribunal and the subsequent non acceptance of 11 major points of evidence provided by him when he appeared before the tribunal, despite a claim to be making a clean breast of the sources of payments made to him. It is more than a tragic end to his career. It is a demonstration of the deep flaw which characterised his conduct and it places many of the controversial events of his career in a new light. This is why it is necessary to pursue the money trail and to get to the bottom of the many issues which occurred in his life to see if the arbitrary exercise of power which we have seen time and again related to payments he received.

I was disappointed to hear the contribution of the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Deputy McDaid, to this debate. Perhaps it was the late hour, but we were treated to a speech more attune to the 1930s in his characterisation of Fine Gael and his eulogy of Fianna Fáil. Perhaps it was valuable archive material and I am aware of academics interested in such issues. However, it struck me that the Minister or his speech writer must be suffering from the problem which is affecting word-processing software, namely, the inability to distinguish the early part of the 20th century from the onset of the 21st century.

The essence of the Minister's charge against Fine Gael was that it needlessly questioned the probity of political acts under the Haughey Administration and the payment made in 1989 to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Burke. This attitude from a senior Minister is disturbing. Has anything been learned from the unfolding events of the past months? Is Deputy McDaid saying the discriminatory allocation of export sales relief, against official advice and after a private meeting with the beneficiaries, was acceptable behaviour? Such behaviour is not acceptable. Is he saying that interference in the IDA's statutory right to alone negotiate the terms of grant agreements with companies was acceptable? I do not accept such behaviour. Is he saying pressurising bodies to purchase Carysfort and sanctioning public moneys without proper Cabinet procedure was acceptable? I cannot accept that. It is clear that by coming before the House and accusing other parties of being crass or poorly motivated, the Minister has missed the point of the debate. The type of behaviour and style of leadership thrown into sharp relief by the tribunal is not acceptable.

Deputy McDaid's scorn on the temerity of the Opposition to question the Minister for Foreign Affairs is equally amazing. Is this the Deputy who was part of the Fianna Fáil Front Bench which proposed that bankers be obliged to disclose any unusual or large financial transactions involving politicians? That proposal, outlined in the tribunal report, was designed by Fianna Fáil to flush out just such a contribution as Deputy Burke received. Admittedly, had Deputy Burke received a cheque rather than the cash he appears to have received, bankers might never have seen the evidence of such a payment. Deputy McDaid was part of a Front Bench which recommended that as soon as any such transaction would occur, there would be immediate disclosure by the bank. Fianna Fáil also proposed that a permanent ethics commission should be established to investigate such a contribution, not under the rather desultory rules of Dáil Question Time where answers must be accepted without further recourse but with the forensic powers of the High Court. Where has the zeal to deal with issues of public concern such as the probity of public office gone?

Deputy Burke's statement yesterday was, at times, bizarre. It was difficult to understand the manner in which he handled such a large contribution. He did not question the possible compromising position in which he placed himself or the reason such a large contribution was given to him. Deputy Burke is unable to account for the expenditures which occurred even in broad terms. He indicated that he used the money for political purposes other than the election yet he apparently had no method to ensure the distinction between personal and political uses. Such a distinction is an essential element of our tax laws. If Deputy Burke is to claim such payments were not taxable it was necessary for him to maintain such a distinction.

There are inconsistencies in the statements of the Minister, Deputy Burke, and those made by Mr. Bailey which were reported in the press. On the other hand, there is no prima facie evidence of any wrongdoing and Deputy Burke has categorically denied that he did anything to benefit those who made the payment.

There is a problem here; the Fine Gael party believes it would be unfair to include Deputy Burke's case in the full terms of reference of the tribunal as has been indicated in amendments Nos. 12 and 19 which say Deputy Burke should be subjected to the same detailed investigation as is to be applied in the cases of Mr. Haughey and Deputy Lowry. On the other hand, Fine Gael will support the amendment which has been tabled by Democratic Left in respect of Deputy Burke's case. The procedure in the tribunal is essentially a two phase one where initially there will be the potential for private investigations of issues which may warrant further public investigation. That is unfortunately the position in which Deputy Burke finds himself. There is no prima facie evidence of wrongdoing but there are many unanswered questions. There is a clear need on the part of the Government and on the part of Deputy Burke to have this issue laid to rest completely.

Fianna Fáil's preferred approach to this issue is to have a mechanism for the banks to disclose such information and that a permanent ethics commission should be established to deal with it. There is not such an ethics commission at present but the logic of the Fianna Fáil position indicates that it should accept the amendment tabled by Democratic Left. Acceptance of the amendment would allow the issue to be investigated in a private manner and a report could be made to the Dáil in a number of weeks to the effect that Members of the House have satisfied themselves there is nothing in these payments which warrants further investigation. That would be a very satisfactory end to this saga. If such action is not taken this issue will continue to be a problem for the Minister, Deputy Burke. Since his statement yesterday people in the media have taken issue with specific replies which he made and evidence which he put on the Dáil record. People are saying the Minister misquoted sources and there are other accounts of lands with which he had been associated.

Questions will continue to be raised and Deputy Burke will remain under a cloud of public concern. In the interests of this House, Deputy Burke's interests and those of the Government in which he serves, the Democratic Left amendment, which would allow this matter to be investigated in a private manner without embarrassment to Deputy Burke and without affecting the way he conducts his business, should be accepted by the Government. That would lay the matter permanently to rest. The logical position for the Government to take is to permit this preliminary type of private investigation to take place with the setting up of the new tribunal in the same way it envisages an ethics commission operating in the long-term. That would finally clear the air in regard to Deputy Burke. Neither I nor my party have a vendetta against Deputy Burke but we want to see this matter resolved. Unfortunately, it is linked to the broader debate taking place today. We must set new standards for the future and this would be a good way for Fianna Fáil to demonstrate that it will genuinely set those standards.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Brian Lenihan.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I congratulate the Honourable Mr. Justice Brian McCracken on his tribunal report. I read the report from cover to cover and, without being facetious, I found it to be a great read. Not since John Grisham's novel The Firm was I so enthralled by a book. The report gave an incisive view of the operation of offshore accounts and it flowed in an easily readable manner. I enthusiastically lent my copy of the report to my colleagues and to friends and they were all in awe of the way the story was told. The 112 page report did not hold back any punches. Judge McCracken reinstated the faith and confidence of the whole country in our justice system. More than anything else the report highlighted the fact that there are tax evaders in society and that some tax evaders have been elected to this House.

During the recent general election I found that Charles Haughey was held in very high esteem in my constituency, and that of Deputy Mitchell, in areas such as Drimnagh, Crumlin and Walkinstown. He was praised for introducing free bus travel passes, the decent increases in widows and old age pensions, succession rights for spouses — an important issue, his support for the arts, his involvement with Temple Bar and the development of the International Financial Services Centre. With Ray MacSharry as Minister for Finance and Deputy Bertie Ahern as Minister for Labour, in partnership with the social partners, he set about turning around the country's finances.

The esteem in which Mr. Haughey was held has been considerably lessened as a result of the findings of the recent tribunal. The political system has suffered and, unfortunately, the perception of Ireland abroad has also suffered. It must be remembered that, in regard to Mr. Haughey, the tribunal report states on page 51 that there appears to have been no political impropriety involved. The report states on page 31 that there was no political impropriety on the part of Deputy Lowry. It further states on page 32 that Deputy Lowry's motive was "to enable him to evade tax". On page 73 the report states that Mr. Haughey was involved "in an attempt to ensure that the Revenue authorities would never know of the gifts". I suggest that perhaps he was more concerned that "Seán Citizen" would never know of the gifts, particularly taking into account the evidence that he rejected an offer of £1 million to sort out his tax affairs. The Exchequer is owed serious sums of money in tax from both of these men. There are others outside the political arena who had evaded taxes in the past and who have paid the cost. We must remember there is no evidence of political impropriety in either case. We should leave it to the independent tribunal to inquire further into this matter.

Under paragraph (k) of the motion the Dáil requests the tribunal to make whatever recommendations it considers necessary to ensure that the relationship of politics to private contributions and influence is always seen to be entirely above board and that the standards by which public policy is conducted are held in the highest esteem. I would like to offer advice to the tribunal on that matter.

I am beginning my Dáil career and I am not happy with the ethical standards we have set for ourselves or the way in which we regulate ourselves. As previous speakers said, we are members of the profession of political practitioners. It is a profession to which I and other Members give unstintingly of our time and effort. We continue to improve our art and ability to serve our constituents and the country well. We do this without a code of ethics or comprehensive set of standards. As a profession, we are in the dark ages in this regard. We should form ourselves into an association like doctors, a society like lawyers or an institute like accountants and lay out a code of ethics and set of standards by which we must act. That would give confidence to the public.

In 2005 I do not want to suffer the anguish and trauma the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Burke, suffered in the House yesterday merely because uncodified 1997 standards applied to actions which occurred eight years previously. It is only by setting down a code of ethics and set of standards that we can avoid such an occurrence.

I am a new Member of the Dáil and I am very disappointed at the level of distrust among Members. We must get rid of this distrust, which is evident throughout the House. I serve on Dublin County Council with councillors from Fine Gael, the Labour Party, Democratic Left and the Green Party. We work together in the interests of the council and I would like to see a similar ethos in the Dáil. In my constituency I work with Deputies Gay Mitchell and Pat Upton and Mr. Eric Byrne. We support each other at meetings in the interests of our constituents. I would like to see a similar trust among Members of the Dáil.

The Minister, Deputy Burke, said:

As all Members of this House will be aware, the last 25 years have seen a fundamental change in the operation of politics, with public representatives or prospective public representatives having to operate ongoing and expensive constituency campaigns and services between and not merely during elections, such as newspaper advertisements, race nights, community contributions, leaflet drops, clinics and so on.

There is an ongoing financial requirement to fund these events and Deputies to whom I have spoken cannot afford to fund all their expenses from the constituency allowance provided by the State. Ongoing political funding is necessary not only for election purposes but to meet day-to-day costs. There must be accountability and transparency in all these financial matters. The only statutory reference to the ongoing financing of the political expenses of a public representative of which I am aware is that personal donations from an individual or company which exceed £500in toto over the period of a year must be declared to be Public Offices Commission. This is not sufficient accountability. The local branch of a political party that might have a cash flow of £500 in a year would normally have before its annual general meeting a financial report on its position setting out the funds raised and expenses incurred in a year. Local residents' associations and small local organisations go through the same process. The politician of today must be accountable to some other body for the funds used and for the discharge of their responsibilities as public representatives.

We have a profession. We practise the art of politics. We have a duty to each other as politicians to do so to the highest ethical standards and in a regulated manner. Doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers and so on have such codes and standards. Are we above having a code of ethics and our own regulatory body with perhaps the public interest being represented by the Ombudsman's office and compliance with the regulatory standards we ourselves set being assisted by the Comptroller and Auditor General's office? There is a need to build up a belief and trust in politicians which the vast majority of politicians that I know deserve. It is time to make it difficult for those politicians who do not live up to such demanding standards to continue in public life and to make it more attractive for those who are prepared to do so.

Mr. Justice McCracken in his report recommends criminalising breaches of the Ethics in Public Office Act and that we consider legislation to bar any person found guilty of an offence under that Act from being eligible to become a Member of either House in the future. I would like to see the possibility of any person who seriously breaches the ethics or standards set down for our profession being expelled from this House. I sincerely hope that I do not see the need for the expulsion process in my time in Dáil Éireann.

