Dáil Éireann - Volume 481 - 08 October, 1997

Nomination of Member of Government: Motion.

The Taoiseach: I move:

That Dáil Éireann approve the nomination by the Taoiseach of Deputy Michael Smith, Minister of State at the Department of Education and Science and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment for appointment by the Commission, constituted as provided in section 2 of Article 14 of the Constitution, to be a Member of the Government.

Consequent on these changes, I intend to make the following ministerial reassignments. I propose to assign responsibility for the Department of Foreign Affairs to the current Minister for Defence, Deputy Andrews, and for the Department of Defence to Deputy Michael Smith.

Subject to the motion which I have put to the House being approved, Deputy Smith will cease to be Minister of State at the Departments of Education and Science and Enterprise, Trade and Employment on his appointment as a member of the Government. Accordingly, I intend to recommend to the Government that Deputy Treacy be appointed as Minister of State at these Departments.

Once again today I reiterate my commitment to integrity but also to justice in public life. I have played a leading role in the establishment of inquiries into matters of major public concern without fear or favour. I want to dispel the poisonous innuendo that hangs over our political [327] life by acting with justice and objectivity, not simply by feeding it victims. I am working to overcome the legacy of the past in a way that properly discriminates between the good and the bad so that we can have a public life of which we are proud and in which there can be trust.

While public confidence was greatly shaken by the outcome of the McCracken tribunal, it should be borne in mind that actual instances of high level political corruption, as distinct from quite unacceptable behaviour, have not so far been established, although the dangers were indeed great. In recent weeks, I have not attempted to hide anything or anyone. All I have tried to prevent is the type of summary political justice which pre-empts or prejudices the findings of judicial inquiries and makes them largely a waste of time, because people have made up their minds in advance about the results.

Sadly, I have been unsuccessful. Due process has gone out the window. Is that the way we are supposed to run our democracy? Is that the way other countries run theirs? How will we attract good people into political life if years of service can be forgotten in a moment, as reputations are torn apart without just cause being shown? In most jurisdictions, people await the clear outcome of inquiries or the obvious absence of a coherent defence to serious charges before deciding whether a resignation is warranted. It would be much better if we did that here, foregoing short-term political advantage. Otherwise, the report goes out abroad that a Minister here resigned over a financial impropriety, when no such thing has been established. The sooner the better we establish an ethics commission, which I have consistently advocated, allow it to do its work and not jump to conclusions where there is serious dispute about the facts.

I appointed the former Deputy Burke as Minister for Foreign Affairs because I believed he was the best qualified for the job. Not only was he one of the most experienced Ministers, he had also been involved in the Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Conference in the late 1980s, standing in first as Minister for Industry and Commerce for the late Brian Lenihan and later in his own right as Minister for Justice. He was also involved in the 1991 talks.

As spokesperson for Foreign Affairs in Opposition, he was intimately involved in every step we took to maintain channels to all shades of opinion in the North and to restore the IRA ceasefire. Mr. Burke was integral to the recent major advances in the peace process, which resulted in the restoration of the IRA ceasefire after we had been only three weeks in office, and the commencement of the inclusive all-party three strand talks. Recently he attended a meeting of the United Nations and met President Clinton to update him on the peace process.

The ability of Mr. Burke to do his job quietly and efficiently and to achieve early results is the principal test of political competence. We have [328] overcome the obstacles, some of which arose from Deputy Bruton's erratic handling of the Northern Ireland peace process during his period as Taoiseach and which marred the positive elements of progress that were made.

Mr. Dukes: The Taoiseach is scraping the barrel now.

Mr. J. Bruton: Is the Taoiseach speaking for Deputy Harney.

(Interruptions.)

The Taoiseach: Mr. Burke achieved a good working relationship with the Secretary of State, Mo Mowlam, and with many of the different parties at the talks. He had sound political judgment on Northern Ireland. He created in this sensitive area no unnecessary antagonism on the Unionist side, whose inevitable criticisms were mild by previous standards. It was well known from his term as Minister for Justice that he held strong views on political violence from any quarter. He made a valuable contribution to the leadership and steady response given by my party to the crisis caused by the breakdown in the IRA ceasefire in February 1996. While the peace process would have benefited considerably from his continued involvement, I have full confidence in the ability of his successor to continue the success achieved to date.

Many Northern Nationalists in particular are shocked at the way Mr. Burke has been harried into resigning. Articles in this morning's editorial in the Irish News state:

Much praise has been heaped on Tony Blair and his Secretary of State, Mo Mowlam, for their role in bringing republicans to the table. But Mr. Burke deserves as much credit.

It is unlikely that we would have made the same degree of political progress without his input.

His political opponents claimed that the row over political donations made to him compromised his position at the peace talks. This was a pretty insubstantial stick with which to beat him. There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever that he fell short of his obligations to the people of Northern Ireland. And that is not something which could be said with the same confidence of his opponents when they were in office ……

Mr. Dukes: The Taoiseach had to go a long way to find that.

The Taoiseach: Those articles go on to state:

Now that he is out of the way, the opposition has turned its attentions to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. He is accused of an error of judgment in appointing Mr. Burke to such a sensitive position in the first place. This too is a load of rubbish. Mr. Burke's qualifications for the office he held were impeccable. Throughout his [329] career he has been a robust opponent of violence. The IRA owed him no favours.

Unionists failed to warm to him, and yesterday Ken Maginnis claimed he was difficult to communicate with. This could be seen as a negative, but there is not a single Irish foreign minister who has been given a good press by the unionists ….

The last thing the peace process needs now is political instability in the Republic.

My experience of Mr. Burke as a ministerial colleague is that he was courteous, careful, conscientious and correct. He was responsible and intensely committed to the job in hand. He always tried to do the right thing and to do it by the rules. No one has produced any evidence to date to show that he consciously or wittingly broke any rules. He exercised his powers as Minister for Justice only when he was advised that it was in order to do so.

I deeply regret that he has resigned not only his ministerial office but his Dáil seat. I believe he resigned both as the strongest protest that he could make at the shameful treatment to which he has been subjected by certain parties in this House and by certain sections of the media who cynically regard politics simply as a blood sport. Deputy Owen has complained that the Opposition were roundly criticised for “not going for the kill”, and not claiming all sorts of wrongdoing. She stated “We were not aware of any wrongdoing”. I praise her for saying that, although it would have had more effect on her colleague from North Dublin if she had said it earlier. Even the former Tánaiste and Labour Party Leader, Deputy Spring, complained last Sunday about the relentless political bloodlust of some in the media.

Some Members of this House are not exempt from the same fault. One Member opposite will be remembered to the end of his days for his unfortunate comment that he came ‘looking for a head’.

Mr. Dukes: Who gave him the head.

Mr. Byrne: The Deputy's head is not too secure.

The Taoiseach: A senior Fine Gael front bencher once boasted that “heads in baskets” was what politics was all about. That is not how I have ever regarded politics, which I understand to be about public service. That is not how Fianna Fáil regained office on this or any other occasion. We did it based on what we could positively offer the electorate. A posturing political righteousness is seen by certain parties in this House as a surer passport to power than having competence or experience in handling the real problems of the country or developing new and imaginative policies to deal with them.

I reject completely Deputy Bruton's accusation that my knowledge of certain matters in any way makes me responsible for the events which led to [330] the resignation of Mr. Burke. I appointed him after careful consideration in the firm belief that he had done nothing wrong and that he had earned the Foreign Affairs portfolio. Accepting an unsolicited gift of £30,000, of which less than half was retained for his personal campaign, was certainly imprudent, but a few weeks ago in this House almost no one considered it a hanging offence. I was not aware of the letter written within three days of the contribution, which has been referred to the new inquiry. It has yet to be shown that the letter, which is open to an entirely innocent construction, has any connection with the payment.

Deputy Bruton defended the known wrongdoing of one of his Ministers, simply because his misdeed predated his appointment to ministerial office. Yet he expects me to prejudge somebody where there was and is no established wrongdoing and not to appoint him. This is typical of Deputy Bruton's hypocrisy. He nobly talks about the principles of natural justice, but ignores them in practice and called for Mr. Burke's resignation before there was any evidence of wrongdoing, as

Deputy Owen has rightly pointed out, even if too late. Mr. Burke's political career was ended by Deputy Bruton and his likes, not by me.

Mr. Sheehan: That is a sick joke.

Mr. J. Bruton: A lost sheep.

The Taoiseach: I hope he is proud of his handiwork, that he never comes to a similar untimely political end and that all his actions as a Government member would survive the intense scrutiny as Mr. Burke.

Mr. Dukes: Did the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste talk about the weather for two days?

The Taoiseach: As Leader of the Opposition, I never liked to demand anyone's resignation before the facts were established and before people were given a fair chance to defend themselves. I tried to bring some humanity and decency into political relations across the floor of the House. That more dignified approach was appreciated, if not by those opposite, by the public generally. It is regrettable that some of the Opposition benches are occupied by people less scrupulous in the pursuit of their ambitions and who do not mind whose careers they bury along the way.

In choosing Mr. Burke as Minister for Foreign Affairs, I had good reason to believe I had picked the right man for the job and I make no apologies for that. He can take great satisfaction from what he has achieved and from the long record of public service given by his family for over half a century. History will judge him for his achievements, not the unsubstantiated innuendo that may well fall away now that its purpose has been achieved.

[331] Mr. Dukes: The Taoiseach should show him his vote.

Mr. Ring: What about Albert?

An Ceann Comhairle: The Taoiseach, without interruption.

The Taoiseach: All members of this Government gave their support and sympathy to Deputy Ray Burke in the midst of personal tragedy and political turmoil. I thank our partners in Government for their solidarity in the face of the barrage that was directed particularly at them. We are a united Government, more determined than ever to see a peace settlement and the completion of the rest of the Government's very full agenda over the years ahead, particularly the next four or five years.

On the naturalisation-based investment scheme, it has been a long-standing practice, followed by successive Governments, not to reveal details concerning investments made by individuals. The reason for this is to protect the right to privacy of individuals who would have dealt with State authorities on what they took to be a confidential basis, and also to maintain confidentiality in relation to information which could be commercially sensitive, in so far as the companies benefiting from investment were concerned.

The Mahfouz family, who were the investors in the case that I will deal with, have expressed grave concern about the publicity which surrounded their dealings with the State and have been assured by the Department of Justice, following contacts in 1996, that we will continue to maintain confidentiality in relation to any contacts they may have with us.

However, in view of the fact that a highly sensitive report in this case has already been leaked to the media in pursuit of a political agenda——

Mr. Higgins (Mayo): By whom?

Mr. J. Bruton: Who leaked it — was it not a member of the Taoiseach's party?

The Taoiseach: —and that the circumstances generally are quite exceptional, it is in order for me at least to provide clarification concerning my own contacts with Ray Burke and others on the subject.

Ray Burke's involvement in the issuing of passports to Sheikh Mahfouz was brought to my attention by Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, then Minister for Justice, on 30 November 1994.

She gave me the details orally and followed up at my request with a note headed “Secret — Mahfouz and Others”.

In so far as Ray Burke was concerned, this note indicated that the:

naturalisation certificates were signed personally by the then Minister and dated 8 December 1990. This was a Saturday. The normal procedure is that these certificates are [332] signed by an official at A/Secretary rank — acting on the delegated authority of the Minister for Justice. The certificates actually include a reference to this. In these cases, this was crossed out and initialled by the then Minister. Normally, naturalisation certificates are only signed by the Minister if there is a “celebrity” interest in them — for example, the late Sidney Nolan.

However, it is wrong to infer that the former Minister, Ray Burke, had consciously decided to set the normal practice aside, in so far as the signature was concerned. A perusal of the file shows that the formal departmental note, which the former Minister, Mr. Ray Burke, read on that Saturday evening, on his return from a European meeting, stated that “Normally these could be signed by somebody authorised on your behalf but I have left them for your personal signature”. This departmental advice note from the Secretary certainly did not convey any suggestion that signatures by a Minister was something of an exception — quite the contrary, in fact.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, as Minister for Justice, briefed me on this case on 30 November 1994, because it was believed I would become Taoiseach in a matter of days. As is now known, that did not happen, not least through the influence of another so-called new story which appeared in a newspaper with the intention of frustrating the formation of a Government. While the detailed procedures normally followed in the issuing of passports under the naturalisation-based investment scheme were not followed in this case, an examination of the file now makes it clear that no evidence or allegation of wrongdoing was made in it in relation to Ray Burke.

