Confidence in Taoiseach: Motion.

I move:

That Dáil Éireann:

—affirms confidence in the Taoiseach and the Government;

—recognises the enormous contribution made by An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, TD, to Irish public life including his many achievements in:

—patient and skilful leadership of the peace process which has resulted in a restoration of democratic institutions in Northern Ireland and a new era in North/South and Anglo-Irish relations;

—implementing a policy framework which has produced sustained strong economic and employment growth which is the envy of Europe, and has laid the foundations for continuing prosperity into future generations;

—sustaining and renewing the vital social partnership model, including the negotiation of a 10-year Framework Agreement to deepen stability and confidence;

—providing record increases in investment in infrastructure and vital public services while providing prudently for future needs within a sustainable fiscal framework;

—ensuring Ireland's interests are protected and that we play a leadership role in the evolution of Europe through his strong record of achievement as a senior member of the European Council;

—prioritising climate change and securing a sustainable energy future for the country by working with partners in Government to reach our key environmental targets; and

—renewing policies and institutions to cater for the needs of a new and more diverse Ireland, while affirming and supporting the values and structures which are at the heart of community life, through his support for the cultural, sporting and religious and community organisations that make up civil society;

—recalls that the Tribunal of Inquiry into Certain Planning Matters and Payments was established by resolution of Dáil Éireann and appointed by Instrument of the Minister for the Environment and Local Government on 4th November 1997;

—affirms its confidence in the Mahon Tribunal;

—understands that the Quarryvale module of the tribunal has not run its course and that a substantial number of witnesses are still scheduled to give evidence;

—believes that members of the Oireachtas should not seek to predetermine the tribunal's report on the matters which it has asked the tribunal to investigate;

—maintains that it is the role of the members of the tribunal to make an objective assessment of the completed evidence and to make findings if necessary;

—commends the Government for refusing to be distracted from its agenda of taking Ireland forward with positive and inclusive policies;

—reaffirms that the Programme for Government is a five year programme and that the parties in Government will do their utmost to honour these commitments; and

—rejects the politically opportunistic motion of no confidence put forward by the Fine Gael Party.

In Easter 2000 I first became aware of an allegation that I had received a bribe of £50,000 from Mr. Owen O'Callaghan. I sued in respect of the allegation, the source of which was Mr. Denis "Starry" O'Brien. At the hearing of defamation proceedings, the trial judge found the allegation to be false and baseless. In addition, Mr. Tom Gilmartin has made allegations to the Flood tribunal concerning an alleged payment of £50,000 in 1989, which I believe is the same allegation as made by Mr. Denis "Starry" O'Brien, a payment of £30,000 sometime prior to 1992, and a further payment of a sum of £150,000, allegedly paid by Mr. Owen O'Callaghan to Mr. Albert Reynolds. Each of these allegations is false. Counsel for the Mahon tribunal has stated that there is no evidence establishing any payment by Owen O'Callaghan to me. After four days in the witness box that remains the position. There is not a scintilla of evidence of any such payments. This is so because I never received such payments.

These allegations are not the only allegations made against me by Mr. Tom Gilmartin. Among the more bizarre and lurid allegations is one that I procured two Ministers to blackmail another Minister in the context of tax designation. I will not dignify the allegation by revealing its sleazy details to this House but I can assure the House it is as baseless as it is vicious. The Mahon tribunal sought extensive information and discovery from me because of various allegations. It has involved a trawl of my financial affairs for a very extensive period. So be it. I have given it the information and documentation available to me. I attended a private session, which I was not legally obliged to do, and I have now given evidence in public. The tribunal will sift and assess that evidence and reach its conclusions in due course. Normally I would refrain from commenting on ongoing work of the tribunal but I find myself in a position where I must respond to calls for me to resign. Therefore, I will take some time to address the recurring questions and issues concerning my evidence.

Last Saturday, on the "Marian Finucane Show", I urged people to read all the transcripts of my evidence at the Mahon tribunal. I understand the difficulties the media have in compressing 18 hours of evidence into limited space, meaning that accusations are sometimes made against me by soundbite. I contend that for anyone interested in these matters, the most thorough and detailed examination of my testimony the Irish public can receive is to read the entire transcript.

Some simple facts must be restated. The lodgments under consideration by the Mahon tribunal took place within 30 days of the ending of my matrimonial proceedings, were completed within a two year period and were the only lodgments being examined in a career of more than 30 years in politics. These are the facts.

To many my affairs are unorthodox. That is because my lifestyle in that dark period was unorthodox. Many who have gone through the trauma of marital separation and legal proceedings will feel empathy with me. Mine was not a perfect life, nor a perfect family and matrimonial environment but as I emerged from that period I was assisted by friends and my affairs were regularised over a short period. Now those who stated they would leave matters to be adjudicated by the tribunal last October and May, seek to sit as judge, jury and executioner. One day they blow hot, the next day they blow cold. Last May due process was an excuse not to comment but today political accountability is the pretext for their questioning.

I have repeatedly stated that I looked forward to giving evidence at the tribunal. I have done so. With eagerness I take this opportunity to challenge my accusers on the opposite side of the House. I deal with their allegations, soundbites and glib criticisms. I will address the issues separately.

Regarding the $45,000 issue, after the conclusion of my evidence on Monday media reports and political commentary by some was to the effect that I was unable to contradict the dollar allegation. This is simply not so and such comments are based on a misunderstanding that I will expose. The salient facts in respect of the $45,000 are as follows. A bank official, Mr. Philip Murphy, who worked in AIB, O'Connell Street, has given evidence that there never was a deposit of $45,000. Ms Rosemary Murtagh, having been taken through the documentation in the AIB remit room, agreed that the hypothesis that $45,000 was remitted by the branch to AIB headquarters, was destroyed.

The money lodged came from Mr. Michael Wall from Manchester. He did not deal in dollars. Rather, he dealt in sterling or Irish punts. A variety of combinations of Irish punts and sterling gives exactly $45,000. Likewise a variety of combinations of Irish punts and sterling gives exactly $25,000, $30,000, $40,000 or $50,000ad infinitum. The exact sum lodged in Ms Celia Larkin’s account on 5 December 1994 amounts to the following foreign currency sums, when the range applicable that day is applied: 71.5 million Italian lira and 237,700 French francs. So far I have not been accused of having received lira or French francs but no doubt the Opposition will seek an inquiry into it.

Complex material is being delivered in the House. Will a copy of the Taoiseach's speech be made available?

Deputy McManus should listen, like everyone else.

Deputy McManus, that is not a matter for the Chair.

There will be another version later.

It is a normal courtesy.

Deputy McManus, you must allow the Taoiseach to continue.

My independent expert, Mr. Stronge, having analysed the documentation with the branch and from the remit room in AIB headquarters, has concluded that the evidence does not substantiate a lodgment of US$45,000.

There has been much confusion about the basis for the opinion of Mr. Stronge. He prepared his preliminary report that was submitted to the tribunal having heard all the evidence. That evidence which concluded with the evidence of Rosemary Murtagh finished on Tuesday, 11 September 2007. As I was giving evidence on the Thursday morning, a preliminary report could only be furnished to me at that stage. This is the preliminary report to which I referred in my statement at the opening of the tribunal. That preliminary report and its conclusions is based solely and exclusively on the branch and the remit room documentation. The view is abroad that the report of Mr. Stronge which was put in evidence at the tribunal on Monday, was based on 67 material or actual calculations; this is not so. The mathematical formula by which those calculations are carried out was perfectly valid and they are based on the evidence of banking witnesses given up to the end of July. However, the Allied Irish Bank's evidence changed in September and because that evidence changed the calculations were therefore no longer applicable. As I emphasise this point, this is not the factual basis for the opinion contained in the report of Mr. Stronge. His conclusions are based on entirely separate and distinct reasoning. It is based on the evidence of the documentation of Allied Irish Bank and not on the 67 calculations. This is the reason I am now availing of this opportunity to nail the lie that I have somehow failed to establish that there was no $45,000. Mr. Stronge is a distinguished banker and is the former chief operating officer of Bank of Ireland corporate banking and lectures in financial reporting at the Smurfit Graduate School of Business and is a financial statement analyst at the National College of Ireland. He will be giving evidence to the tribunal in due course that the AIB evidence and documentation does not substantiate a lodgment of US$45,000. Mr. Stronge is a truly independent witness. I do not know him; I have never met him; I have never had a discussion with him. My lawyers retained him as an independent expert. In this context, the branch documentation is relied upon to demonstrate that my evidence is wrong. Such an assertion ignores the reality of the evidence already given by bank officials. They have acknowledged that what are known as the narratives on the banking documentation are of no accounting significance and are unreliable. They have told the tribunal that it is very possible that the sterling and dollar sums were transcribed onto the wrong sheets but that this had no accounting significance because all sums were expressed in Irish pounds and so long as the Irish pounds sums balanced, no issue would arise. If $45,000 had been lodged to the branch, the branch would have remitted that sum to the remit room in bank headquarters. However, the remit room documentation is not consistent with remittal of US$45,000. Accordingly, the narrative on the documentation in the branch must be wrong. It contains a simple and understandable error and one which the bank is not concerned with because it has no accounting significance. This is the type of error which the bank officials readily acknowledge can occur and in this case it has occurred. I wish to be clear that I did not receive US$45,000, I did not receive the sum of Italian lira 71.5 million, and I did not receive French francs FF237,700. The money was a combination of sterling and punts. These are the facts as brought out before the tribunal. It is the truth. I am satisfied that my evidence will be vindicated in this regard.

On the matter of discovery, I made discovery in accordance with the requirements of the tribunal. The chairman of the tribunal has made it clear that there is no suggestion that there is some document I have failed to discover. I have given hundreds upon hundreds of pages of discovery and answered questions, not just about five lodgements but about 86 lodgments. They have included questions about money spent on the education of my children, on the maintenance of my wife and I have dealt with these issues in exhaustive detail. As there appears to be a lingering suspicion about the quality of my discovery — although this is a matter for the tribunal — I will now address it in this House.

I intend to address separately a number of recurring themes. The first is the Michael Wall money. The moneys lodged to the Celia Larkin account on 5 December 1994 belong to Michael Wall. They were applied in respect of works to the house at 44, Beresford. This was the house which he bought and he owned. The moneys on deposit in that account were not my moneys nor were they applied for my benefit. In so far as I and my lawyers are concerned, this was not an account in respect of which discovery applied.

On the second issue of the Celia Larkin £50,000, I informed the tribunal that I transferred money to Celia Larkin's account in December 1994. I did this in a letter to the tribunal on 7 February 2005. There is no mystery about this. While the money was my money, the account was not my account — it was Celia Larkin's account. However, I wanted to make it plain to the tribunal that I transferred my moneys to her account. This I did by referring to this fact in the letter of 7 February and it accompanied my affidavit of discovery. I spent night after night and many weekends and days addressing the issue of discovery. I unearthed a voluminous amount of documentation. I disclosed more than 20 accounts in my name or in the joint names of my wife and I or in the names of my daughters. I did not consciously or wilfully omit any account from affidavit of discovery. I believe this is also my lawyers' view and I fully complied with and discharged my discovery obligations. The legal issues in this regard are being addressed to the tribunal by the lawyers representing the tribunal and my legal team, if the need arises. However, I am satisfied I have done nothing wrong.

On the issue of alleged delay, there is a false view that I did not make discovery for two and a half years but this is untrue. Not only did I make a discovery on 7 February 2005 and on 27 March 2006, I gave to the tribunal — although not obliged by law to do so — two letters of authorisation given on 10 June 2005 and on 6 April 2006. These authorised the tribunal to interview my bankers and obtain all bank documents and I thereby waived confidentiality. Hence the tribunal had full access to my accounts and information concerning those accounts. The tribunal also obtained discovery against Allied Irish Bank and I consented to that discovery. Moreover, during the greater part of this period the tribunal was precluded by court order from inquiring in public into Quarryvale two. Thus while I was dealing with the tribunal, there were court orders affecting how the tribunal could deal with Quarryvale two. The way was only cleared for it to conduct that public inquiry when the Supreme Court gave a judgment in the Owen O'Callaghan case on 30 March 2007. Before this, the public inquiry could not proceed. An injunction against it so proceeding was granted by a High Court judge on 8 December 2005.

I refer to the issue of a limit of £30,000 on discovery. Because of the potential extent of the discovery sought by the tribunal, through my lawyers I sought to limit it to sums of £30,000 and above. What was the basis for this? In the Denis "Starry" O'Brien litigation, a High Court judge, at the request of my counsel, limited discovery to the sum of £50,000 and above. This was because the allegation then being made by Denis "Starry" O'Brien was that I had received a bribe of £50,000 from Owen O'Callaghan. The principle informing the making of that order in the High Court is exactly the same principle which my lawyers sought to apply to discovery to the tribunal where the allegations I was then facing involved the assertion that I received £50,000 in 1989 and £30,000 sometime in or around 1992. Hence, the approach suggested at the tribunal by my lawyers in relation to discovery was one based on exactly what happened in the High Court when discovery was being addressed in the Denis "Starry" O'Brien case. This was the approach I suggested be followed. Whether it would have been followed or not, it would have been absolutely clear that I was not operating bank accounts at the time and that this was the case from the 1980s. Second, in making my actual discovery on 7 February 2005, I made it clear, as I would have done in all circumstances, that I had not operated bank accounts since the 1980s, including the period from the actual separation from my wife.

On the issue of the changing of evidence, the fundamentals of my evidence have remained the same. I have added some detail and elaborated in some areas for reasons which I will explain. I make no apologies for giving my best recollection when giving evidence. It is a matter of reality that one's recollection can be helped as new information comes to light. This has occurred in my case and I will explain the reason.

In the run-up to this year's election, the transcripts were leaked to the media. An issue arose in relation to a lodgment in June and another in December, which totalled £30,000 sterling. I had already confirmed to the tribunal that these were sterling lodgements when I met its representatives on 5 April last. On foot of the publicity surrounding the illegal leaks of the manuscripts, I was contacted by a number of people. They recalled for me that I had in fact looked at houses in early 1995. This refreshed my memory that in fact at one stage I was not going to proceed with the deal with Michael Wall and, therefore, returned the money to him. Hence, the rationale for converting punts into £30,000 sterling. It was because of the leaks during the general election that this information was brought to my attention. Hence, I informed the tribunal of this when I was giving my evidence.

Second, on 21 April 2006, a report from my accountant Des Peelo was sent to the Mahon tribunal. It stated that the sum of circa £8,000 sterling was lodged. There is a very simple explanation for this. The lodgement of 11 October was one I knew included some of the Manchester money, but I could not be precise as to the exact composition of the amount lodged. The report from Mr. Peelo relied on the Central Bank rate rather than the precise exchange rate applicable in Allied Irish Banks on that day. The published AIB rates were not available to me or to him at that time which meant that, of necessity, the sterling sum could not be exact. It was the use of the Central Bank rate that created the uncertainty. I did not see the actual bank conversion rates used by AIB until after the private session with the tribunal on 5 April 2007.

I said in the private session that I did not recollect purchasing the £30,000 sterling, but assumed I had purchased it in AIB's O'Connell Street branch. I mentioned that the AIB branches on O'Connell Street and in Drumcondra were the only two banks with which I dealt. It became clear from the O'Connell Street branch documentation that I could not have purchased the sterling there. The tribunal has not circulated the AIB Drumcondra documentation. In either event, I cannot be precise as to where and when and by whom the money was purchased. I continue, however, to make inquiries.

The period of time under consideration was a difficult one in my life. I was busy attending to many obligations of holding office as Minister for Finance and then as leader of Fianna Fáil. If I am to be criticised for not having a precise and clear recollection of all matters of detail some 12 and 13 years on, so be it. I have done my best in recalling these events. Indeed, the very people who now criticise me for lack of recollection in detail are the ones who would regard precise recollection of every detail as suspicious. I have given my evidence as honestly as I can and to the best of my ability. The human mind makes mistakes of recollection, forgets details and mingles events. That is life.

The Taoiseach sacked Ivor Callely over a paint job.

Everyone in the Chamber has experience of forgetting matters or of having only partial recollection of important events in their lives. Through the process of discussion and the revelation of other facts, new memories and recollections come to the fore. To err in one's recollection is normal and honest. The essential facts of the transactions which have been the subject of the tribunal inquiries are clear. The expenditure of the amounts in question in respect of the refurbishment and purchase of my house have also been corroborated. No alternative suggestion has been made and none can be made as to the source of these payments or any other context in which they might have been paid. That is because there was none. Only the determination by my political foes to stretch the available evidence with malign intention can put a sinister construction on events which, however unorthodox to some, were truthfully described in my sworn evidence.

I find somewhat distasteful an obsession with the minutiae of my life. Perhaps I should not be surprised.

I have not come to expect consistency from the Opposition. One day it wants to leave my affairs to the decision of the tribunal and the next it wants to pre-empt its work.

The Taoiseach is liberal with the truth.

I suppose I should not be surprised. In Fine Gael we have a party which deliberately suppressed and concealed a document from the Moriarty tribunal. What lapse of recollection resulted in that?

We did not put £60,000 in our back pockets.

Fine Gael is also a party that conveniently destroyed its financial records. Its members preach integrity in public office, a standard they do not match in their conduct. I was interested to read last Sunday that a Fine Gael public representative arranged for a complaint to be made about me to the Standards in Public Office Commission but melted like the snow when the complaint went nowhere.

Fianna Fáil would not do that.

They spin and leak to the newspapers and deny their involvement. For Fine Gael, integrity is a tactic not a principle.

What does the Taoiseach call €60,000 in his back pocket?

We hounded an honourable man out of office.

