Denis O'Brien's media empire and the Moriarty Tribunal Report

obrien460Vincent Browne has an interesting article in today’s Irish Times where he asks some searching questions about Denis O’Brien’s media empire and how The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) could possibly conclude that:

The media holdings of Denis O’Brien do not constitute dominance in terms of his ability to influence opinion forming power in any of these franchise areas.

Browne makes the connection between O’Brien’s media empire and the soon to be published Moriarty Tribunal Report.

Last weekend two of the newspapers that he now controls, the Sunday Tribune and the Sunday Independent, published two self-serving interviews with him, intended to take the “sting” from the anticipated final findings of the Moriarty tribunal on the award to him of the mobile phone licence in 1996.

He goes on:

If his own version of the Moriarty tribunal findings prove correct, they would be a devastating indictment of himself, along with the then minister for communications Michael Lowry, and of civil servants involved in awarding the licence.

If his version is true, he will be accused of the most spectacular piece of corruption ever in this State, with the possible exception of the Irish Hospital Sweepstake scam.

And, it will seem, if what he says is true, that he has built his vast personal fortune on the basis of a criminal act.

A letter writer to the Irish Times also has his say about O’Brien’s media spinning.


I was embarrassed last weekend to read the coverage of Denis O’Brien’s tribunal troubles in the Sunday Times . A front page article took leaked information about the Moriarty tribunal’s conclusions (not very positive it must be said) and managed to portray Mr O’Brien as some sort of hero, who was battling the tribunal to save the State money on legal fees.

Further on in the paper, there was a full-page spread on the excessive costs of the tribunal and yet further on, Mr O’Brien adorned the front page of the Business section about some triviality or other.

What could have been the spur to such embarrassing spin? Perhaps the Sunday Times is in awe of Mr O’Brien’s recent ascent to control of IN&M?

Yet another example of the need for The Irish Times to issue a Sunday version, thus sparing the public from the brainrot of the Sunday press.

Yours, etc,
Grove Park,
Dublin 6.

Denis O’Brien – They’ve damned us all I tell ya, damned us all

Billionaire businessman, Denis O’Brien is in deep trouble and he knows it.

It seems that the Moriarty Tribunal has found that O’Brien’s Esat consortium was illegally issued with the state’s second mobile phone licence because he, O’Brien, had a corrupt relationship with former Fine Gael minister, Michael Lowry (Sunday Times).

Mr. O’Brien has adopted a two pronged strategy of defence. He has launched a strong attack on the Tribunal while at the same time appealing for public support by claiming that his campaign is in the public interest as well as his own.

His first action was to publish a series of advertisements in various newspapers attacking the alleged extravagant expenses indulged in by tribunal lawyers.

Last Sunday he ramped up his campaign by giving a series of interviews in the following newspapers. The Sunday Times, Sunday Independent (O’Brien holds a 26% stake in Independent News and Media), Sunday Tribune (O’Brien holds a major stake in this newspaper, by proxy, through INM’s stake in the Tribune) and the Sunday Business Post.

He accuses the Tribunal and others of the following:

He believes the tribunal is “out to get a scalp” in order to justify its costs, which are expected to reach 100m.

He claims there was no need to investigate the awarding of the licence because it had already been investigated four times by the European Union, by the senior counsel, investigated on behalf of the Department of Communications and investigated by the Attorney-General’s office.

He claims that this is a very dark period for justice, that it’s rough justice akin to the miscarriage’s of justice in the UK like the Guilford Four.

He asserts that articles written by journalists like Matt Cooper and Sam Smyth were off the wall, crazy theories fed to them by O’Brien’s competitors for the phone licence.

You may as well be reading the Beano as reading the Irish Times on matters relating to the Tribunal according to O’Brien. He further suggested that Irish Times journalist, Colm Keena, is incompetent and not up to the job of covering the tribunal.

On the night O’Brien received the preliminary findings he told a friend he was in shock.

They’ve damned us all, he said. They’ve damned the licence, they’ve destroyed the civil service, they’ve destroyed Lowry and they’ve destroyed me.

These people [the Moriarty lawyers] need to be made to look ridiculous.

O’Brien also alleged that former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, made a political decision in 2002 to keep the Moriarty Tribunal going to embarrass Fine Gael.

According to O’Brien the Moriarty tribunal, which has cost him €12m in legal fees to date:

Is out of control and the procedures it is allowed to use are more akin to those found in a military dictatorship. It’s unheard of. I mean it’s Burma.

O’Brien also sees himself as a champion of the people and a patriot to his fingertips.

He’s fighting for the good name of civil servants who may be accused of corruption.

People who are halfway through their career would be impugned; I am taking a stand for the civil servants.

He’s fighting to save taxpayer’s money.

People say [I] did two judicial reviews, but they were mainly to stop the tribunal from running up costs.

He’s fighting for Ireland’s reputation.

Ireland’s reputation would be severely damaged if the Moriarty Tribunal’s final report concluded there was wrongdoing by civil servants in the granting of the state’s second mobile phone licence. If the final report concluded that the process of awarding the licence was corrupt, it would be devastating.

To borrow from Shakespeare – The billionaire doth protest too much, methinks.

O’Brien’s strategy of trying to save his own skin by crying crocodile tears for Mother Ireland is as old as the hills but it is very surprising to see Elaine Byrne of the Irish Times apparently adopt the same attitude.

Byrne seems to suggest that it might be better if the Moriarty Tribunal didn’t make any adverse findings against the State. She writes of embarrassment, perceptions on the international stage and suggests that the final findings will be practically irrelevant anyway.

