Dáil Éireann - Volume 500 - 10 February, 1999

Private Members' Business. - EU Commissioner: Motion (Resumed).

The following motion was moved by Deputy Gay Mitchell on Tuesday, 9 February 1999:

That Dáil Éireann, notwithstanding the ongoing work of the Flood Tribunal established by Dáil Éireann, is of the opinion that EU Commissioner Pádraig Flynn should give a full and immediate response to the allegation that he received a donation of £50,000 from Mr. Tom Gilmartin in 1989, and, failing receipt of such a full and satisfactory account from the Commissioner within the next two weeks, Dáil Éireann shall, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, consider whether it is of the opinion that Mr. Flynn should continue in office in those circumstances.

Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “That” and substitute the following:

“Dáil Éireann

–noting that it has established a tribunal to inquire into allegations concerning the planning process;

–noting the necessity for the tribunal to be allowed to complete its work independently and without delay;

calls on the EU Commissioner for Social Affairs, Pádraig Flynn, to make a full, immediate statement clarifying his position in relation to allegations that he received £50,000 while Minister for the Environment in 1989.

–(Minister for Foreign Affairs.)

Acting Chairman (Mrs. Moynihan-Cronin): I note Deputy Quinn was in possession and that he is sharing time with Deputy Rabbitte.

Mr. Rabbitte: I support the motion before the House. The substantive issue behind it is an important one that has convulsed the Government parties and further debased the practice of politics in Ireland. I know this suits the purposes of some who want to create smokescreens and diversions and give impressions that all politicians are the same when plainly they are not. Many Fianna Fáil Deputies, feeding the “they are all the same” chorus, are underselling themselves and their supporters.

There is the matter of three pensions, three homes, three housekeepers, two cars, one cheque and no answers. The man who was so eager to answer all the questions from Gay Byrne thumbs his nose at the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Government. The man who has talked himself and the Government into another fine mess has suddenly donned the mantle of a Trappist monk. For the man who has played so many parts, more parts than an [384] Abbey actor, his latest reticence does not become him. Why will this man who has successively presented himself as the “Messiah of the West”, the “King of Mayo” and “Mr. Ireland Incorporated” not make a statement that would get the Government off the hook at least until his appearance before the tribunal? Perhaps it is because a frank statement from him would provoke even greater difficulties for the Government.

If the letter of 6 October from the General Secretary of Fianna Fáil, Mr. Martin Mackin, to the Commissioner is any yardstick, the major Government party does not want an answer. Short of including a memo with the letter urging Mr. Flynn not to reply, the formal text could scarcely have been more explicit. The Mackin letter has all the appearance of an insurance policy calculated to divert the Progressive Democrats. It is remarkable that although the missing £50,000 was known to Mr. Sean Sherwin since 1989, the letter was dispatched only in 1998 when the tribunal got down to work and the Progressive Democrats became restless. We are asked to believe that Mr. Sherwin bore this dark secret alone. This is not to suggest that it takes very much nowadays to divert the Progressive Democrats. At least under Deputy O'Malley's thorny leadership, when the PD dog barked, Fianna Fáil backbenchers ordered the posters. Nowadays when the PD dog whimpers, the Fianna Fáil backbenchers snigger behind their hands. If the Tánaiste, Deputy Harney, was so adamant on 26 January that Mr. Flynn's position was impossible, how can she now find last night's bizarre speech from the semi-detached Minister for Foreign Affairs tolerable?

The always amusing Minister, Deputy Andrews, considers the motion before the House to be “inappropriate”, that it concerns “an exemplary Commissioner” in whom the Government has “full confidence in the exercise of his European function”. We should note that Commissioner Flynn, whose position, according to the Tánaiste, was impossible on 26 January, now has the full confidence of the Government, and not only its dominant element. Why have the Progressive Democrats changed their position? Have we now reached the stage that it is more important for the Government to accommodate Deputy Cooper-Flynn than the Tánaiste, Deputy Harney, or is it easier to mollify the Tánaiste than it is to unruffle the feathers of the Flynn dynasty?

Notwithstanding the Taoiseach's legendary conciliatory skills, I do not envy his task in assuaging the younger Flynn. Usually, the Taoiseach asks no questions and Beverly usually answers no questions. She would seem to have won the day today, if rumours around the House are correct that the Government has been forced to swallow the Fine Gael amendment to avoid a vote. I look forward to the next edition of the diary of a northside Taoiseach.

It appears the Taoiseach can do for Deputy Cooper-Flynn what he could not do for the Progressive Democrats, accept the original Fine Gael [385] motion – anything to stave off defeat. The Government may be fragmenting, but its approach is to get another three weeks out of it and something may turn up in the meantime. The fragmentation is not just between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats, but also between different splinters in Fianna Fáil. If, on the other hand, the Taoiseach has temporarily succeeded in beating back Beverly, then the role of the Independents is again critical in tonight's vote. The three wise monkeys who see no evil or hear no evil have now become four. Does any single member of the Healy-Rea troupe care about standards in Irish politics?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: I ask the Deputy to show respect to colleagues in the House. The term “monkeys” is not appropriate.

Mr. Rabbitte: I withdraw it if it gives offence, but I am merely giving them respect in direct proportion to the interest they pay to issues of standards in Irish politics. The Government seems to be experiencing more difficulties from its backbenchers than it does from Deputies Fox, Healy-Rea, Blaney or Gildea. The unexplained acceptance of £50,000 by serving Ministers seems to be a standard of behaviour that is acceptable to the Independent Deputies. I do not mean them any disrespect, but that comment is warranted by their disinterest in anything other than headage payments and masts.

The truth according to some who should know is that, with the exception of Deputy Albert Reynolds, Mr. Tom Gilmartin met virtually every Minister in the Haughey Cabinet. One does not have to be a member of Fianna Fáil to know that Mr. Haughey was in the habit of hosting such visitors in the Fianna Fáil corridors, without minute takers, rather than in Government Buildings. The claim that there is no record of the meeting of 1 February 1989 between Mr. Gilmartin and the cream of the Haughey Cabinet is hardly conclusive. Today's comment at Question Time in reply to a question by the Labour Party Leader, Deputy Quinn, by a Haughey loyalist, the Minister for Public Enterprise, Deputy O'Rourke, that the former Taoiseach's diary may have been taken by him from Government Buildings because, perhaps, he is writing a book at least has the merit of being funny. It is not clear that Ministers O'Rourke, Woods, Brennan and Walsh and the Taoiseach can anticipate Mr. Haughey's memoirs with much mirth.

Mr. Shatter: I hope he did not get an advance on the book.

Mr. Rabbitte: There seems to be little doubt in the popular mind that Mr. Flynn received a cheque for £50,000 intended for Fianna Fáil headquarters. It appears to be a fact that the Fianna Fáil headquarters made no effort to recover this large amount of money. It is by no means clear that Mr. Flynn used any or all of that money for [386] his own purposes. However, I am not sure that the surviving Haughey loyalists can take much comfort from the proposition that Mr. Flynn may have been operating a debt collecting agency for Mr. Haughey. Surely if a Minister in membership of the party for only a wet week, the former Deputy John O'Connell, was asked to come to the rescue of a national monument, longer serving, genuine pedigree, acquiescent Ministers, if excluded, would feel unappreciated and unwanted?

It is no more than the duty of this House to require the Commissioner, who was so forthcoming on the “Late Late Show”, to comply with the terms of this motion. Perhaps in receding into the Brussels lift, pursued by Tommie Gorman, he decided to turn his back on Ireland. He certainly has given new meaning to Paul Durcan's poem, Backside to the Wind. In the process, if the Tánaiste is as good as her word, it puts the Government in an impossible position. A party that feigns indignation at Deputy Bruton's telephone call to Mr. Gilmartin must be really incensed at Mr. Gilmartin's version of Mr. Flynn's attempts to nobble him before he gets to the tribunal.

All we know is that great wasted talent by the Lee, Deputy Noel O'Flynn, is certainly incensed and, with Deputy Michael Moynihan, believes Mr. Flynn should go. I am not saying Mr. Flynn should resign, nor is that requested in this motion, but I am saying he must make a frank and comprehensive statement concerning the circumstances surrounding the £50,000 Gilmartin cheque, the purposes to which it was put, whether these purposes were known to Mount Street, to which Councillor McGrath refers as Aras de Valera, and the tenor of his recent exchanges with Mr. Gilmartin.