A brief review of the transcripts of the cross-examination of Tom Gilmartin show his evidence is crumbling. I can only assume that Fine Gael is aware of this. One day, it wants due process, the next it wants accountability. The House established the tribunal and Members should let it get on with its work. It is the judges who will assess the shift in detail and make an objective assessment of the situation.

I have served a long time in public office.

I have self-evidently not benefited in any way from such service.

The Taoiseach called Gay Mitchell a waffler.

There is and can be no suggestion that I did anything improper for anyone. I have always been consistent in this one, fundamental matter. I did not receive any payments from Mr. O'Callaghan and am entirely innocent of any imputation that I received improper payments from anyone.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

There is no applause from the Green Party.

Half the Cabinet is missing.

This motion was tabled by my party because we do not have confidence in the Taoiseach. The debate must focus on three themes. The first is standards in public office and the question of whether it is acceptable for a senior politician to accept large sums of money for his private use and the second is whether the Taoiseach has co-operated freely and fully with the Mahon tribunal. The third and most important issue is the question of whether the Taoiseach has been telling the truth to the Irish people, this Dáil and the Mahon tribunal. If the Irish people have a Taoiseach whom they cannot believe, they cannot have trust and confidence in him, or indeed, his Government. This is not a debate about the peace process, the economy, the European Union or any of the many other smokescreens which Fianna Fáil, the Green Party and Progressive Democrats will undoubtedly seek to introduce into the debate.

On 11 February 1992, the day of his resignation as Taoiseach in this Chamber, Charles J. Haughey felt the need to affirm himself. He had, he said, done the State some service.

The Taoiseach has no need to make that statement about himself as I will make it for him. He has done the State some service. Thousands of people on this island will live in peace and trust one another in part because of the Taoiseach's work. The Good Friday Agreement which he piloted through with former Prime Minister Blair wrote an end to years of hatred and misery. It required people of all traditions to relinquish the worst of their past and to express what Abraham Lincoln called "the better angels of their humanity". The Taoiseach had my full support and the support of my party in pursuing this worthy objective with all his diligence and commitment. I do not, therefore, deny that he has done the State some service.

In the past period, the Taoiseach has obviously been concerned that what he perceives as his reputation and legacy may be tainted, tarnished or even erased. He has lashed out at the media, the Mahon tribunal and everybody but the one person responsible for tainting that reputation. That person is the man who saw the equivalent of €300,000 in today's terms lodged in cash to his or his partner's accounts. That person is the individual whose explanations for the lodgements change by the day. That person is the one who occupies the highest political office in the land and whose credibility is now in shreds. That person is the Taoiseach himself.

When Members on all sides vote on the motion, they should ask themselves the simple question of whether they believe the Taoiseach. If they believe the Taoiseach and his many twisted and tortured accounts of how he came to lodge €300,000 in today's terms over a period of two years, if they believe that he cannot remember memorable events such as changing IR£30,000 into sterling and if they believe he gave the tribunal everything it sought when it sought it, they can vote confidence in the Taoiseach. That is the choice the Fine Gael motion gives them. However, if they agree with my party that the Taoiseach cannot be believed on these matters, they should not vote confidence in him.

On 3 October last year, Deputy Sargent stated in the House:

What the Taoiseach did in taking money from businesses and businessmen was and is totally inappropriate and improper. It was unethical and wrong.

Deputy Sargent was correct. Along with other members of the Opposition at the time, we said the Taoiseach was wrong. We now know that the money the Taoiseach lodged to various accounts between December 1993 and December 1995 amounts to €300,000 in today's money terms. The recent hearings focused on four of those lodgements, which equate to $45,000, £25,000 sterling, £20,000 sterling and £10,000 sterling. We have heard no credible explanation from the Taoiseach for these lodgements. People want to know where they came from. In the absence of such an explanation, the deep suspicion will always remain that these lodgements were a result of personal contributions made to the Taoiseach.

Last year the Taoiseach said repeatedly that he did no wrong. His Ministers to a man and a woman supported him. One year later, we now know that the amounts of money concerned did not just come from two so-called whip-arounds and an alleged dinner totalling IR£48,000 but rather a series of lodgements which amount to €300,000 in today's terms. However, the response of the Taoiseach and his Ministers is exactly the same: "I did no wrong"; "He did no wrong." That is the standard that those who vote confidence in the Taoiseach tonight will set for themselves and for their parties.

The scale may well be different from that of Mr. Haughey, but scale does not alter standards. It may well have happened at a time of change for the Taoiseach, but circumstances do not alter standards. If it was wrong in the case of Mr. Haughey, it is equally wrong in the case of Deputy Ahern. To take such moneys for personal use was simply wrong.

Nothing illustrates the brazenness of the Taoiseach more than his repeated assurances to the Irish people, delivered directly on television or in this House, that he has co-operated fully and freely with the Mahon tribunal. On 13 May 2007, in the middle of the general election campaign, the Taoiseach told the Irish people:

The tribunal has come back to me at various points and asked me to explain particular transactions in my bank accounts. I provided those explanations.

The Taoiseach did not provide those explanations; he did not provide them in private correspondence with the tribunal and he did not provide them at a private interview with the tribunal. That is why he had to attend the tribunal to give sworn testimony for four days in the past two weeks, at considerable cost to the taxpayer.

The Taoiseach says he fully co-operated with the tribunal, but that is not true. On 13 September, in sworn evidence, that is, the truth and nothing but the truth, he accepted that he had not supplied the tribunal with the comprehensive information it requested concerning cash lodgements being investigated by the tribunal over two and a half years. The Taoiseach said he freely co-operated with the tribunal, but that is not true. At the tribunal on 13 September, correspondence was opened which revealed that at one stage the tribunal threatened the Taoiseach with a summons because of his failure to supply information. The Taoiseach told RTE's Bryan Dobson on the Six One News on 26 September last year that he had provided full disclosure of all his records. That is not true. He did not include in a sworn affidavit details of the transfer of IR£50,000 to an account which his partner had opened for his benefit.

The Taoiseach's explanations of lodgements to his accounts over two years have been riddled with inconsistency and received with incredulity. He changed his stories on lodgements as the tribunal's investigations uncovered more and more hard facts. His explanations for critical lodgements are completely at odds with evidence available in bank documents. His challenge to the tribunal's view that $45,000 was lodged has been blown away. He agrees that five sterling transactions were memorable events yet he can remember no critical details. Anybody who would change that amount for sterling or withdraw a cash amount of IR£50,000 would remember the day and the purpose for which it was intended.

He told the tribunal he could have lodged money with a bank official whom he then admitted he had never met. He told the Irish people on the Six One News last year that the money he had saved was gone, but he has admitted to the tribunal that when he first received £22,500 in December 1993 he already had £70,000. His explanation for the so-called Manchester dinner is simply incredible. He cannot identify the date, cannot remember who was there and there is no documentary evidence to support the notion that the event took place as he described it. He told the Irish people he had fully co-operated with the tribunal but it is clear that he withheld critical information. He told them that he freely co-operated with the tribunal but it is clear that the tribunal had to threaten him to secure co-operation.

A recent opinion poll, for what it is worth, indicated that 32% of the Irish people believe the Taoiseach. I wish those people were asked: "Which story do you believe?""Which version of these fairytales do you believe?"

They were asked the question three months ago.

We know now what we did not know then, after he gave evidence under due process. One year ago the Taoiseach's finances became the dominant political issue of the country. Looking back at that period, especially with the benefit of the public disclosure of the forensic work of the Mahon tribunal, I am convinced that the convulsions which we went through counted for nothing. Why? Most of the events we were discussing never happened. In my view, they are fictitious. They are complicated stories, part of a web of complicated stories designed to mask hard facts, and constructed stories to fit known facts. These facts are the lodgement into the Taoiseach's and Celia Larkin's accounts of the equivalent of €300,000 in today's terms, the bank documentation created at the time of the lodgements which point to lodgements of $45,000 dollars, £25,000 sterling, £20,000 sterling, £10,000 sterling — substantial sums of money — and the persistent failure of the Taoiseach to provide the tribunal with information on the source of these funds.

Instead we became besotted with stories about whip-arounds, after dinner presentations and, more recently, a bag of sterling to refurbish a virtually new house. The Mahon tribunal will continue its work. It will continue to treat the Taoiseach as he has asked to be treated, like every other citizen. Its members and staff will continue their efforts to get to the truth behind the facts it has already uncovered. However, the public interest and the protection of the reputation of the highest executive office of the land, the Office of the Taoiseach, demands that the charade that is currently being played out is ended now. The Taoiseach's stories are threadbare, his evidence is invisible. With blind loyalty his Ministers, Deputies Cowen, Ahern, Hanafin, Dempsey, Ó Cuív, Lenihan, Cullen, Brennan, Coghlan and O'Dea, have all been out foursquare behind him. They nailed up their statement of standards and acceptance of this type of activity.

What about the other Ministers in the Government? We remember the slogan "Green politics is clean politics". Now, Green politics is blind politics as Deputies Gormley, Ryan and Sargent adopt the standards we have come to associate with the Progressive Democrats. Last year Deputy Sargent, a man of impeccable standards and principles, sat on this side of the House as an admirable man who week after week rose to his feet to excoriate Fianna Fáil and the Taoiseach, in particular, for the lack of standards manifest in his taking of money. He now sits behind the Taoiseach, his mind utterly changed having been seduced by the attraction of power.

Two decades ago a young woman in this House walked away from a political party and leader on the matter of standards. She had the courage on much less evidence to take on the enormous personal risk of challenging the then Taoiseach, Charles Haughey. She was a woman with standards who stated she could not live with this, nor should her party. Now it is silence of the lambs.

In time the Mahon tribunal will come to its conclusions. We now know that some of the criticisms made of the tribunal on its cost and the time it was taking are not down to the tribunal but to the individuals it was investigating. It will reach a conclusion on whether specific allegations made are true. We can and will wait for its verdict on those issues. However, we must not wait — the office of the Taoiseach cannot wait — for the tribunal to report.

As Leader of the Opposition and, for what it is worth, the most senior Deputy in the House, I have no choice but to stand by our republic——

Deputy Kenny should get a new line.

——and the standards necessary in public life and demand that we get the truth. We cannot afford to stand idly by and watch this pass.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

The longer we fail to say the Taoiseach cannot be believed the more we damage the high office he holds, demean the profession of politics and increase the cynicism about politics, particularly among young people. Let us be clear across all sides of the House that if we let the current charade continue, politics and political office will suffer as a consequence.

I wish to make a broader point about this shabby affair to the House and beyond it to two groups, in particular, those concerned about the erosion of values in our society and those who see this entire issue as something which does not matter but is politics as usual, they are all the same and it is nothing to do with them. Unlike the parties in government, namely, Fianna Fáil, the Green Party and the Progressive Democrats, I believe it is never right but always wrong to accept private moneys for personal use while wielding public power and holding high public office. When one takes up high public office, one crosses a moral threshold. Yes, one faces the same problems and traumas as the next person. However, unlike the next person, one has power given to one by the people, one holds high public office and, therefore, a higher and better standard applies and must be seen to apply. This is the privilege and the consequence and constrain of holding high office.

I live in the real world. I recognise that there is a permissiveness and relativism, a new cult of "sure-who-gives-a-damn-once-I'm-alright-Jack" which makes the idea of morality something to be laughed at or even to be embarrassed about. As parliamentarians we have a job and duty to rise above it. Call me old-fashioned or behind the times but I believe as Members of this House we need to rehabilitate the word "morality". If we do not lay down the strong foundations of what is acceptable and desirable behaviour in government, the country and society, who will? In terms of the nation who will define and guide our better instincts? Who will lead the debate on what is right and wrong, on being truthful and accountable at all times and on what is acceptable and unacceptable? That debate, for the good of our future and all the people of our island, should include, if not be led by, the Taoiseach. Unfortunately, this is now an impossibility. I do not want the children of this country to grow up where nothing is ever right or wrong, where all kinds of behaviour are tolerated and accepted and where the truth is not respected because everything falls into the cursed, convenient no-man's-land of permissiveness where anything will do because everything goes. I know the Ireland that I want for my children and all the children of this country. What we do about this mess as a Government, as Ministers, as parliamentarians and as a society will go a long way to deciding the kind of Ireland it will be. We cannot underestimate the damage done to politics and the body politic by the Charles Haughey era and the saga concerning Ray Burke and the late Liam Lawlor. We are now at it again. People want to see a Taoiseach with full credibility when he speaks. This is not the case because of the evidence he gave, the statements he made and the tales he told.

At the start of my contribution I stated we should focus on three questions. Was the Taoiseach right to take large sums of money for personal use? My answer is that he was wrong. Did the Taoiseach fully and freely co-operate with the Mahon tribunal? My answer is that he did not. Has the Taoiseach told the truth, the full truth and nothing but the truth to the people, the Dáil and the Mahon tribunal? My answer is that he has not. Taking all of these circumstances into account, I move the motion that Dáil Éireann has no confidence in the Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

It gives me no pleasure to speak to the motion. I entered politics and sought election to this House because I hold firm convictions about the type of country I want Ireland to be. I have many political differences with the Taoiseach and his party because I have a different view of what Irish society can be. I would far rather debate those matters of policy and principle than conduct and character.

I acknowledge the contribution the Taoiseach has made to public life and have no desire or intention of taking any interest in his, or anybody else's, personal affairs. It is the Taoiseach's own actions which made the motion necessary. Let us be clear why he faces a motion of confidence today. One year ago information came into the public domain about his personal finances and transactions being investigated by the Mahon tribunal. He came to the House and offered a strange account of moneys received in Manchester and Dublin. He indicated his firm intention of accounting for himself at the tribunal and appealed for the time and opportunity to do so. No one was more eager than he, he then claimed, for the opportunity to account for himself at the tribunal. He appealed for the sympathy of the nation, claiming these transactions occurred at a difficult time in his life. In large measure he received that sympathy and he was given that time. He was given that time also by the Opposition parties in this House. I note with some irony that he seeks to criticise the fairness he was shown throughout all that period. Last April, when more information appeared, he again said that he would explain all to the tribunal. Throughout the election campaign, he constantly repeated the statement that he would explain all to the tribunal. We gave him that opportunity often in the face of criticism. We gave him the time and we waited for the explanation. However, the explanation is not credible.

We have had four days of evidence at the tribunal and the Taoiseach's story is simply not believable. The Taoiseach came into the House today and read from a script that has not been circulated. He spoke with great authority about many aspects of the matters on which he was questioned at the tribunal. As I sat here listening to it, I was struck by his authority, his conviction, the detail, the way in which he was able to navigate his way around the jungle of fact. I am glad that his memory has recovered because when he was asked questions about these matters last week, he seemed to have a far less good recollection of those events.

It appears that the transactions discussed here last year were only part of a broader picture. The evidence last week focused on no fewer than five transactions involving large amounts of foreign currency in a 13-month period between 1994 and 1995.

It transpires that far from being eager to appear at the tribunal, the Taoiseach was often delaying and frustrating its work. It transpires that the total amount of moneys under discussion in these transactions comes to almost €300,000 in today's terms. These are substantial sums of money for which the Taoiseach cannot credibly account. Therein lies the kernel of the problem, his failure to offer a credible account.

After 18 hours in the witness box, giving sworn testimony, the Taoiseach has not offered a believable account of these transactions. After 18 hours of testimony, over four days, there are few who believe him. I do not believe him. I do not believe many of his own Deputies believe him and the public do not believe him either. I repeat that, after 18 hours of sworn testimony given in front of a panel of three judges, there is still no credible account of transactions involving large sums of money.

The people have a large reserve of common decency. They will insist on fair play and they will give a man time to account for himself. They also have a large reserve of common sense. They do not believe the bizarre and shifting tales that have been offered, of a former Minister for Finance who deals in briefcases full of currency, of men he never met before who suddenly give him cash, of wads of foreign currency, of trips to banks where the clerks do not count the money or at least do not count it in front of one but take it into a back room and produce a piece of paper stating that was what was in the bag in the first place and asking one to sign it.

I do not believe the Taoiseach can tell RTE and the Dáil precisely how much money he received by way of a goodwill loan from each of several named donors in Drumcondra, that he has a signed acknowledgment to that effect from each of them, that he repaid the loans with interest calculated precisely on the figures he says he received and that he can repeat the same story to the tribunal but, when facts and figures have to be checked to see whether they tally with the record, he can now say that in fact neither he nor anyone else ever counted the money and it may have been something quite different.

I do not believe there is any possible explanation for the Taoiseach telling RTE and the Irish people that, at the time he was receiving dig-outs and whip-arounds, his £50,000 in savings was gone. He is happy to tell the tribunal that his partner lodged that £50,000 in cash savings in an account in her own name on 5 December 1994.

I do not believe the Taoiseach can say he is certain he acquired £30,000 in sterling, in order to return it in one lump sum to Michael Wall, without even the vaguest recollection as to which bank he bought it in, whether he bought it in one lump sum or a series of smaller amounts — or even whether he bought it himself or asked a team of others to do so for him. The Taoiseach has always professed to be a man of modest means — he is — and a man of public service, as are most of us in this House. That is why we find it so incredible that if somebody gave one £30,000, one would not remember the circumstances in which one got it, that one would not recall the day one went to a bank to withdraw a sum of money which would have bought one a house at that time. That is simply incredible.

I do not believe anyone, no matter what their line of business, travels overseas with £30,000 in cash, leaves it in a hotel wardrobe while they go out on the town and then delivers that amount to a private couple, for domestic purposes, without any one of the parties being in the slightest bit surprised, thinking anything was otherwise than normal or even bothering to check how much cash was in the bag in the first place.