She ends her article by asserting:

The challenge is to distinguish between systemic and individual corruption; petty and grand corruption; moral and legal corruption; and rumours and reality of corruption.

This is classic Irish denial of reality. Let’s get lost in a deep, long drawn out and totally irrelevant discussion on the different forms of corruption. That way we won’t have to face the brutal reality of any adverse findings from the Tribunal.

The real challenge is, for the first time in our pathetic history, to actually act on any adverse findings. To immediately prosecute and punish all those found guilty of corruption.

I won’t be holding my breath.

Trusting Haughey; like trusting a pickpocket

Even those who supported and bankrolled the corrupt Haughey knew that he was a gangster who couldn’t be trusted as we see from this extract of the Moriarty Tribunal report.

Clearly, Michael Smurfit knew that handing over a very valuable painting to a man of Haughey’s flawed pedigree was akin to asking a pickpocket to mind his wallet.

Moriarty Tribunal report

7-178 Dr. Smurfit also informed the Tribunal that in 1990, the Smurfit Group made a personal gift to Mr. Haughey of a painting by Jack B Yeats entitled ‘‘The Forge’’, in recognition of Mr. Haughey’s assuming office at the Council of Ministers on Ireland’s assumption of the residency of the European Union. At that time, the Smurfit Group made a presentation to Mr. Haughey of a painting by Sir John Lavery of the raising of the flag at Aras an Uachtara´ n. This latter presentation was a gift to the Irish Nation by the Smurfit Group and the Tribunal understands that it is currently hanging in the State Collection.

7-179 Dr. Smurfit recalled that on the day that he had an appointment with Mr. Haughey at Government Buildings to present the Lavery painting to him, on behalf of the State, he decided on the spur of the moment to make a personal gift in the form of the Yeats painting. The presentation was made during business hours in Government Buildings, and only Dr. Smurfit and Mr. Haughey were present. Dr. Smurfit recalled that he had made the presentation to Mr. Haughey personally, subject to the caveat that he did not expect ‘‘the painting to be sold the following day’’.

As I recall, Smurfit, who had hoped that the painting would be retained as a family heirloom, was shocked to learn that soon after receiving it Haughey did in fact sell it on for a knockdown price.

A million here, a million there – Who cares?

A typographical error by a government official in 2002 resulted in two barristers employed by the Moriarty tribunal earning an extra €1m over the past six years.

The “typo” seven years ago added €250 per day to the agreed €2,250 “per diem” fee paid to John Coughlan and Jerry Healy, the two highest-earning barristers in all the recent tribunals.

Despite being spotted shortly after it occurred, the mistake was not corrected by the Department of Finance. After legal advice the higher payment of €2,500 was sanctioned, so Coughlan and Healy were paid a higher per diem than any barrister in any tribunal.

The mistake was revealed in the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report published last Thursday.

The Sunday Times

My comments:

What’s to stop civil servants arranging such ‘errors’ across a wide range of departments and splitting the spoils with confederates? Citizens can be forgiven for assuming that such ‘deals’ are common.

Has the senior official in the Department of Finance, who make the mistake, been sacked or promoted?

If senior counsel had been underpaid by a million would the legal advice have been – ‘Tough, you have to suffer the loss?’

If somebody on social welfare was over paid by, let’s say, €50, could they, like the learned gentlemen, (legally) refuse to give it back or would the full force of the State come down on them like a ton of bricks?

Damn them all

My heart goes out to poor Denis O’Brien. Beleaguered by a mob of begrudgers he is valiantly fighting for the rights of the small man.

Besieged behind his solid gold barricade Denis stands four-square with Bertie to stem the onslaught of those nosey judges and their greedy barristers.

Damn those who accuse the blonde billionaire of avoiding tax, of legging it out of the country with his €290 million Esat Telecom profit, damn them.

But now he’s back, back to fight the good fight. Yes, millions have already been wasted on tribunals but the golden boy has now joined forces with Bertie and on behalf of all the peasant taxpayers of the green and pleasant land of Ireland he is going to stop them, stop them in their tracks.

Damn them I tell you, damn them all.

What's new?

What was unusual about the news this week that former Fine Gael, now independent TD, Michael Lowry will not face charges for cheating on his taxes?

Not that he cheated on his taxes. He’s one of a long line of so called public representatives who obviously believe that paying tax is strictly for the ‘little people’.

Not that he portrayed himself as a victim of the system, moaning about the media, the tough time he had with Revenue, how he had to re-mortgage his house. Irish citizens are well used to tax cheating public representatives blaming everybody else for their own dodgy activities.

Not that he failed to apologise for cheating the state of monies that could have been used to help citizens who are genuinely in need of sympathy and support. Most public representatives who are caught with their grubby fingers in the till feel hard done by when they are politely asked by Revenue to repay their ill gotten gains.

No, what was new about this latest sordid episode involving the dodgy activities of an Irish politician was that it was the tax cheater himself who made the announcement of his escape from prosecution.

No Government official, nobody from Revenue, nobody from the DPPs office felt the need to make a formal announcement to the public they claim to serve that yet another ‘person of influence’ had somehow escaped the ultimate penalty from what we are constantly told is now a rigorous no nonsense system of tax accountability.

Accountability and advice

“I want to get out of here,” he said. “I’ve had enough of it. I’m weary, I’m tired of it. This tribunal has taken over my life,” he said. “This tribunal has been a cancer to me.” The tribunal has had “a massive impact” on him emotionally and intellectually.

Michael Lowry’s plea to be rid of the Moriarty Tribunal is, I think, genuine. His claim that the tribunal is like a cancer is evident when he appears on television. His face is drawn and anxious and he is, at times, on the verge of tears as desperately tries to escape from his self inflicted ordeal.