Mr. Justice McCracken in his recommendations in the report does not consider it practical to prohibit all political contributions and to rely solely on public funding of political parties. The magnitude of the sums discussed is huge. A sentence in the report touches the public nerve. It reads: "the possibility that political or financial favours could be sought in return for such gifts or even be given without being sought is very high". The report further states: "it is also not acceptable that any person or commercial enterprise should make such gifts in conditions of secrecy no matter how well intentioned the motives may have been". We must examine the phrase "such gifts". In this instance it was £1.3 million, but what if it were £130,000, £13,000, £1,300 or £130. At what stage can such gifts be given secretly and be all right or be free from the possibility of favours being sought or given? The only way I see around this quandary is to keep a transparent account of all donations and expenditure, to report all transactions on a yearly basis to a public offices commission and to have the Comptroller and Auditor General audit those accounts on a basis similar to that used by the Revenue Commissioners for revenue audits. It is not right that all donations be made public as they would dry up, but it is right that public accountability be demonstrated by the involvement of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Deputy Richard Bruton is strongly in favour of including the Ansbacher accounts in the terms of reference of the new tribunal. I am strongly of the opinion that it is for the tax authorities to deal with the Ansbacher accounts. The Revenue Commissioners stated that they were in attendance at the hearings of the tribunal. In addition to that they confirmed to the Minister for Finance that following the tribunal report any action needed to uphold the implementation of the tax code in the light of the information contained in the report is being taken.

The Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, stated that if Revenue seeks any additional powers to tackle this problem they will be included in the Finance Bill. There is also a realistic difficulty in that the Cayman Islands will not entertain any investigation into bank accounts which are a result of breaches of the tax code. There is no way I would agree to remove the need for the Revenue Commissioners to investigate independently any breaches of the tax code.

Part (ii) of amendment No. 3 should also be included. This relates to "the source of any money held.in any other bank accounts discovered by the Tribunal to be for the benefit [etc.].".

In regard to item (f) in the matters to be considered there is the question of "the source of any money held.in accounts for the benefit or in the name of Mr. Lowry or any other person who holds or has held Ministerial office.". A number of banks have been named, including the Allied Irish Bank in the Channel Islands and in Dame Street, Dublin, the Bank of Ireland (I.O.M.) Limited in the Isle of Man and the Irish Permanent Building Society, Patrick Street branch, Cork.

I am concerned that others, to whom the tribunal of inquiry does not apply and to whom it was not intended that it would apply, may be inadvertently brought into the inquiry. This could happen for many legitimate reasons. Take, for instance, a wealthy tea merchant in Cork.

How many wealthy tea——

He may have held funds in the Irish Permanent Building Society in Cork. Ministers and their families have to buy houses. It is not unlikely that he may have had money there. Why should he be brought into it on account of this matter? If so, why are the banks in Tralee, Finglas or in County Meath not mentioned in this item? It is unfair to include the words "or any other person who holds or has held Ministerial office." in this section. That is one reason I would like to see the private investigations being held first before the public inquiry.

The other matter of which I am glad the private investigations will be carried out in the first place is in connection with the Revenue Commissioners. In his speech, the Minister for Finance, Deputy McCreevy, has not specifically approved the inclusion of item (j) which refers to "Whether the Revenue Commissioners availed fully, properly and in a timely manner in exercising the powers available to them in collecting or seeking to collect the taxation due by Mr. Michael Lowry and Mr. Charles Haughey of the funds paid.". The Minister set out a stout defence of the Revenue Commissioners. I fully concur with him in his praise of the work of the Revenue Commissioners. In the charter of rights for taxpayers it assumes that taxpayers will deal honestly and will fully disclose all income. It further states that in deference to all taxpayers who are compliant it will impose heavy penalties on tax evaders. Over the past ten years or so since this ethos came into the office of the Inspector of Taxes, taxpayers have become more compliant and tax revenue collection has improved substantially.

To change that ethos now and to have action taken on the basis of allegations and pub talk would put the system of tax collection back ten years. Revenue officials attended all the tribunal hearings and are taking whatever action is needed to uphold the implementation of the tax code. It is important the inquiry into the action of the Revenue Commissioners relating to Mr. Charles Haughey and Deputy Lowry should be in private. Only if serious breaches of conduct are suspected should that section of the inquiry be made public.

I congratulate Mr. Justice Brian McCracken on his report on payments to politicians which we asked him to investigate on our behalf. The report has rehabilitated the tribunal of inquiry as a device which this House and the Upper House can use to investigate matters of serious public concern.

The earlier report by Mr. Justice Finlay, the former Chief Justice, likewise rehabilitated the reputation of tribunals of inquiry. The effect of both reports is to confirm in our minds the utility of this particular procedure. Parliament enacted the Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act, 1921, because it was found that parliamentary committees were not suitable bodies for investigating issues which involved contested facts. Regrettably the natural prejudice which to some extent is associated with the practice of our profession as public representatives does not allow us to take a very detached view when issues of fact are at stake.

That was brought out well yesterday in the question and answer session to which the Minister for Foreign Affairs consented. It was clear that the process of questioning was directed, and very properly, by the Opposition to a particular political end. However, that form of questioning and that type of approach is not a suitable method of investigating grave allegations. Of course, in the case of the Minister for Foreign Affairs yesterday there was no substance in any of the allegations and that is why the matter is not being subjected to a tribunal of inquiry.

It is important that we use the tribunal of inquiry device when there are serious and genuine allegations because it permits them to be investigated in a detached, calm and impartial manner. That has clearly happened in the case of this report.

Having read the report, the sad fact remains that misconduct on the part of a small number of office holders has sullied the reputation of the great majority of us. The vast majority of public representatives come to this House to transact the public business of this State without thought of any private favour, advantage or interest. While it is inevitable, given the way modern communications operate, it is also disappointing that every Member of this House will be sullied by the findings of this report. The popular assumption will be, and the popular judgment has already been made, that the vast majority of us are in some sense not up to any good in here.

That is so far from the truth in the limited experience I have had of this House extending a little over a year. It is obvious that the vast majority of public representatives work long hours and in a diligent manner on behalf of their constituents and in the consideration of the business of this State.

The various findings of fact which were arrived at in the report have already been considered at length in the various speeches and contributions. I do not want to go over them again but I noticed yesterday evening that Deputy John Bruton took the opportunity of suggesting that as a party and political organisation Fianna Fáil bore some sort of collective guilt for the misconduct of a former leader which was established in the report. None of us in any of the parties in this House can take any joy from the findings in the report because it is clear that the report exposed a culture whereby, as the preceding speaker said, we have not regulated in a proper way the relationship between public representative and the receipt of payments for election expenses. We had not tried to regulate that relationship in a proper way until we enacted the Ethics in Public Office Act and other electoral legislation which is now in operation.

Rather than trespassing further on to the issues of fact in the report, I would like to deal with its recommendations. This was one of the shorter parts of the report and I must confess to being somewhat disappointed by it. I thought the findings of fact, analysis of evidence and judgments made about the facts found by the chairman of the tribunal were excellent. However, in considering what recommendations should be made in relation to the state of affairs established by the report it was rather brief. Action is required in four main areas. The first relates to the Revenue Commissioners. I do not need to deal with this at length because the Minister for Finance made an announcement yesterday evening and I agree with what he has proposed. A review must be carried out to ensure the Revenue Commissioners have adequate power to investigate those whose lifestyles raise questions and reverse the normal presumption of honesty that applies in their dealings with the public.

The second matter relates to political funding and the nature of the funds available to politicians to carry out their public work and to conduct election campaigns. During the discussion on the Electoral (Amendment) Act, 1995, Fianna Fáil made it clear it fully supported the requirement that any donation over £500 should be disclosed. However, we had doubts about the workability of some of the proposals on limitations on election expenses and on State funding of political parties. I accept that we must address this issue regardless of the technical objections and constitutional and statutory problems which may arise.

It is clear that any payment, however small, can be construed as imposing an obligation on the public representative. We want to ensure the public does not see it in this light and that a system of funding is in place for political and electoral expenses which does not waste the public's money or put the public figure under any obligation. We may have to examine options such as limitations on posturing and on grants towards printing expenses and reducing expenses incurred at elections. The State spends a lot of money at elections to ensure that free post items are delivered to every voter. That money could be used more effectively by giving it in the form of grants to candidates to print literature. The Minister for the Environment is considering that option.

There is also the question of offshore bank accounts. The tribunal in its recommendations makes the point that since these transactions were carried out, the Ethics in Public Office Act, 1995, and the Electoral (Amendment) Act, 1995, have come into operation. However, the report concedes that the offshore banking device would have evaded these measures as well. It is not clear that these measures are adequate to address the problem identified in the report.

Fianna Fáil's representation at the tribunal submitted that professional advisers should be obliged to disclose the movement of large sums of money to public figures. However, the chairman of the tribunal took the view that such an obligation could only be imposed on advisers within the State and that such provisions could easily be avoided by politicians or public servants acting through advisers and banks outside the State. The tribunal's findings demonstrate that if a public figure wishes to engage in this type of misconduct, the funds must have some connection with the jurisdiction — a footprint must be left within the State. Professional persons, who knew about these footprints, should be obliged to disclose them. I found the report's conclusion in that regard unsatisfactory.

While there is understandable public interest in the two public figures involved, Mr. Haughey and Deputy Lowry, this tribunal and the previous tribunal on the beef industry show there is an unacceptable attitude among some substantial Irish concerns and their professional advisers towards compliance with revenue law. This attitude is not alone unacceptable but it has imposed a far greater loss on the Exchequer than any transactions involving politicians. We must examine professional obligations to comply with the law.

The fourth issue is the establishment of an ethics commission. I do not agree with the conclusion in the tribunal's report that the Ombudsman should be invested with powers. The Ombudsman performs a valuable statutory function by investigating citizens' complaints about the Administration. If we want to restore and maintain confidence in ourselves as servants of the public, a distinctive institution should be established to do that. The all-party Oireachtas committee on the Constitution in its first progress report recommended that the various institutions concerned with probity in public life should be brought together as one effective unit.

This is undoubtedly one of the most important debates in this House because the issue of integrity is at the core of the political system. Two senior politicians have already been shown to lack any shred of integrity or credibility through their behaviour in recent years. Both Mr. Charles Haughey and Deputy Lowry were shown to be kept men. They displayed a total disregard for honesty and for our tax and other laws. They have shattered all confidence in politics and demeaned each one of us in this House. Most importantly, they have disappointed and demoralised the public by fuelling the now widely held view that all politicians are on the make. The full force of the law must be applied and be clearly seen to be applied to both these men. The PAYE worker who has been ripped off by them over the years expects and deserves nothing less.

Politicians regularly talk about the importance of encouraging young people to vote and to become involved in the political system. However, there is surely no greater disillusionment or turnoff for young people, not to mention the rest of us, than the spectacle of these two disgraced politicians. What many people cannot understand is how Mr. Charles Haughey was allowed to get away with it for so long and why, in spite of much anecdotal evidence — the dogs on the street on the north side of Dublin knew the circumstances surrounding Mr. Haughey's financial situation — his party colleagues were unable or unwilling to put a stop to it. The notion that the State is continuing to pay for his comforts is repugnant and it should cease without delay. Similarly, given all that we now know about Deputy Lowry, he should immediately resign his membership of this House. If he fails to do so, the Committee on Procedure and Privileges should remove from him as many of the privileges of membership of this House as possible.

This debate has the potential to be a watershed in Irish politics, but only if we honestly approach the task in hand. It is critical that we systematically work our way through all those skeletons in the cupboard, all of the issues which have been mentioned in the amendments proposed by my party — Carysfort, Glending Wood, the Johnston, Mooney and O'Brien site, the Esat licence, etc. There can be no room for whitewash or curtailment of the scope of the inquiry simply because of the possibility of disturbing cosy arrangements or upsetting the club.

The examination of the Ansbacher accounts must be thorough and not merely confined to politicians. In that respect, I repeat what my party leader, Deputy Spring, said last night, that it is impossible to escape the conclusion that every single person who invested in the Ansbacher accounts was involved knowingly in a highly orchestrated and well designed tax scam. There is no reason to exempt this from scrutiny and disclosure. If the notion of zero tolerance is to mean anything to the Government, surely it should be applied in this case. Similarly, the role of professional advisers, compliance under existing laws and possible recommendations of any necessary reform of these laws must also be included for examination by the tribunal.