Mr. O'Malley: I wish to share my time with Deputies O'Flynn and Cooper-Flynn.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: That is agreed.

Mr. O'Malley: I am speaking on behalf of myself and my three colleagues in the Progressive Democrats Party. A little surprisingly, I find myself supporting the amendment proposed by my friend, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, last night. I was somewhat taken aback by some of the content of his speech and I propose to take a different approach.

Charles J. Haughey casts a long and dark shadow over Irish political life. It is nearly 20 years since he became Taoiseach, and seven since he left public life, but our political system is still struggling to come to terms with his legacy. In this debate we are addressing ourselves to one aspect of that legacy.

Charles Haughey took over the leadership of Fianna Fáil in 1979. He immediately set about stamping his particular style of leadership on that party and on the country. Both suffered as a result. Life in Fianna Fáil under Haughey was not [387] exactly pleasant. If you disagreed with the leader's views you could be intimidated, threatened, even assaulted within the precincts of this House by his more thuggish supporters. Haughey sought to establish a close identification between the party and his own personality. At times even the nation, the party and himself became confused with one another in his own mind. His leadership was based on a type of unquestioning personal loyalty – demeaning to those who offered it, shallow to him who received it. Debate and discussion were discouraged, dissenting views were silenced, we were into the era of “uno duce, una voce”.Charles Haughey created a new climate within Fianna Fáil, one very different from that which prevailed under his predecessors – Lynch, Lemass and de Valera. He created a climate of fear, a climate of greed, a climate of secrecy and conspiracy. The damage which Haughey was doing to the party and the country was becoming increasingly apparent as the years passed. Many of us fought it. I was thrown out and others left, Deputy Molloy among them. Also among those who left was someone from the next political generation to ours, the Tánaiste, Deputy Harney. As a young person she had the courage and guts to stand up to Haughey, qualities which were sadly lacking in many of her more senior colleagues. Having said that, I am sure that if what is known now was known then there would have been many more who would have left with us. However, there were many who did not leave, many who felt totally comfortable in the kind of party which Charles Haughey had created. Among them was Mr. Pádraig Flynn.

It might not be widely appreciated that Mr. Flynn and myself have something in common – we have both been dumped upon from a height by Fianna Fáil. It happened to me 15 years ago. In 1984 I was expelled from the parliamentary party for my heretical views on Northern Ireland. The following year I was expelled from the party itself for my even more heretical views, as an Independent, on the subject of family planning. On that occasion, Pádraig Flynn was one of those doing the dumping. From the steps of party headquarters in Upper Mount Street he addressed the nation through an RTE camera and pronounced that my conduct was “unbecoming a member of Fianna Fáil”. Now it is Mr. Flynn's turn to be dumped upon.

It seems that quite a number of Mr. Flynn's party colleagues throughout the country are baying for his blood. Apparently they regard his failure to explain what actually happened between Mr. Tom Gilmartin and himself as “conduct unbecoming”. At this stage we do not know what exactly happened nearly ten years ago. The only version of events put forward so far, however, presents a pretty appalling vista of the workings of Government in the late 1980s. Imagine a Minister for the Environment sitting in his office in the Custom House. Imagine a leading property [388] developer coming to visit him. Imagine the property developer handing him a cheque for £50,000. Imagine the Minister telling him to leave the “payee” line blank. That could indeed be conduct unbecoming, could it not? Did such an event actually occur in 1989? Mr. Tom Gilmartin says it did, Mr. Pádraig Flynn is saying nothing. As I said, I do not know what happened but like everyone else in this country I would like to know. That, in essence, is what this motion and these amendments are about.

This Parliament, elected by and representing the people, is making a simple and straightforward request to Mr. Flynn – make a clear statement and tell us what did or did not happen in 1989. Did you get £50,000 from Tom Gilmartin? Did you give the money to Fianna Fáil or did you pocket it yourself? Did you do anything for Mr. Gilmartin in return for his largesse? Did you pass on any of this money, either directly or indirectly, to Charles Haughey?

Mr. Flynn should also clarify whether he made contact with Mr. Gilmartin last year and whether he tried to influence Mr. Gilmartin's evidence to the planning tribunal. Attempting to get a witness to change his testimony before a tribunal of inquiry established by resolution of this House would be a serious matter. Anybody attempting that would render himself automatically unfit for the position of town commissioner, let alone European Commissioner. The questions being posed for Mr. Flynn are not complicated; they are simple, straightforward and easy to answer. Yet he declines to do so. He informs us that he will say his piece to the planning tribunal. Is he hoping that he will have been able to complete his term in Brussels before he is called to give evidence in Dublin Castle? Why else would he refuse to explain himself and what does he have to fear from telling the truth?

Mr. Flynn is a public servant working for the people of Europe and the people of Ireland. The people of Ireland, the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Opposition and the national media have asked Mr. Flynn to account for himself and to do so now. If he has any respect for the position he occupies he should do so immediately.

With the benefit of hindsight, I can see more clearly than before why certain leading figures in Fianna Fáil, Mr. Flynn being notable among them, were so opposed to the notion of coalition with the Progressive Democrats in 1989. Could it be they were afraid that we would cramp their style of doing business?

The next few months could be crucial in the political life of this country. We as a nation will be asked serious questions as to what kind of society, what kind of values and what kind of country we want. There may be further revelations made by tribunals, inquiries or the media, of wrongdoing at the highest levels in Irish society. If there are, they may be shocking and disturbing to most members of the voting public. For example, today's newspapers report a tri[389] bunal yesterday as having discovered that one of the providers of money – £100,000 – to a Haughey family company was Mr. Michael Murphy, who has been a close associate of, and long time insurance broker, to Mr. Larry Goodman. He helped to negotiate Mr. Goodman's earliest export credit insurance cover for Iraq and he was also insurance broker to the Department of Agriculture and Food until it sued him last December in respect of huge losses it sustained in a major fire at a beef intervention store at Ballaghaderreen in 1992.

Politicians will have a clear choice in how they respond to any such revelations. They can choose to respond with courage, integrity and determination to eradicate the cancer of corruption that has poisoned the political and commercial affairs of this country in recent years or they may choose to shirk their responsibility. They may choose to act the “cute hoor” yet again. They may choose to turn a blind eye, look the other way and indicate their tacit toleration and acceptance of a culture of crookedness and corruption. The people will then have a choice.

We may not have a general election for two or three years but events may dictate otherwise. Whenever the next election is held the question of standards in public life is likely to be one of the main items on the political agenda, if not the main item. What kind of standards do people want? What kind of parties do they want? What kind of politicians do they want? Will they believe those who say that all these tribunals are only barrister-fattening exercises, a waste of time and money and that we do not want to be digging into all that class of thing in any event? Would they vote for the brown envelope brigade if these gentlemen presented themselves for election again or are they prepared to make a genuine break with the past and embrace a new political order, one that gives precedence to decency over expediency, to honesty over dishonesty and to the public interest over the vested interest?

This Government has been surprisingly successful. It has made enormous progress in creating jobs, reducing unemployment and improving the lot of pensioners. The recent budget, for example, was a radical and reforming initiative by any standard. I take my hat off to Deputy Mary Harney for succeeding where others failed in introducing tax credits. It is a successful Government and we in the Progressive Democrats would like to see it continue in office.

However, it can continue in office only while there is trust and confidence between the two coalition partners. The position of the Progressive Democrats is straightforward. We do not expect people in public life to be saints or paragons of virtue. All we ask is that those in public life, especially those in high political office, abide by normal and reasonable standards of honesty and decency in dealing with the affairs of State.

If we are to be criticised for holding that position then this democracy is in more trouble than any of us realise. It is a well worn cliché that poli[390] tics is on trial in this country, but that cliché has never been truer than it is now. The public is interested to see revealed what the politicians of the 1980s got up to. They are also interested to see how those revelations will be dealt with by the politicians of the 1990s. All of us in this House can help to restore public confidence in the Irish political system or we can abandon our responsibility. If we abandon our responsibility to deal decisively with sleaze and corruption we run the risk of abandoning democracy itself.