We can only hope that Michael and his political colleagues will eventually get rid of this grossly inefficient, expensive and sometimes cruel method of (non) accountability and submit themselves for judgement through the courts, just like ordinary citizens.

And speaking of accountability, I see that the so called Financial Regulator has issued yet another leaflet advising consumers to shop around.

When are we going to see a leaflet listing the financial institutions who have robbed their customers so that consumers can do their business in a safe financial environment?

FT on Haughey and Moriarty

Quentin Peel, with his reaction to Moriarty:

Ireland needs to do more to tackle legacy of Haughey’s graft

Six months after Charles Haughey, the former Irish taoiseach (prime minister), was awarded the honour of a state funeral in Dublin, a 600-page judicial report has confirmed what most people suspected all along: that he was guilty of corruption in public office.

According to the Moriarty tribunal, which considered and weighed the evidence against him for the past six years, the scale and frequency of the secret payments Mr Haughey received from “senior members of the business community . . . can only be said to have devalued the quality of a modern democracy”.

Justice Michael Moriarty concluded that the former taoiseach managed to salt away a conservatively estimated £9.1m – worth about €45m today, or 171 times his gross salary – during his period of high office.

Apart from taking backhanders from businessmen, he even managed to expropriate – for his personal and extravagant lifestyle – money that was raised by public subscription to pay for the liver transplant of one of his closest political colleagues.

It is a devastating document, understated but unambiguous in its “inescapable conclusions . . . that he received a wide range of substantial payments . . . and that certain of the acts and decisions on his part while taoiseach were referable to some of those payments”.

In other words, he gave favours in return.

It is all profoundly shocking – and utterly unsurprising.

For most of the population of Ireland, and many who followed its affairs from outside, can never have been in any doubt that Charlie Haughey – “The Boss”, as he was known – was thoroughly and quite ostentatiously corrupt. His lifestyle of grand houses, racehorses, fine food and handmade shirts bore no relation to the relatively modest income of an Irish politician.

What is surprising, and needs to be more thoroughly explored, is why he was allowed to get away with it. He was defended to the last by his close colleagues, including Bertie Ahern, the present taoiseach, who does not emerge unscathed himself from the report.

Mr Ahern was found to have co-signed blank cheques for an account for party leaders’ public allowances, which Mr Haughey then drew on for personal use – a practice that was “both inappropriate and imprudent”, the judge concluded.

Yet Mr Haughey was widely admired, and voted for at the polls, by electors who admired him as “cute” – a very Irish concept suggesting both cleverness and dishonesty. He got away with it and he was not condemned.

Of course he is not the only one in politics. Other countries such as Nigeria, India and Italy seem also to tolerate an extraordinary degree of corruption in public life.

Party political financing in the UK, France, Germany and certainly the US often blurs the line between acceptable and unacceptable political donations. But Mr Haughey was particularly blatant.

In Ireland, Mr Ahern and his Fianna Fail party, direct successors of Mr Haughey’s legacy, seem to think they have done enough while the Moriarty tribunal was hearing its evidence to ensure that such corruption cannot continue.

“There have been significant measures of reform and safeguards introduced as the tribunal work was in progress,” the taoiseach’s office said.

That is all very well. The Ireland that Mr Haughey was cheating so royally was much less prosperous than the Ireland of today. There is a culture of materialism rife in the country.

Enda Kenny, leader of the opposition Fine Gael party, says the report confirms “a culture of corruption, self-enrichment and the abuse of public and private monies” in the ruling party. That was certainly true in Mr Haughey’s day. No one can be confident it has been rooted out.

Mr Ahern needs to do far more to repair the damage done by his predecessor and mentor to restore faith in public life. Ireland has become a model of economic success for many new European Union member states. It would be a tragedy if it were also to be a byword for corruption.

Irish Times archive on Moriarty

Irish Times reports by Colm Keena related to the Moriarty Tribunal.