The next contact with the issue that I recall is reading an article in the Sunday Business Post on 31 December 1995. That article followed closely the items referred to in the note that had been given to me. It stated:

However, government sources could confirm that the manner in which the passports were granted was “very loose”, although there is no evidence of any impropriety by the individuals involved. They could not confirm when the inquiry will be complete, and were awaiting for a reply from the sheikh's solicitors.

There was further reference to the issues raised in other media reports early in 1996, and I recall discussing them with Máire Geoghegan-Quinn on possibly two further occasions.

When forming the present Government, I discussed some issues with Deputy Ray Burke of which the issuing of these passports was one. He told me he believed that, given the proposed substantial investment available, the issuing of passports in the Mahfouz case was reasonable, while accepting that the normal procedures in relation to the processing of the application should have been followed. He said that he had returned from abroad just before the issue of signing the naturalisation certificates arose and, in doing so, he [333] had followed a note from the then Secretary of his Department. He did not accede to a request to meet Mahfouz family representatives and had referred them to officials. He further said he would have no problem with any investigation the Government might undertake into the naturalisation-based investment scheme.

After the Government was formed in late June, I discussed a number of items of concern with the present Secretary-General of my Department. In the current case, I asked him to speak to the present Secretary-General of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and to ask for a report on the circumstances of the case. That discussion took place, and the report I received from the Secretary-General of my Department was based on an updated version of the report prepared in the Department of Justice in 1995. It essentially summarised the facts in the handling of the Mahfouz case that I have presented here today.

Shortly afterwards the Tánaiste and I discussed the case and I informed her of the facts. The Tánaiste and I have now reviewed all the facts as they are in the Department of Justice file on the matter. On foot of that, I believe it correct that I should refer in this statement to a Government “Early Warning” report of February 1995 — in other words, a system of signalling potential sources of controversy in good time. The then Minister, Deputy Owen, drew to the then Taoiseach's attention:

Investigation of the granting of Citizenship in a certain case in which the speed of decision, lack of documentation, faulty procedures give cause for concern. Interim report submitted.

The “Early Warning” report stated: “Following interim report, details of investment made have been sought and are awaited”.

I want to state that there is still an element of uncertainty as to the sum invested in the Mahfouz case, and I have no difficulty in having this or any other aspect of this matter further examined. I note that the former Minister, Deputy Owen, has confirmed that there was no evidence of wrongdoing. It is a great pity she did not communicate this to her party leader before he started baying for the Minister's blood and indeed my own, because I knew about this matter. I take great care to investigate matters carefully before passing political judgment. Deputy Bruton does not.

Deputies: Hear, hear.

The Taoiseach: I should also draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Government has considered the whole issue of the naturalisation-based investment scheme. I can inform the House that in early September of this year the Government decided:

that further consideration of the future of the Scheme should be deferred pending a report which will be submitted by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on

[334] (a) the principle of the scheme,

(b) the nature and impact of investments under the scheme, in terms of creating and saving employment,

(c) how such schemes operate in other countries,

(d) the applications in this regard which are on hand at present, and

(e) the extent to which commitments have been honoured; and decided that the drafting of the legislation as approved by Government on 25 March, 1997, should not proceed at present pending further consideration of the overall matter by the Government.

I am not convinced this scheme should be continued in any form — legislative or otherwise. In its favour is the fact that many businesses which were badly in need of investments have benefited, and it is probable that many jobs have been saved as a result. Many of the most senior Deputies on the Opposition side of this House have lobbied for applicants to help firms in their constituencies. Are they certain that their role in these matters can stand the same critical scrutiny to which Deputy Burke has been subjected?

Mr. Dukes: Is the Taoiseach trying to start a new innuendo?

The Taoiseach: There are arguments against the scheme also. Should wealthy foreigners as a matter of principle be entitled to purchase citizenship rights, to which they would otherwise not be entitled?

Mr. Dukes: Another bit of humbug.

The Taoiseach: Is there a danger that such a scheme may attract a proportion of more controversial applicants? Why in normal circumstances should foreigners put such exorbitant value on an Irish passport? Are the investments of any real or lasting value? Does a scheme that has been dogged with controversy do anything for the country's international standing? The Government will await the report of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform before it decides what action should be taken. I will be glad to take on board any views that may be expressed by Members of the House as to whether we should, in principle, retain a scheme of this kind in any form.

In summary, this Mahfouz case is one in which the normal procedures as regards the processing of the relevant applications under the naturalisation-based investment scheme should have been followed. Equally, I have not been provided with any evidence which suggests wrongdoing on Deputy Ray Burke's part in the case, and nothing I have seen or heard so far, either inside or outside this House, contradicts this view. In tendering his resignation to me, former Deputy Ray Burke expressed the belief that the holder of the [335] office of the Minister for Foreign Affairs must be allowed the opportunity to give total focus to the pressing issues of the historic talks on the future of our island and the major challenges we face in Europe. He stated that the ongoing public controversy which confronted him did not afford him this opportunity. I reluctantly have to agree with that assessment. His role in the talks was skilfully used as a form of political blackmail to force him from office.

I again wish to pay tribute to the excellent work done by former Deputy Ray Burke as Minister for Foreign Affairs in leading the Irish delegation to the multi-party talks and in moving the peace process forward. Since the Government took office enormous progress has been made. The ceasefire was restored on 20 July. Agreement was reached on 24 September on moving into substantive negotiations and these were opened this week in the three strands. We recognise the critical importance of maintaining this momentum. The breakthrough achieved on 24 September presents us now with an unprecedented opportunity to lay to rest long years of division and conflict.

There are also major challenges facing Ireland in its relationship with the EU over the coming years with which the new Minister for Foreign Affairs will have to grapple. These include Economic and monetary union, the EU Commission proposals on Agenda 2000, which relate to the future enlargement of the union, its future financial arrangements and reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.

In addition to dealing with the above mentioned key challenges in the EU area, the Minister for Foreign Affairs will also be actively involved in the ratification process of the Treaty of Amsterdam. The Government is committed to producing a White Paper on the treaty so that the people will be fully informed on its provisions before the advance of the referendum on ratification which is likely to take place next spring.

Deputy Andrews is a highly regarded previous incumbent of the office of Minister for Foreign Affairs. He took part in the 1991-2 Northern talks. He also won wide respect for his championing of human rights and cases of miscarriages of justice, such as the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four. I am certain that his appointment as Minister will be widely welcomed and will have the support of the House and the nation.

Deputy Michael Smith has a distinguished record as a Minister. He is noted for his ability, integrity and conscientiousness. He has been on two occasions an outstanding Minister in charge of science. He was also an excellent Minister for the Environment. He worked in Opposition on the in-depth policy papers that we presented on the much needed reform and modernisation of the Defence Forces. He will now have an opportunity to put that policy into effect.

[336] Mr. J. Bruton: I congratulate Deputy Andrews on his appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs. He has a loud voice, as we could hear yesterday, and I have no doubt it will be useful to him in some of the meetings that he will have to attend. I also congratulate Deputy Michael Smith on his return to the Cabinet and Deputy Treacy on his appointment as Minister of State. I will return later to the subject of Foreign Affairs and to the appointment of Deputy Andrews, the reasons for which are well known.

I repeat what I said yesterday: I regret the circumstances which led to former Deputy Ray Burke's resignation. However, his resignation was made almost inevitable in recent days by the vacillation by his own party leader and Taoiseach as well as by the covert undermining of his position by his partner party in Government and by anonymous Government sources who were predicting that he would go, thereby making his position untenable.

The burden of proof concerning the suitability of Ministers to serve in high office is different to that required in a court of law. The greater good of the country must be considered when judging whether a Minister should be appointed to or should stay in office. The Taoiseach does not seem to understand this distinction between politics and law.

In politics there is no primary right for any individual to hold office or for any party to be in Government, which right is then up to others to disprove. The burden of proof is on an office holder to prove his own or his party's fitness for office, not for others to disprove it. The standard for judging suitability for office is not the same, as the Taoiseach seems to think, as a criminal or even a civil court case. The needs of the country come first.

The Taoiseach and his party are profoundly mistaken in their view of ministerial responsibility, which they revealed in recent days when they demanded, with apparent conviction and sincerity, that others must first prove wrongdoing before the Taoiseach would consider acting on the matter. That concept is neither politically realistic nor constitutionally sound. Nobody has a right to be a Minister and no party has a right to be in Government, but the Taoiseach does not understand either.

Mr. Martin: What if a party wins an election?

Mr. J. Bruton: The Deputy's party did not win the last election.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. J. Bruton: The party did not increase its vote. It only hobbled into office with the aid of the Progressive Democrats.

Mr. Cowen: It is the number of seats that counts.

[337] Mr. J. Bruton: The Taoiseach has known for many months, if not for many years, about all the matters which brought former Deputy Ray Burke under pressure in recent weeks. He conducted at least six investigations that we know of into the former Deputy and his dealings before and since he appointed him a Cabinet Minister. What the Taoiseach knew and what he did or did not tell the Tánaiste have been the central issues for some days, and not the actions of the former Deputy.

The public is entitled to expect decisive and timely leadership, courage and judgment from the Taoiseach. These have been absent in recent weeks. The Taoiseach has been reluctantly dragged to a point where we have now agreed terms of reference for a new planning tribunal. For his own reasons, he refused the more obvious, time saving and money saving option of having the Moriarty tribunal examine identified planning issues. He saw no need for a planning tribunal until Magill published extracts from a letter. Suddenly, following publication of this letter on this one case the Taoiseach wanted all planning issues everywhere investigated. Hitherto, he had been opposed to any investigation but the letter required a screen that would spread the smoke as widely as possible.

Under pressure from his Government partners the Taoiseach chose to announce this decision on radio without any of the prior consultation with the Opposition parties that had been a feature of the preparation of the terms of the reference for the Moriarty tribunal. He then produced terms of reference for this further tribunal which he wanted agreed and finalised by the Dáil the following morning.

The terms of reference were so badly and evasively drafted as to be useless. Under sustained pressure from this side of the House the Taoiseach relented and changed them. At no time did he seem to be in charge of events. He was merely reacting to contradictory pressures. We now know that the Tánaiste and her party were whispering their concerns in his ear. We know from remarks Senator Gibbons made in Kilkenny that Fianna Fáil's partners were divided on the issue of former Deputy Ray Burke's future as long as ten days ago. In his normal style, the Taoiseach listened, agonised, dithered and did nothing, apart from authorising his spokespersons to anonymously smear every other party in the Dáil. As usual, his policy was to appear to be friendly, to give the appearance of wanting to do something but to never do today what could be left over until tomorrow and, most importantly, to get his associates to blame everybody else. That is the Taoiseach's formula for survival.

Unfortunately for the Taoiseach, we now know that he was concealing from the Tánaiste some of the key information that was at his disposal. He only told her of his inquiry into the Mahfouz passports one month after the Government was formed and only when she asked about it and [338] only when it appeared to be too late to do anything about it.

This is par for the course for Fianna Fáil-led coalitions. The golden rule is to only tell one's partners the minimum. We know, and the Progressive Democrats know, what happened to previous Governments when this Fianna Fáil house rule of coalition was applied on two occasions.

Mr. Finucane: When in doubt, leave them out.

Mr. J. Bruton: The Taoiseach appears to have forgotten that.

Mr. Noonan: When in doubt, leave them out.

Is that not so, Deputy Cowen?

Mr. J. Bruton: It is common knowledge that a string of Progressive Democrats sources said last Saturday that the former Minister, Mr. Burke would have to resign. The Drumcondra summit on Monday morning was only a formal rubber stamping of their wish; it was a ritual. The revelation last week that the former Minister had been investigated by the Taoiseach on the issue of passports for investment as well as large cash donations makes one wonder exactly how much of his time the Taoiseach spends investigating his current and former colleagues. Does he do much of this work himself or does he have a crack team of sleuths and investigators to do it for him?

