McDowell: Taoiseach was ill-advised, but not improper…

Michael McDowell has been keeping his powder dry all afternoon the Dail, despite some heavy taunting from the opposition benches. He was never going to treat this crisis quietly, but whilst passing the Taoiseach’s action as ill-advised, he doesn’t entirely pull his punches. But the it is the last line that will have many inside and outside the state shivering in thoughts of what might now be contained in his planned Privacy Bill, which has received heavy criticism on both sides of the Irish Sea. Full text of statement by Michael McDowell

Since the publication of information volunteered in confidence by the Taoiseach to the Mahon Tribunal, I and my colleagues have refrained from any substantive public comment. This was to afford the Taoiseach an opportunity to assemble the relevant information, ascertain his legal obligations in relation to the Tribunal, and to account publicly for the facts disclosed insofar as they were true.

Based on what the Taoiseach has stated, it is clear to me that the actions of a group of friends in late 1993 and in 1994, in advancing to him monies to assist him in the discharge of liabilities arising from his separation, were ill-advised. Based on what he has stated, it would also appear that these actions were well-intentioned and were not intended by them to have any improper effect or to compromise the Taoiseach in his then role as Minister for Finance or public representative.

In the light of what the Taoiseach has said about their identity and of pre-existing relationships of personal friendship and trust, and in the light of the scale of the individual payments, it is reasonable to accept that the motive for the payments was benevolent and was not intended to compromise, to be corrupt, or to obtain improper influence or reward

Although at all levels of Irish society there are and will be many cases where friends and acquaintances come together to help a friend in financial and personal difficulty, the fact remains that in the sphere of public affairs, an individual is not as free as others to accept such well-intentioned assistance. It seems to me that the Taoiseach should probably have declined such help even in the very difficult personal circumstances which he faced in 1993. However, I think it fair to say in the light of what the Taoiseach has stated that accepting such help was an honest error of judgment and was neither dishonest nor corrupt.

I have had the privilege of working with the Taoiseach as a fellow public representative, as Attorney General, and as Minister over many years and I have never had any reason to doubt his financial honesty or to suspect that he has abused his public office for self-enrichment. All the evidence points to the contrary. I look forward to continuing to work with him in implementing the Programme for Government, a duty which we both owe to the people of Ireland I believe, with the Taoiseach, that the payments in question should now be fully refunded with interest. If the donors are reluctant to receive them, they can surrender them to charitable causes.

I fully appreciate that it may have been difficult to make the refunds after the Taoiseach’s voluntary confidential disclosure of the payments to the Tribunal lest it might have been interpreted as some form of cover-up. But that issue no longer exists.

Finally, I condemn the unlawful, very carefully timed, ill-motivated betrayal of confidence by someone with access to the papers of the Tribunal. It is a supreme irony that in order to disprove an unfounded series of private allegations of corruption (in this case based in part on clever forgery) the Taoiseach was obliged to lay himself open to other charges of impropriety. The Tribunal, in amassing personal information for its work risks becoming discredited and ineffective if by its processes it cannot prevent such abuses.

The hurt caused by recent events to entirely blameless and innocent people should not be forgotten. Our focus remains on serving the public in accordance with our mandates. By dealing with these issues in a proportionate and clear-minded way, the public interest has been served and has not been compromised. 27th September 2006.

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  • ciaran damery

    Imagine if it were one of McDowell’s opponents, and believe me there are plenty, even apart from the 97% of the electorate who do not vote for the tiny pee dees. The sheer audacity of a former AG and current ‘Justice’ minister to conveniently ‘absolve’ Ahern of any serious wrongdoing, is disgraceful. Both Ahern and the Hater McDowell should resign forthwith.

  • Greenflag

    ‘I have had the privilege of working with the Taoiseach as a fellow public representative, as Attorney General, and as Minister over many years and I have never had any reason to doubt his financial honesty or to suspect that he has abused his public office for self-enrichment. All the evidence points to the contrary.’

    Well said Mr McDowell -But ye see the ‘slump coalition’ are not interested in evidence . They are in ad hominem mode . Could be something to do with an upcoming election .

    ‘Finally, I condemn the unlawful, very carefully timed, ill-motivated betrayal of confidence by someone with access to the papers of the Tribunal. ‘

    Indeed . Wonder who it was ? Anyway it’s backfired on the gobshite whoever he/she was .