Haughey deals investigated. January 9, 1998.
Desmond paid nothing to Haughey ‘prior to 1994’. January 9, 1998.
Haughey had salary of £5,000 when land deals were done. January 10, 1998.
Celtic Helicoptor’s Ansbacher trail. January 14, 1998.
McCreevy lists missing files sought by Moriarty tribunal. May 7, 1998.
Ben Dunne may have paid Haughey debt. July 24, 1998.
Dunne may face new round of questioning. August 14, 1998.
Method of payments facilitated tax evasion. August 14, 1998.
Harney says Dunnes should have told of £1/2m payouts. November 6, 1998.
Ben Dunne cash went to Haughey helicopter company. November 7, 1998.
Carlisle Trust is linked to £180,000 Dunne payment. November 11, 1998.
Current tribunals and Government inquiries have cost £4m to date. November 28, 1998.
Moriarty works on with private probe. November 28, 1998.
Moriarty tribunal questions finances of Doyle hotels. November 28, 1998.
Moriarty tribunal to sit in private next week. December 3, 1998.
Haughey’s £2m tax charge reduced to zero. December 16, 1998.
Decision to dismiss tax assessment expected to be reheard. December 17, 1998.
Lack of detail on companies believed to be reason for tax decision. December 18, 1998.
Carlisle Trust contacted by tribunal. December 18, 1998.
Haughey tax case prepared at highest level. December 19, 1998.
Harney takes legal advice on Lowry company report. December 23, 1998.
Moriarty tribunal uncovers extra £1m payment. January 22, 1999.
Ex-Taoiseach’s £300,000-a-year lifestyle ‘unacceptable’. January 22, 1999.
Lowry under tribunal investigation. January 22, 1999.
Haughey funds inquiry told of £1m-plus payments. January 22, 1999.
Detail of AIB debt of £1.143m disclosed. January 29, 1999.
Donor of £750,000 to Haughey unknown, tribunal is told. January 29, 1999.
Tribunal takes Moriarty to centre stage. January 29, 1999.
Overdraft to become focus for tribunal. January 30, 1999.
Mystery cheque that ended up in Haughey account. January 30, 1999.
Hints of further disclosures on Tripleplan cheque. February 3, 1999.
Motive of first Dunne payment to Haughey to be investigated. February 3, 1999.
Unusual method of rewarding his executives outlined by Ben Dunne. February 5, 1999.
Dunnes won appeal against £30m tax bill from Revenue. February 5, 1999.
Cash for Haughey raised in Bangor, Far East. February 6, 1999.
First evidence of Haughey directly soliciting money. February 10, 1999.
Celtic Helicopters investor in Lotto deal. February 10, 1999.
Haughey believed broker invested in company. February 11, 1999.
US investor headed firm contracted to run lottery. February 11, 1999.
Haughey firm attracted money from investors far and wide. February 12, 1999.
Names of helicopter shareholders revealed. February 12, 1999.
Circuitous journey for £100,000 cheque. February 13, 1999.
How Haughey diced with soaring debt. February 17, 1999.
Haughey left AIB officials chasing £1m debt. February 17, 1999.
Bank sought to avoid debt ‘confrontation’. February 18, 1999.
Bank’s dream customer became a nightmare. February 19, 1999.
Traynor chaired committee overseeing Irish Helicopters. February 20, 1999.
Helicopter investor meets lawyers. March 2, 1999.
£10,000 cheque part of start-up capital. March 3, 1999.
Tribunal to hear of £10,000 Dargan cheque. March 3, 1999.
B of I director with the offshore account. March 4, 1999.
Dargan says he had offshore account. March 4, 1999.
Bankruptcy decision seen as `doomsday’ situation. March 5, 1999.
Broker set up Celtic loan to pay premiums. March 6, 1999.
Witness’s name used as code for Charles Haughey. March 6, 1999.
Tribunal found undeclared payments to Lowry. March 26, 1999.
Bank accounts raise questions for Revenue. March 26, 1999.
The Revenue, the politics and the consequences. March 26, 1999.
Haughey gives papers to Revenue. March 26, 1999.
Mystery surrounds gift of house to Haughey. March 27, 1999.
Debt paid shortly after becoming Taoiseach. May 19, 1999.
Haughey remark led Pairceir to resign. May 25, 1999.
Revenue did not pursue Haughey for £300,000. May 25, 1999.
Tribunal to study Lowry’s funds and Haughey-Ansbacher links. June 21, 1999.
Tribunal finds controversial payment made to Lowry. June 22, 1999.
£25,000 payment `generous but not excessive’. June 23, 1999.
Tribunal uncovers £1 1/2m banked by Haughey. June 23, 1999.
Some questions that Moriarty left unanswered. June 26, 1999.
Financiers had no dealings with Lowry. June 26, 1999.
Judge said to own £1/2m CRH shares. June 30, 1999.
New lead surfaces on Lowry’s `lost’ Dunnes cash. June 30, 1999.
Revelations raise questions for tribunal and Government. July 1, 1999.
Party leaders cannot recall being told of shareholding. July 2, 1999.
Parties did not know of Moriarty shares. July 2, 1999.
No conflict of interest, says Byrne on CRH. July 3, 1999.
Both sides to appeal elements of judgment. July 7, 1999.

Ahern's inconsistencies

Sarah points out an article by Colm Keena in the IT today, where he quotes Bertie Ahern’s speech after the publication of the McCracken Tribunal report. Here is the quote from the Dail archive:

In so far as I could with little available records I am satisfied, having spoken to the person who administered the account, that it was used for bona fide party purposes, that the cheques were prepared by that person and countersigned by another senior party member. Their purpose was to finance personnel, press and other normal supports for an Opposition leader. There was no surplus and no misappropriation. The person involved had sole control of the account. The money came in, the person lodged the cheque, dealt with the bills and invoices and paid those not covered by the ordinary allowance. The account as far as her excellent recollection goes was normally short, not the other way around. I have spoken to her at some length. She has served many Taoisigh beginning with Mr. Jack Lynch. We consider her to be totally honourable.

It is fair to ask the question now, what on earth is Ahern on about?

Let’s look closer at the payments made out of the Leader’s Allowance. I will quote at length from Tribunal transcripts, this one from July 14th 1999, Mr Coughlan speaking. It is pretty instructive on the amounts involved:

The Tribunal has examined the administration of the Party Leader’s Allowance by Fianna Fail during the period of Mr. Haughey’s leadership and also in the period since he ceased to be leader. The Tribunal has obtained Memoranda of Evidence and statements from Ms. Eileen Foy, who was involved in the administration of the account; from Mr. Bertie Ahern, the Taoiseach who was one of the signataries on the account; and from Mr. Sean Flemming, a senior executive in the Fianna Fail party in the period following Mr. Haughey’s retirement as leader.

Mr. Haughey has been asked to comment on the material to which I have already referred to and on the material to which I will now refer in slightly more detail but has made no comment.

The Tribunal has obtained from the Department of Finance a Schedule of the amounts paid to Mr. Haughey as leader of the Fianna Fail party in the years from 1984 to 1992 and they were as follows:

1984: £181,215.
1985: £189,950.
1986: £196,612.
1987: £78,056.
1988: £90,666.
1989: £93,107.
1990: £113,207.
1991: £123,137.
1992: £12,033.