There is a political movement out there now, watching current developments very closely. That movement has recently put itself forward as the real anti-sleaze party in Irish politics. I refer to the so-called republican movement, the people who murdered Jerry McCabe. Increasingly, public cynicism about politics is creating political space which these people are glad to occupy. The last time I made a speech in this House about my vision of a republic I got into a lot of trouble about it. However, my idea of a republic is very different from that of those who murder gardaí and mutilate for life those with whom they disagree.

We have a chance to restore the public's faith in politics over the next few months and an opportunity to show that this Republic is run by decent people according to decent standards. Let us embrace that opportunity.

Mr. O'Flynn: I support the Government's amendment to the motion. The Government asks for a public statement from the EU Commissioner while we allow the Flood tribunal to complete its deliberations. That accords with my stated view that such a statement must be made. It is owed to the public and it will clear the air.

We all don the mantle of accountability on the day we ask people we represent to place their trust in us. We do this when we ask them to elect us to speak on their behalf. We are their spokespersons and their champions on urban councils, city corporations, county councils, in the Dáil or abroad in the European Parliament. We bear a heavy burden and we must honour the trust the electorate has bestowed upon us. We owe it to them and ourselves to do so. It is our moral obligation. Not to do so is to cause the public to have a deeper distrust of politicians than that which has been generated by the events in recent years.

We are now paying for the past transgressions of a few politicians. The Government party to which I belong has pledged itself to the implementation of a code of high standards in public life. I am proud to be a member of the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party. I reserve the right to hold views on any matter. The onus is on us to restore the faith of the people in our political system which has served this country well.

However, I am surprised at the political posturing of the Fine Gael Party and of some of its members.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Nonsense.

[391] Mr. O'Flynn: It is in line with the party's past behaviour and cynical utterances. I must at least give members of that party credit for consistency of approach. They have always believed in selective democracy and still do. They believe in bringing the full pressure of the system to bear on individuals in other parties whom they perceive to have sinned against the system. When a member of Government or a person associated with my party is under pressure they hold the high ground of moral integrity so that they may pontificate and pronounce judgment.

However, when one of their own is exposed they have no problem in looking the other way. There are none so blind as those who will not see. It is a convenient and easy philosophy to adopt. They can speak of the sanctity of tribunals but are not above making telephone calls to key figures involved in them. Is there any possibility that the party of rectitude might introduce a Private Members' motion on contacts between politicians in high places and witnesses to the Flood tribunal while that body is still hearing evidence?

Mr. Durkan: Rubbish.

Mr. O'Flynn: If the Taoiseach had acted as the saintly leader of the Opposition had acted recently, if he had telephoned Mr. Tom Gilmartin for a cosy chat would the members of the Fine Gael Party behave as they are now – like a pack of blood thirsty hyenas lusting for his blood?

Mr. Browne (Carlow-Kilkenny): We would be climbing trees.

Mr. O'Flynn: Or would Fine Gael nod in understanding of a gentlemanly exchange between concerned individuals acting in the best interests of the nation? I will not embarrass the party by asking for an answer.

It is wonderful to be able to don the mantle of convenience democracy and yellow pack own-brand morality. In the eyes of Fine Gael it can only be worn when persons associated with this side of the House are in the dock. It is well known that Fine Gael is the party of slick opportunism and a cheap score.

Mr. Durkan: The Deputy will never be accused of that.

Mr. O'Flynn: The party will ever be so.

Mr. Shatter: The Deputy is an embarrassment.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy O'Flynn without interruption.

Mr. O'Flynn: The Fine Gael Party is holding its Ard-Fheis this weekend. It will always be in its present position because it lacks credibility and will continue to score cheap points in an attempt to bring down a Government that has brought peace and prosperity to our land.

[392] I support the Government amendment to the motion. I am sure the Fine Gael Party will also support it.

Mr. Durkan: That is a change from a couple of weeks ago. Has the Deputy the courage of his convictions now?

Mr. O'Flynn: Many Members were looking for this script today but they did not get it.

Mr. Durkan: What did the Deputy say a couple of weeks ago?

Mr. O'Flynn: I support the Taoiseach and my party.

Mr. Durkan: We heard the Deputy on radio and television.

Mr. O'Flynn: The Deputy should have listened to the beginning of my speech. I asked for a statement from the EU Commissioner. I hope it will be forthcoming.

Ms Cooper-Flynn: I acknowledge the special circumstances surrounding this debate for me personally. The motion is focused on the man who is my father, who preceded me as a Teachta Dála for the people of Mayo in these same benches and whose record of public service to his constituency, his party and his country exceeds 33 years. I address the House with the emotional involvement of a daughter whose family loyalty is on the table but who yet feels qualified to comment on issues in an objective and impartial manner. I would like to think that if the person named in this motion was not Pádraig Flynn, I would be equally opposed to what is before us tonight for reasons which I believe to be valid in truth and conscience. Every man or woman is entitled to his or her good name unless the facts prove otherwise, and I vigorously defend the right of every citizen in any circumstance.

What we are seeing tonight is political expediency at its most cynical. If the House believes the objectives of the Flood Tribunal are being served by this debate, I do not. If Pádraig Flynn is a victim of a travesty, he is not alone because his fellow casualties include integrity, fair play and basic justice. I consider it a demeaning abuse of Dáil privilege that the character of a private citizen can be impugned in the pursuit of narrow political point scoring.

I am conscious that people listening will be saying to themselves that I have to put in a word for my father. However, that is not the case. I want to address the issues which are more important than one man, such as justice, democracy and sanctimonious opportunism. This motion, which should be called the “notwithstanding motion”, is a shoddy example of opportunism. It is amazing that a party led by a lawyer would sweep aside the importance, prestige and function of the Flood Tribunal with one word “notwithstanding”. We are fortunate it is not in Government [393] because if it was, this new “notwithstanding” principle might be applied to other aspects of the judicial system.

Because this motion starts with the word “notwithstanding”, it is without meaning, point or efficacy. Fine Gael knew this when it constructed it and knew that notwithstanding the possibility that this House might acquiesce in this motion, this House has no competence in relation to the European Commissioner. The European Commissioner finishing out his term cannot be affected by the passing of this motion. It will not be worth the hot air it has generated. Fine Gael knew that when it started this ludicrous process and knew it even more clearly when a few days ago the EU President, Jacques Santer, dismissed the entire issue as having no relevance to him, the EU or the Commissioner's performance of his job. Santer said it was a purely domestic matter for Ireland.

Fine Gael has knowingly wasted the time of this House on something which can and will have no effect on the man it is setting out to damage. Although it will have no effect on the Commissioner, it will have a negative effect elsewhere. If there is anything calculated to increase public cynicism about politics, it is watching the second largest party in Dáil Éireann knowingly wasting parliamentary time on something pointless. It sends an interesting message about how Fine Gael views the business of Opposition – never mind the reality, feel the headlines. It is bad enough to engage in a pointless and fruitless form of games playing, but it is much worse to do it in such a tacky way.

The Fine Gael recipe is as follows: throw together a motion, lash in a couple of “notwithstandings”, stir in a bit of guilt by association and maybe it will look as if it benefits somebody. This motion will not benefit anybody. It is filled with the pretence that it is all straightforward and that if one has nothing to hide, one can make an immediate statement. However, it is not straightforward. If it was, we would not have had all the argument in the Flood Tribunal about who gives what evidence first, who gets to cross-examine whom and who might lose out by not having vital information other people have.

The people who crafted this motion are asking the European Commissioner not only to bypass a tribunal set up by this House and to risk condemnation by Mr. Justice Flood, but to behave as only a naive fool would behave. If two people's accounts of an event differ, then to ask one of those people to sacrifice due process, to lay all his evidence on the table and to present his entire case before he gets near the tribunal is to effectively sacrifice one party in an argument to the interests of the other. That is not justice.

Man's capacity for justice, it has been said, makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary. We, for all our faults and failings, are the trusted guardians of democracy. By setting up the Flood Tribunal, this House, by unanimous consent, hon[394] oured its duty to the principles of democracy. Tonight we are attempting to subvert the structure we set up and to pre-empt the findings and deliberations of that body. If this was a rush to judgment, it would be reprehensible enough but it is a blatant attempt to sacrifice the good name and reputation of someone who is outside this House and whose only sin is to offer to abide by the procedures we have set up and demanded obedience to, namely the Flood Tribunal.