Mr. Rabbitte: Inspector Clouseau.

Mr. J. Bruton: We know the Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern, did the digging on former Deputy Burke.

Mr. Finucane: Colombo.

Mr. J. Bruton: Are other Ministers involved in investigating each other? Did the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Deputy O'Donoghue, help the Taoiseach in his inquiries into the former Minister's involvement with the passports? After all, he has had the Cole report in his Department for months and he could have reread it in the context of the McCracken report. Did he bring it to the attention of the Taoiseach? If not, why not? In light of the McCracken revelations has the Taoiseach commissioned the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Martin, to investigate former Education Minister, Deputy O'Rourke's role in the Carysfort purchase? Did the Taoiseach investigate that matter himself or did he think it was not worthy of investigation?

Mr. Cowen: Who is throwing innuendo now?

Mr. J. Bruton: Being Taoiseach involves making timely decisions based on the information available. The reality is that perfect knowledge is unattainable as is perfect proof. Decisions must be made using a combination of knowledge and [339] judgment, backed by the courage to believe that this combination will result in a wise decision.

Mr. Cowen: Imperfect.

Mr. J. Bruton: The Taoiseach had all the knowledge he needed but none of the judgment to apply it. This is the only reason Mr. Burke had to endure such a painful and prolonged process over the past month or so.

Regarding a wider issue, we now know for certain the amount of money received by former Taoiseach, Charles J. Haughey, to maintain his lifestyle over a short period. We also know his system of working — meetings without officials present, the ignoring of Cabinet and official procedures, instructions to Ministers to sign this or that and no collective responsibility. We also know the Haughey system was only allowed to continue by complacent and compliant ministerial and Cabinet colleagues who did his bidding time and again.

We further know that several attempts were made to end this system by removing its author but every time, in the face of every challenge, the current Taoiseach resolutely defended Mr. Haughey and the continuance of Mr. Haughey as Taoiseach and his known system of operation. I wish to pose a serious question to Deputies of both Government parties: is the country's interest served by maintaining in high office any of the Ministers who were intimately and knowingly involved in and who had political responsibility for operating, sustaining and defending the Haughey system of Government?

Deputies: Hear, hear.

Mr. J. Bruton: As long as they continue, will the country not continue——

Mr. Cowen: Get out of the sewer, Bruton.

Mr. J. Bruton: As long as those who operated——

Dr. Woods: Put on the blue shirt now.

Mr. Cowen: Get out of the sewer, Bruton.

Mr. Dukes: That is where Deputy Cowen was for years.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy Bruton, without interruption.

Mr. J. Bruton: As long as the Ministers remain in office——

Dr. Woods: Has the Deputy no sense of decency?

Mr. Dukes: All Deputy Cowen asked was how high?

[340] Mr. J. Mitchell: They defended the indefensible for years.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I ask Deputies to refrain from interrupting Deputy Bruton.

Mr. J. Bruton: As long as Ministers who were involved in sustaining and defending repeatedly the Haughey system of Government remain as members of the Cabinet, will the country not continue to sit on the edge of its seat waiting for the next revelation, looking with apprehension for next Sunday's newspapers or the next new tribunal?

Mr. Cowen: Deputy John Bruton's own tribunal.

Mr. J. Bruton: Is that the type of Government the country really needs as we enter the new millennium?

Dr. Woods: The Deputy does not realise he was defeated in the election and is out of Government.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy Bruton, without interruption.

Mr. J. Bruton: I will now deal with the Taoiseach's remarks and his heavy and excessive reliance on Deputy Owen's comments last night. She said there was no evidence of corruption or wrongdoing in the context of corruption by Mr. Burke on the Mahfouz passports file.

Mr. Cowen: When did she know that?

Mr. J. Bruton: She did not say that there was nothing seriously wrong. In fact, much was seriously wrong — passports issued on foot of illegible signatures, issued before people were actually citizens and passports issued without the statement of fidelity demanded of all others to whom passports were issued.

Dr. Woods: Save us from the blue shirts.

Mr. J. Bruton: One might say they are just procedures, but that is not the case. They are rules put in place to protect the State from corruption and unwise decisions in the granting of passports. Under law the Minister is responsible for ensuring that these procedures are abided by. One might ask why this was not acted on in 1995, 1996 or the first half of 1997. There are two simple reasons. First, Mr. Burke was not a Minister in the last Government so the issue of his suitability for office did not arise in 1995, 1996 or the first part of 1997. Second, the Cole report is put in an entirely different light by the McCracken revelations of an obviously deeply corruptible style of Government operated by Mr. Haughey with the aid of his Ministers. That turned the breaching of procedures which might warrant a simple reprimand in another context into a potentially profoundly [341] serious matter in the context of what we now know about the way in which Mr. Haughey's lifestyle was sustained.

Mr. Cowen: That is some version.

Mr. J. Bruton: The Taoiseach, Deputy Ahern, knew this. He knew his own involvement in sustaining Mr. Haughey; he knew how serious these breaches could be in that context. There is no evidence of corruption on the file. However, there is evidence of a level of carelessness and compliance with bad practice which justifies serious conclusions being drawn about the continuance in office of any of the people who sustained that system of Government under Mr. Haughey, and that includes the Taoiseach.

Mr. Cowen: Is Deputy Owen the woman who shredded extradition documents?

Mrs. Owen: I did not shred extradition documents.

Mr. Cowen: She should not have resigned?

Mrs. Owen: A member of the Garda Síochána shredded them.

Mr. C. Lenihan: What about the letter to Gambia?

Dr. Woods: What did Deputy Bruton know when he appointed Deputy Michael Lowry? He should tell the House.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy Bruton, without interruption.

Mr. J. Bruton: I will deal with a number of points made by the Taoiseach if the Minister, Deputy Woods, will behave as befits his high academic standing.

Mr. Cowen: Deputy Bruton should not abuse the privilege of the House.

Mr. J. Bruton: The Taoiseach said that the internal Department of Justice report on the issue of the Mahfouz family passports was leaked to the media in pursuit of a political agenda. I take it then that the Taoiseach knows who leaked it because he purports to know the motive. I challenge him to state who leaked it if he knows. Deputy Owen said she did not do it and I challenge the Taoiseach who said it was leaked for a political motive to say who leaked it. The article was published under the by-line of Seán Flynn in The Irish Times. It was proper for a journalist to publish the article because it was a matter of considerable importance. The Taoiseach said the information was leaked for a political purpose.

[342] He should state whose political agenda was being followed and who leaked it.

Mr. Sheehan: Out with it, Taoiseach.

Mr. Higgins (Mayo): Come on, Taoiseach.

The Taoiseach: Deputy Bruton knows.

Mr. Higgins (Mayo): Tell the House who it was.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I ask Members to allow Deputy Bruton to continue without interruption.

The Taoiseach: Only he and one other.

Mr. Higgins (Mayo): Tell the House who it was.

Mr. J. Bruton: Who leaked it? The Taoiseach said it was leaked for a political agenda.

Mrs. Owen: I did not take any part in it.

The Taoiseach: I did not say the Deputy did.

The report was finished and Deputy Bruton and one other had a copy of it.

Mr. J. Bruton: I challenge the Taoiseach to state who leaked it because neither I nor Deputy Owen had anything to do with leaking it. If the Taoiseach knows, he should say who leaked it. We have had enough innuendo from the Taoiseach.

Mrs. Owen: I did not get a copy of it.

Mr. Cowen: How did Deputy Jim Higgins hear about it?

Mr. J. Bruton: I want to turn to another matter.

Mr. Cowen: The Deputy should read the papers.

Mr. J. Bruton: That is, he says that I on this side of the House bayed, in the last few days, for Deputy Burke's head. That is not true.

Deputies: It is.

Mr. J. Bruton: When asked about that, I said:

This is not a matter now about Ray Burke at all because it is quite clear that the Taoiseach knew all of this before he appointed Ray Burke.

The issue does not centre on Ray Burke at all.

The Taoiseach: That was only one of the Deputy's statements, he made five.

Mr. J. Bruton: In my statement I also said: “It would be unfair to scapegoat Deputy Burke for things the Taoiseach knew about all along.”

[343] I made it very clear that my view was that the Taoiseach's responsibility was engaged in this matter. Everything I said about that in recent days concerned not the former Deputy Ray Burke but the Taoiseach.

Mr. M. Brennan: Garret FitzGerald.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The interruptions must cease.

Mr. J. Bruton: It is sad that a party like Fianna Fáil has sunk to the level that it cannot accept responsibility for its own acts. We have a situation where the elected Leader of Fianna Fáil has a habit of trying to blame everybody else for everything that befalls him; like a little boy lost who thinks everybody else is responsible for all his misfortunes. It is time for the Taoiseach to realise he holds an office where he cannot blame other people, where he must accept responsibility. He came in here and effectively cried——

Mr. Cowen: Grow up.

Mr. J. Bruton: —in one of the least attractive speeches I have heard from a Taoiseach in recent years. It was full of attempting to shift the blame elsewhere for his own vacillation. The Taoiseach should realise it is time to take his responsibilities seriously.

Mr. Dukes: Blame the leader, give us a name.

Mr. Quinn: I congratulate the new member of the Government, Deputy Michael Smith, and Deputy Andrews, on his return to the Department of Foreign Affairs, a position he has occupied in the past and to which he has earnestly wished to return. He has now got his wish. In that context I congratulate Deputy Noel Treacy on his reappointment as Minister of State in this Administration. As I have worked with all three on a previous occasion I am aware of their commitment and capabilities and wish them well in the service of the nation.

Mr. Andrews: I appreciate those remarks, it is very kind of the Deputy.

Mr. Quinn: Like one of his Fianna Fáil predecessors, the Taoiseach has multiple locations of origin and his loyalty to Dublin has yet again to be tested. I say this with no disrespect to my colleague, Deputy Noel Treacy, but we have lost a senior Minister from the Dublin region who has not been replaced even at Minister of State level. I say that on behalf of some of the Dublin Deputies who are on the Fianna Fáil benches.

The Taoiseach: They are well represented.

Mr. Quinn: I and my party empathise with the personal circumstances and the difficult family [344] circumstances in which former Deputy and former Minister Ray Burke has found himself.

Mr. Andrews: He is a decent man.

Mr. Quinn: Under no circumstance did we wish at any stage to compound his personal difficulties. However, I say to the Taoiseach, the Fine Gael Party and everybody else that we have consistently and profoundly disagreed with Ray Burke and his politics for virtually the 20 years of his service in public life. That is not to take from either his ability or commitment or how he saw his service to the nation. That is what politics is about. There is not unanimity on the issues of the day. On virtually all the issues, with the exception of Northern Ireland and violence, I have been in profound disagreement with Ray Burke.

The Taoiseach and the former Minister for Justice, Deputy Owen, in regard to the passports referred to what Mr. Burke said in the House some weeks ago, that he had done nothing wrong and that he was guilty of no wrongdoing. The problem is that many people, if not a substantial majority in both the Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil parties, believe the rezoning scandals that characterised the past ten years in county Dublin were not wrong and that a gift of £30,000, while being excessive, and its acceptance, to use the Taoiseach's phrase, was imprudent was inherently not wrong.

We fundamentally disagree with that and the record of Dublin County Council will show on all the contentious rezoning issues in the majority the line-up was Fine Fáil and Fine Gael on the one hand and Labour, Democratic Left and Greens on the other. One member of the county council was elected in 1991 on behalf of the Labour Party and has subsequently left the Labour Party, largely over issues of rezoning.

There are people who have mortgages for which they will have to pay for the next 15 or 20 years, the cost of which is contained in the price of the land they had to pay for as part of the purchase price of the house which is a consequence of the rezoning.