    McDowell has strenghtened the case for the PD’s becoming a larger Party come the next election. And there is Labour leader Rabbitte accusing McDowell of playing politics ? Truth is McDowell is not playing politics -he’s in the business of wining the next election . Rabbitte is playing and in the business of losing the next election.

  • steve

    McDowell has played it perfectly so far, his parental tone to Bertie being spot on “Im not angry, Im just dissappointed in you”.

    He’s gambling rightly that if the PD’s stand firm now Bertie will get through this, although badly hurt, till the election in May.
    So, if you thought the idea of scrapping stamp duty was a brazen move to the right, just watch what the junior partners will be able to get away with over the next six months.

    And here was me worried I’d be bored till the Sopranos were back on!

  • George

    I heard a passing comment on the radio that Mary O’Rourke said she thought the leak didn’t come from the opposition but from “closer to home”.

    I wonder what she means.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    George: “I heard a passing comment on the radio that Mary O’Rourke said she thought the leak didn’t come from the opposition but from “closer to home”. ”

    Someone with personal ambitions, perhaps?

    Inside every capo’s closet is a don’s silk suit… one suspects politics has much the same dynamic.

  • steve

    “we got ourselves a rat in the house” – it justs gets better and better !

  • Crataegus

    First we have the split standards justification for political convenience and now we have internal plots. If I were in the PDs I would feel that goodwill was well abused and stretched to the limit.

    Once you receive payment always remember that someone has a mark on you that they can arrange to be called in at any time. It is incidious.

  • Greenflag

    ‘I wonder what she means. ‘

    It wasn’t her and anyone spreading rumours that it is is lying . Also if they’re looking for Ireland’s first female Taoiseach she’s ready and willing:) and by her accounts but not many others in the parliamentary party -able .

  • Brian Boru

    When Des O’Malley pulled the PDs out of govt with Albert Reynolds in 1992 they scored an extra 4 seats. McDowell should bear that in mind as the election approaches, if Bertie doesn’t go. Greenflag you clearly sympathise with Bertie, and I do slightly, but he must still resign. Sometimes perception matters as much as reality. McDowell is right that Bertie made an “error of judgement”. I am disappointed though that he did not go furtherm and demand his political-head on a plate as a price for the PD’s continuing in govt. I hope he does that publicly as it will maintain the PD-image of being a “watchdog” on Fianna Fail. Otherwise the Opposition will portray them as a FF-poodle. A poll for the Irish Mail on Sunday from the Galway West constituency – a potentially vulnerably PD seat where it was already 50:50 whether the 5th seat would go to Noel Grealish TD or the Green Niall O’Brollchain will be most informative as to the impact – if any – of Bertiegate on the junior Coalition partner. Will disillusioned FFers turn to them, to SF or the the Opposition? Noel only got 5.5% of the 1st preferences last time but got transfers from FG and FF to win the seat. Will be tough.

  • Greenflag

    BB,

    ‘Greenflag you clearly sympathise with Bertie,

    Guilty yer honour on all counts 🙂

    ‘ but he must still resign. ‘

    This could happen a year or two after winning the upcoming election . Bertie like Blair would like to go at a time of his choosing or preferably even in the unlikely event of a lost election at the voter’s choosing .

    But there will be no resignation due to

    ‘the unlawful, very carefully timed, ill-motivated betrayal of confidence by someone with access to the papers of the Tribunal. ‘

  • Brian Boru

    “This could happen a year or two after winning the upcoming election . Bertie like Blair would like to go at a time of his choosing or preferably even in the unlikely event of a lost election at the voter’s choosing .”

    Unlikely!!!! Where have you been for the pas 5 years Greenflag, when nearly every poll has placed FF on a wretched 31-35%!?!??! They cannot get back in with the PDs and prob not with PDs and Inds (as in 97-02) on this. They are heading for electoral meltdown of Sellafield proportions unless they do something, which must been the end of the reign of King Bertie and the accession to the Fianna Fail throne of King Brian (Lenihan or Cowen preferably the former), Dermot (Ahern) or Queen Mary (Hanafin). Look at the bounce a new leader gave to the PDs.