This motion is a fake in every way. It pretends to be concerned about an allegation that appeared in print five months ago. It was made public almost half a year ago. What is new to justify the hysterical tone of this motion? What is different? Did new information emerge? All we have is a restatement of an untried allegation. The man making this untried allegation has restated that he did not ask the former Minister for the Environment for a favour nor did he receive one. That is precisely the position we were at five months ago. Hence we have the extraordinary frenzy of a fortnight ago when the Tánaiste announced that the Commissioner's position was now “impossible”. That is clearly not true. Jacques Santer does not think his position is impossible and the Government knows his position is not impossible.

People tend to keep doing things for which they are rewarded. Fianna Fáil should not collude in its own destruction or in the continuing portrayal of our party as intrinsically, essentially and eternally flawed by seeming to reward others who claim to be our moral guardians. Every time we do it, we are buying today's survival at the cost of tomorrow's existence. We are eroding our faith in ourselves and we are betraying our supporters.

When today's proceedings are over, I urge that all Members of the House stand back and reflect on what has been happening over the past three months. We have seen the work of the Oireachtas trivialised and we have nobody to blame but ourselves. We set up tribunals and then we run scared, unwilling and unable to wait on the due process they entail. We are the elected representatives of the people, yet we allow ourselves to become putty in the hands of influences around and outside us.

That is why, until I see the votes counted, I will not bring myself to believe that the party I know would collaborate with the Opposition parties on this tacky motion. The Fianna Fáil Party which I believe has a future, would not collaborate with the Opposition in its attempt to damage a man Fianna Fáil knows is committed to Ireland in Europe in a powerfully effective way. The Fianna Fáil Party which should lead this country in the next century would not abandon leadership on this issue and it would not act as if it was helpless in the face of an unstoppable process. Above all, it would not ask its members to put their names to something which, as individuals, they neither believe in nor approve. In loyalty to the Fianna Fáil Party, its ideals, leadership and members who have shown me such friendship and support, [395] not least in the past few days, I will not put my name to a motion which is empty except for the seeds of the long-term damage to my party.

Mr. Yates: I wish to share my time with Deputies Shatter, Coveney and Gormley.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Yates: I move amendment to amendment No. 1:

1. To add the following words at the end of the amendment:

“and resolves notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, to consider the issue again within the next three weeks”.

This House has just listened to two very interesting speeches from Deputies O'Malley and Beverley Cooper-Flynn. I admire Deputy O'Malley's rhetoric but the Progressive Democrats' position in this debate is impossible. On 25 January the Tánaiste said the position of Commissioner Flynn was impossible. She stated on 28 January: “It is impossible to have credibility in a public officeholder, whether it is a Commissioner or member of a Government, when these type of allegations hang over them and they don't respond.” The current defence of the Commissioner by the Minister for Foreign Affairs last night and the circling of the wagons, as we have just heard, is totally at variance with the Tánaiste's stated position. Unfortunately, the lack of credibility of the Progressive Democrats has again been exposed in the handling of this debate – this PD watchdog has neither barked nor bitten when it mattered.

While I appreciate Deputy Cooper-Flynn's emotional involvement in this, she seems to be clouded from reality. The most recent opinion poll showed that 86 per cent of respondents believed that Commissioner Flynn should respond to the allegations made by Mr. Gilmartin. A further 48 per cent said he should resign as against 34 per cent who said he should not. Let us be frank about this, Mr. Gilmartin's dual allegations, if true, make Commissioner Flynn's position impossible.

The first allegation is that he personally received £50,000 which was not forwarded to Fianna Fáil but which was meant to be paid to the Fianna Fáil Party. The second is that when Mr. Flynn was in the process of responding to questions from The Sunday Independent he contacted a critical witness of the tribunal, Mr. Gilmartin, to try to agree a line at the tribunal.

One cannot equate that with Deputy Bruton's phone call which was to check a matter of fact. To agree a line, if true, in my view makes his position clearly untenable. Commissioner Flynn's position is to ignore Irish public opinion, to show disdain with a hand gesture of one or two fingers to the Irish people who have demanded answers. The [396] purpose of this motion is not to trivialise or waste the time of the Dáil but to show that he cannot give the same gesture to the National Parliament of this country and to put him on the spot. His defence and that articulated by his daughter, Deputy Cooper-Flynn is not credible. His defence is to hide behind the Flood tribunal.

The question must be asked, if Commissioner Flynn was to give his version of accounts, how would it in any way inhibit the work of the tribunal? The purpose of the tribunal set up by this House is to establish the truth. For Commissioner Flynn to give his version of the truth can only assist in that process. Therefore, I do not believe the tribunal's working will be inhibited or hindered in any way by such a statement. In fact, the opposite is the case. The basic argument put forward by Commissioner Flynn, is in my view, a blatant sham. The Commissioner has wasted every opportunity to clear the air. The Dáil must now send him a clear message that he is not beyond reproach in his lofty perch in Brussels. The most incredible aspect of this debate is that the Taoiseach, and the trustees of the Fianna Fáil Party, seem to care so little about moneys missing from their party they have failed directly to informally or formally ask what happened to the moneys or why the party has never received them.

One of the key issues Deputy Cooper-Flynn spoke about was that of justice. A key kernel of justice is free speech. We are inviting the Commissioner to have free and open speech.

In conclusion, we have been exposed and because we established this tribunal the House has never had an opportunity to say it. Let us call a spade a spade. What has happened at the Flood and particularly the Moriarity tribunal in terms of evidence is nothing less than the exposure of two sewage pipes spewing out episodes of the Haughey culture in Government. That would be unacceptable or even outlandish to the wildest allegation made by the most vociferous opponents of the then Deputy Haughey during that era. The Dáil and the Government must preserve the good reputation of Ireland in Europe by taking decisive action against the Commissioner. In my view it is clear either way that his credibility is terminally damaged. It is clear that he is a lame duck Commissioner anyway because the Government spin doctors have made it clear he will not be renominated.

If the Commissioner fails to respond to this motion within the time required, the Dáil should not hesitate to take further steps directly against the Commission.

Mr. Shatter: A core value in parliamentary democracy is the accountability to this House of Members and Ministers for their actions as Ministers. That is central to the issue in this debate. It is not the fact that the former Deputy and Minister, Commissioner Flynn, is now a Commissioner of the European Parliament that makes him accountable to this House but the fact that he [397] is a former Deputy and Minister. Accountability means that you are accountable to this House for the manner in which you conduct your business as Minister and a member of Government.

This House is visiting this issue because Commissioner Flynn sought in his words to set the record straight on “The Late Late Show”. He is not known for his reticence on issues and he talked volubly that evening about his work and he engaged in a great deal of self-praise. In doing so he sought to do down an individual who had made an allegation with regard to his conduct as Minister. That allegation is a matter of great concern to Members. It was well articulated earlier by Deputy O'Malley but it bears repetition. We have been told that we had in Government a Minister for the Environment who sat behind his desk and had handed across his desk, as is alleged, a cheque for £50,000 allegedly for the benefit of the election of the Fianna Fáil Party. We have been told by the Fianna Fáil Party and by the Taoiseach that the cheque was never received. The person to whom it was handed, now a European Commissioner and a man not known for his reticence, confronted with that allegation has now gone strangely silent. I fully understand, as does every Member, that tonight must be emotionally fraught for Deputy Cooper-Flynn and anything she says must in charity be put in that context. In so far as she is suggesting that this motion is in some scurrilous way trying to destroy the name of a good man, she is wrong. This motion asks that the former Minister explain the background to what occurred in 1989, as is alleged.

This motion is not about trying to subvert the Flood tribunal because in setting up the Flood tribunal this House did not end and cannot constitutionally end the accountability of Ministers to this House for their actions. Commissioner Flynn, as a former Deputy and Minister, is still accountable to this House for the manner in which he conducted business in 1989. It is regrettable that there is a need for this motion. It is reasonable that this motion asks him to explain fully what he did with the money that he is alleged to have received, to confirm that he received it and asks him to explain the circumstances surrounding the receipt of that money.