The urban chaos in part of Dublin is, in part, related to the ill-co-ordinated development of Dublin which any professional planner in the area will say resulted from the chaotic way in which rezoning came about. That is the reason I am in the Labour Party and not in the Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael parties. Notwithstanding personal friendships that build up over time, as is inevitable, the Fianna Fáil and the Fine Gael parties, so far as I have discussed these matters with them, see what they have done as not being wrong and, therefore, acceptance of the gifts, unsolicited or otherwise, as not wrong. As the opinion polls have shown, the vast majority of the public do not believe there was nothing wrong. That is why the pressure mounted, unfortunately for his sake, on the former Minister, Mr. Burke. That is why the Progressive Democrats, while they were purportedly discussing whether to co-join [345] their Fianna Fáil colleagues in supporting the nomination of Professor Mary McAleese some weeks ago, spent most of their time agonising over this position because of the opprobrium being heaped upon them.

In the context of the debate we have had just now, for someone who wanted to see the end of civil war politics — after about 75 years it is time we saw it — there is a new kind of civil war politics growing up between the two large parties, a civil war of personality politics, a civil war of gutting one another over a consistent period. We have had exchanges across the floor and walkouts yesterday and then we wonder why the profession of politics is held in such low esteem. I am simply making an observation, and I refer to the two speeches we have had so far, that we cannot conduct our affairs in the way we have done on the one hand and at the same time expect the public will not look in or listen to or read what the newspapers report and not say that politics is degrading itself.

Mr. Barrett: When they start printing lies about you it is very difficult to take.

Mr. Quinn: That is not to say there are no disagreements. However, the manner in which we deal with them is something we will have to look at unless we want to continue to devalue the political process. The responsibility for the manner in which this issue has come ultimately to this very unhappy conclusion for the former Minister, Ray Burke, and for his family, rests upon the shoulders of the Taoiseach, Deputy Bertie Ahern. In that respect I agree with the political analysis and conclusions of the Leader of Fine Gael, Deputy Bruton. It was obvious since June that the pressure which ultimately brought about this conclusion would mount. The Taoiseach was sufficiently concerned to conduct a number of examinations but came to the conclusion that because Mr. Burke had done nothing wrong he could proceed with the appointment for which he, Mr. Burke, so earnestly wished and to which the Taoiseach felt he was entitled. It is precisely because of the Taoiseach's perception of the rezoning process in north County Dublin, shared by other parties in this House, that he failed to see that once it became known, the public pressure would be relentless. It was a senior Fianna Fáil source, unnamed but clearly quoted in The Sunday Tribune, who said that when the issue of the terms of reference of the original tribunal, now known as the Moriarty tribunal, were being considered, the Minister for Foreign Affairs absented himself from the Cabinet room during that discussion and that this was the first step towards his permanent departure from Cabinet. In attempting to lay blame for the present position of his now endangered minority Government as a result of the departure of Mr. Burke not just from Government but from this House, the Taoiseach should look to his own as much as to this side of the House for those who put pressure on [346] Ray Burke. When the Tánaiste made it publicly known that she was to have a meeting with the Taoiseach to discuss this issue, the only reason for doing so was to convey solace to her Progressive Democrats supporters. In so doing she turned the heat on Ray Burke. If she was concerned, as no doubt she was, she could have sought a meeting with the Taoiseach, but the decision to make that public inevitably contributed to the pressure which Ray Burke ultimately found unbearable. Communicating to the public that having met on the Monday, and having decided to meet again on the Tuesday to consider the future of Mr. Burke — perhaps the Tánaiste had advance knowledge of the Taoiseach's decision at that time — put further pressure on Ray Burke and, as the Taoiseach said yesterday, even the strongest shoulders will bow under those circumstances.

The sad plight of the Burke family now, the reduced support the Taoiseach has in this House as a result of that, and the visibly shaken confidence of the Government backbenchers are all the result of the decision the Taoiseach took in June and which he stood over. The Tánaiste subsequently moved from that position to seeking public meetings with the Taoiseach on two separate occasions. It is not appropriate to blame the Opposition parties and say that somehow or other, aided and abetted by the media, they brought things to this pass. The responsibility for what happened yesterday and today is a responsiblity the Taoiseach must bear, and of which she must take full ownership.

This country is at a vitally important stage in terms of the talks in Northern Ireland. Equally, it is at a vitally important stage in respect of preparations for the final stages of the single currency and negotiations on the mid-term review of the Structural Funds and the commencement of the debate on Agenda 2000. The first 100 days or so of this Administration do not give my party or me any confidence or hope that we are focused on the important policy issues which confront this nation, as distinct from the personality politics which seem to obsess this nation, or are briefed on these issues and know what policy positions to adopt on them. We had some very sad revelations to that effect during questions to the Minister for Finance earlier today. I therefore earnestly hope that, in the interests of all, this Administration will now get down to work co-operatively and collectively, that this incident is behind us and that we can address the policy issues which must be given priority and which we as politicians were elected to deal with in the first instance.

Minister for Finance (Mr. McCreevy): It is part of a uniquely Irish tradition that we always speak well of the dead. In that regard the House is reflecting what people outside do. Since Mr. Ray Burke has now resigned from his position in Cabinet and has retired from membership of the House, everybody is speaking well of him. I agree with what Deputy Ruairí Quinn said about the cult of personality politics. However, I was here [347] prior to the general election of 1992 when Deputy Quinn's party indulged in the practice he now abhors. His party made a virtue of it during their whole period in Opposition. If this marks a turning point for the Labour Party in that they do not intend to go down this road of personality politics any more, I certainly welcome it. However, their operations in the past do not inspire me with confidence.

Mr. Quinn: That is simply not true.

Mr. McCreevy: Deputy Quinn did not, to the best of my knowledge, indulge in that tactic, but everybody else in his party did.

Mr. Howlin: That is not true.

Mr. McCreevy: There was a time when the real action in Irish politics took place on the floor of this House. We did over the years have tribunals to investigate matters of serious public concern. For the greater part of the life of this State, these tribunals were few and far between. The evidence produced or conclusions reached provided material for political recrimination for years afterwards.

That position has changed drastically in recent years. This House has tended to reach for tribunals with nearly the same abandon as Hollywood sheriffs reached for their guns — and sometimes with too little regard to the costs or likely outcomes. Our most recent tribunal was, by general consensus, a success. In essence, it concentrated on a narrow issue, followed a paper trail of financial transactions, questioned those linked with it and formulated clear conclusions. Other tribunals with wider remits encountered contradictory evidence and came up with findings less conclusive.

There are long standing rituals in Irish politics which we all understand and in which most of us have at some time participated. Parties in Opposition must necessarily indulge in some degree of point scoring against a Government of the day. What better way is there of scoring a point than challenging the Government to refer some contentious matter to a tribunal; a Government which refuses to do, expresses doubts about the justification for so doing or worries about the inevitable costs, can be portrayed as “having something to hide”. In that case, the Government, or a particular Minister, gets pilloried in editorials and chat shows. Where it decides to run with a proposed tribunal, Opposition spin doctors can treat the decision not as a willingness to seek after truth but as tantamount to an admission of guilt.

What we have seen and heard in recent weeks goes beyond the worst excesses of the ritual I have described. A campaign has been mounted to skew the terms of reference of a tribunal towards a particular incident — the facts of which were not disputed by the major parties in this [348] House — and to have a particular Member specifically named in them. Once moves were made in that direction the real agenda emerged — a demand that the person named should stand down or be moved aside from his ministerial office while the tribunal was pursuing its business. The argument advanced was not that the office involved impinges in any way on the alleged activities of concern to the tribunal but that the person involved might be distracted from his ministerial work by the prospect of appearing before a tribunal.

An unusually high proportion of the membership of this House have within the past decade or so held ministerial office. During those periods some, to my knowledge, have experienced the immediate pressures of serious illnesses in their immediate families, problems with children or marital breakdown. All these would be generally accepted as causes of distress and rank as high on the Richter scale of potential distraction as involvement with a tribunal but I have never heard of an Opposition or a Taoiseach regarding them as incapacitating a Minister from carrying out his or her duties effectively. That talk of distraction was simply a code for the real message from the benches opposite and their media allies — a demand that the Minister for Foreign Affairs should lose his portfolio simply because matters concerning him are the subject of a tribunal.

There was a time when the parties opposite had strong views on the question of innocence until proven guilty. I still have those views and I see no reason a politician, a Minister any more than a teenager in north Kildare, should be punished for an offence until the evidence for that offence and his complicity in it has been brought forward, tested and decided in a judicial forum.

The lives of Governments since l969 have been relatively short. Ministerial office, particularly a prestigious one like Foreign Affairs, is a recognition of effort and ability over a longer political life and any politician is lucky to get one shot at it; the lifetime of tribunals can be long. Put simply, what the Opposition was asking was that Mr. Burke should relinquish the office his talents had earned for him, at best a substantial part of the life of this Government, simply because allegations have been made against him. This is not fair and not good for the health of Irish politics in general. I am sorry that the campaign of vilification in this House and elsewhere led Mr. Burke to sacrifice his career. Headhunting has died out in New Guinea, I do not see why it should be revived in this House.

This House, in its own way, once provided a forum for peace and reconciliation in this State where those who had fought against each other in a bloody civil war and who had seen friends and family killed in the course of that struggle could debate political issues of the day with passion. Despite the backgrounds from which their parties had evolved they were able to meet during the years on the common ground of this House and treat each other with respect. Not even memories [349] of a civil war could eradicate in their dealings with each other a value shared by most Irish people — common decency. It is recognised in my own county; it is, as Ken Maginnis showed, recognised among the Unionist community in Fermanagh. I would have expected it to be universal in Meath and north Dublin. What the memory of civil war could not eradicate in the party of Cosgrave and Mulcahy has died in the party of Bruton and Owen in resentment at the loss of office. Common decency, in its most basic form, involves a suspension of political and personal vendettas at times of bereavement. That decency was not shown when Mr. Burke was burying his brother.

Strong views have been expressed in this House in recent weeks on the public interest in having certain questions answered. I accept that there is a legitimate public interest in the way those of us who have political power — local or national — exercise it but it is no longer Governments alone which exercise that power or decide the course of events. Outside this House there is another power with little defined accountability, the national media, which has played a part in Mr. Burke's decision to resign. There seems to be a legitimate public interest in getting answers from the media to certain questions. Did a national newspaper which ran a story on passports on Saturday last have before then an internal memorandum from the Department of Justice which it published on Monday?

The media has expressed worries about politicians being bought and manipulated by private business. Cash is not the only currency that corrupts. Has the desire for a scoop, a good story or a naked display of influence stopped them from facing up to the real and serious questions of who and why? Who and why has financed the attempt by a firm of solicitors in Newry to dig up dirt on politicians? Who and why has been so forthcoming with documents purloined from one of the most sensitive Departments of State? To what extent was the readiness of journalists to run with every bit of tittle tattle about Mr. Burke the result of his activities in a previous political incarnation when, as Minister for Communications, he upset personnel in RTÉ?

Mr. Burke and I did not always see eye to eye on internal Fianna Fáil matters. He was however a man of ability who dealt with each ministerial post or spokesmanship with competence, courage and commitment and had earned the respect of his colleagues in Dublin, his electorate and the public servants who worked with him. His departure from the Government and this House involves a loss of talent which neither can afford.

Politics, it is said, is a cruel trade. The actions of Deputy Bruton, Deputy Owen and their media allies have brought that cruelty home to us in recent days. I suspect that the lesson will not be lost on those people of talent my party and the other parties in the House try to recruit into what I still regard as an honourable profession. Our [350] political life will be the worse for the lesson they have taught us.

Mr. G. Mitchell: I congratulate Deputy Andrews on his nomination——

Proinsias De Rossa: I understood that I would be called next.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The order states that the leaders of the three major parties shall be called first, second and third to be followed by a speaker from the Government side. It then reverts to a speaker from the largest party on the Opposition side.

Proinsias De Rossa: The practice has always been that the leaders of the major parties speak first to be followed by a speaker from the Government side. It then returns to me.

Mr. Howlin: That is the Whips' understanding.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: It is my understanding that the Democratic Left Whip does not attend Whips' meetings.