I do not believe that he cannot tell us the date of the mystery dinner in Manchester, yet he cannot identify anyone who attended the dinner except for one man who is deceased and the man who did not eat the dinner because he was driving the bus. This is from a man who claimed on the "Late Late Show" in 1998 that one of his strengths and best attributes was a good memory. The people have a large reserve of humour, but they will not be taken for fools.

The reality is that the Taoiseach, far from co-operating with the tribunal, delayed it. His statement today was that of course he made discovery. That is not the issue. The matter at the tribunal was not the fact that he made discovery, but whether the discovery included all of the material. We know from the evidence given at the tribunal that an attempt was made by the Taoiseach's lawyers, presumably on his instruction, to limit the time to which discovery was applied to the time that he says he did not have a bank account and that a second attempt was made to limit the discovery to amounts of lodgements and money which were above the amount of lodgements that we know were actually made. The reality is that the Taoiseach has changed and rechanged his story, explaining the explanations in an attempt to explain away what few records exist.

There were many strange things happening in the Irish banking system in the 1980s and 1990s but one thing they did was count the cash at the end of the night and keep records of currency transactions. We can stay here all night and into the morning, poring over the detail of the Taoiseach's finances. That is not the issue. The issue is his failure to offer a credible account of himself and the political consequences that flow from that failure. The issue is that he is not believed. The issue for this House is what do we do when the Taoiseach's sworn evidence, at a tribunal established by this House, is not believed by the Members and not believed by the general public. That goes to the essence of the trust and confidence that is required for a Taoiseach to continue to hold office.

The Constitution gives this House the duty of electing a Taoiseach and of holding him or her to account. We cannot shirk that duty and we cannot subcontract it out to any tribunal. It is for each of the 166 Deputies to discharge that public duty in this public forum.

It is the function of the tribunal to investigate the facts and to report, but it is the duty of this House to decide who should and should not be Taoiseach. Those who are suggesting that we should leave it to the tribunal are playing for time. They are at best seeking to postpone for their own political convenience the decisions which we are constitutionally obliged to make. They are seeking to contract out to three tribunal judges the political judgment which Members of this House are obliged to exercise.

How can we have a situation where the leader of a Government has given 18 hours of sworn evidence in front of three judges which the people do not believe? How can we have a situation where the Taoiseach's credibility has been shredded and where his word is not believed? How can we have a situation where the leader of a Government is known to have taken large sums of money from a person or persons unknown — unknown because he cannot say credibly from where the money came? Apparently, he no longer remembers.

As the Taoiseach said in this House during the debate on the McCracken report, "The tribunal stresses a point I have repeatedly emphasised, that public representatives must not be under a personal financial obligation to anyone." How can we have a situation where the Taoiseach's motives are at least open to question because he received large sums of money for which he will not account? Was Mr. Wall just a friend in need and an admirer, or the owner of a bus company offering bus services in the liberalised UK market when liberalisation of the Irish bus market was under active consideration by the Government? I do not know and I cannot know because the Taoiseach has failed to offer a believable account.

The Taoiseach claims that the only issue on which he should be answerable to the tribunal is the allegation that he received money from Owen O'Callaghan. That is not so. The Taoiseach himself, speaking in the Dáil in 1997, said: "The Government considers that following the money trail is the most efficient and effective way to progress this type of inquiry as witnessed by the great success of the Dunnes payments tribunal which adopted this approach." If a tribunal is to investigate an allegation of corruption it must follow the money trail and the person being investigated must offer a credible account of where large sums of money have come from.

No doubt Government Deputies of all parties, will come into the House and say that none of this matters, that the Taoiseach is a public servant, that he does not have a lavish lifestyle and that what they claim are his successes in Government mean that his financial dealings should be ignored. I do not dispute that he had achievements or his record of public service. However, neither do I accept that these provide a blanket dispensation from the requirements imposed on holders of public office.

John Adams, the second president of the United States, said: "A free people has an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge, I mean of the character and conduct of our leaders." This State was founded by men and women who knew the meaning of public service. In the turbulent times that gave birth to an independent Ireland, the founders of the State knew privation of all kinds. That first generation, which built the State, was driven by the ethic of public service. It embraced the principle, developed across Europe in the 19th century that true democracy requires true public service. It requires that people in public life will act in the public interest. If we are to have Government of the people by the people, then the people must know that those who exercise power do so entirely for the people and not on behalf of any private interest.

The people who founded this State, many of whose heirs are still Members of this House, knew and understood that principle. However, when that generation retired, a new and less savoury element entered Irish politics. The men in mohair suits contained within their ranks those who saw public life as a route to private gain. The great principles of civic republicanism, where the republic is governed in the interests of all the people, were eroded. The culture of public service was polluted by a culture of greed. I am not just referring to the people who we now know took money. I am also referring to those who turned a blind eye.

The Taoiseach enunciated the doctrine of the blind eye, when he spoke at the funeral of his late leader, former Deputy Haughey. His theory is that the normal standards do not apply to the special few. However, the basis of a democracy is that there is no special few. Instead, the obligations imposed on those in public life are rightly greater than on private citizens. What is the motivation behind that eulogy and what of the motivation of other Ministers? Why have so many senior Ministers, who must know that the Taoiseach's account is not credible, continued to defend the indefensible?

This debate is not just about the money that one man was given or why. There is a great principle at stake here: the principle on which democratic governance in a free society is founded. I had understood that the Progressive Democrats were founded on those principles. I had understood that democracy mattered to the Green Party. I read with incredulity the interview that Deputy Cuffe, my constituency colleague, gave to a morning newspaper this morning in which he stated that there was no point in the Green Party pursuing this matter because Fianna Fáil would not listen to it. While I know that certain compromises must be made by a smaller party in a coalition government, I had not expected that the Greens would have turned yellow quite so quickly.

Where now are the fulminations of the Green Party Deputies about corruption in Fianna Fáil that we heard with such regularity in the last Dáil? Deputies Sargent and Gormley were particularly prone to exciting themselves on this issue. During the general election campaign the Green Party frequently repeated its determination to clean up politics. None of that, it would appear, matters today. It cannot but be a source of deep regret to those of us who support progressive politics and standards in public life that the Green Party should have sold out so comprehensively and so quickly.

However, they cannot hide — neither the Green Party, nor the Progressive Democrats, nor those in Fianna Fáil who adhere to the principles of the founders of their party. Deputies in those parties cannot hide behind the tribunal and must take responsibility for assessing the suitability of the Taoiseach to remain in office. Deputies cannot hide behind the ideal that these are the private affairs of a private man. The credibility of the Taoiseach is a matter of public importance. They cannot hide behind his record — we all acknowledge his record. However, there are records in the Allied Irish Bank for which he cannot account and so his credibility is shredded. They cannot hide either from the scrutiny of people beyond these shores, who will look at how we, the elected representatives of the people of Ireland, deal with this matter. In a global economy they will look to the standards of probity that are applied here today and form their own conclusions.

Members of this House, and in particular of the Government parties, cannot delude themselves. There is a duty to act. Sooner or later they all will act. Yesterday I was struck by a comment by one of the Taoiseach's defenders that Fianna Fáil does not do resignations.

Deputy Kenny said that.

It is an interesting view of history. The Taoiseach's predecessor, former Deputy Albert Reynolds, resigned when Labour pulled out of government. By the looks of things I am not sure that such a set of circumstances is likely to present in the foreseeable future in this Government. Mr. Reynolds's predecessor, Mr. Haughey, resigned when former Deputy Reynolds and others, some of whom are members of the Cabinet, organised a coup against him. Mr. Haughey's predecessor, former Deputy Lynch, resigned when Mr. Haughey and others organised a coup against him in turn.

Former Deputy Tomás Mac Giolla also talked about a coup.

Duty is never without cost. However, members of the Green Party, of the Progressive Democrats and indeed of Fianna Fáil——

The Deputy never resigned — he just changed parties.

(Interruptions).

The Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan, should know that the clowns are not allowed out during the high-wire act.

(Interruptions).

Would Deputy Gilmore like to account for the Moscow money now?

Members of the Green Party, of the Progressive Democrats and of Fianna Fáil have a duty to ensure that the country has a Taoiseach in whom this House and the people can have confidence, and whom they believe. This is an important decision for the House and I hope that if not Fianna Fáil, at least the Green Party, the Progressive Democrats and the Independents who support the Government will do their duty and vote with the Opposition on the motion.

To correct the record of the House, the person who said that Fianna Fáil does not do resignations is Deputy Kenny and I thank him for his support. Speaking on radio today Deputy Kenny advanced three reasons for proposing this motion. First, he stated baldly as an established fact that the Taoiseach did not co-operate with the tribunal, which is wrong.

Did not co-operate fully.

That is correct.

Second, he claimed that the Taoiseach had received large sums of money — the new Fine Gael mantra, which is wrong.

(Interruptions).

Third, he stated that in his judgment the Taoiseach was not telling the truth. Really? There is no question of non-co-operation with the tribunal — there is no finding of non-co-operation. The tribunal has not accused the Taoiseach of not co-operating or even of delaying the tribunal. In fact the reverse is the case. That claim by Deputy Kenny is simply wrong and untruthful, and should be withdrawn. On several occasions Judge Mahon has stated at each of the Taoiseach's appearances before the tribunal that the co-operation the Taoiseach has given the tribunal is not an issue. The Taoiseach has put an enormous effort into complying with the very many requests made of him by the tribunal, about which there is no issue.

He is confusing the tribunal.

As for Deputy Kenny's second point, the Taoiseach did not receive large sums from individuals. He received a number of relatively small sums from a number of individuals.

Has the Minister been in receipt of any small sums?

He did not solicit that money and insisted on it being treated as a loan, which he repaid with interest.

Third, it appears that because, in Deputy Kenny's judgment, the Taoiseach did not tell the truth, the proceedings of the tribunal in so far as they concern the Taoiseach should cease, the lawyers should be sent home and the evidence abandoned because the matter has been decided, QED.

That is what Fianna Fáil would like.

Inspector Clueless from Castlebar has come to the conclusion that the Taoiseach did not tell the truth. What of the man who is making these claims? Deputy Kenny is well tutored on how to perform. At least former Deputy John Bruton was his own man. So pervasive is the influence of spin doctors since the Deputy's ascent to the leadership that he is never left out on his own.

Send some bazookas.

He would not even be trusted to tie the shoelaces on that famous pair of shoes in which he was going to walk to the Áras. Thanks to the wisdom of the people, however, he was not elected Taoiseach.

Just keep trying.

If he had been, the puppet masters would have been no more and we would have been left with the puppet. We are supposed to tremble at the moral outrage and mock indignation expressed by Deputy Kenny. This is part of the Fine Gael effort to present him as something he is not — a lion in sheep's clothing.

This motion is about the Taoiseach.

Despite the party's best efforts, he comes across exactly for what he is — a sheep in sheep's clothing. At one of my first post-Mass rallies in Limerick in the 1960s I heard a famous Fine Gael councillor describe the then leader of his party as a stuffed shirt. If only the current leader could aspire to such praise. He is not a stuffed shirt; he is only a hole in the air.

This is an embarrassment.

The Labour Party also supports the motion. I do not have much confidence in the party because it spent the past five years propping up Fine Gael, losing support as a result. Now, it is trying to prop up Sinn Féin after fighting an election campaign on the principle that Sinn Féin had to be kept out.

Address the motion.

Its members often raised the spectre that if one voted for Fianna Fáil, the party would bring Sinn Féin into government. Now, Labour is doing the opposite, propping up an ailing Sinn Féin.

Is that all the Minister can give us?

While the Labour Party's hypocrisy on the issue is breathtaking, it is not surprising. This is par for the course from a party dominated by ex-Stickies.

The Minister is pathetic.

This is the Dáil, not a Sunday newspaper.

I wish the new Labour Party leader well. Speaking on radio yesterday morning, Deputy Gilmore pointed out that his reason for supporting the motion was the Dáil had such important business before it that it could not be diverted by a long political debate and the Taoiseach should resign immediately because the Deputy wanted him to.

The reason the Minister will not address the motion is he knows the Taoiseach is guilty.

If there is going to be a long political row, the Deputy will be the cause of it. We do not want a long political row. If the Deputy wants to waste the Dáil's time on this useless, innocuous, ineffective motion. that is fine by us but that is not what we were sent here to do.

Address the motion.

I have had differences with Deputy Rabbitte but I never thought I would see the day that I would find myself yearning for his return because he spoke with incisiveness, wit and intellectual rigour.

All traits the Minister is missing.

However, this will be replaced by a series of petulant, red faced rants.

The Minister might want to look in the mirror.

Deputy Gilmore should set out on a new path as leader of the Labour Party.

Address the motion.

The Minister is damaging the Taoiseach.

There is no point coming into the House acting as the parliamentary version of the barber's cat. We know what components made up that creature.

The Minister is making a bad case worse.

However, in the past few weeks I have expressed reservations and questions about how the tribunal is conducting its business, particularly in so far as it relates to the catch all, cradle to the grave trawl through the Taoiseach's personal finances. It remains my contention that the tribunal is acting outside its terms of reference in its inquiries into his financial affairs.

Pull the trigger.

The lawyers are doing their job.

The tribunal was established in November 1997 under the Tribunals of Inquiries Act to inquire urgently "into definite matters of urgent public importance". I find it impossible to understand how it can regard and treat a general trawl in public into the Taoiseach's life as a definite matter of immediate public importance. I remind the House of the Supreme Court decision in Fitzwilton v. Mahon. It ruled that the tribunal had been in breach of its own terms of reference in making its decision on its J2 list and that it had no jurisdiction to inquire into matters on that list. Despite the Opposition’s claims, the J2 list is not a red herring. The Taoiseach became aware in July that the tribunal had made a decision on 1 May 2005 to go to public hearing on any matters whatsoever concerning him, with no limit on any allegation or subject matter. This is a wholly unprecedented decision which appears to have allowed a general trawl in public into all aspects of the Taoiseach’s life from cradle to the grave.

The lawyers are doing their job.

It is impossible to understand how any tribunal could have thought such an inquiry could be "a definite matter of urgent public importance", the supposed justification for a tribunal of inquiry.

Is the Minister attacking the tribunal?

It is significant that it was only after the Supreme Court decision that the Taoiseach became aware of the nature of his inclusion in the J2 list, even though his legal team had been persistently seeking details from the tribunal of the nature of the allegations being inquired into by it for a considerable period prior to that. I make these observations, not in an effort to disrupt or hinder the work of the tribunal or to attack it, as has been suggested, but merely in an attempt to restore a sense of proportion to the exaggerated and incorrect analysis we have witnessed in the past few weeks and to counter the misinformation and misrepresentation being peddled, mainly by Opposition Members.

And sell out on lots more.

The Government has been elected with a clear mandate to govern and build on the progress of the past ten years.

The Government parties sold out on the people of Shannon in its first week.

The Government will focus on the real issues facing the country.

The Minister is an embarrassment.

We will focus on and address the people's concerns and will not be deflected by the politics of personal vilification. Opposition Members can waste their time whispering in corners and peddling rumours and innuendo. They can waste all their resources and time in the House if they wish muttering and sniping. They spent the past ten years doing that and got their answer. If they keep at it, they will get the same answer in 2012.

The tribunal has a job to do. Let us give its lawyers the space and time to do so.

The Taoiseach should give them answers.

This House has a job to do. Let us go back and do it.

Not great. The Minister has done better.

Can we have the DVD of that contribution for Hallowe'en?

I wish to share time with Deputy O'Dowd.

Deputies Kenny and Gilmore have outlined in great detail the reasons the Taoiseach is unfit for office. Therefore, I would like to address the other Government parties which intend to support Fianna Fáil on the motion. Their capitulation to the larger party, emboldened in recent months by the Progressive Democrats wipe-out and the Green Party's sell out, will be complete if they trudge obediently through the Government lobby and vote for and accept low standards in high places. There was a political time when low standards in high places were important to Fianna Fáil, particularly in the 1980s when such standards were the subject of much debate and led to the establishment of the Progressive Democrats, as Des O'Malley and the late George Colley led the charge against Mr. Haughey. However, that party effectively no longer exists. Many in the party are embarking on an exercise in soul searching to identify where they can go but we all know they are going nowhere. They should fold the tent rather than allow a lingering political death to continue. If anyone wonders why that is, they only need examine examples of total political cowardice such as we are witnessing today as an explanation. The indecision of the Progressive Democrats on issues such as the truth and political standards came to an abrupt end with Michael McDowell's defeat last May when he ceased to be the legal and political adviser to the Taoiseach.

The Green Party is setting out on the same political route to oblivion. Its Members will be squeezed and politically suffocated by their friends in Fianna Fáil if they decide to support motions such as the one before us. However, Planet Bertie, to borrow a phrase from the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, is a strange place and the Green Party has found itself in office. However, being in office does not by any means mean being in power. The Greens self-serving decision to go into power has resulted in 100 days of policies abandoned, priorities ignored and principles jettisoned — in other words, total submission to Fianna Fáil. I refer to its record over a few short months.

As the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources will be aware, 91% of communications pledges in the programme for Government come directly from the Fianna Fáil election manifesto. The section on energy contains commitments taken from the same manifesto, with none from the Green Party. The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has opposed an incineration motion identical to one he presented last year.

The Green Party has completely reversed its opposition to the co-location of hospitals. Its being in government has led to delusions of adequacy.

The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, limped home in Dublin South-East and almost lost his seat yet again. He occasionally gives the impression that he is a political force. The stranger members of the Green Party, of which there are a few, have even sought to perpetuate the myth that the Minister was responsible for the downfall of the former Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Michael McDowell. Deputy Creighton, the Fine Gael representative from Dublin South-East, may offer a different version of events.