In so far as someone is at fault for this motion, two individuals take the blame. The first is Commissioner Flynn for failing to be immediately forthcoming to explain his position. In no other European parliamentary democracy confronted by an allegation of this nature would a former Minister stay silent and not explain himself. The second person at fault is the Taoiseach through his failure over a number of months to get to the root of this story during numerous meetings with the Commissioner, not just in a European context by in a social context, and after the sending of a formal letter by the general secretary of his party. He failed on a single occasion to ask the Commissioner if he would tell him whether he [398] received that cheque and, if he did, what he did with it.

It is extraordinary that someone who told this House he is committed to cleaning up politics and a new ethos in politics is unwilling to confront the past of his party. The litmus test of the commitment of the Fianna Fáil party to a new political ethos is the manner, as Deputy O'Malley rightly said, in which the leader of the party confronts the old ethos. I find it difficult to disagree with the vast substance of what Deputy O'Malley said except for one aspect. The real test in this House is whether one's actions match one's rhetoric. Hopefully, the motion will be passed and we will get a comprehensive explanation from the Commissioner, but if we do not, we, as elected representatives of the people, have a constitutional duty to then further consider the view the House holds of the Commissioner retaining his position in Europe.

Deputy O'Malley and the Progressive Democrats Party are apparently in favour of calling on the Commissioner to explain himself, but are not prepared to agree to the House revisiting this issue in three weeks if he fails to do so in a satisfactory and comprehensive manner. In other words, it seems that the Progressive Democrats Party rhetoric will not be matched by action and that is the litmus test of the new ethos not just of the Fianna Fáil Party but the practised ethos of the Progressive Democrats Party because Deputy O'Malley spoke most eloquently about the tyranny of the Haughey years and the difficulties experienced by those who sought to express views that were at variance with Mr. Haughey. Part of the tyranny of the Haughey years was compliant backbench members of the Fianna Fáil Party and, indeed, Ministers voting in a particular manner on issues about which they fundamentally disagreed with the line the party was taking.

I believe that the Progressive Democrats Party from the Tánaiste's previous comments, not only believes that the Commissioner should provide an explanation, but, as my colleague, Deputy Yates, pointed out, if he fails to do so in a satisfactory and comprehensive way his position is untenable. If it is the view of this House in three weeks that such is the case there should be support from the Progressive Democrats Party for the House revisiting this issue. However, it appears that the rhetoric is not matched by action.

Last night we listened with some confusion to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who proposed the amendment to the motion. He produced an extraordinary analogy between Commissioner Flynn, the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four. In so far as the Commissioner might be a prisoner in Brussels, he is a prisoner of his own making. In so far as the Minister for Foreign Affairs spoke about the importance of the Commissioner remaining in his position during the forthcoming difficult negotiations in Brussels, he failed to explain how the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste or himself could conduct business with Mr. Flynn [399] in the weeks ahead if the position pertains that they are of the belief that he received money and he fails to explain the circumstances surrounding it and what he did with it.

The case made by the Minister last night is entirely untenable. It is in the interests of democracy, restoring faith in politics and the reputation of both Government parties that they extend full support to the Fine Gael amendment to ensure this House can revisit the issue. Any claim to integrity that any of the Independents who currently support the Government may have will fall by the wayside if they fail to support us. They will be seen as a group committed to political expediency, interested in their self-preservation and with no concern for the democratic institutions of this State.

Mr. Coveney: I have not asked to contribute to this debate to bring up incidents of the past, which have brought shame to the profession of politics in Ireland. My interest is not in trying to embarrass the Government or to drag up a period in the recent past, which I am sure haunts Fianna Fáil, in particular, but also other parties. I do not want to talk about the past as I am concerned about the present and, more importantly, the future for the political system.

Everyone in this House goes home and talks to their constituents at weekends. When they chat about politics they talk about the most recent development in a tribunal or a scandal, bribe or lie. We read about the same stuff in the political pages of the Sunday newspapers, which blackens the reputation of those in public life. We, as politicians, are losing credibility in the eyes of the public and, as the newest Member of this House, I am sick of being told that politicians cannot be trusted and it is a career full of deception and dishonesty. That is not the career I chose to enter four months ago.

The tribunals are necessary and we must go through this process to clear the air and start again from a clean slate if we are to begin to rebuild faith between the public and public representatives. The recent allegation involving our EU Commissioner regarding a payment of £50,000 is just another in a long line of incidents that people want to hear the truth about and have explained. However, there is a difference between this allegation and many of the other corruption charges in recent times. There is a massive public interest in it largely because of the infamous television interview with Mr. Flynn but also because of the vast media coverage it received and the friction it has caused between Government parties.

However, the main reason for the interest is that people just cannot understand why Mr. Flynn will not respond to the allegations made against him. It is surely in his interest to tell the truth and come clean because by his silence the public will assume the worst anyway. I have no idea whether he is guilty of any wrongdoing but it is crystal [400] clear that in his silence he is fuelling the cynicism and disillusionment that has developed in the public's attitude towards politicians. He is doing everyone in this House a disservice.

I do not accept that he should wait until the tribunal to give his evidence. Mr. Flynn knows the truth about what happened in regard to the £50,000 and he should stop delaying and make a statement so that we can move on from this negative incident and concentrate on what we were elected to do. I regret that the Opposition felt it necessary to spend three hours of Private Members' time on this subject. Many other pressing issues need to be debated but I hope this three hours will not be wasted and this debate will result in a full and satisfactory statement from our EU Commissioner. If it fails to receive such a statement, the Dáil will be forced to consider whether in present circumstances Mr. Flynn is suitable to remain in office as EU Commissioner representing Ireland.

Mr. Gormley: Pádraig Flynn's performance on the “Late Late Show” has been mentioned. I was not one of the many people who turned off their television sets when he appeared even though his performance was nauseating it made for compelling viewing. In response to a question from the young man from Finglas, he indicated that he earns £140,000, but only £100,000 after tax. In mentioning that he has three houses to run he said, “you should try it some time”. I am sure that man would like to try it some time, as would those on hospital and housing waiting lists and those who get stuck in traffic jams each morning but they will never have that opportunity.

Fianna Fáil should adopt a new slogan which should read, “You should try it some time”, not “People before Politics”. What I am hearing from the Fianna Fáil benches is that one can receive £30,000, £50,000 or £1.3 million, put it in one's back pocket and get away with it. It is a mealy-mouthed response.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Andrews, compared Commissioner Flynn with the Birmingham Six while Deputy Lenihan, in a theological excursion, compared him with Adam and Eve. Apparently, God applied the laws of natural justice. The only similarity between Commissioner Flynn and Adam and Eve that I can see is that he must feel exposed.

Commissioner Flynn said he would comment at the appropriate time. When I suggested that he should resign under Article 160 of the Treaty of Rome I was informed that it could not be done because the events in question happened prior to his appointment. Let us suppose that ten dead bodies were discovered under the foundations of a house, that a witness came forward and said that he saw a Commissioner dispose of the bodies, that the Commissioner stated that the events happened prior to his appointment and that he would comment at the appropriate time – that is the worst case scenario – are we to believe that he should continue in office? It is alleged by a [401] witness that Commissioner Flynn received £50,000 but the Commissioner will not comment and is allowed to continue in office because the events happened prior to his appointment. The only difference is that this is seen as a misdemeanour, small beer and trivial. We have been told by Fianna Fáil not to get on our high horse, that it is only £50,000 and that it happened in 1989. That is trying to put it to one side and dismiss it but that will not do.

Mr. Dempsey: Who told the Deputy that?

Mr. Gormley: You are saying that.

Mr. Dempsey: I am not.

Mr. Gormley: We have heard some nonsense from the other side of the House. The Progressive Democrats have said that Commissioner Flynn's position is impossible. What will they do tonight? They have taken the high moral ground time and again. They have bellyached and shined their haloes. They now have to prove themselves. You, Minister Dempsey, and Fianna Fáil will have to clean up your act. You are getting us a bad name. We have to go to the doors as well and each of us is tarnished by your actions. That galls me.

Mr. D. Wallace: That is disgraceful and should be withdrawn.

Mr. Gormley: The year 1989 must have been a good time for all of you as money seems to have been—

Mr. Dempsey: On a point of order, I ask the Deputy to withdraw the insinuation that I had anything to do with anything that went on.

Mr. Gormley: I did not insinuate anything about the Minister.