Proinsias De Rossa: That is not true.

Mr. Howlin: They do.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I have received a request from Deputy Ó Caoláin for permission to speak. It is my understanding that it reverts to a speaker from the largest party on the Opposition side.

Proinsias De Rossa: You are incorrect.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I have to disagree with the Deputy.

Proinsias De Rossa: I have been a Member of the House for some time and know precisely what the practice is. In this Parliament the practice has been that the Taoiseach, the Leader of the Fine Gael Party and the Leader of the Labour Party speak first to be followed by a speaker from the Government side. It then reverts to a speaker from Democratic Left. The Democratic Left Whip does attend Whips' meetings.

Mr. G. Mitchell: I am happy to give way to Deputy de Rossa.

Proinsias De Rossa: That is the order as I understand it, and it has operated for some time. I congratulate Deputies Andrews, Smith and Treacy on their promotions. I do not doubt they will do their utmost to fulfil the roles they have been given to the best of their abilities and in the interest of the State.

[351] The office of Minister for Foreign Affairs is a crucial one in any Government. From the foundation of the State it has been regarded as a prestigious and senior position, requiring the attention of a capable and experienced Deputy: somebody with a cool head, sound judgment and capable of giving the energy and commitment required by the job. Since membership of the European Community in 1973 the demands on the office have increased very significantly, with a whole range of EU commitments adding to the burden of whoever holds the office.

In recent years the demands on the office have grown even more dramatically with the evolution of the situation in Northern Ireland. Additional responsibilities were placed on the Minister for Foreign Affairs under the Anglo-Irish Agreement. The Minister is a key player in the Anglo-Irish process and since the opening of all-party talks in June 1996 the jobload has grown yet further, with the situation requiring the considerable attention and the regular attendance of the Minister.

With the very welcome progress being made in Castle Buildings and the process moving into a much more intensive phase, we need a Minister for Foreign Affairs who can give the talks the undivided attention they require. David Andrews is undoubtedly a capable and experienced politician: I hope that he gives the job the energy and dynamism that it needs.

All Members will wish him well in the discharge of his onerous responsibilities. If I can offer him one piece of advice it would be that if he gives the same display of petulance and illtemper every time he hears something he does not like that he showed in the Dáil yesterday, then he will have a very difficult time as Minister for Foreign Affairs and especially in his role in the Northern talks.

The appointment of Deputy Andrews arises, of course, from the resignation of the previous Minister for Foreign Affairs, former Deputy Ray Burke, and it is necessary to respond to some of the points made by Government members and some commentators during the past 24 hours.

Mr. Burke was not driven out of office by the media or an uncaring and insensitive Opposition. He was not “hounded to resign his important position, on the basis of innuendo and unproven allegation”, as the Taoiseach claimed yesterday. His resignation was the direct result of a serious error of judgment on his part, a lack of confidence in him from some of his own colleagues and by a performance of bungling ineptitude on the part of both the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste.

Through their own gross mismanagement, Deputies Ahern and Harney transformed what was a problem for them and Mr. Burke into a crisis for the Government.

Let us not lose sight of how this controversy began. Its origins lay in the disclosure that Mr. Burke had received a personal donation of £30,000 in 1989. I know of no Deputy, sitting or [352] former, other than former Deputy Charles Haughey, who received a personal donation of anything approaching this magnitude. However, it was not just the size of the donation that was extraordinary but the circumstances in which it was received. By his own admission it was received from a man Mr. Burke had never met before, Mr. James Gogarty, who asked for no favour, large or trivial, in return for such a donation. Mr. Burke did not know how much money was paid over until after Mr. Gogarty had departed, and apparently he never inquired as to why he was the recipient of such unprecedented largesse from a person he had not met before.

When Mr. Burke made his personal statement to the Dáil on 10 September I did not believe that he had adequately answered all the questions that needed to be dealt with about the source and circumstances of this donation. It was not just the Opposition parties that were unconvinced. A subsequent IMS opinion poll showed that 70 per cent of those polled did not accept Mr. Burke's statement; 14 per cent had no opinion, and just 16 per cent accepted Mr. Burke's version of events. It was later shown that many of those in the last category were members of Fianna Fáil. An MRBI poll showed even greater numbers doubting Mr. Burke's version of events. As an Opposition party we would have been failing in our duty if we did not seek to have the matter further explored. It is the job of Opposition to question, to challenge and where the response is not satisfactory, to harry a Government. Nobody knows that better than Mr. Burke and there were few better practitioners of it when he was in Opposition than him, as I know. It is ironic that some of those who are now criticising the Opposition for “hounding Ray Burke” into resignation were equally critical of us for not pursuing him strongly enough when he made his Dáil statement on 10 September.

We sought a reasonable formula to allow the matter to be further explored in a manner which would be fair to all concerned, including Mr. Burke. Democratic Left tabled an amendment to the terms of reference to the Moriarty tribunal which would have included the Burke donation in the preliminary ‘sifting’ process of the new tribunal. This would have enabled Mr. Justice Moriarty to make preliminary inquiries into the donation and decide whether it merited further examination. Under the terms of reference this could have been done in private. The Taoiseach threw the offer back in our faces.

The matter effectively rested there until Magill magazine published the text of a letter written by the man who arranged the donation, Mr. Michael Bailey, to the man who made the donation, Mr. James Gogarty, promising that he could procure planning permission and a majority vote at a full council meeting. Coincidentally, this letter was written within three days of the donation being made to Mr. Burke. This letter was apparently enough to set the alarm bells ringing and awaken the Progressive Democrats from their power-induced [353] stupor. Without any warning or consultation with anyone in Opposition, the Taoiseach then went on radio to announce an inquiry into the planning process in north County Dublin.

There then followed an extraordinary week in which the Government fought tooth and nail to prevent Mr. Burke's donation being referred to explicitly or implicitly in the terms of reference of the new tribunal. The Whips met to try to agree terms, but the Government seemed to be in a virtual state of paralysis, changing its position virtually on the hour, with neither the Taoiseach nor the Tánaiste willing or able to deal with the matter in a decisive or authoritative manner. Such was the confusion that Opposition Whips were left to wonder if there was anyone in Government Buildings.

Last Saturday The Irish Times published a story concerning the sale of 11 passports in 1990 to wealthy Arab bankers which further undermined Mr. Burke's position. The importance of this story was not the details of the sale of passports in 1990, which had been published previously, but the disclosure that the Taoiseach had had Mr. Burke's involvement in these events investigated on no less than three occasions. It raised serious questions about the Taoiseach's confidence in Mr. Burke and about the state of the relationship between the two parties in Government.

Throughout this period, Democratic Left never once called for Ray Burke's resignation from Government. We expressed serious concern about his ability to function effectively as a Minister against the background of the controversies that were threatening to swamp him. Again we sought to deal with this situation in a way that would be fair to him. On 29 September Deputy Rabbitte suggested that rather than requiring the Minister to resign, the Government should temporarily delegate his functions to another member of Cabinet. Once again the Taoiseach threw the offer back in our faces, refusing to even consider it.

If the Taoiseach had been prepared to accept our suggestion in regard to including the Burke donation in the preliminary process of the Moriarty Tribunal or listen to our advice to delegate his functions to another Minister, then Mr. Burke might well still be a member of the Cabinet and a Member of the House. Instead, the Taoiseach displayed all the old characteristics of dithering and indecision that drive even his greatest admirers to distraction.

There are very serious questions raised about the political judgment of the Taoiseach. The former Taoiseach, Deputy Bruton, was flayed by Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats for what they claimed was his poor political judgment in the appointment of Deputy Michael Lowry to the Cabinet. Yet at the time he was appointed to Government, there was nothing to suggest that there were unanswered questions in Deputy Lowry's background.

[354] On the other hand, when the Taoiseach appointed Mr. Burke to the most senior and sensitive portfolio of Foreign Affairs, we now know that he was aware of the controversial circumstances of the £30,000 donation in 1989 and that he had further had Mr. Burke investigated on three separate occasions over the 1990 sale of 11 passports. What does this say about the Taoiseach's judgment? Did he not realise that these issues were bound to resurface and inhibit Mr. Burke's ability to do the job? Was it appallingly poor political judgment, or was he discharging some political debt?

What of the Tánaiste? Her undignified gallop within the space of a few weeks from being one of Mr. Burke's greatest defenders to the desperate attempts over the weekend to put clear water between her party and the former Minister represented one of the most spectacular political retreats in recent Irish politics. Does Deputy Harney stand over her comments on 7 August that she had total faith in the judgment of the Taoiseach on Fianna Fáil members of the Cabinet? Why did the Tánaiste allow her spokesmen to claim over the weekend that she had no knowledge of the investigation carried out by the Taoiseach into the passport affair, when this was not the case?

Ray Burke did the correct thing in resigning from his position as Minister for Foreign Affairs. I do not understand why he felt compelled to resign from the Dáil and hope that in the fullness of time, he will give us the full story which the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste do not seem intent on doing.

Mr. C. Lenihan: I was surprised by the high moral tone adopted by Deputy De Rossa. I do not need to go into the record of his party when it comes to financial donations of one type or another. Suffice to say, he is hardly in a strong position to lecture us on ethics and on the appropriate amount for contributions, financial or otherwise. I was disappointed Deputy De Rossa bolstered his arguments against this side of the House by referring to public opinion polls. It is no surprise there is public disillusionment with politics. If we were to take Deputy De Rossa's remarks to their logical conclusion, the country would be run by opinion polls like MRBI and Lansdowne Market Research.

I entered politics because I believe in the concept of leadership and that politicians are meant to offer leadership and not simply follow opinion polls or dangerously outdated orthodoxies from the Communist era. We are not a party which follows opinion polls; we lead from the front. To a certain extent, we have suffered because of that. At times we are prepared to ignore opinion polls rather than act on whim because opinion polls and the media decide something is right or wrong.

I offer Ray Burke good wishes in his retirement. I deeply regret his decision to leave Government and the Dáil. It is a poignant reminder of the insecurity and instability which [355] has been introduced into public life because of the welter of allegations routinely traded on the floor of the House. We must look at how we can reform and advance the case of political reform. The public expect that from us and for us to move forward and offer the leadership which is badly needed.

I welcome the Taoiseach's remarks on the passports scheme which has been operating for some years. All Members of the House, including Deputy De Rossa, will agree it is time to scrap it. As Europe unites and as we express deep concern about illegal immigration, it is strange that we are handing out passports to wealthy individuals who owe no allegiance to this country. It is important the scheme is reviewed by the Government, and I make no secret of my preferences in that regard. The passports for sale scheme should be scrapped. It is of dubious investment value and if we must stoop that low to get investment, it is quite a commentary on our inward investment agencies which are doing a fabulous job. It is ridiculous to offer passports because it diminishes and demeans our citizenship when our passports are touted around the world like a convenience that may be easily purchased.

Ray Burke will be reassessed as the years go by in terms of his contribution as a Minister. Because two public tribunals are in place, which will inquire legitimately into the allegations and controversies which have surrounded Ray Burke, it is better that the House offers the charity of its silence on the passports issue and the donation from Bovale and other building consortia. When we examine the records of all parties in the House on planning matters, not many of those who served on Dublin County Council in the early 1980s will come up smelling of roses. It is important to restore the integrity of the planning process in Dublin city and that of the political system which has been brought into disrepute by unsubstantiated allegations being traded on the floor of the House.

Fine Gael with its usual penchant for dirty tricks has been at it again, as in 1990 in relation to the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Deputy McDaid. When it comes to political advantage, Fine Gael is not too shy about pressing that advantage even if the facts get in the way of a good story. They persecuted people in the past, including Deputy McDaid, who is now gladly a member of Cabinet. If Fine Gael was a true party, it would apologise to the House for its behaviour in relation to Deputy McDaid when he was put forward for a Cabinet position. A disgraceful witch-hunt was mounted on that occasion. It attempted to do the same with Mr. Burke but I am glad it has not succeeded. Mr. Burke decided of his own volition to retire from politics. He underlined his independence of his party and of the House by selflessly resigning his Cabinet position and Dáil seat. It is a mark of the man that he chose to resign his seat. Despite what those opposite said, that he was one of our Fianna [356] Fáil creatures, he is his own man and he has taken a noble path by resigning his seat rather than continuing as a Member of this House where standards have been falling.