On political donations, the importance of the Ethics in Public Office Act, 1995 and the Electoral (Amendment) Act, 1995 is now very evident. It is time to make flagrant breaches of these Acts a criminal offence, as suggested in the McCracken report.

It is also worth reminding the public of the vehemence with which both of these Bills were opposed by many in this House. It would be quite interesting to examine the record to see what various Members said about what was being proposed. I resent the attempts to rubbish my party colleague, former Minister Eithne Fitzgerald, in her valiant attempts to steer those Bills through this House.

We know about Deputy Lowry, Mr. Haughey and Deputy Burke but what else is there about which we do not know? It is worth pointing out that the disturbing revelations about these three men were pure flukes. There were no checks and balances in the system up until very recently. We should not attempt to clap ourselves on the back as these matters arose by chance and we are very lucky they did.

The scale of expenditure on elections by many politicians has made the cost of contesting an election almost prohibitive for ordinary people. There were many examples of this in the recent general election, especially among Fianna Fáil candidates. Certainly there was evidence in my constituency, and adjoining constituencies with which I was familiar, of vast amounts of money, £40,000 to £50,000, being spent on election campaigns. Big colour posters, colour leaflets and regular and large advertisements in newspapers do not come cheap. I estimate that I witnessed at first hand election campaigns in the Dublin area, including my constituency, which would have cost in excess of £50,000. We could do with a separate inquiry to find out from where these vast sums of money have come. It would also be interesting to know how Fianna Fáil and, indeed, Fine Gael managed to clear their massive debts since 1992 during their periods in Government. How many other lists are there similar to that list of Ben Dunne?

Is it agreeable that I share my time with my colleague, Deputy McDowell?

Having generously given way to Deputy Shortall, I am happy also to give way to Deputy McDowell provided the Deputies do not make unfounded statements about Fine Gael.

It is a fact that very large election debts were cleared in a short time.

Apart from it being wrong for a person in public life to accept large sums of money because of the obvious potential for abuse, the often quoted mantra that no political favours were sought or granted is simply not believable. Most people accept that one rarely gets something for nothing and it follows that the bigger the donation, the bigger the expected favour. Deputy Burke said yesterday that in hindsight it may not have been a good idea to accept what was in essence large bundles of cash from a stranger. What does this say about Deputy Burke's judgment? There are huge questions remaining about that incident.

I resent his statement that he was criticised for actions committed by him in 1989 by standards only put in place this year. This is nonsense. Many of us have spent our political careers trying to get action on these issues. Our standards have not changed. We still have those beliefs. We had those beliefs in 1989 and articulated them clearly in recent years while the Labour Party was in Government. Most ordinary people view this type of transaction as highly suspect and quite distasteful.

I also resent attempts by Deputy Burke yesterday to spread the muck on this——

It is usual in the House to refer to Ministers by their title.

I beg your pardon, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. I resent attempts here yesterday by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Burke, to spread the muck on this issue. We witnessed quite a performance. Most of us and the general public made up our own minds on it, but I was outraged at the spectacle of Deputy Burke going out on to the plinth and declaring that this matter was now closed. How dare he say that? It is not up to him to pass judgment on his highly suspect behaviour over many years and I object in the strongest possible terms to his attempt to close the book on this issue. The matter is not closed and it is critically important that it be examined. We were not given any explanations of the circumstances surrounding the payment of a huge sum of money to a senior politician, the reasons it was paid by a stranger and the possible strings which might have been attached so we propose that this matter be included in the terms of reference of the new tribunal with a view to establishing whether there are grounds to proceed to a further inquiry.

The Labour Party also proposes, by way of amendment to an amendment already submitted, that the public proceedings of the tribunal should be televised. The public deserves nothing less. It is essential if we are to give any meaning to the term transparency that the proceedings of this new tribunal be televised so that the public can see at first hand the manner in which business and politics are conducted in this country.

All of us in this House and, indeed, the public generally owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Justice McCracken and his team. They did their work expeditiously and in a fine way, and came up with conclusions and recommendations which are concise and to the point. It will have gone some distance to restoring the public's faith in tribunals of inquiry of this kind. Certainly, it has done something to restore my faith.

I have a perspective on at least one of the aspects covered by this tribunal in that I represent the constituency which was represented for many years by the former Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, the constituency now known as Dublin North-Central. Many thousands of people in my constituency supported Mr. Haughey and his family, loyally and conscientiously, over a number of decades. It is particularly instructive to listen to and consider the reaction of many of those people to the events which unfolded during the summer.

I should also state that many people in the constituency did not support Mr. Haughey. Another former and renowned representative of the constituency, Dr. Conor Cruise O'Brien, obtained many votes largely on the basis that he doubted the probity of Mr. Haughey and said so publicly on many occasions. There were many doubters who were not duped. However, many people supported Mr. Haughey and continue to do so. That is the point I wish to make because it is my strong belief that if Mr. Haughey were to seek election in my constituency in the near future the likelihood is that those who supported him in the past would do so again.

I refer to this matter not in any sense to pass judgment on those who bear with Mr. Haughey. It is merely my intention to ask what this tells us about the political system, people's thoughts regarding that system and their expectations of politicians. The bottom line is that the people who supported Mr. Haughey and who would continue to do so are satisfied that they received good service and, frankly, do not particularly care about the standards he employed in his private life and the way he maintained his lifestyle. They do not care because they believe many of us are involved in politics for what we can get out of it. There is a deep public cynicism on that score.

Charles J. Haughey did many good and laudable things in the public domain. As already stated, I have more cause than most to be reminded about his achievements on a regular basis. Sadly, however, those achievements are now hugely devalued by the facts revealed to the tribunal during the summer. Facts about his personal life which have come to light have, in many ways, devalued the public work he carried out while serving as a Deputy for my constituency, as Taoiseach and as a Minister. His refusal to cooperate with the tribunal must exacerbate our judgment. The tribunal report sets out the matter in graphic and painful detail in chapter ten which is simply and starkly entitled, "Offence by Mr. Charles Haughey".

The damage to the reputation of Charles Haughey may be irreparable but the damage to our political system, in the interests of everyone, must be repaired. We can do this by ensuring that all available information is made public at the earliest opportunity. This is a painful and unpleasant business but the bottom line is that we are entitled to know what is or has been done in our name and with our money.

There are few enough saints in this House and it is correct that this should be the case. No one is suggesting that a perfect state of grace should be a prerequisite for membership of this House. It would be a much poorer place if that were the case. Most of us accept, for example, that the private and family lives of Members are, in the majority of circumstances, not a matter of public interest. That said, however, the public is entitled to basic standards of probity from Members of this House. In particular, it is entitled to know whether the capacity of any Member — this obviously applies tenfold to Members who hold public office — to discharge his or her public duty is or could be compromised by a conflict of interest, however that might arise.

It is for that reason that members of local authorities have long been required to declare their property interests and withdraw from meetings where a conflict of interests could arise. It was also for that reason that the Labour Party sought and obtained agreement from our then partners in Government to introduce the Ethics in Public Bill in 1995. As Deputy Shortall stated, it is worth reflecting that the then Minister of State, Eithne Fitzgerald, was mocked and vilified by many Members on the other side of the House for her approach to that Bill. She was accused of slaying dragons which did not exist and sullying the good name of politicians by suggesting that we should guard against abuse of the political system which was, as we are now aware, open to such abuse. I recall speaking to the then Minister of State at that time and she informed me that she would have liked to go further but she could not obtain agreement from her then partners in Government.

It is strange to remark that some of those people are now saying, no doubt sincerely, that the Ethics in Public Office Act must be strengthened. I agree with that view. I was a member of the all-party committee on the Constitution during the course of the last Dáil which recommended the permanent establishment of a body which would incorporate the constituency review committee and an investigative body to investigate allegations of the kind which came to light in recent months. There cannot be a constant series of tribunals but there must be a body with statutory powers which can be used when serious abuses are alleged.

It may be that the self-regulation which is at the basis of the Ethics in Public Office Act is sufficient to deal with most breaches or alleged breaches of that Act. However, there will be circumstances where something more formal and public is required. I agree with Judge McCracken's recommendation that serious breaches of the Act should be a criminal offence. If that were the case, it would be necessary in the interests of equity and natural justice that the individual concerned should be answerable to the courts and not merely this House.

Judge McCracken's report also provides much information about the banking system. I must confess to a certain naiveté on this issue. I had the notion that offshore accounts were, in some real sense, offshore. I thought that in order to lodge money in a bank situated in the Cayman Islands one would be obliged to make contact with such a bank. Clearly the truth is very different. I recently read an amusing article in The Irish Times in which a journalist mused that by simply walking off the street in St. Stephen's Green into a large bank one could close one's eyes and imagine the sounds of the Caribbean. The truth is that any citizen in Dublin can walk into a bank and lodge money to or withdraw it from an account which is technically “offshore”. There is a requirement that this must be declared to the Revenue Commissioners but we can be forgiven for treating that stipulation with a hefty pinch of salt. The bottom line is simply that Irish citizens can evade tax by using and abusing the banking system and the global capital market.

This is a subject about which the public wants and is entitled to know more. How many people who are tax resident in Ireland hold overseas accounts? What measure of money is concerned? Why and how do we facilitate banks based in tax haven countries in operating in Ireland. It could be that these questions are in themselves naive. We are aware that banks in the Cayman Islands and Switzerland operate under rules which most of us would regard as distasteful. Could it be, however, that I need look no further than the boundaries of my constituency to the IFSC to encounter activities and regulations which are less than exacting?

I wish to remark upon the contribution of the Minister for Foreign Affairs to yesterday's debate which, I believe, hammers another nail into the coffin of public confidence in the political system. Before going further, it is important to be fair to the Minister in terms of his statement. There is no evidence that he was guilty of any wrongdoing, other than the so far unsubstantiated remarks of one person. It may be that such evidence exists but in the interim the Minister is fully entitled to the benefit of the doubt. However, there certainly is doubt and the Minister acknowledged that he was guilty of an error of judgment in allowing circumstances to arise where such doubt could occur. Setting aside the doubt and innuendo, let us consider the facts set out by the Minister.

I listened with some astonishment to the comments of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Like most Members I would like to believe that I do a reasonable job. However, I cannot imagine circumstances where someone I do not know might approach me and say, "Listen Derek, I think you are doing a good job. Here's a few bob for yourself and the party". If I opened the envelope afterward and discovered £30,000 in cash I would ask myself some serious questions. The fact that the Minister does not appear to have done so is extraordinary. The Minister said that we are applying the standards of 1997 to something which happened in 1989. This argument is simply beyond me. In the 1980s speculation abounded about possible corruption in some rezoning decisions taken then. Allegations were made in particular about Dublin County Council of which Deputy Burke had been a member. In those circumstances it was unwise in the extreme for a senior politician to accept an enormous unsolicited gift from an individual involved in the building industry.

For the sake of public confidence, it is important to say that this is not how most politicians fund their election campaigns. I have never received a contribution remotely similar to the sum mentioned by Deputy Burke and I suspect that is true of most colleagues but, having listened to him yesterday in many ways we operate in entirely different worlds. I have never paid anybody to canvass for me or to put up a poster and I hope I never have to. I speak for most Members and candidates in saying that but there are an increasing number of candidates who spend a great deal of money. We need to think long and hard about just where this is leading us.

The McCracken report identifies one payment of £20,000 to Mrs. Maureen Haughey as a contribution towards her husband's expenses in the 1989 general election. I stood in that election in that constituency and I am reasonably certain that the total expenditure of all other candidates would scarcely have come to more than that amount. Mr. Charles Haughey, as one of three Fianna Fáil candidates, received more in that donation than all the other parties spent during the course of the election campaign in that constituency. This is not simple begrudgery. This has profound implications for our democracy and none of us are naive in this matter.