Mr. Dempsey: I was a Member of the House and a member of Fianna Fáil in 1989. The insinuation is that every member of Fianna Fáil in 1989 was on the take. The Deputy should withdraw the remark.

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Gormley is in possession. Political charges are being made across the floor. The Minister has made a disclaimer. That should be accepted.

Mr. Gormley: In no way am I accusing the Minister of corruption.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should address the Chair.

Mr. Gormley: I am happy to clarify the matter. Politicians no longer enjoy a good reputation. I would hate to think what the turnout at the next election will be. We are all tarnished. I hope the newly found ethical approach of Fianna Fáil will pay dividends but it will have to prove itself. The [402] Taoiseach should go to Padraig Flynn and ask him a direct question.

There is a credibility gap here. We have been informed that Seán Fleming, Des Richardson and Pat Farrell knew about the Rennicks donation but, apparently, the Taoiseach who knows everything about everything did not. Is that not straining credibility? We have also been informed that the only person in Fianna Fáil who knew about the 1989 donation was Mr. Sherwin and that he kept it to himself. Is that not straining credibility? It is extremely difficult to believe. It is time there was an internal tribunal in Fianna Fáil and action was taken. If that was done, there could be a purge and the slate could be wiped clean. If it is not done, allegations will continue to be made and politics will continue to be brought into the mire.

I support the Fine Gael motion. I called for clarification and the removal of Commissioner Flynn under Article 160 if he failed to clarify the matter. He has not done so. His position is untenable. I hope others in the House will support the motion.

Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Dempsey): This is not the first time I have asked Deputy Gormley to withdraw allegations he has made about me and other Fianna Fáil Deputies. It has been said that politics has been brought into disrepute. Deputy Gormley should look seriously at his position. Wide and sweeping generalisations about Members on this side of the House do no one any good, himself included.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Minister should address the Chair.

Mr. Dempsey: Through the Chair, people on all sides of the House are, and the majority of them down through the years have been, decent and honourable and have done no wrong. It should be remembered that wide and sweeping generalisations about my party or the Members of any other party do not do politics any good. It may seem like a good idea to have a swipe at everyone in Fianna Fáil. I have been a Member of this House since 1987 and I lived through the era in Fianna Fáil about which Deputy O'Malley spoke. I stayed in Fianna Fáil and played a role in doing something about it. I am proud of the party, the Leader and the standards we have now. I am also proud that we will allow tribunals, inquiries and other bodies set up by this House to comprehensively deal with any wrongdoing in the late 1980s. That is important for everyone in this House. I am not aware of anyone on this side who has any problem with that. That is the true position of Fianna Fáil and I would not like it to be misrepresented.

It is true that the Government and the Opposition have a great deal in common on this matter. Deputies from all sides have called for clarification, and the sooner the better. I again call for [403] that clarification tonight on behalf of the Government, the Fianna Fáil party and on a personal basis. The original motion put before the House was flawed. I realise there are eminent lawyers present who might disagree with me, but it could have represented, as it was worded, interference in the Flood Tribunal. It also attempted to establish, in a very roundabout way, jurisdiction over a strictly independent European public official which I do not think we can do.

Fine Gael has agreed its original motion was somewhat flawed.

Mr. G. Mitchell: We have not.

Mr. Dempsey: I am genuinely pleased it has accepted the Government amendment preserves the independence of the tribunal and is acceptable.

Mr. Shatter: The Government amendment is not acceptable. Do not misrepresent us.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should not interrupt.

Mr. Dempsey: When Deputy Gay Mitchell addressed the House yesterday, he set out what he wanted and what, I believe, all of us want when he said “Tonight we ask for an explanation from Commissioner Flynn, no more, no less.” This is fully in accordance with the amendment put down by the Government.

Many statements about natural justice have been made by Members on both sides of the House. Unlike the original motion, the Government amendment preserves natural justice for Commissioner Flynn, irrespective of whether one agrees with him. We call for an explanation at this stage. We believe clarification would be in the interest of all, including the Commissioner. In doing that, we should acknowledge that Commissioner Flynn indicated his wish to have the matter dealt with by the Flood tribunal and that he would make no comment on the allegations.

I say to some Members who seem to have missed this point, that if the Commissioner had maintained that stance, there would be no reason for the motion before the House. However, he chose to make a statement in a very public arena, on “The Late Late Show”, and because of that he should give an explanation outside the tribunal.

There is no suggestion that Commissioner Flynn should not have the right to have the allegations made against him heard by the tribunal. He has every right to make a full statement, to give a full explanation and to deal with any allegations there. We all wish that matter could be resolved quickly. As Deputy Gormley and others said, that would be in all our interests. A statement from Commissioner Flynn at this time would not only be in his interest but also in the national interest.

[404] The Government has tabled an amendment which calls on the Commissioner to make a statement clarifying his position. We are asking him to respond positively to this call for his own sake, for the sake of the body politic and for the sake of the country. We ask him to do that urgently.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: I wish to share my time, with the agreement of the House, with Deputy Gay Mitchell.

An Ceann Comhairle: Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: There are two simple issues before the House, first, whether this House should demand a full statement from Commissioner Flynn and, second, whether we should revisit this issue in the event that he fails to make such a statement.

In considering these issues, one must look at the position of the different parties in the House. The position of the Progressive Democrats is intriguing. We heard a strong statement from the Tánaiste and Leader of the Progressive Democrats, Deputy Harney, that as far as she is concerned, the position of the Commissioner is impossible. The Opposition did not say that, we did not jump to judgment. We felt it would be fairer to ask the Commissioner to make a statement. Be that as it may, that was the opening position of the Progressive Democrats.

We then heard a powerful speech tonight from Deputy O'Malley which raises the issue of the follow-through. What will the Progressive Democrats do? Is this motion a toothless tiger in that we will demand a statement from the Commissioner without any follow-up in the event that he disdains the moral voice of the House? That is the issue facing the Progressive Democrats. It is a defining issue for them and a matter for them as to how they respond.

I do not want to say much about the position of Deputy Cooper-Flynn. Her speech was a little intriguing which is understandable under the circumstances. She spoke manfully, or more correctly, womanfully, in defence of her father, which is as one would expect. However, she predicated her defence of her father on the basis that he was a private citizen. I cannot accept that. He has been involved in politics for as long as I have and he is still involved as far as I am concerned. He is answerable to this House and accountable for his actions when he was a Minister.

The position of Fianna Fáil is more than interesting. Its reaction to this debate has been unsure and indecisive. It indicated a lack of confidence in the facts, which I presume it fears will emerge, and a lack of confidence in dealing with Dáil procedure. It makes a virtue of necessity in demanding, as the Minister for the Environment and Local Government, Deputy Dempsey, did, a full clarification and statement at this stage. This is the first time there has been any follow-up to the letter from the general secretary of the party [405] to Commissioner Flynn which dates back to 6 October last.

Mr. O'Dea: That is a lie.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: I am referring to the contribution of the Taoiseach in the House on 27 January.

An Ceann Comhairle: The word “lie” should not be used.

Mr. Yates: It is not a lie, it is a “Dear Pádraig” letter, I have it here.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: A comment like that from Deputy O'Dea is not even worth referring to. If it had come from anyone else, I would ask that it be withdrawn.

Mr. Yates: It is marked strictly private and confidential.

Mr. Dempsey: It is a political lie.

Mr. O'Dea: It is a deliberate lie.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Andrews, made the main speech on the part of Fianna Fáil last night. He did his best, as a former senior counsel. He put up a spurious defence against the acceptance of the Fine Gael motion. He spoke about the possibility of political interference and said it was a roundabout way to establish jurisdiction over the Commissioner. Yet he proposed an amendment demanding a full statement from the Commissioner. He evaded the main issue. In trying to discern its true position, Fianna Fáil has no option but to join Fine Gael, the other parties in the House and the public in accepting the demand for a full statement from the Commissioner. It does it only because the rest of the country is similarly demanding such a statement. There was no such demand publicly, so far as I am aware, up to this time.

Mr. O'Dea: There was.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: The real issue so far as Fianna Fáil is concerned is its position in the event that Commissioner Flynn refuses to respond. Where does it stand on that issue? With all due respect, speaking about his wisdom and experience and the necessity to keep him in place as a Commissioner in the crucial negotiations ahead is bunkum. I do not denigrate what Commissioner Flynn has done as a Commissioner in Europe. Most people will accept – and I accept – he has done his job well but I am satisfied there are many other people who could do the job equally well. If his position is found to be untenable, it is a question of putting in an alternative as quickly as possible.