Fine Gael believes it is legitimate to hound everybody, but it should look at its own record. In recent weeks, while the controversies have been raging around Mr. Burke, there have been controversies in its party. I defy Deputy Gay Mitchell to offer an explanation to the House why a former member of his party is now about to face charges in the courts on drug money laundering. It is a scandal which his party will have to explain once the court case is over.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Is the Deputy implying I have knowledge of this?

Mr. C. Lenihan: I am not implying that Deputy Mitchell has information but he may be able to offer an explanation since he is part of the leadership of that party and occupies a position on the front bench.

Mr. G. Mitchell: The Deputy spoke about standards, yet he makes such statements.

Mr. C. Lenihan: I would like to hear an explanation from Fine Gael on its relationship with certain underworld figures and whether it has accepted contributions, financial or otherwise, from leading members of the organised crime community in this city.

Mr. Boylan: Outrageous.

Mr. C. Lenihan: Fine Gael should offer an explanation. It should also ask its former Taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald, if he was warned at any point of the criminal association of any members. That is an important issue which Fine Gael must address. Fianna Fáil has been pushed to address and answer almost every insinuation made. We are not prepared to stand idly by and take such treatment. I challenge Fine Gael to come up with the answers on that and other associations suggested and alleged with members of the criminal underworld. It is an important issue it should address.

The nominees for ministerial positions are all excellent. Deputy Michael Smith has served before with great dignity. He took on the issue of drink driving in a courageous way and, to a certain extent, suffered politically as a result. Deputy Andrews has served as Minister for Foreign Affairs and is an excellent man to deal with that portfolio with the huge challenges of EMU and the peace process facing him. I wish him well in his appointment. Deputy Treacy, subject to ratification by Cabinet, will become a Minister of State, a welcome appointment which will tilt the balance internally in our party. It is good that our leader is rebalancing matters and bringing in people who I presume in the past would have been supporters of his predecessors. I assure Members opposite that this Government could [357] not be more stable. This Government intends to run its full term of five years, despite the allegations made about its partners, the Progressive Democrats, who in no way influenced Mr. Ray Burke's decision. The Progressive Democrats provide an honourable presence within this Government and I believe will continue to do so.

Mr. G. Mitchell: We might have to examine the transcript of this debate to ascertain whether contributors have some information they can offer in relation to underworld figures. I believe this is a matter to which we may have to revert on another occasion.

I congratulate Deputy Andrews on his transfer to the Department of Foreign Affairs which appointment no doubt will be ratified later this evening bearing in mind the arithmetic of the House. I also congratulate the outgoing Minister of State at the Departments of Education and Science, and Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Michael Smith, on his promotion to Minister for Defence and Deputy Noel Treacy on his imminent appointment as Minister of State at the Departments of Education and Science, and Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

I wish Mr. Ray Burke and his family well in private life and thank him for the courtesy he extended me as Opposition spokesman during his short period in office as Minister for Foreign Affairs.

In passing I should say I am not given to making personal charges against anybody, although I am not surprised at some of the people who do make personal charges in this House. Nonetheless I was criticised in a newspaper on Sunday last, by implication, for having defended a former Fianna Fáil Deputy and county councillor. Although I did not know him that well I served with him as a Member of this House but not on the county council of which I was never a member. I was critical of a newspaper article which asked, after he had died: how was it he had left so much money behind? Since one cannot libel the dead, had that newspaper something more pointed to say to accuse him, why was it not said? What it did say was disgraceful and I said so on that occasion. Indeed the newspaper on Sunday last which took my comments out of context might have placed them in context. The journalist who originally wrote the article in The Irish Times is a very fine one and writes very good articles. But it is right to criticise when it is due. The article about the late Deputy Séan Walsh, which has been the subject of comment here in the past, was rightly criticised by me. I make no apologies for having done so. It was wrong to write in that vein about somebody not in a position to defend themselves. Therefore, I consider my criticism to have been both fair and reasonable.

In the background to this whole fiasco in which we now find ourselves the Taoiseach was aware of this rezoning allegation and the Mahfouz passports affair. Nonetheless he appointed Deputy [358] Ray Burke to the most sensitive Cabinet office at a time when historic negotiations on the future of Northern Ireland were under way. Indeed, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Ray Burke was central to the problem which developed thereafter. Had he been appointed to some other Department such as, for example, Tourism, Sport and Recreation, the timing of the inquiry into the affairs mentioned here might not have affected his departure from Government. It might even have been possible to have switched him to another Cabinet post.

I consider it to have been a grave mistake on the part of the Taoiseach to have appointed Deputy Ray Burke to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the time he did and leave him there while this controversy continued. The Taoiseach investigated both issues, one on several occasions, and then used his judgment to go ahead with his appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs. Apparently he did not tell the Tánaiste about Mr. Burke's role in the passports issue until she inquired about it in July last. The Tánaiste confidently states that she trusts the Taoiseach. That is not good enough. The Taoiseach has shown himself, at best, to be inept and indecisive and, if the Tánaiste trusts his judgment, then hers is even poorer; she cannot have it both ways. In my view the Tánaiste did the very least her duty required her to do: she asked the Taoiseach the question, knowing what the answer would be, and then trusted him. I do not trust the Taoiseach's judgment in this matter. The Tánaiste has found it too convenient to do so. That is a political charge, a fair and reasonable political charge to make in this House.

It took the addition of the passports issue to the other allegation to stimulate Deputies, in the shape of Deputy Desmond O'Malley refusing to participate in a radio programme on Saturday last, thereby following the inevitable rather than giving leadership.

The Progressive Democrats have taken the high moral ground in politics. Yet it took their former leader to force their hand: the Tánaiste acted only under extreme pressure. Can anybody tell us why we need the Progressive Democrats? Is it simply so that they can all hold office or what relevance do they feel they have to the overall political landscape if they can simply trust the Taoiseach's judgment even when that is shown to be faulty?

An opportunity existed to allow the Moriarty tribunal to examine in a preliminary way the payment to Mr. Ray Burke. That was voted down by Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats. Under public pressure they then proposed the establishment of a second tribunal. Where was the determination to observe even the minimum standards? The Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil contend it was Fine Gael and the media who hunted Ray Burke out of office. It was the Taoiseach's dithering, in refusing to either refer the matter of the charges to the Moriarty tribunal or to agree straightforward terms of reference for the planning [359] tribunal, which ensured that this issue remained in the public eye for two weeks. The Taoiseach was brought reluctantly to agree. So much for his Ard Fheis speech when he said that Fianna Fáil would let the chips fall where they may. That certainly has not been the case.

The Tánaiste followed Deputy Desmond O'Malley and, in recent days, expressed concern, which was what led to the political demise of Ray Burke. The emotional reaction of the Minister for Defence, Deputy Andrews, yesterday in the House was not untypical of the man, to some extent it was understandable, but he should have directed some of his emotions closer to his own benches.

Why did Mr. Ray Burke resign his seat in Dáil Éireann in addition to his Cabinet position? Did the Opposition cause that? The Opposition is not hurt by the resignation of his seat, it hurts the Government. Why did Mr. Ray Burke do so after 24 years of membership of the Oireachtas and a lifetime membership of Fianna Fáil? It was meant to hurt Fianna Fáil in particular, not the Opposition; for that reason there is no point in levelling charges against us. Is this part of a Fianna Fáil internal struggle and, if so, what is the background to it? It appears that there are cabals within Fianna Fáil who believe they have a God given right to first choice on available office and, if they cannot get it, they do not want anybody else to have it; self-service for some has replaced public service. The most brilliant, the most devious, the most cunning of them all, the Taoiseach, handled this whole affair with a degree of incompetence and very poor judgment. He used the skills of his party's Chief Whip to shore up the situation rather than his own and his role was central to the whole fiasco.

A whole spin was put on this affair. We in Fine Gael were accused of being too soft on Mr. Ray Burke when we endeavoured to be decent from the Opposition benches, with the innuendo that we had something to hide on the overall rezoning issue. The Taoiseach even made veiled suggestions about this. Yesterday he sought to blame the Opposition and the media while exonerating himself; by implication he also exonerated the Leader of the Progressive Democrats and cabals within his own party who clearly wanted Mr. Burke to go judging from what has transpired. Even his announcement twice in the House yesterday had a spin on it when he said he accepted Mr. Burke's resignation “on behalf of the Government”. He did no such thing. He accepted Mr. Burke's resignation as Taoiseach, that is the constitutional position.

My comments are not personal, they are reasonable and proper political charges to make in a debate of this kind and it is right that an Opposition should raise such public issues. Public issues were at the centre of what happened. There are other matters which require an explanation and the former Taoiseach mentioned some of them today. I [360] wish to share the remainder of my time with Deputy Boylan.

Acting Chairman (Mr. Kirk): The Deputy's time is exhausted but I understand Deputy Boylan will have an opportunity to speak in the next Opposition slot.

Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Cowen): It was sad to see a former Taoiseach and now Leader of the Opposition, Deputy Bruton, descend into the political sewer twice in 24 hours in an attempt to justify the improper and outrageous political behaviour he has displayed since the weekend. It is unfortunate that we have reached a stage in politics where the basic courtesies are denied a family burying a brother. What would have been wrong with waiting to make these unmeritorious charges until a dignified end had been afforded a member of a family?

Deputy Bruton came into the House today in his typical over the top fashion to question other people's judgment and descend into the political sewer a second time. Without any evidence he now contends, having obtained the resignation of one member of the Government, that there are other members of the Government who are prima facie guilty of some wrongdoing because of past political associations. We have had nothing but innuendo which passes for political debate in this House. Deputy Bruton is the man who talks about due process, who leads the law and order party. He is the constitutionalist, the civil libertarian, the person who understands and always invokes proper procedures.

We had a tribunal of inquiry led by Mr. Justice McCracken which has resulted in the need for a further inquiry, to be chaired by Mr. Justice Moriarty, into issues that arose out of the McCracken tribunal. All-party agreement was sought and obtained on the terms of reference of the new tribunal. Subsequently, a political attack, which had been ongoing for over 12 months, was coming to an end. We had the attack on the former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Ray Burke, yet no evidence was adduced to suggest he fell short of his obligations in relation to achieving all inclusive talks which began yesterday. The opposite is the case. The charges that he could not do his job were unjustified because he was doing it with great distinction, as we heard from the Taoiseach earlier when he quoted the Irish News editorial on the former Minister's political demise. That was an acknowledgement by those closest to the scene in a divided society where there are serious problems concerning the maintenance of democratic structures. The former Minister, Deputy Burke, once again acquitted himself with distinction.

The continuous charges and innuendo continued. A letter was produced suggesting a tie in with the former Minister, Deputy Burke. The fact that he was not a member of a local authority was beside the point. The matter concerned property in his constituency. Guilt by geographical association [361] had now become the means by which one nailed a political opponent. The harassment and innuendo continued despite the fact that those who were making these charges had sat on the Government benches for the previous two and a half years. They trawled many files and sought any evidence they could obtain. One of their number, the erstwhile Deputy Lowry, came into this House and told us, with the vociferous support of his front and backbenchers, about cartels in the semi-State sector and corruption at the highest level. That all came to nothing, a bottle of smoke. Deputy Bruton talks about smoke but he has been the main architect of political smoke. The behaviour that has passed for political debate in this House emanated from his Administration, his best friend, Deputy Lowry.

Deputy Bruton came into the House today claiming that he respects due process and sought to character assassinate other members of this Administration. His infamous team of legal eagles in the Four Courts, who regard politics as a game, a showmanship job, can produce speeches that take people's reputations and abuse the privilege of this House. Deputy Bruton should know that the members of the Fianna Fáil Party will not tolerate that type of unsubstantiated charge. It will be treated with the contempt it deserves. It will be confronted at every opportunity as Deputy Bruton seeks once again to talk about the culture of corruption. He talks about me and others who come from a respectable political tradition and suggests that we are unfit for office.