I wish to make crystal clear what the Green Party, as well as the Progressive Democrats, will support today if they back Fianna Fáil. When the Taoiseach was asked by the tribunal if he were to attend an Irish function now similar to the famous Manchester dinner — an event which now looks as if it never happened — and be offered an envelope with a large sum of money, he did not say he would absolutely not accept it. He did not say it would be wrong or inappropriate for a Minister to do so. His reply was "Now you can't". He went on to say he may have then, if there were similar circumstances, before all the new rules were introduced. He probably would have. That is the ethical standard the Green Party sees fit to support. It is not the belief that it is wrong to take money which is stopping him accepting wads of cash in brown envelopes but rather the rules.

In recent days the former Green Party leader, Deputy Sargent, has asked what has changed since the general election which has brought Fine Gael to move a motion of no confidence. I will tell him. In mid May he was describing the Taoiseach as a dead man walking. The Taoiseach stated he had co-operated fully with the tribunal and given it all the explanations required. We now know that was not true. When Deputy Sargent was in the National Botanic Gardens getting assurances before forming a Government, he was giving statements along the lines that the Taoiseach certainly would not let him down, that he had no reason to distrust the Taoiseach and that he believed him to be a man of his word. The evidence to suggest otherwise is clear.

Truth is the key. The Green Party knows the mantra of letting the tribunal do its work no longer washes. I ask the party and its Deputies to consider such matters before they cast their votes on the motion.

On a day such as this, when we are debating a Taoiseach who tells incredible stories and uses language which ordinary people can barely, if ever, understand, it is worth quoting another famous Dubliner with a certain facility for language. Joyce told us history was a nightmare from which we must seek to awake. It seems Fianna Fáil is showing no signs of awakening from the nightmare of the cash culture and the debasing of politics we witnessed during the long Haughey era. Large sums of cash are taken for private use; there is stonewalling of a tribunal set up to investigate such matters and a procession of Ministers defending the indefensible. All-comers, including the media, Opposition parties and the tribunal are under attack from Fianna Fáil Ministers who insist on looking the other way.

Who are we talking about today? Is it the former Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, or the current Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern? What we are witnessing today is history repeating itself. Every Fianna Fáil Minister has now signed up to the version of events presented by the Taoiseach over four days in the witness stand at the Mahon tribunal. These are the same Ministers who stood before television cameras and radio microphones 12 months ago and stated a Minister for Finance taking large sums of cash for personal use was okay. Apparently, there is nothing wrong with it. At least we can say the acceptance by these Ministers of the incredible stories told in Dublin Castle this week is consistent with their acceptance of low standards last year.

What is every Fianna Fáil Minister signing up to? They are subscribing to a new standard in high office which accepts the lodgement of the equivalent of €300,000 in cash to the accounts of the Taoiseach over a two-year period. It accepts a constantly changing version of events as to the origin of these moneys as the tribunal established new facts surrounding the massive lodgements. They are signing up to accepting less than full co-operation with the inquiries of a tribunal, when we have seen that the Taoiseach was fully aware of the massive lodgements which interested the tribunal fully two years before he disclosed the information in private session. This cash culture within Fianna Fáil reached its peak in the Haughey years and is clearly still evident within the party today. If no Minister is prepared to state taking huge sums of money for personal use is wrong and, worse again, that the incredible stories being offered up by the Taoiseach in Dublin Castle are to be believed, we can say with certainty that absolutely no lesson has been learned.

This is not an isolated rogue incident involving an individual down on his luck. This is not a cautionary tale about modern life and marriage breakdown. This is a story about standards in public office and complying with the work of a tribunal. It is the story of a former Minister for Finance and the current Taoiseach telling stories under oath that are simply unbelievable. It is a story of Fianna Fáil Ministers stating nothing is wrong, that a good man is being hounded, that black is white and white is black. Years after Haughey we have a mostly different cast but we are getting the same script. Instead of principle we get vitriol. Instead of honesty we get dishonesty. Instead of acceptance of wrong-doing we get sustained, discredited attack. The dishonesty in accepting the unacceptable is matched by the dishonesty of the defence of the indefensible. It takes several forms.

One allegation is that the tribunal has failed to address the original allegations from Mr. Gilmartin regarding Mr. O'Callaghan's alleged payments. This is a complete falsehood. On the first day in the witness box tribunal lawyers put it to the Taoiseach that their investigations into large cash lodgements were a direct consequence of them pursuing the Gilmartin allegations involving sums of £30,000 and £50,000. These amounts appear in the Taoiseach's finances. I note the Taoiseach accepted this to be a reasonable line of inquiry. The O'Callaghan name was mentioned 67 times on the opening day of the Taoiseach's testimony.

Another argument is that these matters are all related to a very difficult time for the Taoiseach and concern his marriage break-up. The Taoiseach separated from his wife in 1987 and had been in a new relationship for several years before the cash lodgements under investigation occurred. The legal separation was finalised in November 1993, before any of the lodgements under investigation took place.

Another argument is that the Taoiseach has co-operated fully with the work of the tribunal but that it is dragging on, meaning he will be an old man before it is finished. This is complete and utter rubbish.

I ask the Deputy to conclude.

It would have been a while before he finished.

I did not hear the Minister. We will speak tomorrow and I will give him his answer.

The Deputy is a spoofer of the highest order.

I am happy to have, so early on, this opportunity to express my complete confidence in the most successful Taoiseach this country has ever had. It was my privilege to work closely with him as a political adviser from December 1994 to April 2002, both on Northern Ireland and a wide range of economic and other matters.

Did the Deputy keep his accounts?

During that period and since I found him motivated by public interest and dealing with fairness, integrity, an even temperament and, above all, a basic decency, with all the issues with which he was confronted.

I am surprised the opportunity has arisen to express confidence so soon. The electorate has spoken only recently and a Government has only just been formed. There has been no material change in circumstances. Usually confidence motions are only called if a Government is about to fall. Otherwise they are only a short-lived wonder which binds the Government parties even closer together. A headline in the Irish Daily Mail, “A real Opposition at last”, is not much of a reward, even if it does capture the impression parties opposite wish to create.

I congratulate Deputy Gilmore. Let me make a suggestion. What Deputies Kenny and Gilmore need in their offices is some good political advice.

The Deputy's party could use an invoice.

I would like to bring to the attention of the House some important financial transactions in December 1994 not referred to in the tribunal in which the then Minister for Finance was involved and which have been of lasting public benefit. Following the IRA ceasefire, the then Minister for Finance, Deputy Bertie Ahern, did all the groundwork leading up to the decision made by the European Council at Essen on 9 and 10 December 1994 to establish the peace and reconciliation funds to be concentrated in the 12 Border counties, particularly those in Northern Ireland. The amount paid through these funds will, by 2013, amount to over €1.8 billion, of which over €1.3 billion will have come from the EU.

In an interview with The Irish Times, published on 14 December 1994 and given on the occasion of his leaving office, Deputy Bertie Ahern pointed out that the new Government would inherit the healthiest public finances for 27 years, with the first current budget surplus since 1967. At the time, a new partnership agreement, the PCW, had come into force. This was opposed by Fine Gael when in opposition——

That is not the issue. The issue relates to credibility.

——but it was rapidly adopted by the party when it took office.

The issue is about credibility and about bringing the office of Taoiseach into disrepute.

Deputy Mansergh to continue without interruption.

During some of the period under examination by the tribunal, in addition to preparatory work on Estimates and the budget, the then Minister for Finance had already been elected party leader, was supervising detailed negotiations for government and did not have a great deal of time in which to attend to his personal affairs.

Since that time, the Taoiseach, who returned to office in 1997, has given outstanding service. This fact was recognised by the electorate when he was recently returned to power for the third time, something that has not happened since the days of Eamon de Valera. There has been a large measure of industrial peace in recent years, which dates back to the Taoiseach's time as Minister for Labour. The Taoiseach achieved consensual reform of industrial relations legislation and has been a key figure behind social partnership since 1987. The Taoiseach has presided over an economy of which earlier patriots and political leaders could only dream, with unemployment banished, emigration reversed, taxes cut, welfare improved and huge infrastructural improvements that are steadily becoming more visible. His style of leadership is that he identifies problems, patiently works on them with colleagues, advisers — civil servants and others — and, with a minimum of public grandstanding, tries to build a consensus behind what needs to be done.

I wish to refer now to the historic achievement of the peace process. The Taoiseach restored the IRA ceasefire, negotiated the Good Friday Agreement — which is not only a political settlement but also a peace settlement — and oversaw its implementation. The Agreement is at last working as it should. It was a difficult process but if one considers events elsewhere across the globe, it is evident that there are not many equally successful peace processes. The Taoiseach enjoyed an historic collaboration with Tony Blair who, when leaving office, stated that of all leaders of other countries, Deputy Bertie Ahern was the one with whom he had the closest relationship. The Taoiseach kept in touch with all the parties involved and the peace process and his achievements in respect of it are deeply appreciated throughout the country.

The Taoiseach also oversaw Ireland's Presidency of the EU, which President Chirac described as the best one ever. There is no doubt that Ireland's standing around the world has never been higher.

There has also been a political achievement. The Taoiseach has led two coalition Governments that remained in office for their full terms. In 2002 he opted for stability rather than maximising short-term party advantage and the same was done on the most recent occasion.

The Deputy should speak to the motion.

Deputy Bannon should allow Deputy Mansergh to make his contribution.

It is understandable that, facing into a further five years in opposition, Fine Gael and the Labour Party would like to overturn the result of the recent election and destabilise one of the most popular Taoisigh ever. There is no adequate explanation as to why, if they felt this way previously, they did not take a stronger line, except that the people would not have liked it.

As far as the tribunal is concerned, if one employs a dog to bark, one should not bark oneself. Taoisigh and Governments, present and future, should respect the separation of powers and not press the override button.

As has been pointed out, Fine Gael has not won an election in 25 years and it is seeking instead a repeat of the deus ex machina — something similar to the article in The Irish Times, relating to an obscure legal point, which succeeded in dislodging the Government that was to have been formed on Monday, 5 December 1994. The said article showed that, for obscure legal reasons which did not subsequently stack up, Fianna Fáil was unfit for office.

I seem to recall that it related to child abuse.

I have a clear memory of the events that occurred on the date to which I refer. I was with the then Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds, in Budapest, the then Minister for Finance was in Brussels — I suspect on the business I outlined earlier——

And Charlie Haughey. Give us the list.

——and telephone calls were going backwards and forwards as the Government of the day collapsed. There are many in the Labour Party who in retrospect — perhaps also at the time in question — deeply regret what happened.

Yes, but Fianna Fáil locked them out of the Department of the Taoiseach.

What is happening now is the playing of a game of ethical knockout, particularly in view of the fact that, in addition to a lack of recent experience in government, the merits of the parties opposite are insufficient to recommend them to the people.

The idea is that if people cannot achieve total, consistent and coherent recall of all their dealings a dozen or more years ago, then they are not fit for office. I do not buy that and neither do most people. There is no evidence that the Taoiseach was motivated by personal gain. He has been obliged to face a great deal of hearsay evidence, a choice specimen of which was repeated in Dublin Castle earlier today.

An enormous amount of money is being wasted on expensive tribunals——

The Government squandered much more on PPARS.

——with lawyers earning amounts of money that are many multiples of the sums we are discussing. It is wrong that the tribunal should be taking up so much of the Taoiseach's time. There is no evidence whatsoever that the public has lost confidence in the Taoiseach. In my opinion, there has been no change in that regard since the election. If I might use a phrase that de Valera employed in respect of Roger Casement, the reputation of the Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, is safe in the hearts of the Irish people.

With the permission of the House, I wish to share time with Deputy Enright.

Like previous speakers, I wish to recognise the immense contribution made by Deputy Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach during the past ten years. I agree with Deputy Mansergh in one respect only, namely, that the Taoiseach's contribution to the peace process has been extraordinary. As I stated repeatedly in the Upper House during my five-year term there, we must recognise the Taoiseach's contribution.

Be that as it may, however, we are faced with a motion of no confidence in the Taoiseach of this country. In that respect, the issue is bigger than the person who occupies the office of Taoiseach. The issue relates to standards in public office and whether people believe the version of events that Deputy Bertie Ahern has related to the tribunal and placed in the public domain. If the people do not believe the version of events — it is my opinion that they do not — put forward by the Taoiseach, there is only one course of action for him to take and that is for him to resign. Failing that, it is the constitutional responsibility of the Opposition to table a motion of confidence in Deputy Bertie Ahern. That is what we are doing.

I wish to deal first with one of the issues raised by Deputy Mansergh, who referred to the separation of powers. Let us be clear about this. A tribunal of inquiry is not a separate court of the land. A tribunal is an animal of the House, it reports to the House, it is provided with its functions by the House and it is caused by the House.

I was very interested to hear the bleatings from the Minister for Defence, Deputy O'Dea, who said we should leave the tribunals alone and give them the space and time to report. The Fianna Fáil benches did not give that opportunity to the late Deputy Liam Lawlor whose circumstances were such that they demanded his resignation on the evidence that came to light at the tribunal at the time. There is a certain changing of the guard and the argument made by the benches opposite tonight to suit their particular circumstances.

The problem is this. Someone walks into the office and plops down £30,000 in sterling and punts, as I understand it, in front of the former Minister for Finance and soon to be leader of his great party, an accountant and a person of standing who knows what cash means to Revenue and the economy and this does not sound alarm bells in his mind. He does not see a problem and puts the money in a safe. I submit that this is a problem of credibility as the people, despite all the bleatings of the Deputies opposite, know full well. The people have lost confidence in the Taoiseach. The real problem is had this been known at the time about Charles Haughey or an allegation been made against former Deputy Albert Reynolds, they would have been gone by 5 p.m. The reason, in the words of the former manager of Chelsea Football Club who thinks he is something special, this politician believes he does not have to account in the same way is that he is, of course, hugely popular, as we all know.

It is time to bring this issue to a head. In respect of whether the Opposition dealt with this matter properly or well in the past 12 months, the jury is possibly still out on that subject. We may well have done things differently. Perhaps we did not do the right thing at the right time but this is the time, following the evidence, testimony, cross-examination and incredible explanations given, to cause the motion to be moved and put it to a vote in the House.

Normally I welcome the opportunity to debate a motion. Tonight I do not have that opportunity as it is a shame the Taoiseach's behaviour has necessitated the moving of this motion of no confidence. I share my party leader's sentiments in acknowledging the work the Taoiseach has done in the last ten years, in much of which he had the co-operation of Fine Gael. It is right and proper that good work is acknowledged and I have no problem in doing so but it is equally important that the opposite is exposed, otherwise this House has no purpose and the notion of democracy in this country amounts to a fallacy.

Many in Fianna Fáil who have rushed to the Taoiseach's defence in recent days, believing their press office spin, have said the tribunal has ruled out making any charge of non co-operation against the Taoiseach. Clearly, this is not the case. In legal terms, the Taoiseach faces adverse findings that he has failed to co-operate adequately with the tribunal. Furthermore, it is open to it to declare that his testimony is unreliable and find in respect of the moneys lodged to his accounts over a two-year period, representing over three times his annual income, that there is no satisfactory explanation from him. It may draw inferences from this.

In political terms, the Taoiseach has made various statements in the Dáil and in public which are at variance with what he has stated to the tribunal. He is accountable to the House. He has not explained his ever-changing story of how he came by, in today's values, €300,000 in the two-year period 1994 to 1995. The tribunal outlined in its hearings the extent of the Taoiseach's lack of co-operation with its inquiries, the failure to disclose a lodgement of £50,000 to an account for his benefit, his failure to disclose that he had personally received £30,000 from Michael Wall and to indicate other lodgements and withdrawals, including the alleged purchase of £30,000 sterling.

Ten years ago this month in the Dáil the Taoiseach said:

It is unacceptable that people who have held high office and enjoyed a high degree of public trust should give evidence that is, in the words of the tribunal, unacceptable and untrue or deliberately conceal vital information from this House, or from a tribunal set up by this House.

There is no excuse for this. How little we have moved on in a decade. Last year he publicly stated he had supplied extensive material freely to the tribunal. In an interview for "Six One News" on RTE he said "I had to give full discovery of all my records." In the Dáil he said "I provided all documentation requested and had no difficulty with that." In his public statement of 13 May he said "The Tribunal has come back to me at various points and asked me to explain particular transactions in my bank accounts. I provided those explanations." We now know the tribunal did not accept that these statements represented the true position.

The failure of the highest political figure in the land, bar the President, to co-operate with a tribunal of inquiry established by the Oireachtas is surely a very serious matter. Desperate for something positive to latch onto in the past week, Fianna Fáil Ministers appear to have drawn comfort from statements from Judge Mahon on the issue of co-operation but they should read the transcripts in full. The position was set out by counsel for the tribunal on Friday, 14 September, a position with which Judge Mahon did not disagree, when, in respect of the failure to disclose the lodgement of £50,000, he stated:

It may be that it represents a breach of the discovery obligation. And in the event that it does, I'm suggesting that that is a matter which is open to the Tribunal to find at some stage when all the evidence as to what the circumstances surrounding this lodgement were.

The changes in the Taoiseach's evidence in the last week raise the question of whether he even co-operated with the tribunal in its public hearings. The many changes in his evidence may at times seem amusing but it is those very changes which undermine his credibility. Nothing illustrates his insincerity and his dealings with the tribunal more than the paragraph in a letter from his solicitor to the tribunal which states "Mr. Ahern does not accept that any of Miss Larkin's accounts were operated for his benefit". At the same time as his lawyer was writing to the tribunal, the Taoiseach was telling the people that Ms Larkin had opened an account into which he had transferred £50,000 to go towards the refurbishment of the house he rented from Mr. Wall.