Our capacity to get across our message depends to some degree on the resources which we can deploy. It is probably pushing it too far to say votes can be bought but it is certainly true that one must package one's message well to get onto the pitch. We need real debate and choices in a healthy democracy. This simply cannot happen if one party or candidate is rich enough or has enough rich friends to swamp the electorate in a sea of glossy brochures and posters. Other democracies have long accepted that election expenditure should be controlled and capped. The Electoral Bill passed a few months ago contains provisions to that effect and I hope and trust that the Government will make good its commitment to introduce those regulations without delay.

However, we need to go further and accept that private funding of political parties is a dangerous business. It is not healthy that political parties should be almost entirely dependent on private donations. Former Deputy Michael McDowell made a strident argument on Committee Stage of the Electoral Bill in regard to the right of individuals to spend their money as they liked. He went further in that he asserted there was a constitutional right to contribute to political parties. That may be so but if there is such a right then it can hardly extend to large donations such as that received by Minister Burke. How can it possibly be in the public interest to allow one or more rich people to affect and distort election results by bankrolling individuals or parties? How can it possibly be in the public interest if one side of an argument is not heard because the proponents of it simply do not have the money to enable it be heard?

There is only one solution to this problem, State funding. The McKenna judgment circumscribes our capacity to fund parties for election purposes and that is fair. However, funding of political parties between elections is essential for democracy and it must be done with all the accountability and transparency that necessarily employs. The Government is committed to abolishing those sections of the Electoral Act which provide for State funding. I hope sincerely that it rethinks its attitude. If it does not, we will be left with the intolerable position that political parties will depend on rich people or corporations who may expect something in return.

Judge McCracken has revealed many unpleasantries but his report and the climate it creates can be used in order to ensure our political system is cleared up. Our democracy will be the healthier for that.

Le glúinte beaga anuas shocraigh muintír na hÉireann Parlaimint a bhunú a bheadh saor agus daonlathach, a bheadh tofa ag na daoine do na daoine, a bheadh ag freastal ar riachtanais muintír na hÉireann, Parlaimint a leagfadh amach cinniúnt an naisiúin seo. Ba é an chéad Dáil a bunaíodh i 1919 réaladh na haislinge seo. Inniu 'sé an teach seo, déanta suas de Theachtaí ó sé chondae's fiche den tír seo, atá ag seasamh do na luachanna céanna. Is mór an onóir í bheith tofa ag ár gcomhmhuintír mar Theachta don Teach seo. Ach is onóir í a thugann léi dualgais agus freagrachtaí.

The manner in which we perform our duties, discharge our responsibilities and meet our obligations is a legitimate topic for public scrutiny. Our conduct as Members of the House and in matters which relate to our membership must always be open to public scrutiny. Of necessity, that means as public representatives our affairs must be open to a greater public interest than the affairs of other citizens. Each candidate for public office knowingly accepts this because public confidence in the workings of the House is the cornerstone of Irish democracy.

The revelations late last year that persons in public life had received substantial payments and benefits from a wealthy businessman sent shock waves through the political system. The scale of that shock reflected not alone the substance of the allegations but also their rarity. Those disclosures were unprecedented in our political history and warranted swift and vigorous investigation and action. The response of the House in establishing a tribunal of inquiry under Mr. Justice McCracken was a correct and measured one. The terms of reference were sufficiently precise to permit a short and focused inquiry on the central issues. Its result leaves no room for doubt or prevarication. The McCracken report tells the truth in plain English.

Mr. Justice McCracken concluded:

It is quite unacceptable that a member of Dáil Éireann, and in particular a Cabinet Minister and Taoiseach, should be supported in his personal lifestyle by gifts made to him personally"

He also concluded that:

It is an appalling situation that a Government Minister and Chairman of a Parliamentary Party can be seen to be consistently benefiting from the black economy from shortly after the time he was first elected to Dáil Éireann".

Those conclusions represent damning indictments of the conduct of the individuals involved. If the tribunal achieved nothing else it pierced the dense and deliberately created smokescreens and exposed to public view matters which the participants had taken great trouble to conceal. However, the ramifications of the tribunal go far beyond the unacceptable facts revealed in those two conclusions.

The revelations as to the unorthodox business practices of Mr. Ben Dunne during the period of his stewardship of the Dunnes Stores group leave the distinct impression that compliance with the provisions of tax legislation was viewed as an option rather than a necessity. I trust this issue is being actively pursued by various State agencies and the disclosed wrongdoing is dealt with in accordance with laws enacted by the House. If, however, it should transpire that existing mechanisms are inadequate to deal with the disclosed and unacceptable practices then I would have no hesitation in supporting the establishment of a further tribunal of inquiry into the activities of Mr. Dunne and his former company. The law applies to big as well as little fellows.

The report of the McCracken tribunal has raised for proper public debate the issues of the integrity of our democratic process and the public perception of it. If there is widespread public perception that Members of this House may be open to improper external influence then, collectively, we forfeit the respect of the people. If we as the people's representatives forfeit their respect, then the integrity of the Oireachtas is damaged and the cornerstone of democracy is loosened. Each of us has a duty to ensure that this does not occur.

On 25 August the Taoiseach, in welcoming the publication of Mr. Justice McCracken's report, stated:

The acceptance of large gifts or payments or personal benefits in a surreptitious manner or the large scale evasion of tax and exchange control regulations by even one or two senior serving politicians is deeply damaging to trust in politics.

That statement expressly recognised not alone that the conduct involved was wrong but that it had consequences which went beyond the two individuals concerned.

Our response to the wider issues raised by the McCracken report must be twofold. First, we must take whatever action is necessary to pursue those questions which have been raised by this report but not answered because they fell outside its terms of reference. Second, we must examine such safeguards as are in existence so as to ensure that conduct of this nature cannot be repeated. I have noticed a disappointing tendency in Opposition contributions to this debate to seek to suggest that others are in some way implicated or involved in the conduct denounced in this report. To engage in debate of that nature is to shirk the fundamental responsibility of Members of this House.

Our primary duty is to the democratic institutions of this State and to ensure that they are protected and strengthened. If and when questions arise which cast a shadow on the workings of this democracy, we have a duty to take every reasonable step to answer them and to lift the shadow. The report of the McCracken tribunal has cast such a shadow. Our duty is to move forward with concrete proposals rather than to use the report as a vehicle for unjustifiable political point scoring and character assassination. It is for us to pursue the questions which, of necessity, the tribunal left unanswered.

In considering the tribunal report and our response, it is important to see the issues which it has raised in their correct context. The issues raised by this report are not in any way unique to Ireland. In the past both Britain and the United States have had to deal with the same issues. In May 1995 Lord Nolan presented to the British Parliament his first report on standards in public life. He and his committee stated in their report:

We cannot say conclusively that standards of behaviour in public life have declined. We can say that conduct in public life is more rigorously scrutinised than it was in the past, that the standard which the public demands remain high, and that the great majority of people in public life meet those high standards.

Those conclusions apply equally to elected representatives here. I believe the same principles of conduct which underpin public life in Britain apply here. These seven principles stated by Lord Nolan are selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.

The report of the McCracken tribunal indicates clearly that in the case of certain individuals there has been a departure from some of those principles. It was not within the terms of reference of the McCracken tribunal to deal with the full extent of that departure. Much of what is now a legitimate cause for public concern only came to light in the course of the tribunal's proceedings. It is, however, now a legitimate matter for public inquiry and it is our duty to set about that inquiry in as efficient and economical a manner as is possible.

Our response must be measured and calculated. The McCracken report has received universal acclaim. It cut through issues which were complicated and complex to reveal with blinding clarity the truth which lay behind the smokescreen. Much of the credit for this must go to Mr. Justice McCracken and his legal team who appear to have combined a ruthless determination with courteous efficiency. They did their work well and deserve our thanks.

When considering the success of the tribunal we must also look to its terms of reference. The practical lesson of the McCracken tribunal and the Finlay tribunal is that well focused terms of reference can result in a clear and precise report. Ill-focused terms of reference, such as occurred with the beef tribunal, result in protracted proceedings where the cost arguably outweighs such public good as may result.

The decision to establish a tribunal of inquiry is one which cannot be undertaken lightly. It is a decision which ought not to be undertaken by this House without just cause. We, no less than any other institution in this State, owe a duty of fairness to all the citizens of this country. A tribunal of inquiry is of necessity intrusive and onerous on those whose conduct it seeks to scrutinise. A decision to subject any citizen to such an inquiry ought not to be taken on a whim, it ought not be used as a crude political weapon to torment opponents and it ought not be established without good reason and just cause.

This House has a duty to act fairly and that duty is all the more onerous because it is unclear as to whether a decision of this House to establish a tribunal of inquiry on specific terms can be reviewed elsewhere. The doctrine of separation of powers serves to separate the Legislature from the courts. Laws which we pass may be reviewed and struck down by the courts if they fail to comply with the Constitution. Whether resolutions of this House may be similarly reviewed remains unclear. The sovereign voice of the people, spoken through their parliament, ought not be lightly set aside nor should the right of all our citizens to expect fair treatment be discarded. The primary responsibility for striking the correct balance rests with us.

A further tribunal is necessary. The proposed terms of reference are fair and justified. The report of the McCracken tribunal provides what American jurists would call "probable cause" and what we would term "reasonable grounds" for establishing a further tribunal to inquire into the matters specified in the proposed terms of reference.

The establishment of a new tribunal of inquiry represents a proper response to the McCracken report. It is not, however, a complete response. We need to examine the legislation which governs the conduct of Members with a view to seeing if it can be improved or strengthened. Mr. Justice McCracken noted that the Ethics in Public Office Act, 1995, and the Electoral Act, 1997, amounted to commendable efforts to ensure that the unacceptable financial transactions which he found would not be repeated.

Fianna Fáil has suggested in its submission to the tribunal that an independent third party be appointed to monitor and investigate possible breaches of the Ethics in Public Office Act. The tribunal recommended that consideration be given to extending the remit of the Ombudsman so as to include those functions. The tribunal also recommended that candidates for election to either House of the Oireachtas should have to produce a tax clearance certificate. These matters must be addressed as a matter of priority and, if considered necessary, enacted into law. The statement yesterday by the Taoiseach shows a clear determination on the part of the Government to act on foot of those recommendations.

The decision to establish the McCracken tribunal and the decision which we will take today are clear signals to the public and to those in public life that the standards expected of public representatives, both by their fellow public representatives and by the public, go substantially beyond mere compliance with the criminal and civil laws. There is an implied trust placed on persons in public life by those who put them there. The exact extent of that trust can be difficult to define with mathematical precision but it can be summarised in the word "honourable". Those who send us here expect us to act in an honourable manner. The Taoiseach spoke for the entire Fianna Fáil organisation when, on 19 April last, he said:

Participation in the democratic life of this country is about public service not self-service or the sustaining of a certain lifestyle. It is the Oireachtas and ultimately the people who decide what our political leaders and representatives are paid and who provide them with the appropriate facilities. Even if in the particular case there were no favours sought or given we could not condone the practice of senior politicians seeking or receiving from a single donor large sums of money or services in kind..

I sought election to this House as a member of Fianna Fáil. It is a party of which I have been an active member for in excess of two decades. It comprises tens of thousands of people who seek to participate in the civic life of their country through political activity. Their political involvement is an honourable involvement. Their efforts are decent and democratic. I resent the continuing efforts which are made to suggest that Fianna Fáil is in some unspecified way inferior to other parties, that our standards are, in some unspecified way, less than those of other parties, that we are, in some way which nobody cares or dares to specify, not to be trusted.

It is deeply ironic that those who queued with palms outstretched to receive the bizarre munificence of Mr. Ben Dunne come to this House and seek to cloak themselves in spurious superiority. In the course of this debate I have listened to threadbare efforts to link decent, honourable members of Fianna Fáil with the activities of one of the individuals denounced in this report. I find it sad that parliamentary colleagues who in private will openly acknowledge each other's honesty consider it necessary to cast unwarranted aspersions in the course of public debate. It is as if by denigrating others their own stature is in some way enhanced. All they achieve is the debasement of the profession of politics. It is a goal which is neither noble nor constructive.