I challenge Deputy Bruton, the alternative leader of this nation, to come up with the evidence. He should put up or shut up and not come into this House under the guise of statesmanlike behaviour and behave like the type of sewer rat I saw in the House this evening. That was a contemptible display which was beneath contempt and no self-respecting politician or profession will allow that continue.

Acting Chairman: I ask the Minister to reconsider the “sewer rat” remark.

Mr. Cowen: I will reconsider it and refer to a rodent in an underground pipe, a political type operator who comes out in daylight seeking to claim—

Mr. Finucane: That is a disgraceful comment which does not befit the Minister's position. The Minister is a disgrace.

Mr. Cowen: What I heard this evening does not befit a Deputy. I will not take self-righteousness from anybody in Fine Gael.

Mr. Finucane: The Minister knows who ended Ray Burke's career. It was the party on the opposite side of the House.

Acting Chairman: The interruptions must cease. The Minister must be allowed to continue.

[362] Mr. Finucane: The Minister is being provocative.

Mr. Cowen: It is amazing that the law and order party is not prepared to respect due process. Serious allegations were made which have caused great concern. We sought, with the agreement of all sides of the House, to address those issues in the interests of the integrity of everybody in this House and in public life. We do not seek to shelter anybody but we will not accept that people are guilty. Nor will we accept the decision by certain Members of this House to inflict political damage on the Government. We will not accept that type of tactic from Deputy Bruton or any other Deputy.

I will put my record, and indeed that of the former Minister, Deputy Burke, against that of anybody in this House. When one has served in Government with some distinction, one should come into this House and have a debate with some measure of standards. People should not seek to invoke the subterranean effort we witnessed from Deputy Bruton this evening. I will not accept that nor will any other self-respecting politician. This Government wants to see confidence restored in public life.

I have committed myself to full time politics in the interests of serving my constituency and, if given the privilege, my country. Let us respect the institutions we have established to deal with the evidence which may or may not be adduced. Let us not regard insinuation as proof or allegation as evidence but rather await the deliberations of the tribunals. We can then assess the situation and attribute blame or wrongdoing wherever it falls following this calm and objective assessment. The Deputies opposite should not come into the House and seek to become judge and jury of the Fianna Fáil Party, its traditions and past and present Members without evidence. Let them go to the tribunal if they have evidence but in the meantime they should watch their back and make sure their own people behave in the way they claim others have not.

Mr. Finucane: I wish to share my time with Deputy Sargent.

Acting Chairman: That is agreed.

Mr. Finucane: The rhetoric I have listened to for the past ten minutes is sad.

Mr. Cowen: Did the Deputy read his party leader's speech?

Mr. Finucane: It is a disgrace to use terms such as “sewer rat”——

Mr. Cowen: That is what he is.

Mr. Finucane: —and “subterranean”. I am surprised to hear these terms being used by a Minister.

[363] The Taoiseach said that Mr. Burke's political career was ended by Deputy Bruton and his likes, not by him. Mr. Burke ended his political career because of the actions of his great friend the Taoiseach and the Progressive Democrats. Those of us who read the newspapers prior to his resignation could read between the lines in terms of what was happening. It is ironic that the Taoiseach blamed Deputy Bruton for Mr. Burke's resignation given that we were criticised by the media for not going far enough, for failing to land any punches and for not going in for the kill. The reason we did not do this is that there is a mutual respect between Deputies. I have a certain amount of respect for Mr. Burke and very much regret that the matter has come to this. Instead of blaming the Opposition, Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats should look into their hearts and consider how they dealt with this issue. Mr. Burke was forced to walk the plank by the Government parties, yet the Taoiseach is not prepared to acknowledge his role in the matter.

The passports for investment scheme has attracted unfavourable publicity and been much maligned. A previous speaker said we should scrap it. Given recent events, this is a natural reaction. The scheme was initially criticised because ultimate responsibility for issuing passports to foreign investors lay with the then Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey. I am sure this was the position in the case involving Mr. Burke as Minister for Justice and the Mahfouz family. It is strange to say the least that a Taoiseach should hand over passports to a group of Arabs in the Shelbourne Hotel for an investment of £20 million, of which only £17 million has been identified as being invested. An element of mystery surrounds the remaining £3 million.

There is also the case involving Deputy Reynolds and the investment by the Masri family in C&D Foods. The spin put on this case led to criticism of the scheme and a considerable tightening up of the regulations. A committee, which includes representatives of Forfás and the Departments of Enterprise and Employment, Foreign Affairs and Justice, now make the ultimate recommendation to the Minister on the merits of a specific case.

Before we decide to throw out the baby with the bath water and abandon the scheme it is worth looking at how similar schemes operate in Canada and Australia which have been very successful in attracting mobile investment. I agree with the Taoiseach that it is worthwhile analysing what has been achieved by these countries. In Canada, where there are different types of investors, the scheme is not as strict as our scheme under which £1 million must be invested. The Taoiseach said that in the past Deputies may have made representations on behalf of various companies. Some companies have benefited, expanded and developed under the scheme but, unfortunately, as a result of past cases it has got [364] a bad reputation. However, if it was underpinned by statutory regulations it could be very effective.

Mr. Sargent: I congratulate Ministers Andrews and Smith and Minister of State Treacy on their appointments and wish them well in the difficult tasks facing them. I am genuinely sad for Mr. Burke. I met him recently and know the toll this matter has taken on him. I was very shocked at his decision to resign his Dáil seat at this very difficult time for him. I also wish his daughter a speedy recovery.

The Dáil has all the hallmarks of a television drama. However, the tragedy is that it is very real in terms of its effect. Such matters distract us from our real work of introducing changes and representing our constituents. Even though we may have to deal with other issues from time to time we must not overlook our responsibilities as public representatives.

A considerable amount of nervousness is attached to the Northern Ireland situation which Mr. Burke did so much to advance. While some Deputies would be happy if the Amsterdam Treaty was never debated we must face up to our responsibilities to the electorate and ensure it is debated. A recent survey shows that Irish companies, particularly multinationals, are the least prepared of their EU counterparts to meet the requirements of EMU. We have been dragging our heels on issues such as carbon dioxide emissions and energy conservation, to which no reference is made in the Government's housing programme. These matters deserve prudent and urgent consideration.

My colleague referred yesterday to the STAD group, which has received little attention and been given broken promises. The Irish National Organisation for the Unemployed, which will make its pre-budget submission tomorrow, has highlighted how the gap between rich and poor is widening. All this is happening against the backdrop of Mr. Burke's personal misfortune, but it remains a reality for many people. The problems facing the horticulture industry were referred to in the Private Members' debate. I wanted to mention them, but perhaps the Minister, Deputy Woods, who is familiar with the industry, might refer to them in his contribution.

The passports issue must be addressed. Deputy Finucane said that the scheme had its merits, but internationally we are seen to treat citizenship rights poorly because we are prepared to give them to the highest bidder. That is not fair to the refugees here and the Refugee Act has not been implemented. People who do not have money suffer while those who have it are able to buy their way into positions of power.

Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources (Dr. Woods): I wish to share my time with Deputy Ó Caoláin.

Acting Chairman: That is agreed.

[365] Dr. Woods: I congratulate Deputies Andrews, Michael Smith and Noel Treacy on their ministerial appointments and wish them every success in their new offices. They are three excellent and experienced Deputies who will be readily able to take on their new tasks.

I regret Ray Burke's decision to resign from Government and from this House and I particularly regret the circumstances which led to that. He was subjected to a constant sustained campaign. He was harried, harassed and hunted out of office at the height of his success in the peace process on the day the three stranded talks began and the day he buried his brother Seán. That is something Members will very much regret in time. At each step as he tried to explain his position a greater price was demanded of him by members of the Opposition, mainly Fine Gael. It should be a source of great shame that they did not have the decency to stand down their attacks earlier this week and allow the man to bury his brother in peace.

Ray Burke was a hard working and experienced Minister with whom I had the pleasure to work in several Administrations. He played a significant part in the recent commencement of talks in Northern Ireland and his record in the many other ministries he held is equally impressive. While Minister for Justice he constantly challenged and refused to bend to the men of violence. That is not an easy task, but Ray did it with diligence and yet sought peace and a resolution to the problems we face on this island.

The Dáil has lost an outstanding parliamentarian. In Government and Opposition he contributed to the quality and content of debate not only in this House but also on committees, in particular the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. North Dublin has lost a dedicated public representative who served his constituency with great vigour and distinction for more than 24 years.

A great deal has been said here about the Taoiseach, Deputy Ahern, and his role. He fully supported Ray Burke and insisted that he be given the right to natural justice which each one of us is entitled to expect. As Members of this House we should engage in, and be seen to engage in, the highest standards of public administration and to bring about and enforce the standards of justice and fairness we seek to ensure in other areas. Today, Deputy Bruton tried to say in his contribution that politics is a separate business, subject to other criteria, that it is not governed by the rules of natural justice and to take from what the Taoiseach had done, but Deputy Bruton is very seriously wrong. If one follows his line in politics, ultimately no citizen in this State will be safe.

The principles of natural justice apply here as absolutely and as necessarily as they do in every other walk of life. Politics is the ultimate in public administration. If we do not believe that, we should stand aside from politics because we will never lead anybody and people will be disillusioned [366] with us. Everyone who participates in politics must uphold the principle of natural justice. Every individual has a right to a fair hearing and to be given the opportunity to answer any allegations made against him or her. Ray Burke did not get that opportunity from Deputy Bruton or from certain elements in the media, but the Taoiseach, Deputy Ahern, honoured the principle of natural justice and gave him the right to due process. In doing so, the Taoiseach took the criticism that went with it because he is decent and understanding.

As the Taoiseach argued consistently in Opposition there is a need for an independent ethics commission to investigate allegations and to address them at such a forum. The Government said such a commission will be established and we will do our utmost to ensure it is established before Christmas. The innuendoes must stop or politics will suffer all round. Unless we stop the innuendoes, untold damage will be done to an open democratic society which must be guided by principles.

This party is strongly united behind its leader. The Government partners look forward to working together for the good of our people. I assure the House this is a good Government and that the Progressive Democrats and Fianna Fáil are more united and durable than ever before.

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: On behalf of Sinn Féin, I wish Deputy Andrews well in taking on his onerous task at this vital juncture in the political development of our country. The Irish people expect leadership in the peace negotiations. It must be stressed that this is the responsibility not only of the incoming Minister but of the Government and all Members in conjunction with all parties at the talks table.

In the short period I have been a Member I have observed in some quarters the very opposite of leadership, particularly in the few opportunities we have had to discuss matters related to the peace process. I have seen narrow party political point-scoring, most often directed against my party. I believe, as I am sure the people do, that it is time to put behind us the failures of the past, the failure of partition and particularly partitionist thinking so often evidenced here. Too often people have looked on in despair as the crisis in the Six Counties and the suffering of the people there was either ignored or treated as a stick with which to beat the political opponents. The peace process has challenged that complacency and challenges us all to live up to the tremendous possibilities for progress which the negotiations, now thankfully commenced, present to our people.

Go n-éirigh leis an Aire ina phost nua. I wish also to record good wishes to the newly appointed Minister, Deputy Smith, and the Minister of State, Deputy Noel Treacy.

Mr. Boylan: I congratulate Deputy Andrews on his appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs [367] and I know he is capable of doing a very good job. I call on him to give his undivided attention to the peace talks which are in progress. This is the best opportunity for peace in 70 years and we cannot afford to lose it. In recent weeks the House has lost the focus necessary to give credence to the talks, to bring everyone on board and to show that we are as interested in and committed to the peace process as everyone else.

In the last 25 years the Border region suffered from the spillover of violence but this is often ignored or forgotten in this House. Inward investment has been minimal and the Celtic Tiger has not come to my constituency or the Border region. While population may be rising in the south and south-east it has declined in the area stretching from Donegal to Louth. Our young people are attracted to large centres like Dublin, Galway and Cork to get jobs. We are capable of doing as well as anywhere else in the country but we have not had the chance. If the peace process fails the consequences are unthinkable — we will return to the dull and dreary existence of the last 25 years when we lived in fear.