The Taoiseach spoke about recollections. We have heard much about mistakes of recollection, partial recollection and mature recollection from Fianna Fáil and there will be a final analysis of this one too. The Taoiseach described his banking transactions and personal life as unorthodox. His personal life is of no interest to me and no one in Fine Gael has attempted to drag it into this mire. He made that choice himself and we have still not risen to the bait. What I find almost mind-blowingly incredulous is that we in this House and the public are expected to believe someone could receive the equivalent of €300,000 and cannot explain in an even semi-coherent fashion where the money came from. How out of touch is the Taoiseach that he treats such a massive amount of money in that manner? The same is true of the Minister for Defence, Deputy O'Dea. It is simply not believable that an explanation cannot be given.

They are just standing order transactions.

The Taoiseach has spent a lifetime creating the persona of Christy Moore's ordinary man. There is no ordinary man who would not remember how he received such a sum, what denomination it was in or where he lodged it. Any ordinary man would be able to tell the time, date and probably what he had had for breakfast on the morning he lodged such a significant sum of money. One thing is certain: the ordinary man would have looked into the case.

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for giving me the opportunity to speak to the motion. I have known the Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, for the best part of 20 years and made a judgment call on him 20 years ago. I believed him to be a fresh wind blowing through our political party. I viewed him as being a distinctly different person and character to the people who had gone before him. For that reason, I chose to join Fianna Fáil, to become active in politics and put my name before the public for election in the general election of 1997. I formed that judgment of the Taoiseach 20 years ago and I am delighted to say to the House my character judgment of him has been vindicated. I venture to say he has exceeded the expectations of almost everybody who supported him 20 years ago and particularly in the past ten years. Nobody expected when he became leader of our party that he would do the enormous things he has done. It is not an exaggeration to state, as Deputy Mansergh did, that he is the most significant Taoiseach and leader this country has had since independence. In co-operation with coalition parties not of the same political persuasion, he has created an undoubted atmosphere of peace and prosperity which is unrivalled and the envy of many other countries. The former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair; the former US President, Bill Clinton; and Reverend Ian Paisley have spoken volubly about the character, commitment, ability and talent of the Taoiseach in bringing people together and nurturing peace and prosperity. That is why the Opposition is annoyed and we have a panicky no confidence motion. It is panicky because the Opposition failed to impress the electorate when these issues emerged last October and during the maelstrom of the recent general election. It is clear the Opposition wanted to raise the issues then but was fearful of doing so. It simply did not have the nerve.

Deputy Brian Hayes was honest enough to admit there may be a competency issue at the heart of the Opposition. It made a mess of these matters and did not raise them effectively. No one within or outside the House can claim that the substance of the issues of which the Taoiseach stands accused was not raised over four weeks last October or in the most transparent way possible, namely, during the general election campaign. From October last year onwards the public willingly gave its increased support to Fianna Fáil and the Taoiseach in the full knowledge of what happened during his marital breakdown in 1993. No Member can claim the public did not know then what it now knows from the evidence before the tribunal.

We have an incompetent Opposition which remains panicky about facing 15 arid years in opposition. This is because of its incompetence and the confidence the people have placed in the Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern. The people attribute honesty and trust to him in how he conducts his personal and political affairs. That is the electorate's judgment call. The public had ample opportunity to examine, in detail, every aspect of the Taoiseach's finances since October 2006. It, like me 20 years ago, made a judgment call on this man and decided he is an honest man. The Opposition parties are arrogant. Are they suggesting the public was mistaken and should have elected Fine Gael and the Labour Party to be the next Government? At least Deputy Pat Rabbitte had the nobility to acknowledge he failed and resigned as party leader.

His successor, Deputy Eamon Gilmore, chooses to lecture us about finances and the receipt of moneys. Yet, he is the direct beneficiary of massive amounts of moneys from the most barbarous regime ever invented, that which obtained in Soviet Russia. This matter has never been explored and Deputy Gilmore has never been transparent about it. He is also the leader who boasted that when he left the Workers' Party, he destroyed all records related to his time in that party by burning them in his back garden. If Deputy Bertie Ahern did that to his records, he would have to resign as Taoiseach. If he claimed he could not furnish the tribunal with all the details of his personal finances and his marital breakdown settlement, people would ask serious questions. If that were the case, I do not believe he would be in the Chamber this evening answering honestly and openly to every question put to him about this terrible period in his life.

He did not keep them in the first place.

The manner in which the House is dealing with this matter highlights the death of any charitable instinct in the Opposition parties. I do not believe any Member, least of all myself, could remember after 14 years detailed transactions in his or her personal finances, particularly in the fevered atmosphere following a difficult and turbulent marriage breakdown. There is no point in the Opposition skirting around this issue and talking about credibility. Where is the credibility of an Opposition which had the opportunity to raise these matters but failed to do so? It has been publicly criticised for this and Deputy Brian Hayes has acknowledged it was incompetent in dealing with the matters when they arose last October and during the general election.

Deputy Bertie Ahern is the same man I supported 20 years ago. The remarkable secret of his longevity and success in the political system is that he is exactly the same man he was 20 years ago. He has not changed because of success and achievement. What one sees is what one gets. I accept he is not the perfect memory man like Jimmy Magee and cannot remember who won the FA Cup final in 1924 or 1954.

He could if it was Manchester United.

I challenge any Member to meet the so-called high standards applied by the so-called Opposition. It is interesting that some of the matters involving the Opposition are conveniently ignored.

People, including some elements of the media, have misrepresented the Taoiseach in the matter of non-co-operation with the tribunal. Deputy Enright repeated the claim this evening that Deputy Bertie Ahern is guilty of non-compliance with the tribunal. This is the opposite of the truth.

Those are lies. Total lies.

As recently as last Monday, Judge Alan Mahon said there was no issue of non-compliance from the Taoiseach. Deputy Enright may not be a lawyer but she is guilty of a very fundamental confusion——

She is a lawyer.

That does not speak well for her either. What I am about to say may come as a surprise to her.

She must have learned in a hedge school.

Quoting counsel for the tribunal is not quoting the tribunal itself. Counsel only facilitates the tribunal. The three judges are in fact the tribunal.

It is about questions that were not answered.

When the Deputy attributes statements from the counsel to the tribunal, she is not quoting the tribunal.

I stated very clearly it was counsel for the tribunal.

The Deputy was being mischievous with the facts and twisting them to her own purpose.

I twice stated clearly it was counsel for the tribunal.

I would not rise to him.

Every Fianna Fáil Party Member will support Deputy Bertie Ahern because he is the best leader we have had since the foundation of the State. He is the most successful Taoiseach but he is also an ordinary human being who makes mistakes and has an imperfect memory from time to time.

That is not the point.

He has never claimed to be perfect. He has never claimed the high moral ground which those on the other side of the House claim. He has never worn his morality on his sleeve like those Members who had truck with the Soviet regime and now want to lecture us on money and political morality. That is hypocritical. That was a party that published documents funded by the Soviet Union. It had the grandeur to print forged five pound notes in Gardiner Place under the guise of Repsol Press. This is the party from which we must take our morality. This is the party that lectures on what it is appropriate to receive at a time of personal and family distress. I find it hypocritical but I am not surprised.

As Fine Gael and the Labour Party now face a further five years in opposition, there is a sense of frustration among its Members. Some including, I suspect, Deputy Enda Kenny still believe they won the election. They seem to be coming out of a delayed dream sequence.

I wish to share time with Deputy Joan Burton.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The House seldom debates a motion of this kind, particularly so soon into the parliamentary term after an election. An election is when the foundation of our democracy utters its opinion. Some Government Members have asked why the Opposition is doing this now as much of what is now known was known before the general election. That is not the case.

Opposition Members do not have a tribunal's capacity to cross-examine other Members. We certainly do not have 18 hours to do so. If we did, perhaps we would have got from the former Deputy, Ray Burke, the answers which were ultimately extracted from him in the tribunal. The sense of sympathy which I felt at the time for the man would have been replaced with a sense of outrage at the way in which he behaved. To suggest this side of the House is being opportunistic, devious or incompetent in not raising these matters last September is to ignore utterly the facts that have now entered the record.

The facts are, as Deputy Gilmore has simply said, that the Taoiseach's account of the money trail is unbelievable. Not that there is proof that money was given by certain individuals to names already in the public domain, but quite simply that this account of the money trail is unbelievable. That is the unanimous view of commentators and those who have had the patience and the time to listen through it. It is also, according to the most recent opinion poll, the view of the public in so far as this can be measured.

What is the obligation on the Opposition in this House in these circumstances? I believe we had no choice but to put down a motion of no confidence. We would be derelict in our duty if we did not so do. This is important because the very foundation on which democracy rests is that the people trust the politicians, that we are elected because we can be trusted. In any country which drifts away from that fundamental relationship, the basis of democracy is eroded along with its credibility. As we have seen in countries which have lost those standards and that relationship with the people, for whatever reason, the damage is virtually impossible to repair. If this was any other country in the European Union, the Prime Minister of the day would by now be sitting on the backbenches. There is no doubt in my mind that the standards we expect from other member states in the European Union, if applied here would, in fact, bring about that result.

As someone who has known the Taoiseach for very many years, I acknowledge that his historical contribution to this country is not in dispute. The speech that Deputy Mansergh gave to this House is one that could better be given to an Ard-Fheis. However, Deputy Mansergh's judgment in these matters has to be looked at in the context of his loyal service to Deputy Charles J. Haughey.

Of which I am proud.

Deputy Mansergh is entitled to be so, but if that makes him proud, then his judgment in respect of his successor is something I cannot accept. Therefore I conclude by saying that Deputy Bertie Ahern would be doing this nation, his party and this House a service if he brought forward his already signalled intention to resign as Taoiseach before the next general election.

I keep hearing Fianna Fáil apologists such as Deputy Mansergh say that the voters knew all this about the tribunal and the Taoiseach when they voted on 24 May. They did not. They got an explanation of sorts in May from the Taoiseach and many voters took that on trust. That trust was abused because what we got from Deputy Bertie Ahern in September is very different from what he told the people in May.

It is well to recall what a judge said at the tribunal, when Deputy Bertie Ahern was reminded that his story one day was the polar opposite to what it had been on an earlier occasion. If that was the case from one week to the next in September, how can anyone claim that voters got the full story in May? For these twists and turns alone, the Taoiseach has forfeited his claim to be trusted by the Irish people. I remind the Taoiseach of a phrase accountants use in judging financial accounts. He will recall it from his own training and experience — is a set of accounts a true and a fair view or picture? The people of Ireland may well pose the same question to the Taoiseach. Are the stories he has told a true and fair picture of these payments, the transactions that involve large amounts of foreign currency? It is impossible to come to any such conclusion from what the Taoiseach has said in Dublin Castle or from what he told the people that Sunday in May. For these shifting sands alone he deserves to lose the confidence of the Dáil and the citizens of Ireland.

This issue is greater than Deputy Bertie Ahern, the man. He is held in high regard at home and abroad and has many considerable achievements to his credit over his time in public office, not just in the past decade. However, these payments cast a cloud over this reputation and represent a decisive blow to his capacity to carry on in his present post. This country, like many others, in Europe and the wider world, faces a turbulent period of uncertainty in financial markets, as regards oil supplies and oil prices, and indeed the Irish construction industry. We have a changing economic situation, which will have enormous consequences for the public finances and employment next year. When there is uncertainty the public is entitled to political leadership that is above suspicion. I fear Deputy Bertie Ahern cannot offer that leadership to the people of Ireland because he has been less than frank and truthful in this business, and to the people in the run up to the election.

It is not just Deputy Bertie Ahern who has taken a position that is the polar opposite to what he said earlier. The same is true of his new allies in Government. Can the Green Party Ministers so casually turn somersaults and give opinions today that are the polar opposite of their statements to the people in May?

In making a judgment today we should return to first principles. These first principles are set out with refreshing simplicity by Mr. Justice McCracken in his tribunal report. It is not a question of what was legal at any particular time. It is fundamentally a question of what is right and proper for a person who serves as a Minister in a democratic Government. Such a person must not compromise his or her office by accepting gifts that might compromise the conduct of the nation's business. From ancient Rome we can recall the story of how Julius Caesar divorced his wife over a scandal. Caesar's wife had to be above suspicion. So must the Head of the Government. The Taoiseach must be a person above suspicion. Deputy Bertie Ahern fails the Caesar test and for that reason we in the Labour Party believe he should resign his high office.

I am obviously very grateful for the opportunity to support our Taoiseach, the president of Fianna Fáil and the most popular politician on this island.

At the outset, the tribunal has not accused the Taoiseach of not co-operating with it. The tribunal has not accused the Taoiseach of delaying its work. In fact, Judge Mahon no later than last Monday, 24 September, said there was no allegation of non-compliance. He said this many times, indeed he said it on 20 September as well. In almost nine years of investigations there is no evidence of the Taoiseach receiving any money from Mr. O'Callaghan. There is no evidence of him doing any favours for Mr. O'Callaghan. There is no smoking gun and not a scintilla of evidence was adduced.

The motion this evening is not about the tribunal and it is not about the Taoiseach. It is more about the leaders of Fine Gael and the Labour Party vying for Leader of the Opposition. A new Labour Party leader who believes he is Dick Spring is calling for the Taoiseach to resign. It is somewhat like Deputy Ruairí Quinn, once again, looking for a head.

The Fine Gael leader, scared of being overshadowed, is backed into calling for a motion of no confidence. Fine Gael Members talked themselves into putting down this motion of no confidence. It is yet another gesture of politics from the parties opposite, another attempt by the Fine Gael leadership to divert attention from the party's failure to recoup the losses suffered in 2002. Fine Gael has not been elected to office since 1982 and is not liable to be in the foreseeable future. It is another grey attempt by the Labour Party leadership to approach relevance. This is a Labour Party now totally bereft of working class support.

This evening they have lined up against the most popular Taoiseach in the history of the State, the man who picked up the pieces of a shattered peace process to build the Good Friday Agreement, who led his party to three successive victories in general elections, who has the overwhelming support of his own party and that of the Irish people, as was shown most recently in the general election.

The tribunal will ultimately have to make a simple call, that is, to believe the testimony of either the Taoiseach or Mr. Gilmartin. It will have to decide on the veracity of Mr. Gilmartin's allegation, based on mere hearsay, that the Taoiseach took money from Owen O'Callaghan. This matter is all about an allegation based on hearsay, in respect of which not one whit of evidence has been produced.

Where did the money come from?

It is a baseless allegation to follow the many baseless allegations made by Mr. Gilmartin against many other Deputies in the House. It is a baseless allegation like that made by Mr. Denis "Starry" O'Brien which was seen off by the Taoiseach in the Circuit Court. It is a baseless allegation like that made against me by Mr. Gilmartin, a man I have never met in my life, nor wish to meet. He made it in 1999 but it was only drawn to my attention earlier this summer. The allegation which was directed at me and the former Tánaiste, Deputy Mary Harney, was scurrilous and absolutely untrue.

There is no evidence against the Taoiseach — that is the bottom line. Prior to the general election, the parties opposite quietly briefed against him but would not attack him publicly for fear of losing the confidence of the electorate. In the light of this volte face, it must now be asked of the Opposition parties where they found their spine, voice and Pauline path to conversion. Let me outline where Deputy Eamon Gilmore found his spine. Embarrassingly, we saw him on “Prime Time” last night in a clip recorded before the general election. He found his spine in the desperate need to break from his predecessor’s fawning attachment to Fine Gael. He found it in the desperate decision to mimic the Labour Party strategy of 15 years ago by reviving Dick Spring’s attempt to make the Labour Party leader the Leader of the Opposition. The Labour Party is an old party pining for its glory days, grasping at the strategies of the past and in desperate need for a role in modern Ireland.

Deputy Kenny found his voice in the need to counter Deputy Gilmore by topping the latter's call for resignation with a motion of no confidence.

We know the Minister's ambitions.

Deputy Kenny found his voice in his blind terror——

The Minister's ambitions——

——regarding the fact that if he stops attacking and spinning and stops the endless motion, his party might just realise it did not win the election, has not won one since 1982 and that its leader has failed to do the business and more than likely will fail in the next general election, whenever it is held. This is not about the tribunals or the Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern.

We know about the Minister's investigation in London.

This is about relevance.

It is about credibility.

It is about the credibility of the parties opposite. Meanwhile, outside this building, real people have real problems.

The Minister should nail his colours to the mast.

They do not see the politicians opposite making an effort to provide leadership or policies or make a credible effort to assist them.

The Minister should put his name forward for leadership of his party.

Unfortunately for all of us, they do not know how to engage in the credible opposition that any healthy democracy demands. The gesture politics into which the Deputy has dragged us all has no resonance outside the House.

Was the Taoiseach wrong to accept the money?

That was proven to the Deputy in the recent general election.

The only achievement of the motion will be to galvanise Fianna Fáil further in support of its leader, the Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern. Its effect will be to redouble our efforts to deliver on our full agreed programme for Government, negotiated between Fianna Fáil, the Green Party and the Independents——

Like Shannon.

——to continue to build an all-island economy and on the transformation in the relationship between orange and green; to continue on the path of sustained, strong economic and employment growth which will allow the youth to stay and prosper on this island; to maintain our commitment to the social partnership model; to provide record increases in investment and infrastructure and vital public services; and to bring an unprecedented focus to the crucial issues of climate change and the challenge of protecting our environment.

A motion of no confidence in the Dáil is a serious matter to be used on serious occasions.

What about the contribution of the Minister for Defence, Deputy Willie O'Dea?

This evening it has been used as a crass political gesture. The people we serve are not fools and see through such gestures. They pay us to address the real issues affecting their lives. The parties opposite do not seem to have understood this point yet and Fine Gael will never learn.

Is that the Minister's best?

The party has lost the election. I support the Government's motion.