The new tribunal will explore matters of great public interest. It must be allowed to do so in a completely unfettered manner. As to the consequences, fiat justitia ruat caelum— let justice be done though the heavens fall.

Like other speakers I compliment Mr. Justice Brian McCracken and his tribunal team on producing such a clear, concise and succinct report. For a non-legal person it is, unlike many such reports, eminently readable. For that alone we must be thankful. The conclusions drawn and the recommendations made will help to lay a new foundation for standards in public life for many years to come.

By comparison with many of our European partners, we are a relatively young democracy. In a sense we are still on a learning curve in the development of standards of best practice to allow that democracy to flourish in the real sense. We were extraordinarily lucky in our emerging years as a new State to have so many visionary statesmen and women who had a very clear idea of how they saw democracy flourishing through a vigorous parliamentary system. Most were idealists. Many were pragmatists as well. By and large, they were all inspired and driven by a sense of public duty and by the value of the process of politics and of unselfish public service. It strikes me that many of these founding members of our State had an independence of means which gave them a freedom of thought and action which perhaps those of us who may now be termed professional politicians may not have to the same extent. To the extent that they did not always have to look over their shoulders to examine the implications of decisions in electoral terms, they had room for more courageous decision-making.

In the course of the recent recess I read again the biography of the former Tory MP, Julian Critchley, entitled A Bag of Boiled Sweets. It struck me that there are lessons to be learned from the contribution of what might be termed the members from the shires to the evolution of parliamentary democracy there. We have good examples in the early years of this State of Members from all parties and from none, from the professions and from the trade unions, who made a considerable contribution to this State, and they did not look to the safety net of a Dáil seat when they were making their decisions. It may also have meant that their modus operandiwas, to a great extent, divorced from the lives of the people they represented. I heard a number of speakers refer to “people out there” and to “ordinary people”. If anything needs to be adjusted in our mindset as parliamentarians, it is that we must be ordinary people, always listening and interacting with the people out there. The day we think that as soon as we step inside the Kildare Street gate and on to the plinth we have undergone a mysterious metamorphosis is the day we lose touch with reality. Far be it from me to preach or to lecture Deputies who have devoted years of honest and dedicated service to the public, but it seems that the ability to listen to the views of the most truculent member of the public is an essential requirement for the tool bag of a TD.

For the past 30 years I have worked as a teacher. Apart from the task of imparting knowledge, the greatest influence any teacher has on young people is in being able to inculcate values in them which make them good citizens. However, trust, integrity, courage, good judgment and openness are but some of the qualities we would expect to see in any well-rounded personality. It always disappointed me greatly if these qualities were deficient in the students I turned out. These are traits and qualities which the public expect in their public representatives. It is not, however, good enough to possess them. It is expected that we display them in the way we frame policies and make our decisions, even in the way we live our lives. That does not mean that we should set ourselves up as plaster saints. It does mean that we must expect that our public behaviour is constantly under the microscope and open to scrutiny. It is for this reason that I particularly welcome the proposal to develop a public ethics commission.

It may be a cliché, but we are at a defining moment in the life of our democracy. Mould-breaking discussions are about to get under way as part of the peace process. Courageous leaders of all strands of political opinion in Northern Ireland are about to sit down with the two Governments opposite each other or even in adjacent rooms to explore how the very fragile democratic process can be nurtured and enabled to flourish so that future generations on this island can contribute to positive democratic debate. It is important therefore that we put discredited ways of doing things behind us. All our dealings must not only be open but be seen to be open.

The US democratic system is probably the most open and most transparent in the world. The mechanism of public hearings into the suitability of nominated office holders is an excellent example of this transparency. While these hearings have sometimes descended into what might appear to be circuses or show trials set up to satisfy public curiosity, on balance they serve the public interest extremely well. We would do well to move in their direction. The proposed public ethics commission is desirable and I commend the Taoiseach and the Government for their initiative. Public life will be served well by it and it will do much to restore public confidence and trust in the operation of Government.

I am one of the recently elected Deputies who has served a 12 year apprenticeship in a local authority. I was elected to the Dáil on my third attempt, so it is fair to say that I wanted to become a full-time politician. It is a humbling experience not only to come into this House as one of the representatives of Dublin North-West to join colleagues whose honesty and integrity I admire and whose work rate I hope to match. It is an even more daunting experience to come into this Chamber and to attempt, however inadequately, to lay out my stall and indicate what my expectations of my role are. I want to pick the best of what I see around me and learn from the experiences and contributions of Members of the current Dáil and of those no longer here. The contributions of some of the founding members of the State have inspired me. I am in awe of much of the work they have done. I am dismayed and greatly disappointed at the earlier attitude of a small number of people who, though totally devoted to public life abused their very special position and dragged the whole profession of politics into disrepute. If we expect the consent of the governed to be forthcoming then the people who govern must be the essence of probity and integrity. I therefore welcome the establishment of a new tribunal as proposed by the Government.

I came into this House to help frame legislation which will ensure the continued development of a healthy democracy. I do not want to spend the next few years poring over the entrails of times past. The past must be rigorously investigated and the faulty punished. The lessons learned from these investigations must be incorporated into legislation. We must search elsewhere for models of best practice into the operation of the parliamentary process and procedure and into monitoring standards in public life. Much of our current practices need little adjustment, but where improvements can be made they should be implemented without prevarication.

In recent years, we have seen the fragile flower of democracy emerge in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. We saw the spectacle of the first time voters in South Africa travel for days over deserts to exercise their hard won right to vote. Today the people of Scotland vote in a referendum to decide whether they can have their own parliament. This is not simply a public relations exercise. It is the culmination of the fight by the people of Scotland to have a real say in running their affairs.

Perhaps we have become too complacent and take too much for granted. Complacency is a malaise which we must avoid at all costs. It breeds cynicism and cynicism breeds alienation. Once people are alienated and to all intents and purposes outside the loop, it is difficult to give them a sense of ownership of what is happening. Unfortunately, we have plenty of evidence of alienation in our society and it is not all to do with the unequal distribution of the benefits of the Celtic Tiger economic boom. For whatever reason, a "them and us" society has emerged in recent years in parallel with the perceived irrelevance of the parliamentary process to the lives of the people who ought to be beneficiaries of the significant advance in social and economic progress. There is something wrong when children as young as nine or ten years decide that school is irrelevant. There is something wrong when parents seem hell bent on defending offending children when checking or simple chastisement is called for. There is also something inherently unhealthy about referring to our young people as problems rather than assets. There is something strange in a society which opposes care for the helpless and the marginalised in their communities. There is also something strange about a society which has so many people registered as unemployed but notices in many restaurant windows stating "Staff Wanted".

Those examples of exclusion from mainstream society are disturbing. Their causes must be addressed and corrected. Resources must be committed to closing that yawning gap between those who see themselves as stakeholders in our society and those who feel no sense of ownership. In correcting these inadequacies and imbalances, the attitudes and actions of those in this House and in public life will be watched closely by people who have lost confidence in us. We need only listen to any vox pop to hear painful reminders of how irrelevant and out of touch we are. Every one of us is seen to be on the make. I am afraid a great cleansing is called for if we are to win back the confidence we have lost and gain the respect we all crave.

I therefore applaud the actions of the Taoiseach and the Government in setting the mechanism necessary for that vital restoration of confidence in public life. I urge all Members to support this approach. It is the only approach that will bear fruit and ultimately restore confidence in the democratic process.

I have been a past critic of the administration of the courts in particular and the legal profession and my criticisms were levelled with sincerity. It was something that needed to be said and I hope those involved in the administration of the courts take on board those criticisms. However, the work done by Mr. Justice Finlay and in this case by Mr. Justice McCracken has gone a long way towards restoring my confidence in the ability of the Judiciary to make itself relevant and to deal with important issues. Mr. Justice McCracken has done a great job. I hope other members of the legal profession, judges and those involved in the administration of the courts will follow his example and use their skills in an innovative way to restore the confidence in that wing of Government which we in another way must restore in this wing of Government.

Deputy McDowell and others said the standards people see is what they expect from politicians. The majority of people knew that Charles Haughey was not funding himself from his salary from this House and, to a large extent, the public shares in that dishonesty. It is time we as representatives of the public were able to speak openly and honestly. I apologise if what I have to say causes embarrassment, but it is likely the majority of farmers who receive cash payments would do the same as Mr. Haughey or Deputy Lowry. The majority of grocers and, dare I say barristers, when they received cash payments before making returns for VAT, would also do likewise. What does that say about those barristers who later became judges? Let us stop the hypocrisy. Those people did not expect any more from politicians because that is how they lived their lives. We should admit that the majority of the Members of the House and of the public were well aware that Charles Haughey was not funding himself from his political income. The country is partly to blame for this scandal.

Deputy Hanafin made an eloquent speech. Fianna Fáil has a particular problem which I will try to address as impartially as an Opposition Deputy prosecuting the Government can, in the hope that we can restore some of Fianna Fáil's greatness not merely for its sake but for the sake of the Opposition because we pace ourselves off each other. Fianna Fáil must face up to its problem. It is pointless saying we are all the same. A particular problem has been identified and it must be exorcised and dealt with by Members on all sides of the House. Many Members on this side of the House as well as members of the public are sneaking regarders of Charles Haughey. We must admit our capacity for dishonesty. There is a range of issues with which we are not willing to deal. We dare not discuss NATO or hold a rational debate on abortion. We dishonestly shove such matters to one side. While the majority of people knew Charles Haughey was doing this, very few questions were asked when he was returned as Taoiseach on three occasions. Consequently the public shares part of the responsibility.

There is a general perception that politicians today should not be trusted. We should read what Shakespeare, Swift and other noted people said about politicians down through the years. In recent times our former party leader, Dr. FitzGerald has been writing about what happened at the time of the foundation of the State and how things have moved on since then. How did the de Valera family become owners of the Irish Press and a particular Fine Gael family become owners of the Irish Sweepstake? Let us not think these are new issues, there have always been scandals in politics. If we are putting everything on the table let us speak honestly and openly. What happens in this House is that we reflect, in many ways, the standards people expect, because those are the standards they expect of themselves.

We should consider what Deputy Ardagh said about dishonesty. Recently, for the first time in over a decade, I took up a business interest outside this House, which I will declare in the normal course of events. I did it for a number of reasons, not only for the money but because I need to do something outside politics. I hope I can bring what I have experienced in politics to business and what I learn in business back to politics. However, I find that in business as in the public service relatively junior people are paid vastly more than Members of this House who are in insecure employment. In any other profession or walk of life people in insecure employment are paid more because they have short-term contracts or an uncertain future. We have allowed ourselves to be painted as doing something out of the ordinary if we even apply what an independent commission has decided should be our rate of pay.

I share a constituency with Deputy Briscoe, who has been over 30 years in the House. I have been here for 17 years. Deputy Briscoe has never been a Minister, he is a hard-working Deputy and I find him a good colleague with whom to work. Should he not receive service pay for all the years' work he has given to this House? We should stop denigrating ourselves. We should stand up for ourselves, remunerate ourselves properly in a reasoned and fair way and stop apologising for that, because as long as we do, we will have to rely on outside people to fund our campaigns. Does anyone think I could fund my electoral campaign from what I am paid for serving in this House? Six people, my wife, my four children and myself, all live off my Dáil salary. I do not say it is the worst salary available but what is left after paying PAYE is not enough to fund a campaign. All of this must be regulated and due consideration must be given to this in the way we do our business.