The allowance was paid monthly in installments by way of payable order made out to Mr. Cathal O’hEochaidh, TD. This explains why the payment for 1992 was a mere payment of £12,033 as Mr. Haughey was no longer the leader of the Party after February of that year.

The Leader’s Allowance was operated in the main from a current account at Allied Irish Banks, Baggot Street. With the consent of the Fianna Fail party, the Tribunal has obtained access to some of the remaining available records relating to the account. The account was opened in the name of Haughey, Ahern and MacSharry, namely Mr. Charles Haughey, Mr. Bertie Ahern, and Mr. Ray McSharry, and the account number was 30208-062. The Tribunal has examined drawings from the account between February, 1984 and November, 1992 and the drawings from the account between those dates are as follows:

28th February, 1984: £12,310.45.
26th March, 1984: £10,000.
10th May, 1984: £20,000.
22nd June, 1984: £5,000.
6th July, 1984: £5,246.
3rd August, 1984: £10,000.
10th August, 1984: £12,828.47.
25th October, 1984: £5,400.
2nd January, 1985: £5,000.
9th April, 1985: £5,821.20.
20th September, 1985: £5,338.20.
7th October, 1985: £5,000.
23rd April, 1986: £10,000.
29th April, 1986: £5,195.39.
29th April, 1986: £10,000.
21st May, 1986: £20,000.
5th August, 1986: £10,000.
29th October, 1986: £25,000.
12th November, 1986: £10,000.
5th September, 1986: £5,666.81.
9th January, 1987: £5,000.
5th August, 1987: £5,000.
9th November, 1987: £5,000.
4th January, 1988: £7,509.20.
6th April 1988: £5,700.
14th July, 1988: £6,649.95.
26th September, 1988: £6,832.82.
1st December, 1988: £5,767.11.
27th February, 1989: £6,995.55.
24th April, 1989: £11,173.76.
21st June, 1989: £25,000.
22nd June, 1989: £5,758.95.
20th July, 1989: £47,090.56.
21st September, 1989: £25,000.
5th October, 1989: £10,720.
11th October, 1989: £20,000.
2nd November, 1989: £5,000.
12th December, 1989: £9,724.37.
28th December, 1989: £5,073.53.
7th March, 1990: £5,727.23.
22nd March, 1990: £13,600.
30th April, 1990: £8,830.37.
19th October, 1990: £5,440.
4th February, 1991: £8,332.34.
13th February, 1991: £12,914.50.
4th April, 1991: £5,000.
11th September, 1991: £10,000.
18th September, 1991: £7,500.
10th October 1991: £5,750.

Now, these figures identified by the Tribunal are the major drawings on the account and those which are in excess of £5,000. There were of course lesser drawings on the account. The Tribunal has drawn the attention of some of the individuals dealing with the account to the fact that there appears to have been a substantial number of round sum withdrawals from the account and, in particular, to the fact that a number of these round sum withdrawals were in the form of payments to cash. Copies of some of the cheques drawn on the account have become available to the Tribunal and from these cheques, it appears that on the 4th April, 1991, a cheque was drawn on the account in the sum of £5,000 payable to cash. This cheque was signed by Mr. Bertie Ahern, An Taoiseach, then the Chief Whip and by Mr. Charles Haughey, then the Taoiseach;

That on the 11th September, 1991, another cheque was drawn on the account in the sum of £10,000, again payable to cash and signed once again by Mr. Ahern and also by Mr. Haughey;

That on the 18th September, 1991, a further cheque in the sum of £7,500 was again payable to cash. The signatories on the account were Mr. Ahern and Mr. Haughey;

On the 16th June, 1989, a cheque payable to cash was drawn on the account, this time in the sum of £25,000. This was also signed by Mr. Ahern and Mr. Haughey.

The Tribunal has not been able to obtain every cheque in respect of round sum withdrawals from the account. However, from the table I have just referred to, it will be clear that there were very substantial round sum lodgments in other years than the years in which the cheques I have just mentioned were drawn. Sorry, I should have just said where I used the word lodgments, I should have said drawings.

For instance, in 1984, £50,400 in round sums were withdrawn. In 1985, the sum of £10,000 in round sums were withdrawn. In 1986, the sum of £50,000 and in 1989, the sum of £75,000 in round sums were withdrawn.

During most of this time, the account was administered either in part or in whole by Ms. Eileen Foy. Ms. Eileen Foy was an employee of Fianna Fail from 1977, initially as Secretary to the Head of Research. She has informed the Tribunal that that at the time, the Research Office was part of the Leader’s office. The Leader was Mr. Jack Lynch. She has informed the Tribunal that the Head of Research was at that time responsible for the administration of the Leader’s Allowance and as the secretary to the Head of Research, she was involved in a lot of clerical administrative work in relation to the accounts through which the allowance was operated.

She has informed the Tribunal that in 1977, when Fianna Fail went into Government, the Head of Research left the employment of the party and she became the Secretary to a number of backbench TDs and senators but she retained the function of administering the Leader’s Allowance, much as she had done when working as secretary to the Head of Research. In other words, it would appear that Ms. Foy continued to fulfill the function of administering the account notwithstanding the fact that she no longer reported to the Head of Research, but to a number of backbench TDs and senators.