The Minister should nail his colours to the mast.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Simon Coveney.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I am deeply disappointed to witness the shoddy attempt from the Government benches to defend the indefensible. I am particularly disturbed that senior Ministers have failed even to address the essence of the motion.

I wish to address the motion of no confidence because the lies and untruths that have emerged in the past year are undermining the integrity of the political system. Politics is a noble profession that has unfortunately been tainted by a prevailing culture, particularly in the Fianna Fáil Party, of backhanders, double standards and deliberate untruths designed to confuse and ultimately dupe the people.

The Taoiseach's evasion, obfuscation and deeply contradictory evidence at the Mahon tribunal in recent days can no longer be ignored. His efforts to mislead and obstruct the fact-finding efforts of a tribunal, established by his own Government, are base in the extreme. They certainly do not represent the high standards in public office that we should expect from any public figure, particularly the Taoiseach. The Taoiseach's deliberate untruths have contributed to a deep suspicion of politicians among members of the public.

The Taoiseach has even refused to provide us with a copy of his speech. Is it true that he is afraid to put in writing the lies and untruths he has told the House? He must not continue to treat the people like fools. The public has heard his evidence and seen the holes therein. Clearly, it will no longer be duped.

The sequence of events has been outlined by Deputies Enda Kenny, Eamon Gilmore, Fergus O'Dowd and others and it speaks for itself. Since last October the Taoiseach has given three separate and conflicting accounts of the payments he received in the 1990s. His statements have been inconsistent and his explanations completely incredible. More pernicious in terms of its direct impact on public confidence and the public perception of the Taoiseach and other public figures was his tear-jerking performance on RTE with Brian Dobson last April. If it was not an Oscar-winning performance, it may have secured him a walk-on role in "Coronation Street", "Fair City" or some other soap opera. The manner in which he dragged up his personal affairs, although nobody was interested and nobody asked, the way in which he feigned tearful emotion to conjure up the sympathy of the electorate and the way he lied blatantly to the nation regarding his personal finances beggar belief and are utterly unacceptable. Now that he has given contradictory evidence to the Mahon tribunal, it is time for him either to tell the truth and stop treating the people like fools or regain some smidgeon of dignity by doing the decent thing, that is, resigning from his post.

We have heard misleading claims from the Government. During the election campaign the Taoiseach promised full answers at the Mahon tribunal. He is now sending out his wing men, including the Minister for Defence, Deputy Willie O'Dea, to say all the questions were answered by the result of the election. He cannot have it both ways.

The Taoiseach is now trying to blame the legal system for his own failure to come up with credible and coherent responses to the questions posed at the Mahon tribunal. A very famous saying advises that when the facts are with one, one should pound the facts; when the facts are against one, one should pound the law; and when the law is against one, one should pound the table. In this case, the Taoiseach is pounding the tribunal.

We have seen the activity of the Minister for Defence, Deputy Willie O'Dea, and his colleagues in the past few weeks. It is true that the tribunal has been slow but this is because individuals such as the Taoiseach, the late Liam Lawlor, Ray Burke, Frank Dunlop and others have continually hampered its investigation. The tribunal has focused on the Taoiseach, which it is entitled and ought to do, because he was given sums of money in foreign currencies in the 1990s that add up to over €300,000. He has continually failed to give a credible explanation for these moneys. The pounding of the tribunal represents an attempt to distract the House from the central point, that the Taoiseach has once again failed to explain these huge sums in a credible manner. It is time for him to stop playing the people for fools. He pledged before the general election that he would tell us the full truth in the Mahon tribunal when he was given an opportunity to do so. He has such an opportunity this evening. I hope he will have the decency and courage to give us the full truth before this debate concludes.

If Fine Gael stands for anything in terms of standards in public office, it had no choice but to table this motion of no confidence in the Taoiseach. Despite the direction in which Ministers are trying to steer the debate, the essence of the motion does not relate to the Taoiseach's handling of his brief in respect of issues such as Northern Ireland, the EU Presidency and the economy, or his ability to be a popular political leader. We know about his public achievements which, as the Government is aware, are not at question. The credibility of the Taoiseach, in the eyes of the public and the House, needs to be questioned following his treatment of the Mahon tribunal and his performances at public hearings to date.

With the exception of die hard Fianna Fáil supporters who have blind loyalty or are afraid to speak out, I have met nobody who has followed the tribunal and believes the testimony of the Taoiseach. His account of his personal finances in the 1990s has changed under the scrutiny of the tribunal in a manner that is not credible and does not stack up. Fianna Fáil speakers have said we should wait for Judge Mahon to draw his conclusions before we cast judgment, which seems fair enough. That would be a reasonable request if the Taoiseach's testimony was consistent with his previous statements, credible and supported by the evidence presented by the tribunal. That is clearly not the case, however. Given that we have just heard four days of testimony which blatantly contradicts the evidence the tribunal has assembled, it is simply not an option to wait up to two years for a report. The standards which apply to any other person appearing before a tribunal should also apply to politicians. The Taoiseach should be no exception — one would expect that he would want to lead by example.

The motivation behind the motion of no confidence can be put simply — if we believe the Taoiseach has, at best, deliberately frustrated the tribunal with selective amnesia and contradictory statements or, worse, not been truthful with tribunal lawyers under oath, we can no longer have confidence in him to lead our country. That is the issue at question. Although the Taoiseach publicly said in the past that it was unacceptable for office holders to take money for personal use, regardless of the sums involved, we now know of the personal "dig-outs" given to him. The money in question, worth approximately €300,000 in modern day terms, as many have said, was given to him in December 1994 while he was Minister for Finance and on the verge of becoming Taoiseach. When these questions arose last year, he made it clear that he would explain all the details to the tribunal when given an opportunity to do so. He gave the same performance during the election campaign, when he said he looked forward to appearing before the tribunal to clarify matters and give full explanations. Fine Gael believes it was right to allow due process to be upheld and to give the Taoiseach an opportunity to clarify matters. It is now being criticised — by Fianna Fáil Ministers, for example — for not taking a harder line at the time.

Now that the Taoiseach has had an opportunity to give a full explanation, over four days of testimony, there are more questions unanswered than there were before he started to give evidence. If his testimony is true, bank transaction and account details in the possession of the tribunal must have been incorrect on at least six separate occasions. Those who support him are saying they believe his evidence to the tribunal is credible and accurate and that he did nothing wrong in accepting the moneys as he did. Do Members really believe his account to the tribunal? Do they believe that a man walked into his office while he was Minister for Finance with a bag of sterling notes worth approximately £30,000? Nobody knows for sure how much money was in the bag because the businessman in question did not count it. The Taoiseach did not count it, despite keeping it in his safe for three days, and Ms Celia Larkin who also saw it did not count it, even though it was heading for her bank account. Do Deputies believe that when the Taoiseach drove Ms Larkin to lodge the sterling in a bank three days later, no receipt was asked for or given? It is suggested nobody saw the bank clerk count the money. We are expected to believe the bank was mistaken, by approximately £28,000 sterling, when it compiled its foreign transaction records that day. The records of the bank state just £1,921 sterling was exchanged on the day in question. Is this series of events really credible? I have referred to just one version of the financial transactions under investigation.

This is an unpleasant day in the Dáil. We have to make a political judgment based on the evidence before us. When Fine Gael bears in mind the actions of those who have gone before us, it has an obligation to hold Fianna Fáil leaders — in particular, a Fianna Fáil Taoiseach — to account for their actions. I want the understandable public cynicism of politicians to be challenged and in time replaced by a new trust and belief in the political system. Many may be willing to forgive the Taoiseach because of his popularity, but few believe what he said in the context of recent tribunal hearings. That such a set of circumstances is unacceptable for Fine Gael necessitates the tabling of a motion of no confidence in the Taoiseach.

I would like to share time with Deputy Grealish.

This is the second vote of confidence in the Taoiseach to be considered this year. A motion of confidence in any Taoiseach involves a questioning of his ability to govern the country and his capacity to lead Ministers. It is a question of confidence in the leadership of someone in steering the society and economy of Ireland on behalf of the people. It involves deciding whether to give a mandate to someone to act as a leader. The first of the votes of confidence to which I refer took place on 24 May last, when the people overwhelmingly declared their confidence in Deputy Bertie Ahern and the Fianna Fáil Party by returning the Government. When the people gave the Taoiseach that vote of confidence, they based their judgment not only on his successes in recent years, but also on their confidence in him to lead Fianna Fáil into government to meet the challenges which our society and economy will face in the years to come. Those who gave the Taoiseach their vote of confidence had heard his explanations of certain issues relating to his personal finances.

Fianna Fáil lost four seats.

The people made their decision on election day in the knowledge of what they had heard in April and May.

Why does Deputy Creed think he is on the Opposition side of the House?

They said, in effect, that they would await the decision of the tribunal before they reached a judgment on the matter.

Fianna Fáil lost four seats.

As a new Deputy when this House established the tribunals ten years ago, I made my maiden speech on the legislation under which they were established. We did not think they would still be doing their work ten years on. We did not envisage that allegations made in 1998 would not have been examined by this stage.

The tribunals would have more work done if they were being given straight answers.

The Taoiseach willingly gave his personal details to the tribunal.

That took two and a half years.

As he said, he opened up his bank accounts to the tribunal and waived his right to confidentiality in respect of such matters. All these facts were in the public domain when the people agreed to give a vote of confidence to the Taoiseach. Given that the tribunal has not made a decision in the five months which have passed since, why are we debating the issue today? The new Dáil has not yet had a chance to debate this country's major issues. The ability of the Taoiseach to govern, to lead Ministers and to implement the programme for Government is not being questioned in any way. The public has put its faith in the Taoiseach and the Government as a whole to lead the country. There is no basis for the motion of no confidence. It has been proposed because the Opposition parties are trying to establish themselves in opposition at the beginning of the new Dáil term. Politicians who have been elected as Deputies are not members of a tribunal, just as those who have been elected as party leaders have not been appointed as tribunal judges. Certain politicians and party leaders are trying to be the tribunal and the judges in that tribunal.

That is nonsense.

Those who are sitting here and making these points——

It is a disgrace for the Minister for Education and Science who is responsible for thousands for schoolchildren as the leader of the country's education system to accept such a standard.

——should watch and wait to hear all the evidence and read what the tribunal has to say about it. I have not read a transcript of the Taoiseach's 18 hours of evidence because I have been busy going about my duties.

Perhaps the Minister should.

I very much doubt if the Deputies who have spoken have read the transcript of 18 hours of evidence. Having established the tribunal we must allow it to take its course and do its work. It has made it clear that there is no issue of the Taoiseach obstructing it or of non-compliance or non-co-operation.

It had to threaten the poor man.

The tribunal has stated there has been no delay and that it is satisfied with the way work is proceeding. The motion states we affirm our confidence in the Mahon tribunal to complete its work.

Deputy O'Dea does not confirm it.

At some stage the tribunal will investigate the allegations made regarding Mr. Owen O'Callaghan and Quarryvale, the reason for which it was set up. In the meantime Fianna Fáil and the Government is willing to wait for the tribunal, established by the Oireachtas, to carry out its work. We recognise that the Taoiseach has the confidence of the people to continue to run the country and deal with the issues challenging us in a changing society.

Was he wrong to take the money?

That is what a vote of confidence is about. The Opposition parties are not questioning the ability of the Taoiseach to govern or the ability of the Government. That mandate was given to us by the people. The motion of no confidence shows how out of touch the Opposition parties are with the tribunal and the people. The tribunal did not find that the Taoiseach had engaged in wrongdoing.

That is because it does not draw conclusions until the end.

What is the basis of the motion of no confidence?

It is a case of people choosing what they want to hear, picking snippets of evidence and ensuring they become judge and jury. We know that the Taoiseach is a man of great credibility

The Minister should give back her seal of office.

I am proud to be Minister for Education and Science.

Deputy Hanafin is the worst Minister by a mile.

She must not have high standards if she is proud of her record.

I uphold the highest standards of integrity, as I have always done and as my colleagues do. We will always ensure integrity, the backbone of what my colleagues and I stand for, is the basis of our lives in public office. In his role as Taoiseach Deputy Bertie Ahern is a man of credibility, has provided great leadership and is a man in whom the Fianna Fáil Party, the Government and I have every confidence.

Would the Minister take the money?

Deputy Kenny is not in a county council chamber. He should not let himself down.

The electorate elected us to this House on the basis that we would devote our energies to tackling the issues to the fore in the campaign.

These include reform of the health service, prudent management of the nation's finances and implementation of the national development plan that will give us the modern infrastructure that Ireland will need to compete in a rapidly changing global economy. My party wishes to continue with the people's priorities. This does not mean, however, that we can ignore standards in public life. The Progressive Democrats are committed to the highest standards and have been willing to act in accordance with that commitment. In keeping with it they insisted on the establishment of suitable vehicles to investigate allegations of wrongdoing, including the tribunals of inquiry and special investigations into matters such as Ansbacher accounts. Such vehicles must be given the appropriate resources and reasonable time to conclude their business and reach conclusions. We support the work of the tribunals and look forward to seeing their conclusions at an early date.

The Quarryvale module has not run its course. There are a number of witnesses to be heard and issues to be examined before conclusions can be reached. It is appropriate that we allow the tribunal to do its work and present us with a comprehensive report. It is not for us to anticipate its outcome and reach conclusions based on partial information. We are not dealing with its conclusions, rather we are dealing with an opportunistic attempt by the Opposition to use this as an excuse to override the results of the general election. In the run-up to the election the Opposition shied away from the issue and stated it was a matter for the tribunal.

The Progressive Democrats did so also and look what happened.

If it was a matter for the tribunal then, it is also a matter for it now. The Progressive Democrats will continue to implement the programme for Government and get on with the job we were elected to do, while the tribunal continues with its task.

I wish to share time with Deputies Sheehan and Creed.

This debate is not about the Government's record on Northern Ireland, the economy, the health service, transport and the environment. It is not about the personal affairs of the Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern, despite his attempts to bring family problems into the debate at every possible opportunity afforded by RTE but not by the tribunal.

Following in the footsteps of gutter Fine Gael.

This is about low standards and credibility. Politicians should not take money for personal benefit from wealthy people. I do not know why the Taoiseach took the money. I do not know if the reason he took money in Manchester was that some of them were the Manchester investors in the casino project in my constituency. I do not know why the Taoiseach took money from Mr. Michael Wall, a private bus operator looking for bus services to be deregulated in this country. I would like to know because I do not accept the reasons provided.

What the Taoiseach has done is no different from what Mr. Liam Lawlor, Mr. Charles Haughey, Deputy Lowry and former Deputy Ray Burke did. In none of those cases do we have documentary evidence of corruption. The reason they are discredited, disgraced and removed from office is they behaved in an inappropriate manner by receiving large sums from private individuals for personal gain. The same standards should be applied to the Taoiseach. Just because he is Head of the Government does not mean lower standards should be applied. By any international standard, he would no longer be Head of the Government. In Germany Ministers resign when they keep frequent flyer points accrued on Government flights. In Britain Ministers resign for accepting undeclared loans. In the United Kingdom the Taoiseach would not be fit to be a member of a county council. He is certainly not fit to be a candidate for the Fine Gael Party.

Regarding credibility, most people in the State do not believe the Taoiseach's assertions about his finances. A journalist in the Sunday Independent wrote that if there was a simple explanation, we would have heard it some time ago.

Was that Deputy O'Dea?

Nobody believes the Taoiseach's story. Privately, most of those on the Government benches do not believe it. Nobody believes the Taoiseach did not have a bank account. The only reason he did not have a bank account in that period is worrying and sinister. Nobody believes his claim that the dig-out came from friends. Even Mr. Padraic O'Connor of NCB Stockbrokers, for example, denies that he is the Taoiseach's friend and stated the money was given to Fianna Fáil. Nobody believes the money the Taoiseach received was for the refurbishment of a new house. Nobody believes the Taoiseach did not deal in dollars. Nobody believes the 24 people in Manchester were his friends. The Taoiseach claims that they were but cannot name them. Nobody believes the Taoiseach, his partner at the time and that the bankers forgot to count the money.

History will judge the Taoiseach with more sophistication than the Sunday newspapers or Senator Harris.

The people judged him on 24 May, which Fine Gael keep forgetting.

History will judge him and, in some ways, as a successful Taoiseach. It will also judge his years as Taoiseach as a lost opportunity to achieve great things done in other booms such as the Adenauer years in Germany or the post-war years in America.

We will see what Deputy Varadkar achieves.

Sadly, this dark affair will darken the Taoiseach's record in the same way as Tony Blair's involvement in Iraq or Bill Clinton's corruption and personal scandals darkened theirs. History will judge the Taoiseach as being both devious and cunning, in the words of his mentor, master and, clearly, role model.

The Deputy was well trained by US Republicans.

The Minister knows well that is not true.

I appeal to the members of Fianna Fáil, the party of de Valera, Lemass and Lynch, to save the dignity of their once noble party by removing this man and supporting the motion of no confidence.

The Deputy should go back to the religious right.

I wish to address the ladies and gentlemen on the opposite side of the House. It is time for them to change the captain. I have served the people of west Cork in politics and in this House for more than 21 years. I am a realist and I know that we do not have the numbers on this side of the House to force a change but the people opposite have that choice and while they may not do it today they will have to do it very soon. Where are the Mary Harneys, the Séamus Brennans, the Charlie McCreevys, the Dessie O'Malleys and the George Colleys? Those were the people who knew in previous times that the leadership of their party was going in the wrong direction. They stood by their principles and stood up for their dignity and for their party. Where are these people now? Is there no one over there who has even the slightest doubt about the leader of Fianna Fáil or have they all been bought and silenced? Is there not one who can stand up for his or her principles?