The choice for Fianna Fáil is simple. It has to accept that this House demands a full statement [406] from the Commissioner. What is its position in the event of his refusal to respond to the moral voice of this House? Does it want this House to be a toothless tiger? Does it want a situation where that demand is made and left in the air and that he can ignore it with impunity? This is an unacceptable position and the only honourable course for Fianna Fáil to adopt is to support the Fine Gael position on this motion.

Mr. G. Mitchell: I do not wish to go over any of the ground I dealt with last night but to respond to some of the points made. There is a school of thought that we should be ashamed of our profession and clean up our act. I do not share that view. It is the culprits who need to have their act cleaned up. It is they who need to have the verdict delivered upon them. Those of us who are doing our job have nothing to be ashamed of. Swift, Shakespeare and our current satirists have said, the nature of politics is that people will say things about politicians. We should not fall in with the “free Barabbas” crowd who think that because they have the majority voice they have got it right. Most politicians are doing an honest job. I dealt with that issue last night and will not deal with it any further. We do not need a machine gun to mow everybody down but a sniper's bullet to pick off the culprits and ensure they get their due rewards.

I was disappointed with Deputy O'Malley's speech, a man for whom I have great regard. It is time they “walked the talk”. When we walk up to vote they should be with us. If they are not walking with us they are not “walking the talk”. It is not good enough to have a bob each way on an issue of this kind as the Progressive Democrats did.

An examination of my opening comments in this debate will show they were fair, reasonable, balanced and to the point. I wish to draw attention to the following extract from my opening comments: “This motion does not prejudge Mr. Flynn. It merely asks him for an explanation. In natural justice we are giving Mr. Flynn an opportunity to make that explanation within two weeks. For all we know there may well be an explanation unrelated to the tribunal. This cannot be determined until we hear from Mr. Flynn.” I repeat that statement for the reason that this is the way we proceeded in the case of Ray Burke, who would never have appeared at any tribunal had we not heard his story, and because the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Andrews, sought to imply that members of the Opposition were unwilling to extend to Commissioner Flynn the same basic right to be heard by the tribunal at the appropriate time. That is technically incorrect.

What strikes me as extraordinary is the Minister for Foreign Affairs' clear belief that Mr. Flynn has a case to answer at the tribunal and it is beyond any doubt he must appear. Who is prejudging Mr. Flynn? Could not Fianna Fáil have given Mr. Flynn the same benefit of the doubt that the Opposition is prepared to apply, [407] until we hear the Commissioner's side of the story within a reasonable two to three week period?

At first glance the contribution of the Minister for Foreign Affairs appeared to be a self-defence of the Commissioner, were it not for the fact that he was speaking to a Fianna Fáil amendment calling on the Commissioner to make a statement. It seems Fianna Fáil came to bury the Commissioner, not to praise him. Why the reference to the autobiography Man of No Property, written by the Minister's father? Was this a cruel and gratuitous kick at a man who has homes in Dublin, Brussels and Castlebar as mentioned in his now infamous “Late Late Show” performance? The Minister, Deputy Andrews, was speaking from script. What other construction was meant to be put on this comment?

Our rather tall Commissioner is something of a political Goliath. The Minister's comments may have gone some way to slaying him. To make matters worse, the Minister went over the top in comparing Mr. Flynn to the Birmingham Six, the Maguire family and Guiseppi Conlon. He has inadvertently knocked him by representing him as the Brussels one, thereby ensuring the evaporation of any residual sympathy for him.

The Minister, Deputy Andrews, a man for whom I have high regard, is inclined to get carried away in situations such as this. When the Dáil considered the need for an explanation from the then Minister, Ray Burke, Deputy Andrews admonished the Opposition and walked out of the House. A couple of days later Ray Burke's job in Iveagh House was taken by Deputy Andrews. One wonders whether the Minister is on his way to Brussels. Who needs enemies when you have friends like that?

Fianna Fáil is happy to sacrifice the Com[408] missioner. In its view, he should lay down his political life for his friends. Has it learned nothing from the practised Haughey tradition – out went Deputies Harney and O'Malley and even Brian Lenihan was pushed to preserve the Fianna Fáil regime. Amid all the disguised comments by Fianna Fáil, the real agenda is to bury Mr. Flynn and bury the questions with him. It should be careful as Mr. Flynn was treasurer and knows where some of the bodies are interred. Is this the reason Fianna Fáil does not want due process to apply, by giving the Commissioner two to three weeks to make an explanation?

Mr. Dempsey: This is the most convoluted reasoning I have ever heard.

Mr. G. Mitchell: It seems to have good reason to prevent the Commissioner from speaking. So far its efforts to get the Commissioner to speak have been little more than cosmetic. Last night I set out four questions which need to be answered by Mr. Flynn. We are prepared to give him the time to answer those questions. We do not prejudge him. We call on Fianna Fáil to do likewise by supporting Fine Gael's motion and amendment. I note few Members, and only two Ministers on the Fianna Fáil side, have come in to defend their colleague. It is clear there is a willingness to revisit this matter in two to three weeks time. If the Commissioner does not give that explanation we have no choice. We will have no more subterfuge, vagueness or hiding from accountability. If the Fine Gael proposals are accepted – and I expect they will – we will be back here within the next three weeks if no explanation has been given. This is the minimum requirement for accountability in a parliamentary democracy.

Amendment to amendment No. 1 put.

Barnes, Monica.

Barrett, Seán.

Bell, Michael.

Belton, Louis.

Boylan, Andrew.

Bradford, Paul.

Broughan, Thomas.

Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).

Bruton, John.

Bruton, Richard.

Burke, Liam.

Burke, Ulick.

Carey, Donal.

Clune, Deirdre.

Connaughton, Paul.

Cosgrave, Michael.

Coveney, Simon.

Crawford, Seymour.

Currie, Austin.

D'Arcy, Michael.

De Rossa, Proinsias.

Deasy, Austin.

Deenihan, Jimmy.

Durkan, Bernard.

Enright, Thomas.

Farrelly, John.

Ferris, Michael.

Finucane, Michael.

Fitzgerald, Frances.

Flanagan, Charles.

Gilmore, Éamon.

Gormley, John.

Gregory, Tony.

Hayes, Brian.

Higgins, Joe.

Higgins, Michael.

Hogan, Philip.

Howlin, Brendan.

Kenny, Enda.

McCormack, Pádraic.

McDowell, Derek.

McGahon, Brendan.

McGinley, Dinny.

McGrath, Paul.

McManus, Liz.

Mitchell, Gay.

Mitchell, Jim.

Mitchell, Olivia.

Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.

Naughten, Denis.[409]

Tá–continued

Neville, Dan.

Noonan, Michael.

Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghin.

O'Keeffe, Jim.

O'Shea, Brian.

O'Sullivan, Jan.

Owen, Nora.

Penrose, William.

Perry, John.

Quinn, Ruairí.

Rabbitte, Pat.

Reynolds, Gerard.

[410] Ring, Michael.

Ryan, Seán.

Sargent, Trevor.

Shatter, Alan.

Sheehan, Patrick.

Shortall, Róisín.

Spring, Dick.

Stagg, Emmet.

Stanton, David.

Timmins, Billy.

Upton, Pat.

Wall, Jack.

Yates, Ivan.

Níl

Ahern, Bertie.

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.

Davern, Noel.

de Valera, Síle.

Dempsey, Noel.

Dennehy, John.

Doherty, Seán.

Ellis, John.

Fahey, Frank.

Fleming, Seán.

Flood, Chris.

Foley, Denis.

Fox, Mildred.

Gildea, Thomas.

Hanafin, Mary.

Haughey, Seán.

Healy-Rae, Jackie.

Jacob, Joe.

Keaveney, Cecilia.

Kelleher, Billy.

Kenneally, Brendan.

Kirk, Séamus.

Kitt, Michael.

Kitt, Tom.

Lawlor, Liam.

Lenihan, Brian.

Lenihan, Conor.

McCreevy, Charlie.

McDaid, James.

McGennis, Marian.

McGuinness, John.