During this time, Mr. Lynch was still the Leader and he did not cease to be Leader until December of 1979 when he was replaced by Mr. Charles Haughey, TD. Following Mr. Haughey’s election to the leadership of Fianna Fail, Ms. Foy was asked by Mr. Haughey to work as secretary to the then Chief Whip, Mr. Sean Moore, TD. The Chief Whip’s office was attached to the Taoiseach’s office and Ms. Foy continued to operate the Leader’s Allowance while working as secretary to Mr. Moore.

Fianna Fail were out of Government from 1982 to 1987 and, while in opposition, Ms. Foy began to work for Mr. Haughey and when Fianna Fail were returned to Government, Ms. Foy continued to operate as one of Mr. Haughey’s private secretaries until his retirement as Taoiseach and as Leader of Fianna Fail in February, 1992. During all that time, she continued to be responsible for the administration of the Leader’s Allowance.

The day-to-day operation of the Leader’s Allowance entailed writing cheques on the bank account to which the payments from Central Funds were lodged. The writing of cheques from this bank account required two signatures. There were three authorised signatories on the account, Mr. MacSharry, Mr. Bertie Ahern and Mr. Haughey, but cheques required two signatories only. Ms. Foy was responsible for keeping the cheque books, preparing the cheques for signature and ultimately obtaining the signatures of the requisite authorised signatories on them.

The actual payment of the Allowance was by way of a cheque in favour of the party Leader, in the case of Fianna Fail in favour of Mr. Haughey. Ms. Foy has informed the Tribunal that Mr. Haughey would endorse his name on the back of the cheque and give it to her to lodge in the Party’s bank account and these lodgments she made personally at Allied Irish Banks in Baggot Street.

It appears that all debits from the account were by way of cheques written on the account. Ms. Foy has informed the Tribunal that she kept details of all cheques in a ledger in which she would note the date of the cheque, the payee, the sum, and the purpose for which the cheque was drawn; that during the period in which she operated the account, there were two or three ledgers. In addition, files were kept for some period of time but it would seem that as the office from which the account was administered moved from time to time, these may not have been retained as the records of the accounts were transferred from office to office. Also, Ms. Foy would have noted the payee and/or the purpose of the cheque on every cheque on the cheque stub as she was preparing the cheque. Neither the files, the cheque stubs, nor the ledgers are now available.

Because the cheques to which I have already referred contain the signatures of Mr. Ahern and Mr. Haughey, Ms. Foy was asked to comment on the signing of cheques and she has indicated that although in addition to Mr. Ahern and Mr. Haughey, Mr. MacSharry was also a signatory, she did not recall asking him to sign cheques and would not have so requested him after he left Dublin on his appointment as European Commissioner in 1989. The system she used to obtain a signature on a cheque was that generally she would ask Mr. Ahern to sign a number of blank cheques in advance of her completing the details and that she would then retain those cheques until she had completed the details. Once the cheques had been completed by her, she would go to Mr. Haughey’s office with a list of the cheques, and the invoices to which they related and that Mr. Haughey would go through each item and that having satisfied himself that the cheques were in order, would then sign them. Ms. Foy’s recollection is that the cheques were used to meet a range of expenses out of the Leader’s Allowance of which the main areas were expenditure in respect of Research, Press, and Party Leader’s Office and the salary of people employed in that office.

The Tribunal has drawn a number of cheque payments and withdrawals from the account to the attention of Ms. Foy. It is the cheque payments made out to cash on which Ms. Foy has been asked to comment. She has stated that she has no specific recollection of cash drawings from the account, nor any recollection of any purpose for which such cash sums may have been applied. However, she has informed the Tribunal that it is possible she may have cashed cheques for some of the round sum figures I have just mentioned. From the Tribunal’s point of view, if Ms. Foy did not cash these cheques, then it is a question as to how they were cashed and as to what use was made of the cash obtained.

In the period during which Ms. Foy administered the account, that is during Mr. Lynch’s period in office and during Mr. Haughey’s period in office, there was no outside scrutiny or control of the Leader’s Allowance other than that of the Leader himself. In order to further scrutinize the manner in which cash monies appear to have been raised using cheques drawn on this account, the Tribunal has sought access to the various books in which the dealings on the account were recorded, i.e., the ledgers and files I have already mentioned. Ms. Foy has stated that she has no knowledge of what happened to the lodgers and other records after her resignation following Mr. Haughey’s replacement as Leader of Fianna Fail by Mr. Albert Reynolds, TD. Although all of the contents of Mr. Haughey’s office appear to have been put in boxes as part of his movement out of the Taoiseach’s office, Ms. Foy is not in a position to say whether these items were specifically included in Mr. Haughey’s boxes.

Following Mr. Haughey’s resignation as Party Leader and the resignation of Ms. Eileen Foy, the administration of the account was taken over by Mr. Sean Fleming. Mr. Fleming proposed to the new Leader of Fianna Fail, Mr. Albert Reynolds, that the Party Leader’s account should be administered by the Fianna Fail Head Office and that the party would maintain separate books, records, bank accounts and financial accounts in relation to the account and that there would be a separate audit carried out on the funds from each accounting period. Mr. Fleming has informed the Tribunal that Mr. Reynolds agreed and the account has been operated along those lines ever since. The system now being operated as set up by Mr. Fleming originally entails the preparation of a list of payments at Fianna Fail Headquarters. This list with accompanying cheques which already have been made out is submitted to the Party Leader for signature and also to the second signatory for co-signature by him. If, due to their schedules, politicians are not available to sign cheques, then cheques would instead be issued on Fianna Fail Headquarters’ own account and, in due course, that bank account would be recouped out of the Party Leader’s account. In the ordinary way, full accounts are written up at the end of each year and these accounts are audited and reported on by an independent firm of accountants, Messrs Coopers & Lybrand. This system has continued in operation since Mr. Ahern became Leader.