This country may have difficulty obtaining Objective One status for the next phase of Structural Funds, given the upsurge in the south and south-east. There is a case for regionalisation so that the Border region can continue to benefit and achieve the same state of development as other parts of the country, whose success I acclaim. A similar case can be made for the west. These regions must continue to receive the same level of EU financial commitment as in the past ten years.

Much will rest on Deputy Andrews in his new capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs, both in negotiating the peace and in seeking the full benefit for the area I represent. We expect him to deliver and hope he will not be diverted by matters such as those recent events which have diminished the Government's contribution to a development which is important to so many. We will seek his commitment and will watch him closely. We hope the House will be regularly briefed about the progress being made, because that is vitally important. It will show the Northern Ireland authorities, the British Government, the EU and the US that we are totally committed to bringing this process to a finality, that we wish to ensure that both parts of the country can work in harmony and all shades of thinking can live together for the benefit of all.

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Miss Harney): I am delighted to respond to this debate on behalf of the Government. I am pleased the Minister of State, Deputy Smith, will be elevated to the Cabinet. For the past 14 weeks he and I have worked together in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment where he had special responsibility for commerce, science and technology. He worked diligently to develop that brief in an [368] imaginative way and I regret that I will lose him from the Department, because he has an expertise in that area which I do not. However, I am glad he is joining the Cabinet because he has enormous political wisdom and experience. He will add greatly to the Government over the next few years, especially considering our minority status.

I am also pleased that the Minister, Deputy Andrews, will now take responsibility for the Department of Foreign Affairs, a position he held previously. He too has a wealth of political wisdom and experience and comes to the Department at a crucial and momentous time in the history of the island. The substantive talks which have now begun offer a real opportunity to deliver a lasting political settlement in Northern Ireland and to transform it from a divided society into one where, notwithstanding their differences, Unionist and Nationalist can live together and respect each other with equality of treatment and parity of esteem. As Lord Alderdice said, if everyone who comes to the table is prepared to pay a price and to compromise, the longest conflict in the history of modern Europe can be resolved.

It is therefore important that the Minister for Foreign Affairs is able to focus on and devote all his energy to those talks. In resigning, Mr. Ray Burke had done the right thing, not only from his and his family's viewpoint, but also because the enormous pressure on him and the ongoing controversy which dogged him in the past 14 weeks made it impossible for him to focus as he would wish on the Northern Ireland talks. I acknowledge the progress he made in that time, particularly in delivering a new IRA ceasefire. As the Taoiseach and others who were closer to the talks have acknowledged, he was a tough negotiator who demonstrated skills which I had not seen in him before. I had not worked with him and did not know him well in Opposition but in Government, I saw at first hand his capacity to grasp his brief, the toughness with which he approached the job and the negotiating skills he displayed in that short time. He was determined to do a good job but the recent controversy made that impossible.

I hope we can close the chapter on the events of recent weeks, which have not been pleasant and have added nothing to the body politic. Many in our society wish to undermine the State and politicians and we must not contribute to that. The vast majority of people who enter politics, whether at local or national level, come to serve and the vast majority of those who have served in this House, both now and in the past, are honourable, decent people with a sense of justice and fair play. I respect the Opposition's right to hold the Government of the day to account — that is the duty of Opposition. In a parliamentary democracy we need strong, stable Government and a vigilant Opposition — without such an Opposition, our democracy is undermined and this is what distinguishes parliamentary democracy [369] from other forms of Government. In a number of recent debates the Opposition has gone beyond policy issues and its right to hold the Government to account. We have seen an unprecedented attempt to engage in what Deputy Quinn called “the politics of personality”. My party and I have been accused of doing this in the past. When I entered this Government on 26 June, I said I wished to give of my experience and to ensure this was a policy-driven Government which dealt with the issues confronting our country. I am not interested in personalities or in seeking resignations. The Progressive Democrats did not seek the resignation of Mr. Burke from Government.

On the passports issue, I was surprised to discover the former Attorney General advised that the passports could not continue to be issued unless the scheme was put on a statutory basis. As the Taoiseach acknowledged, the Government discussed this issue in early September but I had long come to the conclusion that a modern democracy, a republic like ours, should not sell its passports to wealthy people because it brings the Irish passport into disrepute. Our passport is carried with honour by Irish citizens and we should not continue to sell it to a select few wealthy individuals who are head hunted around the world. Some 147 people have been issued with those passports and I acknowledge that many Irish jobs have been saved as a result. However, our economy is growing and notwithstanding that good investment opportunities arose from issuing those passports, we can no longer issue them as we did in the past. The Government will discuss this matter when the Minister for Justice brings forward his report and it is my firm view that we should no longer sell Irish passports.

We had the McCracken tribunal, which restored my faith in tribunals, and we now have the planning tribunal and the Moriarty tribunal investigating payments made to Deputy Lowry and Mr. Haughey. All the issues should be dealt with by those tribunals. The planning tribunal may do a great service to this House and particularly to local politics. Planning, particularly in County Dublin, has been dogged by controversy for many years. I served as a member of Dublin County Council and it is not easy for councillors to make decisions on planning. Lands need to be rezoned and the vast majority of rezoning decisions made were in the interests of the people of County Dublin, not because people wanted money. Some people want it every way; they want jobs and houses in the county but they do not want to rezone land. That does not make sense. Land must be rezoned if development, residential or industrial, is to take place.

Some bad decisions have made rezoning a difficult issue for local politicians. The new planning tribunal will restore the good name of the vast majority of local politicians. Perhaps very little will be revealed by the planning tribunal, but even if that is the case it will have been a good [370] day's work because there is so much innuendo and suspicion and so many unfounded rumours. If the tribunal is able to put those rumours to bed a great day's service will have been done for local politicians.

In many ways this country is at a crossroads. We are about to enter EMU. We will no longer be able to borrow or spend our way out of recessions or use devaluation to get a competitive advantage. This is a crucial time for Ireland and we must ensure the economy is competitive to deal with the pressures, particularly in the context of a single currency. We need a Government that is focused on those issues, a Government that is united and provides stability. I give an assurance to the House, as I did on 26 June when the Government was formed: I will do everything I can to ensure we have a united Government, a Government that is focused on the issues.

I trust the Taoiseach. I should not have to keep saying that and should not have to be asked that question. If I did not trust him I would not serve in Government with him. When I became aware on 31 July last of the events reported in The Irish Times last Saturday I telephoned the Taoiseach the following morning and what he told me has been confirmed to be the case — I have seen the file. In so far as the finger should be pointed on that issue — standards were breached and procedures were not followed — it should be pointed at others. Perhaps that will transpire from the Moriarty tribunal.

What surprises me is that the former Minister for Justice, Deputy Owen, who had that file for so long, did nothing about it. In January 1995 she could have revoked the passports concerned. At the time no investment had been made and residency had not been established. The procedures that were required in the past were not followed and, if she wished, the then Minister could have revoked those passports, but she chose not to do so. Many investments have been made since and the former Taoiseach, Mr. Haughey, took a personal interest in all those applications. He worked with the IDA and others on that set of passports. I hope the Moriarty tribunal will get to the bottom of that.

It is important this House moves on to the real agenda, the Northern Ireland talks, EMU and, notwithstanding the high growth of recent years, the high level of unemployment. Ireland is unique in having high growth combined with mass unemployment. They are among the challenges that face not only the Government but everybody who serves in this House. We would do a great service to everyone who serves in politics, the body politic and the public whom we have the honour of serving if we could forget about the unsavoury events of recent times and the division we have engendered on all sides of the House and concentrate on those issues. Otherwise, we will further undermine parliamentary democracy and will turn more and more people away.

That is not to say the Opposition should not hold us to account. I did my best when I was over [371] there. Tough opposition is good for democracy and for Government, as is freedom of the press, but we must ensure stories that appear one year are not regurgitated a couple of years later as sensational news. That is not good journalism and it is not fair. It does not serve democracy and it does nothing for the honourable profession of journalism.

[372] Question put: “That Dáil Éireann approves the nomination by the Taoiseach of Deputy Michael Smith for appointment by the commission constituted as provided in section 2 of Article 14 of the Constitution to be a member of the Government.”

The Dáil divided: Tá, 76; Níl, 65.

Ahern, Bertie.

Ahern, Dermot.

Ahern, Michael.

Ahern, Noel.

Andrews, David.

Ardagh, Seán.

Aylward, Liam.

Blaney, Harry.

Brady, Johnny.

Brady, Martin.

Brennan, Matt.

Brennan, Séamus.

Briscoe, Ben.

Browne, John (Wexford).

Byrne, Hugh.

Callely, Ivor.

Carey, Pat.

Collins, Michael.

Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.

Coughlan, Mary.

Cowen, Brian.

Cullen, Martin.

Daly, Brendan.

de Valera, Síle.

Dennehy, John.

Ellis, John.

Fahey, Frank.

Fleming, Seán.

Flood, Chris.

Foley, Denis.

Fox, Mildred.

Hanafin, Mary.

Harney, Mary.

Haughey, Seán.

Healy-Rae, Jackie.

Jacob, Joe.

Keaveney, Cecilia.

Kelleher, Billy.

Kenneally, Brendan.

Killeen, Tony.

Kirk, Séamus.

Kitt, Michael.

Kitt, Tom.

Lawlor, Liam.

Lenihan, Brian.

Lenihan, Conor.

Martin, Micheál.

McCreevy, Charlie.

McGennis, Marian.

McGuinness, John.

Moffatt, Thomas.

Molloy, Robert.

Moloney, John.

Moynihan, Donal.

Moynihan, Michael.

Ó Cuív, Éamon.

O'Dea, Willie.

O'Donnell, Liz.

O'Donoghue, John.

O'Flynn, Noel.

O'Hanlon, Rory.

O'Keeffe, Batt.

O'Kennedy, Michael.

O'Malley, Desmond.

O'Rourke, Mary.

Roche, Dick.

Ryan, Eoin.

Smith, Brendan.

Smith, Michael.

Treacy, Noel.

Wade, Eddie.

Wallace, Dan.

Wallace, Mary.

Walsh, Joe.

Woods, Michael J.

Wright, G.V.

Níl

Barnes, Monica.

Barrett, Seán.

Bell, Michael.

Belton, Louis.

Boylan, Andrew.

Bradford, Paul.

Broughan, Thomas.

Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).

Bruton, John.

Burke, Ulick.

Clune, Deirdre.

Connaughton, Paul.

Cosgrave, Michael.

Coveney, Hugh.

Crawford, Seymour.

Creed, Michael.

D'Arcy, Michael.

De Rossa, Proinsias.

Deasy, Austin.

Deenihan, Jimmy.

Dukes, Alan.

Enright, Thomas.

[373]Neville, Dan.

Noonan, Michael.

O'Keeffe, Jim.

O'Shea, Brian.

Owen, Nora.

Penrose, William.

Perry, John.

Quinn, Ruairí.

Rabbitte, Pat.

Reynolds, Gerard.

Ring, Michael.

Farrelly, John.

Ferris, Michael.

Finucane, Michael.

Fitzgerald, Frances.

Flanagan, Charles.

Gilmore, Éamon.

Gormley, John.

Hayes, Brian.

Higgins, Jim.

Higgins, Joe.

Higgins, Michael.

Howlin, Brendan.

Kenny, Enda.

McCormack, Pádraic.

McDowell, Derek.

McGahon, Brendan.

McGinley, Dinny.

McGrath, Paul.

McManus, Liz.

Mitchell, Gay.

Mitchell, Olivia.

Naughten, Denis.

[374]Sargent, Trevor.

Shatter, Alan.

Sheehan, Patrick.

Shortall, Róisín.

Stagg, Emmet.

Stanton, David.

Timmins, Billy.

Upton, Pat.

Wall, Jack.

Yates, Ivan.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies S. Brennan and Callely; Níl, Deputies Barrett and Sheehan.

Question declared carried.