If the evidence that was offered over four different days had been given as a counter defence to an order by the Criminal Assets Bureau for confiscation of assets illegally obtained, would any judge in the land or any fair-minded person order that the assets be returned to the perpetrator? I think not. This is the position that those opposite must come to terms with, whether that be today, tomorrow or some day soon. The day is coming and those who hid in the crowd like sheep will have nothing of which to be proud. I am reminded of a famous catch-cry of Ciaran Fitzgerald, "Stand up now above the parapet and show your courage".

I do not usually quote from the Bible but I refer to the gospel last Sunday. I wonder what the Members opposite thought when they heard Luke, chapter 16.

It was a different gospel.

The gospel refers to the use of money. It states:

This money, tainted as it is, is used to win you friends and thus make sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you into the tents of eternity. The man who can be trusted in little things can be trusted in great things. The man who is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in great things. If you cannot be trusted with money, that tainted thing, who will trust you with genuine riches? If you cannot be trusted with what is not yours, who will give you what is your very own? No servant can be a slave to two masters; he will either hate the first and love the second or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn.

The Taoiseach cannot be a slave both to God and money. It is now time, when all around him are giving him the same message, that at least one of those opposite should have the courage to stand up for his or her convictions. Will they all huddle together like sheep when the fox is approaching and stay bought and silenced like lambs to the slaughter?

The mongrel foxes.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this motion. There is a depressing sense of déjà vu about this debate. I was previously a Member of this House from 1989 to 2002 when we had the tumultuous debates under the previous Fianna Fáil regime of Charles J. Haughey. His legacy has obviously affected the body politic in Fianna Fáil. I do not need to list the names as they are all known. They have left a problem for us all in politics. There is a disconnection not just with the tribunal but also with this Chamber. Should we just sit on our hands and regard these standards as acceptable because nobody is listening? Nobody is listening because nobody believes any of us.

A Deputy

The Deputy should speak for himself.

The sense of déjà vu was confirmed yesterday evening when I listened incredulously to the Minister, Deputy Dermot Ahern, on an RTE radio programme as he said that this was the hounding of an honourable man. Where have I heard that line before? It was the term used by the Taoiseach himself in the context of Ray Burke’s departure from public office. The accusation was hurled at these benches that this was the hounding of an honourable man. If we use this occasion to draw a line in the sand and to start a new chapter in Irish politics where trust and truth will be the central planks of how we conduct our daily business, then this will be a welcome debate.

It is regrettable that the Taoiseach has tarnished the body politic. The honourable option to do the honourable thing and resign, as encouraged by the leader of the Labour Party yesterday morning, is not an option the Taoiseach will take. It is incredible that Minister after Minister can stand up in this House and, leaving aside the motivation, say there is nothing wrong with an office holder admitting that very substantial sums of money were given to him and passed through his accounts. The argument put forward is that we are undermining the tribunal and we should allow the tribunal pass judgment. The tribunal will complete its business in due course but we have a political rather than a judicial role to play. That role is to do with accepting standards and trying to reconnect with the public who are obviously disbelieving of the Taoiseach's evidence to the tribunal.

I regret that my first opportunity to speak in the 30th Dáil is in a debate on a vote of no confidence in the Taoiseach. I wish we were about the true business of the nation such as the health service but we must deal with fundamental issues such as the Taoiseach's credibility and his unsuitability for office.

This motion is more to do with the attempt by Fine Gael and its leader to recover the initiative which has been snatched from them by a very eager new leader of the Labour Party whom I congratulate on his appointment. The Fine Gael motion is nothing short of political grandstanding.

As the Members opposite know very well, the Oireachtas set up the tribunal and requested its report. It is for the members of the tribunal to assess the evidence, draw up a report and make the findings as they see fit. I too heard this being said in 1997 when I first became a Member of this House. This is what the Oireachtas asked the tribunal to do and it is what many of the Members opposite voted for in 1997. It suited their political agenda then but it does not seem to suit them now. This is another flip which I am sure will be followed by another Opposition flop. What the Opposition is trying to do is pre-empt the tribunal's report while at the same time trying to call the verdict. This is predictable but no less outrageous for it.

The Taoiseach has given his evidence about moneys he received from friends in the period surrounding the conclusion of his separation. There is no allegation of corruption or wrongdoing against the Taoiseach. He explained this during the election and he explained it in this House last October.

Would Deputy Carey take a bribe?

There is an allegation of wrongdoing.

He gave evidence for 18 hours last week.

Deputy Creed should not be so bitter.

It is time for the Opposition to stop the political opportunism because that is all it is.

He was always a bitter pill.

There is clearly sour grapes overhanging from the election. I am not sure that the defeat has even been conceded yet.

Deputy Crawford is not a bitter pill.

That is childish.

The election debate demonstrated that Deputy Kenny could not beat the Taoiseach on the issues so he now seems to be intent on playing the man rather than the ball and he will have the same success as his football team has had in that venture.

The Deputy should have a word with Deputy O'Mahony about that.

The new leader of the Labour Party is going for the old discredited Labour Party approach of heads in baskets. Deputy Gilmore told us during the election that the people should decide on any issue arising out of the Taoiseach's finances. His position now is that he alone should decide and the Labour Party has the neck to criticise the Taoiseach about contradictions; one could not make it up. As legislators, those of us on this side of the House want to get on with the business of the Dáil and of running the country. To be fair I think that is what the majority of people on the opposite side also want. It is a poor reflection on the Opposition that it is engaging in such a charade at such an important time. As the Government motion reflects and almost everybody who has spoken today acknowledges, the Taoiseach has made an enormous contribution to Irish public life. He was Minister for Labour when social partnership first took root and, as a result, the days of widespread strikes and industrial chaos were consigned to history. He was Minister for Finance when international commentators first used the phrase "Celtic tiger" to describe Ireland's economic progress. He is the first Taoiseach since Éamon de Valera in 1944 to win three elections in a row.

The Taoiseach is a giant of modern history. No Taoiseach has a more impressive curriculum vitae including leadership of the peace process, record economic and employment growth unprecedented in the history of independent Ireland, negotiating successful partnership agreements and his standing as a European statesman as evidenced during our country's successful EU Presidency. Faced with such a political colossus, the Opposition's only tactic is to try to take the low road to high office. The Taoiseach has served in public life for three decades. He has held a number of offices of State and it is self-evident that he has not benefited from any political decision he has made. Bertie Ahern does not live an ostentatious lifestyle. His life revolves around work in public service and there is no suggestion that he has placed private gain above the public interest.

The tribunals sought the Taoiseach's bank records on the basis of allegations made to it that he had received money from Owen O'Callaghan. This is an allegation the Taoiseach and Mr. O'Callaghan both deny and one which there is no evidence to substantiate. The Taoiseach was previously vindicated when the allegation was before the Circuit Court. The tribunal sought sight of the Taoiseach's bank records and queried a number of lodgements relating to the period surrounding the conclusion of the Taoiseach's separation agreement. It was a time when the Taoiseach did not have a home or marriage and had considerable legal bills to discharge. The Taoiseach has acknowledged financial assistance from personal friends in the period which those contributors have confirmed. No allegation of impropriety exists in relation to these payments. There is no question of favours sought or given. It is important to note that during more than 18 hours at the tribunal, not one allegation of improper conduct was put to the Taoiseach in the context of any of the funds he received.

The Taoiseach was asked for details of his personal life and of how people assisted him. He provided the information to the best of his recollection. While the nitty-gritty of every banking lodgement and transaction from 12 or 13 years ago might stick in the minds of some, it should be remembered that it was a time of political and personal turmoil during which Bertie Ahern's focus was not solely on his financial affairs. It is important to note that there was no attempt to conceal any of the lodgements into which the tribunal has inquired and that they were made into regular AIB accounts. The lodgements were made in this way because there was nothing to hide and nothing sinister in progress. Those who have said the Taoiseach has failed to supply every detail are the very same people who would be jumping up and down saying it was not credible had the Taoiseach professed to possess total and immediate recall of every aspect of his financial affairs from over a decade ago.

While all of us accept that those in public life must be open to scrutiny, we must also reject vehemently a campaign of leaks and vilification unprecedented in modern Irish history. Participation in public life should not mean people have a licence to destroy unfairly the reputations of those who serve. If ever it becomes so, who then will serve? It is to be hoped that all Members will pay even half as much attention to the evidence of Mr. Gilmartin as they did the Taoiseach's. Mr. Gilmartin's allegations about the Taoiseach are falling apart under cross-examination. It has been demonstrated that Mr. Gilmartin has made up significant numbers of inconsistent and contradictory allegations about the Taoiseach and others. We should not forget that the purpose of the tribunal's inquiries into the Taoiseach is supposed to be to establish whether he got money from Owen O'Callaghan. After lengthy and expensive investigation into the Taoiseach's house, his family circumstances, landlord and other irrelevant matters, it is crystal clear that the allegations which are currently relevant — that he received money from Mr. O'Callaghan — are completely and utterly without foundation.

I conclude by quoting Mr. Justice Flood who said that in his view there was nothing in what had been heard which would lead the tribunal to make an adverse judgment against the Taoiseach.

I remind Deputies on all sides of the House, especially those who belong to the party which used to use the term "just society" to refer to one based on justice, fair play, due process and equality, that they need to remind themselves of these core values. We must stand up for due process and hear all the facts before making any judgment. I remind Members that the tribunal of inquiry into certain planning matters and payments was established by resolution of Dáil Éireann and appointed by instrument of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government on 4 November 1997. I affirm my confidence in the Mahon tribunal, the Quarryvale module of which has yet to run its course. A substantial number of witnesses have yet to give evidence. Members of the Oireachtas should not seek to predetermine the tribunal's report on the matters which it has asked the tribunal to investigate. This is a very important point and the basis of my support for the Government's motion.

It is the role of the tribunal's members to make an objective assessment of the completed evidence and findings if necessary. I urge people to be sensible, respectful and fair. We hear many parties in the House talk about fair play and we should have it in tonight's debate and allow the tribunal to carry out its proper functions. I reject the politically opportunistic antics of some of the Opposition parties. It is not fair or proper to make a decision until we all hear the facts. It is important for all Members to study the tribunal, consider the details and only then make a final judgment. A number of Deputies have asked me my position and that is it.

I wish to share time with Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin. Today is an unfortunate day. It is not the type of day any of us envisaged coming back on. The subject at issue is not one any of us wishes to speak to. Nevertheless, if one stands for public office and is elected, there are things one must do even if one does not necessarily want to. It is part of the job.

I have listened with great interest and amusement over the last number of weeks and have heard every single Fianna Fáil Minister and, now, backbencher sing from the one hymn sheet. It is commendable to an extent. It shows the type of loyalty one expects within a political party. However, when the hymn involves the spinning of facts, it the job of the Opposition to point out exactly what are the facts. This is not about the Taoiseach's personal life. No one mentioned his personal life until the Taoiseach raised it himself. For him to continue to throw that cloak around him is unacceptable. He should not do it. The Taoiseach hopes his continued use of his cloak of invisibility will force us all to back off. It is like Ray Burke coming in here and crying with the result that the Opposition backed off because someone was upset. The nation has been upset by the type of corruption we have seen in the past.

Under discussion is a citizen who happens to be the Taoiseach. An accusation has been made and the tribunal has approached the Taoiseach as it would approach me or a local urban councillor to require the production of bank records. It may be the case that there is nothing in the bank records connected to Owen O'Callaghan. However, there are unexplained amounts of money in the records and, regardless of what the Taoiseach says, he has not explained them.

I listened to Deputy Finian McGrath. He cannot continue to ride two horses.

That will cause serious injury.

He is either with the Government or with the Opposition. Riding two horses will do Deputy McGrath serious damage; he should not try to do it.

When former Deputy Liam Lawlor went before the tribunal and Fianna Fáil heard his evidence and heard how he evaded giving evidence, held up the tribunal and refused to give the tribunal the information it sought, Fianna Fáil took action. It did not wait for the tribunal to report to decide what it thought of Mr. Lawlor's actions. The party took action and told Mr. Lawlor he must leave.

It is not the Opposition or the tribunals that will put the Taoiseach out of office but the men in grey suits sitting next to and behind him. They will go to him and say: "Bertie, your time has come. You are damaging the Government and you must go." The Taoiseach should do the honourable thing and go in his own time rather than be pushed by the people who now sit next to him and pretend to be his friends.

The motion put down by the Fine Gael Party states: "That Dáil Éireann has no confidence in An Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern." We have no hesitation in supporting that motion as we have no confidence in this Taoiseach and the Government because of the disastrous policies pursued since 1997. The Government has squandered the unprecedented prosperity of the economy and failed to build a fairer society. It has managed our public services disastrously and pursued privatisation policies that have undermined those services. Despite the assertions of other speakers in this debate, these are the principal reasons this Taoiseach and Government must go.

No previous Government had such opportunities, resources, capacity to plan for the future and wealth to distribute fairly. No previous Government had such a favourable climate in terms of the vibrant economy and the successful peace process. However, Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats, under this Taoiseach, have failed miserably to use those huge advantages in the public interest. For their fundamentally flawed policies and appalling management of our health services in particular, the Taoiseach and the Government deserve the censure of the Dáil.

The Taoiseach and his Fianna Fáil colleagues have attempted to hide behind the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, and the Progressive Democrats in an effort to shirk their responsibility for the gross inequality and inefficiency of our health services. Thousands of dedicated men and women work in those services providing excellent care to millions of people. However, patients and health care workers alike have been betrayed by Governments charged with vindicating the health care rights of the people.

Hospitals are obliged to cut back services to patients because of budgetary diktats from the HSE. The Minister, Deputy Harney, and Professor Drumm say that patients will not be affected by these cuts. On what planet do they live? The Government's plan to provide radiotherapy centres is in chaos, with the Minister and the Professor making contradictory statements. Before the 2002 general election, Fianna Fáil promised to end the two tier system of hospital care. It has done the opposite and reinforced it. Through its notorious private for profit hospital co-location scheme, it is privatising our public health system. The Government's disastrous hospital centralisation policy has cost lives; of that there is no doubt. Monaghan General Hospital is being used as the template for downgrading hospital facilities that were once the pride of their communities. The 24 hour accident and emergency service in Ennis is to be ended. I wish the people of County Clare well with their protest next Saturday.

The failure of the Government over the past decade in health is mirrored in housing, where it has presided over gross price inflation and a severe shortage of social and affordable housing, leaving thousands of families in hardship in all constituencies. Under this Taoiseach there has been a total failure to plan for growth, with children denied school places; a lack of balanced regional development and the decline of many rural communities; inadequate public transport; the sale of our natural resources such as Corrib gas; the betrayal of our neutrality and the use of Shannon Airport by warring powers and the privatisation of State assets, including Aer Lingus and Eircom.

The Taoiseach's testimony at the Mahon tribunal is an issue that has raised far more questions than it has answered. It has exposed contradictions and undermined the Taoiseach's credibility. The focus of the Government is being taken away from the serious issues I have outlined, as well as many more. Instead of doing their jobs, Ministers in recent weeks and today, the first day of the new Dáil session, are being trundled out to defend the Taoiseach. I have never seen a Government more badly prepared for the return of the Dáil. For all these reasons but primarily because of the failure to deliver quality public services, particularly in health care delivery, this Taoiseach, the Minister for Health and Children and all members of the Cabinet stand indicted and deserve to have no confidence voted in them this evening.

I am glad to have the opportunity to speak on the motion.

I understand the Minister will share time with Deputies Brian Lenihan, O'Connor and Blaney. The Minister has four minutes.

The Green Party will support the motion and will express full confidence in the work of the tribunal. When the Green Party made the decision to enter Government last June, its members knew a process was in train and that the Taoiseach was due to give evidence to the Mahon tribunal. It has been our consistent line that we will await the outcome of that tribunal. It is important that the tribunal be allowed to conduct its work unimpeded and that no attempt is made to prejudge the outcome.

We are in Government to carry out a programme of work and we are delivering on that programme. We have increased fines for litter and water pollution, reversed rezoning decisions and, last week, I introduced new building regulations which will reduce carbon emissions by 40%.

Did you get any money from the builders?

Not a penny, unlike the Deputy. I will discuss that shortly. This Taoiseach has supported the Green Party on climate change. The new Cabinet committee has already met and I attended the UN heads of state meeting in New York at the Taoiseach's behest.

At that meeting, Mr. Al Gore told a small gathering that the latest scientific evidence indicates that the ice cap at the North Pole will be gone in 23 years if we do not stabilise our CO2 emissions. The members of the Opposition can laugh. They obviously believe that climate change is a joke.

The CO2 emissions in here are the problem.

It is not a joke. That is a reality check for the Opposition parties. It is the reason the Green Party is in Government.

The Green Party also believes that public life should have the highest ethical standards. We are not the moral custodians of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or the Labour Party. We look after ourselves. Unlike other parties, including the Opposition parties, we do not accept corporate donations and we have never accepted a penny from a developer or a bank. I hope we never will. In fact, there is not a huge difference between the main political parties on many policies, particularly on the question of political donations.

Fine Gael had a policy of not accepting corporate donations but that changed. Likewise Fine Gael and Labour stated the tribunal should be allowed to carry out its work. However, this attitude also changed possibly because the election is over. Let us get on with the work of improving the country, stop the negativity and above all else allow the tribunal to get on with its work.

I have little to add to what the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Deputy Gormley, stated. The tribunal was empowered by the Houses of the Oireachtas to perform a task. However, prior to the Taoiseach giving testimony the week before last, throughout his testimony and since his testimony a large number of Fine Gael Deputies established themselves as experts on banking practices, cross-examination and examination of witnesses, the inferences judges are supposed to find from the testimony of witnesses and every other matter.