Mr. Ahern has provided the Tribunal with a Memorandum of Evidence concerning his involvement with the account during the tenure of office of Mr. Charles Haughey. He has informed the Tribunal that he has no recollection of ever having signed a cheque made out to cash in any significant amount. Mr. Ahern has informed the Tribunal that because of the volume of transactions through the account, combined with the necessity for the regular writing of cheques, a practice of pre-signing blank cheques was put in place for administrative convenience. A series of cheques would be pre-signed by a signatory on the account and thereafter the appropriate co-signatory would sign the cheque with the details of the payee and the amount of the cheque duly inserted thereon. Mr. Ahern has informed the Tribunal that he believed that as the account was being administered by a highly competent and efficient administrator and book keeper, the conduct of the account was believed to be proper and that, in addition, there was no evidence of any irregularity applying to the use made of the cheques which were drawn on account in this way.

With respect to the cheque of the 16th June in the amount of £25,000 and made payable to cash, Mr. Ahern has stated that this cheque was drawn at or about the time of the 1989 General Election, which was held on the 15th June, and he has stated that he believes that the likelihood is that he pre-signed a series of cheques in advance of the election date to allow the account to be operated so that normal business and trading debts could be discharged promptly. Mr. Ahern has informed the Tribunal that the cheque does bear his signature, but that the writing of the word “Cash” and the amount “£25,000.00” both in numbers and in manuscript, is not in his writing and he believes that the cheque was one of the category of pre-signed cheques signed by him in accordance with the practice I have just described. So far as the other cash cheques mentioned already by me are concerned, Mr. Ahern’s position is the same in that he would not have signed them with any words or figures on them and that they must therefore have been pre-signed by him.

Its attention having been drawn to the Leader’s Allowance and to drawings from that account, the Tribunal examined the credits to the Haughey Boland No. 3 account. That is the account already referred to in the Tribunal’s hearings from which payments were made to Mr. Haughey as part of the Haughey Boland bill paying service. The Tribunal has considered whether there is any connection between drawings from the Leader’s Allowance account and lodgments to that Haughey Boland No. 3 account.

It has not been possible, due to the absence of documents and bank records at Allied Irish Banks, to track withdrawals from Allied Irish Bank Baggot Street, Leader’s Allowance account. However, the Tribunal has noticed what appears to be a direct correspondence between two drawings from the Leader’s Allowance account and they are as follows:

Firstly, on the 24th April, 1986, there was a credit of £10,000 to the Haughey Boland No. 3 bill paying service account, an account operated for the benefit of Mr. Charles Haughey and on the same date, there was a withdrawal by way of a cheque in the sum of £10,000 from the Leader’s Allowance account.

Secondly, on the 29th October, 1986, there was a credit of £25,000 to the Haughey Boland No. 3 bill paying service account and on the same date, a drawing by way of cheque from the Leader’s Allowance in precisely the same amount, £25,000.

The Tribunal will wish to examine this material from a number of different standpoints. Firstly, the Tribunal will wish to examine the account of the Leader’s Allowance as a potential source of funds in accounts operated for the benefit of Mr. Haughey. From the Statements made available to the Tribunal, it would appear that certain aspects of the operation of the Leader’s Allowance account will require further scrutiny in the course of the evidence. They are the fact that a number of cheques on the account, of which copies are now available, appear could have been drawn on the account payable to cash in large round sums. These cheques share a number of features. Firstly, there is now no record of the purpose for which the cheques were drawn. The Administrator of the account has no recollection of the purpose for which the cheques were drawn and cannot remember whether she herself was involved in the drawing of them or in the cashing of them. The cheques appear to have been cashed at Allied Irish Banks, Baggot Street, the branch of the Bank in which they were drawn. They appear to have been signed by the co-signatory Mr. Haughey after they had been signed by Mr. Ahern and Mr. Ahern appears to have signed them in blank. In circumstances in which one of these cheques for £25,000 payable to cash was lodged to an Amiens account controlled by Mr. Des Traynor, the Tribunal will wish to examine evidence to ascertain whether any of the other cash cheques could have been lodged to that account or to any other accounts for the benefit of Mr. Haughey and whether, in addition, other circumstances ought to be taken into account in answering these questions, including the circumstance that two large round sum withdrawals from the Leader’s Allowance account in 1986 correspond with two equivalent credits to the Haughey Boland account from which Mr. Haughey’s bill paying service was operated.

While the Tribunal will wish to consider the aspects of the Leader’s Allowance I have just mentioned in the context of the sources of funds in accounts operated for the benefit of Mr. Haughey, it may also be necessary to consider the account in the context of payments made to Mr. Haughey. In other words, the examination of the account appears to be relevant both to Terms of Reference (a) and (b) of the Tribunal’s Terms of Reference.

So far as Term of Reference (a) is concerned, that is to say the term of reference dealing with payments to Mr. Haughey, the Tribunal’s examination of lodgments to the Leader’s Allowance account suggest that between the year 1984 and 1992, with one exception, the lodgments appear to exceed the total amount of the Leader’s Allowance. The documentation and records available to the Tribunal has not enabled the Tribunal to examine precisely the correlation between individual lodgments to the account and the payment of individual installments of the Leader’s Allowance. For this reason, to distinguish between the total amount of lodgments in any one calendar year and the total amount of the Leader’s Allowance in any one calendar year, might not give precise indication of the excess of lodgments in the account in any one year over and above the amount of Leader’s Allowance for that year. However, in a number of years between 1984 and 1992, the amounts lodged appear to be substantially in excess of the amount of Leader’s Allowance for the relevant years and in 1986 and in 1991, they appear to have been in excess of the Leader’s Allowance to the extent of something in the order of £100,000 and in 1989, the amount seems to be in excess of the Leader’s Allowance in the order of £200,000, more or less.