Yesterday the Leader of the Opposition, Deputy Bruton, said:

Recent reports are full of examples of a structure of decision making here that has deliberately allowed decisions to be taken by Ministers or officials on the basis of executive discretion rather than on the basis of unambiguous laws that are available to all and applied openly by the courts.. Once the laws allow discretionary decisions to be taken without clear rules, we create an environment for corruption.. Serious questions were treated with derision. Mr. Haughey always seemed to have a willing band around him ready to crease their faces with derisory laughter when he treated with contempt serious questions on this matter from the press. Some of those faces are still visible on the Front Bench opposite. Do some of those in Fianna Fáil feel even mildly embarrassed that they were among those who laughed or gave moral support to their leader when these questions about his wealth were imperiously dismissed at press conferences and on public platforms? While the issue was of public importance, it was, or should have been, a matter of serious concern to Fianna Fáil during those years, but the party was blind.

One matter in particular is of serious concern and I will place it on the record because I want to draw it to the attention of the House and the tribunal. Deputy Bruton also said yesterday:

The sale of Carysfort College to UCD must now be re-examined in far greater detail and with far greater rigour.. Exactly the same pattern of collective Government decision making is to be found in the Carysfort case as was disclosed in the beef tribunal. Ministers worked alone, without civil servants to ensure accountability. The absence of civil servants from eight meetings with UCD, some of them involving Mr. Haughey, the Minister, Deputy O'Rourke, and others between 11 September 1990 and 12 December 1990 does not, to quote the Committee of Public Accounts, "suggest the degree of transparency which one would expect to be evident in all financial transactions of the State".

I was Chairman of the Committee of Public Accounts at the time and I received the cooperation of the vast majority of Fianna Fáil Members of the committee, as well as of the other parties present, in bringing forward the report of the committee on the sale of Carysfort. The Comptroller and Auditor General reported to the committee on this matter in his report on the accounts of 1990. We also made a special interim report to the Dáil, signed by me as Chairman on 6 February 1992. Before issuing that report we brought before the committee not only the Accounting Officer of the Department of Education but the Accounting Officers of the Department of Finance and the Valuation Office, the President of UCD and others. The Committee of Public Accounts did a good job on that occasion. As I am familiar with the Carysfort case, I will discuss this example to explain what happened and why it is relevant that it should be investigated as part of the tribunal's considerations.

In the period leading up to September 1990, the Department of Education made no offer for Carysfort; for instance, it made no offer in October 1989, when a reasonable offer was invited nor in February 1990 when it was clear that the then owners wished to dispose of the property. This is mentioned in the committee's report. The Valuation Office valued the site at approximately £3.8 million in August 1989. In November 1990, a little over a year later, UCD acquired it for £8 million, without being told during the negotiations of the Valuation Office assessment. This is also mentioned in the report. There is no doubt that UCD acquired an excellent property but at a cost of £9.7 million to the State. The college originally intended to locate its graduate business school in Roebuck Castle, which would have cost the college £5 million, albeit for a smaller facility, with no cost to the State.

The Higher Education Authority, which has authority under sections 3 and 8 of the Higher Education Authority Act, 1971, was not consulted, it was bypassed as was the Department of Education. Both expressed their disquiet about this. The Department of Finance opposed this purchase for traditional budgetary reasons. However, because of the Cabinet procedures used it was unable to give its view before the decision was made. I refer here to pages 96 and 98 of the report of the Committee of Public Accounts.

The Cabinet procedures allow a Minister, with the prior agreement of the Taoiseach, to raise a matter at Government without circulating a memorandum. That is what happened on 4 December 1990, according to the evidence given to the Committee of Public Accounts. I refer here to pages 6 and 98 of the Public Accounts Committee report.

There are precedents for this. The Engineering School in Merrion Street was dealt with in the same way. However, a supplementary Estimate was introduced in this House and the Higher Education Authority got the necessary moneys to transfer to UCD on 21 December 1990. The matter was brought to Cabinet without papers on 4 December. An Estimate was rushed through this House. The Higher Education Authority was given the money on 21 December which it had to immediately transfer to UCD. That was done on Christmas Eve 1990. I refer here to pages 52 and 53 of the Public Accounts Committee report.

Dr. Patrick Masterson, who was then president of UCD, told the Committee of Public Accounts in evidence that an invitation came from the then Minister for Education to UCD to discuss Carysfort's availability. He did not know it was available to him at that stage. He told the committee on page 58 of the report that the Department made it clear Carysfort was the only option for which UCD would receive State funding. In pages 55 and 59 of the report he makes it clear that the Minister contacted UCD. Incidentally, she told the Dáil that the proposal was from UCD, which I think is referred to on page 148 of the Public Accounts Committee report. Technically, she was right in that the proposal came from UCD, but it came from UCD at her instigation. Therefore, factually and in every other way she was wrong. It may have to be explained in time why it was suggested the proposal came from UCD.

The Committee of Public Accounts did not accept that Carysfort represented optimum value for money, especially as the property was sold some months earlier for a significantly lower amount than UCD ultimately paid for it. In pages 9 and 10 of the report the committee strongly criticised the Department of Education because there was a limited market for that property. The report states on page 5 that Carysfort "was sold to a private developer in June 1990 for a sum reputedly in the range of £6.25 million to £6.5 million". However, six months later UCD used State funds to buy it for £8 million plus £1.7 million other costs.

Page 62 of the Public Accounts Committee report indicated that Dr. Masterson, the president of UCD, expected business people to fund Roebuck in its entirety. However, he was told to forget about the £5 million he was going to raise to fund Roebuck because the State would give him £9.7 million — but only if he purchased the Carysfort site. He was told he would not be given funding for any other option. This Carysfort site — which was valued at £3.8 million in August 1989; for which the Department made no attempt to bid prior to September 1990, such as in October 1989 or February 1990; and which was purchased for £6.25 million or £6.5 million by a private individual — was suddenly foisted on UCD. The cheque was written before Christmas by the State through Cabinet procedures which did not meet the normal transparent financial requirements of the Committee of Public Accounts, the Comptroller and Auditor General or this House, or which would not be accepted as fair and reasonable.

Page 4 of the report states the Department of Education building unit set out to justify this purchase as a value for money exercise. It emphasised that it cost £8 million. In fact, the cost to the State was £9.7 million. It is pointed out in the report, following evidence given by the chief evaluation officer, that St. Helen's, a nearby educational facility with 70 acres, was sold for £7 million in May 1989. Carysfort was valued by the Valuation Office at about £190,000 an acre as against £100,000 per acre for St. Helen's. Although the Valuation Office valued the acreage of Carysfort at almost twice that of St. Helen's, it still said it was only worth £3.8 million.

This is very relevant because pages 25, 63, 64, 66 and 71 of the report make it clear that civil servants were excluded from all five meetings between UCD and the then Minister for Education and all three meetings between UCD and the then Taoiseach. Not only were Cabinet procedures bypassed, the normal procedure whereby at least a proper record of meetings is kept to ensure transparency, was also bypassed at all those meetings. As Deputy Bruton said yesterday, the Committee of Public Accounts stated that did not suggest the degree of transparency which the committee would expect. That was not said by me but by the Committee of Public Accounts, supported in a professional way by the vast majority of Fianna Fáil members of that committee.

The Accounting Officer of the Department of Education asserted that the property was never on offer to his Department for less than £8 million. However, the Public Accounts Committee found it hard to reconcile that statement with the fact that the property was sold to a private developer in June 1990 for a sum reputedly in the range of £6.25 million to £6.5 million. Although the Department of Finance, which was opposed to the purchase on traditional budgetary grounds, was not consulted in advance on whether the purchase represented value for money or on the need for such facilities at the level envisaged, the State was still committed to this expenditure.

At a meeting of the Cabinet on 4 December 1990 it approved the purchase of Carysfort by UCD without having a formal memorandum presented to it. In the course of hearing evidence, the committee was informed that under Cabinet procedures that could only happen if a Minister raised the matter orally, provided that the Minister had the prior agreement of the Taoiseach. The committee said this procedure was followed in regard to Carysfort.

On 21 December 1990, the Accounting Officer for the Department of Education told the Higher Education Authority that approval of the Minister for Finance was required for any recurring costs. However, the President of University College Dublin told the committee in evidence that on the same date the Taoiseach gave him an assurance that "incremental running costs would be an appropriate charge".

UCD was force fed £9.7 million of taxpayers' funds to buy a facility which the Valuation Office said was worth only £3.8 million. UCD was contacted by the Minister, told this was available and told to negotiate. However, it was never told that the Valuation Office said it was worth only £3.8 million. Subsequently, in rushed circumstances and without proper Cabinet and financial control procedures being followed, £9.7 million was used to secure it. Higher Education Authority, Department of Finance and Cabinet procedures were bypassed. It was the subject of criticism by the one person who could not be bypassed, the Comptroller and Auditor General. He examined the file and brought it to the attention of the Committee of Public Accounts, which strongly criticised it.

I have laboured this point because Deputy Hanafin is an honourable, well intentioned and first-class Member of the House. However, she asked what was so different about Fianna Fáil. The answer is that Ministers addressed the Taoiseach as "Boss"—"Yes Boss, no Boss, three bags full Boss". These Ministers did so to ensure their survival, to clock up their salaries and pensions and because they were afraid. They allowed that culture to prevail. As Deputy Bruton said yesterday, they bear part of the responsibility. Mr. Haughey and the Ministers who facilitated the procedure will be indicted if it transpires that the person, or any person or company associated with him, who purchased that property and sold it to the State in such a short time for a large profit gave funds to Mr. Haughey.

Until the Fianna Fáil Party makes it part of its philosophy that it will not accept such standards in high places, which the late Mr. George Colley criticised, it will stand aside from every other group as the party with the most to answer for. None of us is a saint but it has the most to answer for, not just for having that culture but for introducing it and allowing it to prosper.

It is obvious that the approach of addressing Mr. Haughey as "Boss" and encouraging his mannerisms and use of the facilities of the State as if they were personally available to him was an abdication of constitutional collective Cabinet responsibility. All sides should learn that Ministers share collective responsibility in Cabinet. The Taoiseach is primus inter pares but he is not a dictator. Those who facilitated the procedures which allowed the Carysfort incident to occur share responsibility for it. I draw the attention of the House and the tribunal to this matter. I hope it will be of interest to the tribunal and that it will bear it in mind in conducting its inquiries.

I welcome the opportunity to address this matter. I hope the tribunal will in private or in public, or both, inquire from the people who were associated with the Carysfort and other similar deals if they made direct or indirect contributions to Mr. Haughey. This aspect is relevant to the investigative approach of the tribunal.

I wish to share my time with the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Woods.

I thank Deputy Mitchell for his contribution. As usual, he was eloquent. I found him so in the past when I dealt with him as a journalist. He was always voluble and ready to provide a quote. I am glad he is maintaining that tradition. He made a fine contribution but no party or individual in the House enjoys a monopoly on moral probity. This is an important aspect to remember in addressing the serious issues raised by the debate.

I wish to pay tribute to President Robinson whose term of office is almost complete. She is a shining example of public service. As a journalist I had the privilege of accompanying her on a State visit to Poland. She visited Auschwitz and spoke for everybody with her dignified reaction on what was an unforgettable occasion and experience. It is a pity that the high public esteem in which President Robinson is held is not also extended to Members of the House. However, I am honoured to contribute to the debate.

This is my first speech and it is a particular honour for me because my father and grandfather both served in this Chamber. It is sad that I have this opportunity at a time when the notion of public service has become a tarnished ideal. In my upbringing I was taught that political involvement was not so much a matter of duty as a noble calling which people should feel honoured to answer. Unfortunately, the events which led to this tribunal and other investigations in the last ten years have brought much of the political system and those involved in politics into the mire. This places a huge responsibility on the House to correct and improve matters. My point relates less to the McCracken tribunal and more to the fundamental issue of democratic political reform of the institutions of the State.

Deputy Mitchell took an interest in this area in the past and his party leader, Deputy Bruton, took a leading role in Dáil reform in the mid-1980s by providing a proper committee system. Perhaps the party leaders, including the Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, will take up this challenge again in the 1990s and try to provide an efficient House which works for the public good.