Despite the fact that as Members of a party represented in the House they established this tribunal they refuse to accept the due process ordained by the House. They leaped to judgment in a particular context whereby the Supreme Court ruled only a few months ago that a definite list of matters of public importance exists which the tribunal must investigate. With regard to the Taoiseach, the only definite matter of public importance the tribunal is required by us to investigate is the allegations of Mr. Gilmartin. I will not comment on his evidence.

In so far as the Taoiseach is concerned, those allegations do not appear to have been disclosed to us. I find it difficult to understand how the Opposition parties can rush to judgment on the basis of an uninvestigated allegation. This is all we are at in terms of the tribunal and its inquiries with regard to any allegation against the Taoiseach. We do not have any evidence on the allegation itself and yet this evening we are meant on this basis to reverse and not accept the judgment the people made some months ago when they affirmed their confidence in him and not trust our own judgment but that of the banking, forensic and legal experts which the Fine Gael and Labour Deputies turned themselves into.

It is a pity they do not display more expertise on the position of Shannon Airport. Many of the employees of that establishment were outside the House today. They are extremely concerned about their future. As a Member of this Government I understand why they are concerned. They raised serious questions which we, as a Government, are trying to address. However, the Opposition was not interested in discussing this matter as an issue of first priority this evening. Its first priority was to resume a nasty campaign of character assassination against the Taoiseach and it was disappointing to see young Fine Gael Deputies whose mandates, like those of everyone else, only began last June engage with such relish in this operation——

I remember when Deputy Lenihan was new to the House.

——to take not only the character of the Taoiseach but of men who are good friends of Ireland such as Tony Blair and Bill Clinton.

I express my complete confidence in Deputy Bertie Ahern, the greatest Taoiseach the country has ever seen. He has acquired the confidence of people on this island which others tried to achieve but failed. We have two parties which did not have the confidence to ask for the resignation of the Taoiseach prior to the election because they knew it was not an issue and that the people would support the Taoiseach.

The Opposition failed to get the better of the Taoiseach on a political front and is beginning to scrape the bottom of the barrel and trawl through a difficult period in the Taoiseach's life and that of his family, trying to add fuel to a tribunal inquiring into matters completely outside its remit and in the process causing more conspiracy theories among the general public in the hope the Taoiseach will be damaged beyond repair.

Yesterday, I listened to my Fine Gael constituency colleague state on local radio the tribunal should be allowed make its recommendations before tabling such a motion as this. It is not difficult to see he has too much integrity to get a place on the Front Bench of the Fine Gael Party.

The allegations made here are mainly made up of conspiracy and untruths. The Taoiseach never took a penny of the State's. He was never involved in any untoward planning matters. Rather, he is the hardest-working politician this country has ever seen. He lives the life of a very ordinary man and the Opposition can only dream of his record in this House. I hope tonight's motion gets the result it deserves, allowing the Taoiseach return to running the country and keeping the economy affluent as only he has the ability to do.

I stand firmly behind the Taoiseach. Integrity and respect in the House have been taken to a new low by the Opposition.

It is not the Opposition.

Based on untruths, misrepresentation and lies the Opposition brought the respect normally given by Members of this House since the foundation of the State to an all-time low. It is a sad day for them.

The Deputy's gang backdate it to 30 years ago.

When the new Members of the Opposition are around as long as Deputy Bertie Ahern, and have achieved one quarter of what he has they will be in a place to judge.

I wish to express my total confidence in Deputy Bertie Ahern. I do so not because it is expected of me or because I was asked but because I want to do so. I have known the Taoiseach for more than 30 years. Some of you will know I live in Tallaght——

I did not know that.

It is the first time I heard it.

——and have been involved in many issues in the area. It is often stated the Taoiseach could just as easily have stood for election in Tallaght because of his background and interest. Perhaps it was a big loss for the people of Tallaght. Throughout my public life he has been a great supporter of everything in Tallaght.

I am delighted to see Deputy Kenny here. He did not think I would be back but here I am. The people of Firhouse, Greenhills, Templeogue, Brittas, Bohernabreena and Tallaght sent me back here 126 days ago.

I said Deputy O'Connor would be back. I said the other fellow might not be back.

I listened to many Fine Gael speeches tonight. To some extent I am sorry for them because I now know why they had to wield that axe.

They still love Deputy O'Connor in Tallaght.

This is an important matter. I am proud to support Deputy Bertie Ahern, and will do so in the vote tonight. It is what my constituents want me to do. As other colleagues stated, people do not want us to debate this issue. They want us to discuss issues of concern to them. I was impressed by the three Independent Deputies on the radio this morning, namely, Deputies Finian McGrath, Jackie Healy-Rae and Michael Lowry — a good man — who put the entire matter into perspective. As this week wears on we will find people want us to debate matters such as cancer services in Tallaght which is what I want to discuss. It was put up to us and Fianna Fáil will stand squarely behind the Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern. I will vote confidence in him and am happy and proud to do so.

Standards in public matter a great deal to this House. One of our core jobs is to uphold standards with regard to people who take high office. We must ask at what stage do we believe an office holder crosses the threshold and state this person is no longer fit for office. Is it when an office holder accepts huge sums without any documentary evidence of the source of those sums even though they are from private individuals when we know Ministers should not receive money of this nature? Is this when the threshold is crossed? Is it when we find money is treated as a personal gift which the donor believed was a donation to a political party? Is it when moneys are deemed to be loans even though they have lain for years without interest, payment or other sign they genuinely represented loans? Is it when information about transactions crucial to the work of a tribunal are withheld from the tribunal? Is it when the explanations offered are contradicted time and again by records held by the bank? Is it when explanations presented as categorical and clear are changed when confronted by the facts? At what point along that journey does one decide this is no longer acceptable, this person no longer has the trust to remain a fit person to lead the country? I believe that at the first step the line was crossed. When a person holding the position of Minister for Finance accepts private money a line is crossed. Many other lines have been crossed in the meantime. People ask why we have lost confidence and why we are tabling this motion. It is because it is our job to do so. It is our job and, I submit, the job of Members on the other side also to say there are standards that we must insist are upheld and these standards have been transgressed. We have to hold the person accountable and that is what we are doing today.

I have listened to the Fianna Fáil spokesmen and they would have one believe that because the tribunal has not proved a corrupt act that none of this matters. I do not accept that. That is the test of criminal proof — that one attests that someone has committed a crime. That is not the test we apply to the suitability of a person to lead the Government. The suitability of a person to lead the Government hinges on them understanding their obligations not to receive money from people, their obligation to treat tribunals properly, their obligations to have consistent and proper explanations backed up by facts when they present them. These are the tests that have to be applied. This is the test that has been failed. I ask Ministers here if they believe that any of this behaviour would be suitable for them? Do they believe they should be less than co-operative with a tribunal and that they should accept money? I believe many of the honourable Ministers would very definitely say no and would not dream of doing so. Yet they sit there and tolerate it as if it is acceptable.

We are also asked to believe, and the Minister for Education and Science said it, that has all been decided and the people voted in the general election. People voted back Deputy Lowry, Ray Burke and Deputy Beverley Flynn but that did not stop Members deciding that whips should be withdrawn, that they should no longer be members of parties and no longer have posts of important responsibility. People took a different view in this House. They do not believe that simply because one has won an election that suddenly one's obligations of accountability are wiped clear. The reality is that the public did not have the information we now have, nor were they judging on this issue. Rightly, they were told that the last general election was not about the Taoiseach's appearance at the tribunal. We now find that he has not co-operated at the tribunal although they decided they were told he was, that he has not got consistent explanations for what happened although we were told that he had.

The leader of the Green Party came into the House when the Government was being formed and told me he had received explanations from the Taoiseach and was content. Were the explanations he received those that were given at the tribunal and have they not been shredded? The same applies to the leader of the Progressive Democrats. During the election he had marched his troops to the top of the hill and said they should pull out of Government but he marched them back down again because he had explanations that he believed were consistent. I ask the Progressive Democrats if these were the explanations because they have been totally demolished by the tribunal, by the investigative process of following the trail of money, a process the Taoiseach has accepted as the way this should be dealt with. His explanations have been demolished.

This is not the end of the matter. Two thirds of the public do not believe the Taoiseach's explanations. There is still more evidence to be exposed. For example, the issue of the would-be loan donation, disputed by NCB, has still to be unearthed. How is it that something the NCB director believed was a donation to the party became a gift? We still have to see how the house in Beresford was willed by Michael Wall to the Taoiseach. We still have to see how €50,000 was saved to be produced as a deposit. The Taoiseach will be in and out of the tribunal. On the evidence we have seen so far, his explanations will not build confidence that this is a Government handling important issues and led in a coherent way by a Taoiseach in whom the public has trust. That is the ultimate test. We are responsible to the people to give them a leadership in which they can have confidence and trust. That trust has been undermined and destroyed.

This motion of confidence is an important one because we, and particularly those on the other side who have indicated they want to vote against it, will have to decide at what point the line is crossed. I believe the line has been crossed ages ago but the parties and the Independents who are not within Fianna Fáil will have to decide these issues. While Fianna Fáil has said the election has decided it all and that there is still no proof of corruption they are not the issues and the standards we must apply to Members of high office.

That is what the Deputy thinks. It is what he decides.

Would the Minister, Deputy O'Dea, accept donations of huge sums and have no documentary record?

I would not accept the Deputy's verdict of whether it was right or wrong.

Would he fail to co-operate with the tribunal and believe that he should continue to remain in the high office which he holds? I believe he would not. He is happy to defend and abuse the tribunal but is not happy with those standards.

I am entitled to my opinion.

We must uphold standards in this House and that is why I back this motion 100%. We must set out standards that we expect——

The Deputy is abusing the tribunal. He is drawing conclusions which is the job of the tribunal.

This issue goes back to the root case we are putting to the public. There are allegations out there of wrongdoing.

These are allegations that the tribunal has always forensically pursued by following the money trail. Those approaches that have been adopted by the tribunal are tried and tested and they have been used frequently in other investigations. The onus is on people to produce credible explanations of where huge unexplained sums arrive in their accounts. That is the onus that has to be explained. We have seen the explanations that have come forward. We have seen the failure to provide full documentary evidence to the tribunal when requested. We have seen the Taoiseach having to be drawn into a public open hearing because he did not co-operate in the earlier phases of the investigation. That is what has happened and there is no getting away from that. That has undermined people's credibility in this Taoiseach. That is why I believe now is the time for the Taoiseach——

The tribunal never said that. Has the Deputy got a hot line to the tribunal?

——to set aside the public office he holds and deal with these issues in the tribunal. That would allow the Government to be led by someone in whom the public can have full trust.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

I have always been of the view that when the tribunal proceedings are brought into this House they do not do much credit to this House or to the tribunal since many attributions are accorded to it which are not in accordance with the facts. Many contentions are made as if they were established facts and we have heard some of that from previous speakers. There was also talk from the Opposition leaders about standards and standing by the republic, lectures from Fine Gael and Labour on civic republicanism. I do not take any lectures from those quarters. We have our principles and our own sense of integrity——

From the Mafia.

——and we will defend them against all quarters. Having listened silently to what other Members had to say perhaps I could be allowed to say what I have to say. One of the things being suggested is that opinions such as those offered by the Minister, Deputy O'Dea, on Fitzwilton v. Mahon are an abuse of the tribunal. This is not correct. As Mrs. Justice Denham said:

The tribunal was established in 1997. The concept behind the establishment of a tribunal is that there be an inquiry into definite matters as a matter of urgent public importance. The fact that the tribunal is still inquiring ten years later is the antithesis of an urgent public inquiry.

That is not the abuse of the tribunal. That is simply a statement by a very eminent Supreme Court judge in respect of how they saw the situation based on the declarations and orders that were sought by Fitzwilton on appeal from the High Court. Let us try to avoid this attempt to consider people having anything to say about the tribunal as being in some way an abuse of the tribunal. It is not an abuse of the tribunal.

That is what Deputy O'Dea said.

Deputy Kenny spoke about the need to maintain standards. I would like to quote from a person Deputy Kenny might know, the former leader of Fine Gael, Mr. John Bruton, who said:

There is not, and never will be, a system of conviction by denunciation. Independent authorities, not rivals nor those with an axe to grind, make judgments as to culpability.

If Deputies Kenny and Gilmore want to seek to accord high standards, which I always seek to accord to myself, as I am sure does every colleague here, then perhaps they should listen to that statement.

The Oireachtas has decided there are matters of urgent public importance, which began in respect of inquiries into planning matters about 728 acres in north County Dublin and have subsequently developed into a range of inquiries into areas quite apart from the original intention, which was amended by this House on a number of occasions. Again in 2004 we amended the terms of reference and directed the tribunal to indicate the other matters upon which it wished to proceed to public hearing. If it did not so indicate by 1 May 2005, it could not proceed. Those were interventions made by this House which, I remind Deputy Bruton, were not deemed as an abuse of the tribunal. It was a case of us trying to ensure we could maintain public confidence by trying to bring some efficacy and finality at some stage to all these necessary inquiries and that the methodology being used would protect the constitutional rights of everybody.

A contention was made by Opposition leaders that we are trying to permit a privileged few to have entitlements over and above those of other citizens. That is not the case. What we seek for the Taoiseach, as we would seek for anyone appearing before the tribunal, is precisely the same rights and entitlements of any citizen. If Deputy Kenny wants to maintain standards, due process requires that we avoid judgment by denunciation, that we await facts to be established and all witnesses to be heard, and that we allow the judges who have been designated by the Oireachtas to adjudicate on these matters and to report back to the Oireachtas which will make its own judgment on the basis of the calm and final deliberation of that tribunal in respect of all those matters. That is what is required for the maintenance of standards.

I do not accept that Deputy Kenny has a principled view about all of this. Last October he saw an opportunity. He came with his dagger, but it did not work: it was quite blunt. When that happened and Deputy Rabbitte saw that he had gone down by five percentage points in the opinion polls, he acknowledged that he was wasting his time and would not proceed with it because he had an election to fight. Suddenly principles went out the window when the issue was not going to be the big political hammer the Opposition thought it would be.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

Let us have a little less political hypocrisy from those who try to lecture me about political morality.

(Interruptions).

Allow the Tánaiste to speak without interruption.

The political morality in which I believe is one which says that we will allow due process to be respected, that every citizen who goes before the tribunal for whatever reason when asked to do so is allowed to do so. There was more than a suggestion — an assertion clothed as fact — by Deputy Kenny that there was non-compliance regarding the Taoiseach's testimony.

In respect of an affidavit.

I would like to quote a more authoritative person on that matter, Judge Mahon. On 20 September Judge Mahon said: "There is no allegation that there is non-compliance in the sense that there is no allegation that there is discovery, as far as the tribunal is aware, outstanding".

He went on to state: "There is no allegation that there is discovery outstanding in relation to any of the orders made, based on the information that we have".

Selective quotation.

At this time.

Is there a problem with the microphones?

Allow the Tánaiste to speak without interruption.

He went on to say that the matter was not being considered with a view to referring it to the High Court for non-compliance or anything of that nature. In the words of the chairman of the tribunal Deputy Kenny is incorrect in maintaining there is non-compliance.

The Tánaiste should read the statement out.

Those are quotes from the tribunal and the Deputy should withdraw his statement.

The Tánaiste should read the rest of the transcript.

The problem is, as with many issues on which Deputy Kenny tries to acquire some sort of national pre-eminence, we must listen when he says "Is it the fact that I am old-fashioned that I know right from wrong and no one else does?"

At this time.

I know right from wrong. The tribunal will be the arbiter if we are to avoid arbitrary justice in this House under the sham hypocrisy of a debate to which I had to listen.

Would the Tánaiste take money?

If we want to avoid arbitrary justice, let the tribunal proceed with its deliberations.

Would the Tánaiste take money?

The Tánaiste without interruption.

It can only come to a conclusion——

Would the Tánaiste take money?

Would the Tánaiste take money?

May I continue with my speech?

Allow the Tánaiste to speak without interruption.

Would the Tánaiste take money?

It can only come to a conclusion when it listens to all the facts.

Slíbhín carry-on.

I am sorry, there appears to be some static coming in on the background. The money the Taoiseach got during the time of his matrimonial difficulties has all been repaid.

Here we go again.

Some €97,000 has been repaid, but I did not hear anyone refer to that in his or her speech. These are some of the facts that did not come from the mouths of those in Opposition.

That is just the money.

One of the things about having trust in Government is that we have free elections and free debate. In a most partisan way this issue was brought into the heart of the general election campaign. In their discernment the people have decided on one of two things. They have decided that they will allow the tribunal to deal with these matters and they have insisted by their vote that this man will continue as Taoiseach.

Deputies

Hear, hear.

I refer Deputy Kenny to something he might require and something he did not show when Deputy Noonan beat him to the leadership of his party. I believe political loyalty is a virtue and that loyalty will be maintained by the Government for the Taoiseach on the basis of his achievements and what he has to offer which is far greater than anything that Deputy Kenny could even contemplate.

The Tánaiste should ask the Minister, Deputy Ahern, about his meetings.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 81; Níl, 76.

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Behan, Joe.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Áine.
  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Browne, John.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Conlon, Margaret.
  • Connick, Seán.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Michael.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Flynn, Beverley.
  • Gogarty, Paul.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Jackie.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kennedy, Michael.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Mansergh, Martin.
  • McDaid, James.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Brien, Darragh.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Hanlon, Rory.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • O’Sullivan, Christy.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • White, Mary Alexandra.
  • Woods, Michael.

Níl

  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Bannon, James.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Coonan, Noel J.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McEntee, Shane.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Morgan, Arthur.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Donnell, Kieran.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Mahony, John.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Sheehan, P. J.
  • Sherlock, Seán.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Tom Kitt and John Curran; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.
Question declared carried.