The additional lodgments appear to have been mixed with the installments of the Leader’s Allowance paid from Central Funds. From the information available to the Tribunal to date, it has not been possible to identify the source of these additional lodgments. However, to the extent to which they appear to constitute the funds of third parties, that is parties other than the State by whom the Leader’s Allowance was supplied, they may represent the source of payments to Mr. Haughey in those years. It is certainly a question as to whether any of the payments to Mr. Haughey or to the accounts for his benefit in 1986 and 1989 could amount to payments within the meaning of Term of Reference (a).

Turning now to payments from Irish Permanent Building Society:

A number of documents have been made available to the Tribunal by Irish Permanent Building Society on the basis that they appear to be relevant to the Tribunal’s Terms of Reference. Of the documents made available, two consist of cheques drawn on Irish Permanent Building Society’s account with the Bank of Ireland in favour of Mr. Charles Haughey. Each of these cheques was dated the 7th June, 1989. One is in the sum of £20,000 and the other is in the sum of £10,000. Each of these cheques was made payable to Charles Haughey and each of them was signed by the same two directors of the society, namely Dr. Edmund A. Farrell and Mr. Enda Hogan. These cheques appear to have been lodged to the Dublin Airport branch of the Bank of Ireland. Each of the cheques was paid on the 15th June of 1989. Mr. Haughey has been asked to comment on the cheques and on the fact that they were so lodged but has, to date, not done so.

Celtic Helicopters, a company which has featured in the proceedings of the Tribunal already, has an account at that Bank’s branch at Dublin Airport. An examination of the Celtic Helicopters account at the Dublin Airport branch of the Bank of Ireland indicates that the sum of £30,000 was lodged to that account on the 7th June of that year. It was withdrawn some short time later on the 21st June. The withdrawal was by way of a cheque. The Tribunal does not have a copy of that cheque.

At the time of the payments to Mr. Haughey on the account of the Irish Permanent Building Society, the Society made a number of other payments to the three largest political parties, i.e. Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, and the Labour Party. These payments appear to have been connected with the then impending General Election. The payment to Fianna Fail was for £65,000, Fine Gael was £25,000, and the payment to the Labour Party was £10,000. The cheque stubs corresponding with each of the cheques describe the payments as follows: To Fianna Fail and Fianna Fail parties as “Subs”. The payment to the Labour Party is described as “Contribution”. The payment for £10,000 to Mr. Charles Haughey which appears to have been lodged to the Bank of Ireland Dublin Airport account of Celtic Helicopters, is described on the cheque stub as a “Sub”. The cheque for £20,000 made payable to Mr. Haughey and which also appears to have been lodged to the Celtic Helicopters Dublin Airport Bank of Ireland account is described as “B. Lenihan”.

In the accounts of the Irish Permanent Building Society, the document which appears to be in the nature of a cheque journal or analysis book refers to each of the four payments I have just mentioned. They are described as “Political Subs”. No distinction is made in the entries on the journal as between the political parties nor is any reference made to Mr. Charles Haughey himself.

The Tribunal has sought information from Dr. Edmund Farrell and Mr. Enda Hogan, the signatories on the two cheques. Dr. Farrell is endeavouring to obtain further documentation in order to assist the Tribunal and will be in a position to provide a Statement or a Memorandum of Evidence at that stage. A Statement has been furnished to the Tribunal by Mr. Enda Hogan, the other signatory of the cheques.

Mr. Hogan has informed the Tribunal that each of the cheques was signed by him after they had been signed by Dr. Farrell. He has informed the Tribunal that he has a recollection that at some time he was told by Dr. Farrell that the late Mr. Brian Lenihan was going to undergo a liver transplant operation and that Dr. Farrell thought that the Irish Permanent should make a contribution towards his expenses. This is Mr. Hogan’s response to the fact that the cheque stub in respect of a cheque for £20,000 made payable to Mr. Charles Haughey contains a reference to “B. Lenihan”. Mr. Hogan does not, however, appear to have been aware of this at the time the cheque was countersigned by him. He has no recollection of countersigning the cheque payment for £10,000 to Mr. Charles Haughey but assumes that it was a political contribution.

Mr. Hogan has also informed the Tribunal that shortly after he joined the Society in 1983, he recommended that if any political contributions were to be made to the Fianna Fail party, contributions should also be made to the Fine Gael Party and the Labour Party. He has also informed the Tribunal that the decision as to the amount that each party should receive was made solely by Dr. Farrell and also that, as far as he is aware, all requests for political contributions were handled by Dr. Farrell and that his, Mr. Hogan’s, only function was to countersign the cheques and that he dealt with no person other than Dr. Farrell in relation to any of these requests for political contributions.

Mr. Hogan as also informed the Tribunal that he is not aware whether any other members of the Board of the Society or any Executive of the Society was aware of the writing of the cheques or of the beneficiaries of them, apart from Ms. Margaret Coyle, Dr. Farrell’s secretary. He has also informed the Tribunal that he understands that there is no reference in the Board Minutes to any of these payments and has stated that it would have been normal at the time for Dr. Farrell to make decisions on these matters without reference to the Board.

The Tribunal will wish to examine whether there were any other payments by the Building Society or by any of its Directors to Mr. Haughey and whether the payments I have just mentioned in the amount of £20,000 and described as being for “B. Lenihan” was used for the purpose envisaged or for some other purpose.