The calling of public service is not an easy task. In contrast to the times in which my father and grandfather served in the House, it is much more difficult to be involved in politics now. It is no accident that during my lifetime in education, the workforce as a journalist and private industry I never met anybody of my age group who would have considered becoming a Member of the House. It is a tragedy that an entire generation of people are disinterested in the political system and have no ambition or hope of becoming a Deputy. The House must consider this matter. There is a huge responsibility on Members to make a difference and to ensure that politics appears relevant again. Members must infuse politics with the spirit of public service that was in the House in the past and which I am sure will be here again. Why are many able and ambitious young people no longer drawn to politics? This issue goes beyond the McCracken tribunal, although that tribunal and the events it has inquired into are relevant to it. It is important that the House take up the challenge to make politics and public service a noble pursuit.

Today's debate is not simply about Mr. Haughey, Deputy Lowry or Deputy Ray Burke. It is about the relevance of our political system as we move to the end of the 20th century. There are much wider issues here that cut to the very heart of our democracy and civic life. What kind of standards do we wish to apply to ourselves as elected representatives? What sacrifices are we prepared to make to ensure that people have full confidence in their political representatives? As a new Member, I have nothing to fear and believe all Members of this House have nothing to fear from full disclosure of financial interests. I am not afraid of that and no party or individual is afraid of it. We should pursue this very vigorously, and not stall. It should be done quickly to restore public confidence.

We must also ask what kind of State we wish to live in as we face the end of the 20th century. The current cynicism about politics can be traced to the serious neglect of political reform by the political establishment over many years. It is now time this Parliament inaugurated a wide-ranging discussion about how politics and the political system can be improved. The House should consider initiating a process of public consultation centred on the theme of reform of our political institutions, of our Constitution and of the conduct of our public life.

This process of public consultation should begin soon and involve the maximum number of citizens. There is a role here for a forum on civic life that would sit for a defined period and seek submissions from all interested parties — public bodies and private citizens alike — on the reforms needed to make our system of Government relevant again. I use the word "relevant" repeatedly because our political life and system is not relevant to the generation coming forward. That is why a great number of people are not getting involved in political parties and are not interested in entering this House. That must change. It should be a cherished ideal for any young person to become a Member of this House. I feel particularly privileged, given my background in political involvement, to be a Member, but in the country I have in mind, my involvement would not be necessary because the competition would be too hot for people from a "dynastic" background like me to reach this House. I look forward to that day, as must every other Member.

When speaking of this forum, I am reminded of the forum which was initiated by the Opsahl Commission in Northern Ireland. That commission sat for nine months and began an unprecedented process of public consultation on one of the most relevant issues facing this island: how to resolve the conflict in the North. It is noteworthy that this groundbreaking public inquiry involved thousands of ordinary people and, significantly, it preceded the Hume-Adams agreement. It was one of the most important inquiries ever conducted and 35,000 people were spoken to individually and in various groups. This kind of citizens' inquiry should be considered here and should be tightly focused by this House rather than by a judge or tribunal of inquiry. There should be a formal citizens' inquiry into how people believe we should run the country. It is not fair to put those issues before people in an election because people often concentrate on economic issues in an election. The period between elections is an ideal time for this kind of consultation. It is badly needed if politics is to become relevant again to younger people and to get the allegiance of citizens. If begun, this consultation might restore public confidence in the political system, but that alone would not be enough. There are bigger institutional relationships which the House must look into.

There is concern outside the House about the relevance of the Seanad, local government, the Constitution and the role of political parties within the system. These are big issues which have been left lying for many years, with local government being probably the most spectacular example. I have not been known to speak well of the Progressive Democrats very often but their suggestion that the Seanad be abolished sparked a debate on that institution at least. The issue of the Seanad should be twinned with that of local government reform. Why can we not have a gubernatorial system whereby the elected chair-persons of the local authorities sit, ipso facto or as of right, in the Seanad? That would guarantee local representation at a national level and would allow chairpersons of local authorities to play a valuable role at that level. It would also allow Ministers to concentrate on national legislation while answering questions on local issues in the Seanad. If Deputies need reassurance on this matter, membership of both institutions would not be allowed. Membership of local authorities and this House should be mutually exclusive. It is not in the interest of our civic life that people who are members of local authorities also be Members of the House.

After the last war, Germany had to look anew at its constitutional and political institutions. The checks and balances put in place then in Germany have served that country well. Perhaps, given the level of public cynicism about politics here, the same approach should now be taken here. My preference is for root and branch reform of the electoral system, which contributes greatly to public cynicism about politics.

Deputy Gay Mitchell raised the issue of pay. I heard this mentioned this morning also and it is a relevant issue, but the public will not give us the mandate to pay ourselves more if we do not reform the way we work. It is dishonest of politicians to demand greater efficiency in the wider public service when they do not apply the same exacting standards to themselves. Politicians will get the due recognition and monetary reward if they reform the way they work.

If a new electoral system is put in place, it should reconcile the role played by democratic political parties and the public desire for direct or proportional representation. The German electoral system is a mixture of the list system and direct representation which allows political parties to retain talented individuals who contribute at a national level. It is ironic and somewhat tragic that Dr. Conor Cruise O'Brien, one of Mr. Haughey's longest serving opponents, is not a Member today. It is a pity that Dr. Cruise O'Brien has had to oppose Mr. Haughey in the pages of the Irish Independent. If the House was properly organised, individuals such as Dr. Cruise O'Brien would be able to oppose Mr. Haughey from within the Chamber. There are many talented individuals in various parties in the House and the political system should value those with intellect and ability. Those people should be retained by the system so that they can serve at a high level, be it as Minister or President.

It is clear from the McCracken and beef tribunals that if there were proper procedures and standards in the House, these expensive tribunals would be unnecessary. Speaking as a former journalist, there should be measured but considerable reform of the laws of libel as they apply to those in the public eye. I emphasise the term "the public eye" as those who are not in the public eye should enjoy the protection of enhanced privacy laws.

It is important the media be given the recognition they deserve and it is no accident the media, not this House or a Member, have led many of the revelations which have occurred in the scandals we are discussing.

The role of the media and political parties in our national affairs should be given explicit recognition in our Constitution or in any new Constitution which this House will shape with cross-party support. These reforms are desirable in themselves but there are other more compelling reasons that a process of deep-seated reform should take place. If the peace process is brought to a successful conclusion, by definition there will be a need for a new constitutional dispensation that accommodates the diverse traditions on this island. Furthermore, the momentous challenge of economic and monetary union within the European Union also demands a fresh approach to our political institutions and constitutional arrangements.

In essence, nothing in the constitutional sense and life of this country has changed since the enactment of the 1937 Constitution. That document has served the nation well but it is now time for it to be overhauled or even replaced. In an earlier era Seán Lemass defined his task and that of an earlier generation of political leaders as one of securing the economic foundations for independence. It is to his credit that this mission set out in the late 1950s has now largely been achieved.

The historic task of this generation of political leaders is to secure the social foundations for independence. We have a proper, if somewhat flawed, political system and a successful economy, sometimes described as the Celtic tiger, but we do not have a society with the social cohesion one would expect of a country which claims to be a republic and democratic in its treatment of its citizens. The task for this House is to secure the social foundations for independence and to justify our high idealism as a nation in going it alone away from the British Empire.

In an odd way the events and issue probed in the McCracken tribunal demonstrate the enormous economic success this country has achieved and the enormous temptations politicians are faced with in the modern age. The real issue now for our political system is how to harness economic success so that the maximum number of our citizens can participate in the workforce with dignity and the opportunity to move ahead. The task of eliminating social exclusion cannot be taken on by a political system which is uncompetitive, inefficient and unreformed.

The enormous task of political reform should proceed quickly and in the lifetime of this Dáil. Public inquiries, such as the McCracken tribunal and the beef tribunal, are not enough. The public will expect and, indeed, deserve much better than they are getting now. We have a terrible habit of poring over the past — perhaps it is time this Parliament looked to the present and let the future look after itself.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I congratulate Mr. Justice McCracken and all those involved in the tribunal of inquiry on their diligent and efficient work in the production of this report. The events and revelations over the past 12 months have damaged the perception of politics and added to increasing public cynicism about public life. It is a source of profound distress and disappointment to members of Fianna Fáil that a person who led the party for many years, in many respects with great distinction, has been found by a judicial tribunal to have engaged in unacceptable conduct in the receipt of substantial sums of money.

The matter of payment to politicians does not end with this report. Questions remain to be answered and issues remain unresolved. There is clearly need for a second tribunal and it is this tribunal the Government now seeks to establish. Our priority must be to move forward in an effort to restore public confidence in the political system by examining the current mechanisms for regulation and enforcement, addressing deficiencies and establishing new rules and means of enforcement where necessary.

The McCracken report has been discussed in detail in the media and during the course of this debate and I do not intend to engage in repetition. During the debate some Members have sought to paint a picture of wholesale political corruption and tried to cast doubt on the integrity of as many Deputies and Ministers as possible. Such suggestions and innuendo have no basis in the conclusions of Mr. Justice McCracken's report which, while extremely distressing, found "no political impropriety" to have occurred.

Members should resist the temptation to throw mud by innuendo and instead focus on the substantive issues raised in the McCracken report. The Taoiseach has ensured the terms of reference of the new tribunal are broad enough to encompass the further issues about which concern has been expressed. In this way any allegations can be fully investigated in a forthright, fair and objective manner.

The conclusions of Mr. Justice McCracken's report as to the unacceptable nature of the financial arrangements and activities of Deputy Lowry and Mr. Charles Haughey have received universal public acceptance. There are a number of dimensions to the unacceptable nature of such activity, including the potential compromise or conflict of interest involved, the difficulty of enforcing laws which are seen to be flouted by people in senior positions and the damage to the public perception of politics and its participants.

I have been a public representative for 20 years and served in Cabinets under four Fianna Fáil Taoisigh, starting with Jack Lynch in 1979. Politics is the ultimate in public service, and I have served the public service in other respects. I am proud of the work I do as a politician in serving both my community and country. I say without hesitation that public representatives generally are hardworking, dedicated people, many of whom have made personal sacrifices to serve in public life. Even the most cursory perusal of the register of Members' interests will show that most Oireachtas Members have little to declare outside their Dáil or Seanad salaries.

We have an obligation to the public and ourselves to rebut any suggestion that politics is about personal gain or financial enrichment. That is not to say those who take up public office must forego any possibility of success or profit in their private lives, although this is often the case. Nonetheless, it is of paramount importance that all dealings in public life are above reproach.

Our fate is in our own hands. The manner in which we conduct ourselves, our response to this report and any consequent actions are important elements in dispelling public cynicism and addressing any lack of public trust in politicians. People have a right to expect high standards from those who represent them. We have a duty to enforce those standards and work to relieve any doubts which have been generated by recent events. It is now necessary for all parties and politicians to work together to renew public confidence in the democratic process. We owe it to those we represent and to the many politicians who have served this country and its people with distinction at local and national levels over the years.

The challenge of ensuring ethical conduct and financial probity among public office holders has been faced by many other democracies over the last 30 years. Most countries now regulate those who serve in public office with varying degrees of stringency and methods of enforcement.

The regime operated by the United States to regulate the financial interests and conduct of public office holders is probably the most restrictive worldwide. Members of Congress are expressly barred from accepting gifts which aggregate to more than $250 in one calendar year. They are also prohibited from the private practice of any profession which involves a fiduciary relationship or from using the influence of their official position to benefit their own financial interests. Members there are also subject to a rigorous system of public disclosure of assets, income, property and debt.

In the UK there are no direct prohibitions on outside earnings. However, a system of registering and declaring outside interests ensures transparency and highlights possible conflicts of interest which may arise in the course of a member's activity.

A report on legislative ethics prepared for the US Congress by the Congressional Research Service in 1994 observed that "ethical restrictions on a legislators' conduct and outside activities with respect to private financial interests are a product of numerous political, cultural and economic factors, including the democratic maturity of the electorate as well as the public respect and perception of the status of its representatives".