Martin, Micheál.

Moffatt, Thomas.

Molloy, Robert.

Moloney, John.

Moynihan, Donal.

Moynihan, Michael.

Ó Cuív, Éamon.

O'Dea, Willie.

O'Donnell, Liz.

O'Flynn, Noel.

O'Hanlon, Rory.

O'Keeffe, Batt.

O'Keeffe, Ned.

O'Kennedy, Michael.

O'Malley, Desmond.

O'Rourke, Mary.

Power, Seán.

Reynolds, Albert.

Ryan, Eoin.

Smith, Brendan.

Smith, Michael.

Treacy, Noel.

Wade, Eddie.

Wallace, Dan.

Wallace, Mary.

Walsh, Joe.

Woods, Michael.

Wright, G. V.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Barrett and Stagg; Níl, Deputies S. Brennan and Power.

Amendment to amendment No. 1 declared lost.

Question put: “That amendment No. 1 be made.”

Ahern, Bertie.

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.

Coughlan, Mary.

Cowen, Brian.

Daly, Brendan.[411]

Tá–continued

Davern, Noel.

de Valera, Síle.

Dempsey, Noel.

Dennehy, John.

Doherty, Seán.

Ellis, John.

Fahey, Frank.

Fleming, Seán.

Flood, Chris.

Foley, Denis.

Fox, Mildred.

Gildea, Thomas.

Hanafin, Mary.

Haughey, Seán.

Healy-Rae, Jackie.

Jacob, Joe.

Keaveney, Cecilia.

Kelleher, Billy.

Kenneally, Brendan.

Kirk, Séamus.

Kitt, Michael.

Kitt, Tom.

Lawlor, Liam.

Lenihan, Brian.

Lenihan, Conor.

McCreevy, Charlie.

McDaid, James.

McGennis, Marian.

McGuinness, John.

[412] Martin, Micheál.

Moffatt, Thomas.

Molloy, Robert.

Moloney, John.

Moynihan, Donal.

Moynihan, Michael.

Ó Cuív, Éamon.

O'Dea, Willie.

O'Donnell, Liz.

O'Flynn, Noel.

O'Hanlon, Rory.

O'Keeffe, Batt.

O'Keeffe, Ned.

O'Kennedy, Michael.

O'Malley, Desmond.

O'Rourke, Mary.

Power, Seán.

Reynolds, Albert.

Roche, Dick.

Ryan, Eoin.

Smith, Brendan.

Smith, Michael.

Treacy, Noel.

Wade, Eddie.

Wallace, Dan.

Wallace, Mary.

Walsh, Joe.

Woods, Michael.

Wright, G. V.

Níl

Barnes, Monica.

Barrett, Seán.

Bell, Michael.

Belton, Louis.

Boylan, Andrew.

Bradford, Paul.

Broughan, Thomas.

Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).

Bruton, John.

Bruton, Richard.

Burke, Liam.

Burke, Ulick.

Carey, Donal.

Clune, Deirdre.

Connaughton, Paul.

Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.

Cosgrave, Michael.

Coveney, Simon.

Crawford, Seymour.

Currie, Austin.

D'Arcy, Michael.

De Rossa, Proinsias.

Deasy, Austin.

Deenihan, Jimmy.

Durkan, Bernard.

Enright, Thomas.

Farrelly, John.

Ferris, Michael.

Finucane, Michael.

Fitzgerald, Frances.

Flanagan, Charles.

Gilmore, Éamon.

Gormley, John.

Gregory, Tony.

Hayes, Brian.

Higgins, Michael.

Hogan, Philip.

Howlin, Brendan.

Kenny, Enda.

McCormack, Pádraic.

McDowell, Derek.

McGahon, Brendan.

McGinley, Dinny.

McGrath, Paul.

McManus, Liz.

Mitchell, Gay.

Mitchell, Jim.

Mitchell, Olivia.

Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.

Naughten, Denis.

Neville, Dan.

Noonan, Michael.

Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghin.

O'Keeffe, Jim.

O'Shea, Brian.

O'Sullivan, Jan.

Owen, Nora.

Penrose, William.

Perry, John.

Quinn, Ruairí.

Rabbitte, Pat.

Reynolds, Gerard.

Ring, Michael.

Ryan, Seán.

Sargent, Trevor.

Shatter, Alan.

Sheehan, Patrick.

Shortall, Róisín.

Spring, Dick.

Stagg, Emmet.

Stanton, David.

Timmins, Billy.

Upton, Pat.

Wall, Jack.

Yates, Ivan.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies S. Brennan and Power; Níl, Deputies Barrett and Stagg.

dt18,2g,18>

Question declared carried.

Question put: “That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.”[413]

Ahern, Bertie.

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.

Coughlan, Mary.

Cowen, Brian.

Cullen, Martin.

Daly, Brendan.

Davern, Noel.

de Valera, Síle.

Dempsey, Noel.

Dennehy, John.

Doherty, Seán.

Ellis, John.

Fahey, Frank.

Fleming, Seán.

Flood, Chris.

Foley, Denis.

Fox, Mildred.

Gildea, Thomas.

Hanafin, Mary.

Haughey, Seán.

Healy-Rae, Jackie.

Jacob, Joe.

Keaveney, Cecilia.

Kelleher, Billy.

[414] Kenneally, Brendan.

Kirk, Séamus.

Kitt, Michael.

Kitt, Tom.

Lawlor, Liam.

Lenihan, Brian.

Lenihan, Conor.

McCreevy, Charlie.

McDaid, James.

McGennis, Marian.

McGuinness, John.

Martin, Micheál.

Moffatt, Thomas.

Molloy, Robert.

Moloney, John.

Moynihan, Donal.

Moynihan, Michael.

Ó Cuív, Éamon.

O'Dea, Willie.

O'Donnell, Liz.

O'Flynn, Noel.

O'Hanlon, Rory.

O'Keeffe, Batt.

O'Keeffe, Ned.

O'Kennedy, Michael.

O'Malley, Desmond.

O'Rourke, Mary.

Power, Seán.

Reynolds, Albert.

Ryan, Eoin.

Smith, Brendan.

Smith, Michael.

Treacy, Noel.

Wade, Eddie.

Wallace, Dan.

Wallace, Mary.

Walsh, Joe.

Woods, Michael.

Wright, G. V.

Níl

Barnes, Monica.

Barrett, Seán.

Bell, Michael.

Belton, Louis.

Boylan, Andrew.

Bradford, Paul.

Broughan, Thomas.

Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).

Bruton, John.

Bruton, Richard.

Burke, Liam.

Burke, Ulick.

Carey, Donal.

Clune, Deirdre.

Connaughton, Paul.

Cosgrave, Michael.

Coveney, Simon.

Crawford, Seymour.

Currie, Austin.

D'Arcy, Michael.

De Rossa, Proinsias.

Deasy, Austin.

Deenihan, Jimmy.

Durkan, Bernard.

Enright, Thomas.

Farrelly, John.

Ferris, Michael.

Finucane, Michael.

Fitzgerald, Frances.

Flanagan, Charles.

Gilmore, Éamon.

Gormley, John.

Gregory, Tony.

Hayes, Brian.

Higgins, Joe.

Higgins, Michael.

Hogan, Philip.

Howlin, Brendan.

Kenny, Enda.

McCormack, Pádraic.

McDowell, Derek.

McGahon, Brendan.

McGinley, Dinny.

McGrath, Paul.

McManus, Liz.

Mitchell, Gay.

Mitchell, Jim.

Mitchell, Olivia.

Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.

Naughten, Denis.

Neville, Dan.

Noonan, Michael.

Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.

O'Keeffe, Jim.

O'Shea, Brian.

O'Sullivan, Jan.

Owen, Nora.

Penrose, William.

Perry, John.

Quinn, Ruairí.

Rabbitte, Pat.

Reynolds, Gerard.

Ring, Michael.

Ryan, Seán.

Sargent, Trevor.

Shatter, Alan.[415]

Níl–continued

Sheehan, Patrick.

Shortall, Róisín.

Spring, Dick.

Stagg, Emmet.

Stanton, David.

[416] Timmins, Billy.

Upton, Pat.

Wall, Jack.

Yates, Ivan.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies S. Brennan and Power; Níl, Deputies Barrett and Stagg.

Question declared carried.