“The Mahon report is only one of many reports which have uncovered dodgy dealings at the interface between business and politics. Some of these reports merely confirmed what was already reported by journalists, several of whom have been silenced as a result of libel threats from powerful people anxious to avoid a media spotlight on their secretive dealings. I know a bit about this because I have been threatened with 42 libel actions. The purpose of these threats was to threaten, silence and cost journalists and people like me.
The Moriarty tribunal was established in 1997 to investigate the financial affairs of the former Taoiseach, Charles Haughey, and the former Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, Deputy Lowry. The tribunal’s final report, which was published last year, detailed the investigation into possible links between a businessman, Denis O’Brien, and Deputy Lowry, who awarded the second mobile telephone licence to Mr. O’Brien’s consortium in 1995.
…The report stated: “it is beyond doubt that…Mr. Lowry imparted substantive information to Mr. O’Brien, of significant value and assistance to him in securing the licence.” The report also found that Mr. O’Brien made or facilitated payments to Mr. Lowry of a combined STG£447,000 and support for a loan of £420,000. The Taoiseach stated at the time of the report’s publication that the tribunal had found seriously and serially against Deputy Lowry and others who are major players in Irish business and public life. He rightly referred the report to the Garda Commissioner, the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Revenue Commissioners.
There has been considerable public and political unease about the fact that Mr. O’Brien has continued to pop up at various public events, most recently at the New York Stock Exchange. However, the Taoiseach was invited to attend that stock exchange event. The organisers of the event not the Office of the Taoiseach decided who was on the balcony for the bell ringing ceremony. It is perhaps time for the Government to reflect on how it should in future interact with people against whom adverse findings have been made by tribunals.
We do not want to return to the days of, “uno Duce, una voce“, the immortal phrase which the former Fianna Fáil press secretary P.J. Mara, himself a tribunal veteran, used to describe Charles Haughey, nor do we want a Burlusconi style media-political complex with its attendant codes of omertà undermining the principles of transparent democracy. In this regard I welcome the statement by my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, on the introduction of legislation to deal with the registration of lobbyists, ethics for public representatives and office holders and transparency in public life. We should look back to the 1830s in the United Kingdom and the great reform Acts which were introduced to clean up politics and end the rotten boroughs for election to Parliament.
We live in a Republic and the representation of each citizen should be what counts rather than the amount of money a particular citizen can spend. We can look forward to a period of reform in which this Government will change the political landscape and our capacity to report and hold to account lobbyists.
The Ten Commandments prohibited murder and envy but they did not put an end to sin. Similarly, this House needs to legislate for transparency and accountability from all elected representatives and office holders.”