We live in an age of increasing access to information. An educated and well — informed public brings with it a demand for accountability and transparency. Our objective must be to meet these expectations and address public concern. It is important that mechanisms which seek to enforce standards and ensure probity in all political activity are effective and are seen to be so.

Mr. Justice McCracken welcomed recent legislation enacted by this House and in particular considered that the current system of disclosure and regulation should be "highly effective in monitoring ordinary political donations". However, the judge also recognised its limitations and suggested extending the Ombudsman's jurisdiction and giving the Office of the Ombudsman powers to conduct investigations. It may be more effective to vest such powers, combined with those of the public offices commission, in an independent ethics commission. A stand-alone, independent office would have the time and resources to dedicate itself to this single, important area and would signal to the public for once and for all that we are serious about addressing their concerns. The independence of such a body, and its perception as independent, would be an important element in the restoration of public confidence.

Questions have been raised both in the media and by the Opposition about the need for such an independent ethics commission. Critics of the proposal have argued that the existing legislative provisions are adequate. A more detailed analysis will show that the combined processes under the Ethics in Public Office Act and the Electoral Act may be seen as operating from a narrow basis. Only complaints about office holders are dealt with by the Public Offices Commission while complaints about ordinary Members are dealt with by a select committee. At this stage, self-regulation by a select committee of Dáil Éireann may not be sufficiently objective to ensure public confidence in the political system.

It is interesting to note, as already mentioned by one of my colleagues, that the all-party Oireachtas committee on the Constitution in its first report recommended such an approach which would guarantee the independence and impartiality of the commission, generate greater confidence in public life, create greater transparency in public institutions, create consistency and continuity in developing procedures for dealing with related functions and provide an independent source of advice and information in the areas of ethics in public life and electoral law reform.

This model recommended by the committee is consistent with the models currently operating in other countries. In the United States, for example, the State Ethics Commission serves not just as a repository for statements of disclosure and as a source of advice, but is also authorised to undertake civil enforcement action on its own motion or in response to a sworn complaint. The commission is empowered to hold hearings, issue subpoenas to compel attendance of witnesses and the production of documents and impose civil penalties and refer matters for criminal prosecution. A final decision of the commission may be appealed to the courts for a trial de novo. Examination of such a model may be worthwhile and could avoid any future need for the establishment of tribunals of inquiry except in exceptional circumstances.

It is a feature of our democracy that political donations from private sources are part of the political framework, something accepted by Mr. Justice McCracken. The McCracken report detailed the various payments made to members of the Fine Gael Party and to the Labour Party as well as to Fianna Fáil in respect of the presidential election campaign. The amounts ranged from £1,000 to £15,000 to individuals and £180,000 to the Fine Gael Party. The judge concluded that it would not be practicable to prohibit all political contributions. Such contributions are an important element in ensuring political parties can function effectively and that they have adequate back-up support and research staff.

The Government is giving the new tribunal extended powers by virtue of its terms of reference. It is important that we support this measure as a further step in our endeavour to lift the cloud over Irish politics. This House must embrace the changes which are necessary to renew public confidence in the political system and ensure that future generations will be proud to participate in political life.

(Mayo): The Dunnes Payments Tribunal is a watershed. Its language is clear, unambiguous and understandable. It has proved beyond doubt that tribunals of inquiry with the right terms of reference and the proper presiding personnel can work. It has delivered a withering denunciation of the modus operandi of a former Taoiseach and a former Government Minister in the conduct of their financial affairs. It has rendered considerable service by setting down recommendations which it sees as crucial to the performance of those holding public office, recommendations which must be adopted.

The blunt message of paragraphs 34 and 35 of chapter 11 of the report is largely the basis on which recommendations for future conduct emanate. It is also an explicit indication of the standards and codes of conduct which should always have applied to those holding elected office. The report states:

.it is unacceptable that a Member of Dáil Éireann, and particularly a Cabinet Minister and Taoiseach, should be supported in his personal lifestyle by gifts made to him personally. It is particularly unacceptable that such gifts should emanate from prominent business people within the State.

Judge McCracken goes on to talk about the dangers of bribery, corruption and political favours.

The tribunal was set up to examine the finances of Mr. Haughey and Deputy Lowry. In the case of Deputy Lowry the sin uncovered was the serious one of tax evasion. In the case of Mr. Haughey, not alone was the huge subsidisation of his lavish lifestyle by Dunnes uncovered, but there was a blatant attempt to frustrate the tribunal through stonewalling, a tissue of lies and evasions and a climb-down when corned and faced with the incontrovertible.

Members of the Government have a tendency to become extremely annoyed when either the media or the Opposition dare resurrect and pose questions as to their version of, or involvement in, certain big money transactions while in office. They invariably resort to some statement of defence or explanation offered at the time. I do not wish to necessarily imply guilt by association, but several members of the present Government, including the Taoiseach and Ministers Woods, Burke, O'Rourke and Ahern, sat side by side in Government with Mr. Haughey when he was Taoiseach. They actively defended Mr. Haughey time and time again while publicly and enthusiastically pledging fealty to him. Yet Mr. Haughey lied both in his personal written statements and his oral evidence to the McCracken Tribunal. Are we not justified, therefore, in seeking answers to some of the unexplained and unanswered aspects of the past financial dealings in relation to projects in which present members of the Government, some of whom were Mr. Haughey's most trusted lieutenants, were directly involved?

The investment for naturalisation scheme has the potential for good if properly administered. Yet the shoddiness or shadiness of the scheme as operated under Fianna Fáil Ministers for Justice from 1987, some of whom are still in Government, has to be the subject of further detailed examination.

A few case histories are illustrative. Iris Oifigiúil of 4 September 1992 lists 11 Saudi Arabian and Pakistani nationals who were granted certify Cates of naturalisation dated 8 December 1990. All gave Glenmore House, Clonee, County Meath, as their Irish address. Local people in Clonee confirmed in 1994 that nobody had lived in the house since 1990. The awarding of a passport is supposed to be directly linked in the case of investment to a specific job creating scheme. The supposed project in the case of these 11 passports was, according to the IDA, linked to investment in the equestrian industry. What the IDA was doing meddling in the horse business is a mystery to me. Yet, four years later, Meath County Council was in a position to confirm that no application had been made to it for such a development.

Each application must be accompanied by character references from three Irish citizens. The Department of Justice, when asked to provide the names of those who proposed the 11 individuals or the group in question for naturalisation either collectively or individually, refused to supply the information. The Department was also asked how much investment was made and where and when it was made. It again refused to supply the information. The Minister for Justice in 1990 was none other than Deputy Raphael P. Burke. When asked about the scheme he declined to give any details other than to say that "there was a Government scheme in place at the time".

Two of the 11 people to whom Irish citizenship was granted were involved in the biggest banking scandal in history. Sultan Khalid S Bin Mahfooz and Haroon Rashid Kahlon, together with the National Commercial Bank of Saudi Arabia, were sued by liquidators of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International in relation to the BCCI collapse. In July 1992 both men faced charges in the United States that they conspired to steal more than $300 million from BCCI depositors. These charges were dropped in late 1993 following a plea bargaining settlement of $225 million. Haroon Khalon pleaded guilty to the charge that he failed to register as a broker for which it was agreed by the US authorities that he would not be jailed.

Here we have the biggest banking scam and scandal in history involving two principals who were accorded Irish citizenship on foot of references from three Irish citizens who presumably testified to the effect that they had an "intimate acquaintance with the applicant" and could vouch for their good character but the Department of Justice still refuses to divulge the "who, when or where" surrounding these applications.

The applicant is required to provide on the application form particulars of any proceedings, civil or criminal, taken against him or her in courts of law in this State or elsewhere. Was this information supplied and, if so, was it supplied accurately? The normal procedure for the issue of certificates of naturalisation is that they are signed by an Assistant Secretary in the Department of Justice, yet in the case of Messrs Mahfooz and Kahlon, the certificates were signed personally by the then Minister for Justice, Deputy Raphael P. Burke. I would like to know whether the rumour is correct that either Deputy Burke or Mr. Haughey personally delivered the passports and/or the certificates of naturalisation to the gentlemen in question at the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin.

All of this begs a number of questions to which answers must be supplied. Why did Deputy Burke take such an extra special interest in the passport applications of these two wealthy, but suspect, gentlemen? Did he personally oversee the details and the arrangements leading up to the granting of the passports? Who were the three people who provided the character references in the case of each of the 11 applicants? In view of the manifest wealth of the individuals in question and of Deputy Burke's handson involvement in the issue of the passports, what level of investment were the individuals to make in return for the passports and certificates of naturalisation and what was the nature of that investment? Was the investment to be a global figure for all 11 applicants or was there to be an individual investment by each? Was there ultimately any figure invested in a project here? If so, what was that figure and what was the project concerned? Did the individuals whose names were listed in the Iris Oifigiúil as having the passports ever visit this country or live here and, if they did, what was the duration of their stay? Who approached Deputy Burke initially to encourage him to personally steer the passport applications through his Department?

These are legitimate questions which must be answered. The refusal to answer them not only shows a brazen defiance but a contempt for the legitimate right to know if proper procedures were in place. It also leads to a quite justifiable suspicion that something serious was amiss. The questions simply will not go away. At what stage did responsibility for the issue of passports transfer to the then Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey's, Department? Who was the official within that Department with particular responsibility for this issue?

Had factual answers to legitimate Dáil questions been forthcoming on export credit insurance the beef tribunal would not, in all probability, have been necessary. Central to this debate is the motion to establish a new tribunal of inquiry to delve further into the affairs of Mr. Haughey and Deputy Lowry. Deputy Lowry no longer holds ministerial office. Mr. Haughey is no longer a Member of the Dáil nor is he a holder of public office. Deputy Burke is both a Member of the Dáil and a holder of one of the most senior and sensitive positions in Government. He, therefore, has a clear public and political duty to explain, in detail, his administration of a scheme in which huge sums of money were involved, where rules were so lax both in their formation and application that they could well be open to abuse and, to borrow from Mr. Justice McCracken when he referred to political gifts in the tribunal report, could "inevitably lead in some cases to bribery and corruption".

Some of the most scathing criticism of Fianna Fáil's handling of the passports for sale affair came from the Progressive Democrats. Does the scripture and writ of the Progressive Democrats as enunciated so eloquently by Michael McDowell in August, September, October and November of 1994 still run in its veins? Is the Tánaiste still prepared to stand full square behind this issue as she has done in regard to the £30,000 political contribution? Has she become so affected by the political blindness which holding office seems to have caused the Progressive Democrats that she does not see there are major questions attendant to this saga which have not been answered?

To apply for a medical card one must provide one's full postal address. Failure to do so will certainly involve a call from the community welfare officer from the health board in order to check out the bona fides of one's place of residence. Yet, the then Minister for Justice, Mr. Pádraig Flynn handed out two passports to Najwa Sabib Taher Masri and Khaled Sabih Masri on 15 December 1992. According to the Iris Oifigiúil, the Irish residence of Mrs. Masri and her son was simply located at Haddington Road, Dublin 4. Even in Mr. Flynn's home town of Castlebar, where everybody knows everybody else, it would be difficult to locate Mrs. Masri and her son on its main street without a house number. One can only pity the poor postman, ten days before Christmas on 15 December 1992, pacing up and down Haddington Road with a bag full of Christmas cards in the midst of which was a brown envelope stamped “Dlíagus Cirt”, inquiring anxiously if Mrs. Masri or her son lived there; or was this Christmas gift also hand delivered?

Mrs. Masri and her son were granted citizenship by Mr. Flynn for a consideration of a soft loan of £1.1 million to the pet food company of his friend and fellow Minister, Deputy Albert Reynolds. The recommendation of Mrs. Masri's suitability for citizenship came from Deputy Reynolds' and Mr. Flynn's political friend, then Minister for the Environment, Deputy Michael Smith.