Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Mahon Tribunal showed how big business and politicians conspired to corrupt the planning process at the expense of ordinary citizens – O’Brien

28 March, 2012 - by Jonathan O'Brien TD


Speaking in Leinster House on the Mahon Tribunal Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Deputy Jonathan O’Brien said it was a tale of deceit and corruption showing how big business and those who held high political office conspired to corrupt the planning process at the expense of ordinary citizens.
The Cork North Central TD said;
“Greedy individuals who no sense of remorse who used their position of influence within Fianna Fail to line their own pockets with corrupt payments by corrupt developers at the expense of the very communities they were elected to represent. There can be no doubt in any one’s mind following this report that some of the most senior figures in Fianna Fáil, were up to their neck in the type of politics which served no one but themselves. It was these very same people, leading members of Fianna Fáil, who were responsible for nurturing, developing & maintaining the brown envelope culture, the Galway Tents, the payoffs and shady bank accounts that existed in Irish political life for far too long.
“As a politician I am angry by what they did but more importantly, as a citizen of this State, I am absolutely sickened by their actions. There is no place in Irish politics for the sleazy dishonesty, bribery and corruption that prevailed in Fianna Fáil and which a broke political system based on partition helped cultivate. The public have a right to know if these people, people like Deputy Martin and Deputy O’Dea are willing to share in the collective responsibility that comes with serving in Cabinet and are they willing to take ownership for the “attack” against the tribunal.
“I am asking the Government to consider the establishment of an all-party Oireachtas committee - one with a single task and a set time frame, whose objective is the implementation of the Mahon Tribunal's recommendations.
“If the Government want to restore trust among the electorate in the notion of representative democracy, what better way to do it - than for us all to sit here next September and with one voice - approve the most far-reaching reforms of the political system this country has ever seen. It is a massive challenge, but it is one Sinn Fein is up to, one we would approach with humility and in the spirit of cooperating with the other political parties in the Oireachtas.”
ENDS

NOTE TO EDITOR:
TRANSCRIPT OF SPEECH [CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY]
The Final Report of the Mahon Tribunal, published last Thursday, in to certain planning matters and payments is a tale of deceit and corruption that was 15 years in the making.
15 years condensed into just over 3200 pages, pages which only confirmed what many believed all these years.
Big business & those who held high political office conspired to corrupt the planning process at the expense of ordinary citizens.
In recent days, since the publication of the Mahon Report, I have spoken with many grass root Fianna Fail members, some are personal friends and there can be no doubt that they are hurting at the revelations.
Many of these people have invested so much of their own time and effort into the party and are now questioning for what?
They are now feeling betrayed and dismayed at the actions of fellow Fianna Fail members, whether they be former Taoiseach, Ministers or councillors, people they put their faith and trust in to represent everything they held dear, but who, as we now know and they now know, abused that trust.
Greedy individuals who no sense of remorse who used their position of influence within Fianna Fail to line their own pockets with corrupt payments by corrupt developers at the expense of the very communities they were elected to represent.
There can be no doubt in any one’s mind following this report that some of the most senior figures in Fianna Fáil, were up to their neck in the type of politics which served no one but themselves.
It was these very same people, leading members of Fianna Fáil, who were responsible for nurturing, developing & maintaining the brown envelope culture, the Galway Tents, the payoffs and shady bank accounts that existed in Irish political life for far too long.
As a politician I am angry by what they did but more importantly, as a citizen of this State, I am absolutely sickened by their actions.
There is no place in Irish politics for the sleazy dishonesty, bribery and corruption that prevailed in Fianna Fáil and which a broke political system based on partition helped cultivate.
There was no place then, there is no place for it now and there is certainly no place for it into the future.
The dog in the street knew what the story was with brown envelopes, golden circles and Fianna Fáil - and it is a scandal that it took so long, and so much of the tax-payer’s money, to eventually come out.
The people named in the Report disgraced themselves, they disgraced their families, their party and this State.
Everyone had the opinion that when it came to the planning process in this State, the old phrase “it’s not what you know, but who you know,” sprung to mind.
Of course, with the corrupt local public representatives of the time, as well as those in high office, it was not only about whom you knew but how much cash to go to them with as well.
It was a not a question of could they be corrupted, but at what price!
They sold the integrity of politics to whoever they wanted, regardless of the consequences to the ordinary hard-working decent people of this land.
Citizens who were already being shafted by the Government of the day who were hell-bent on introducing policies that would worsen the gaps between the haves and the have not’s.
These people did more to embed inequality in the social fabric of Ireland than our colonial neighbours across the water.
From the bottom to the very top of Government, politics was wholly, and systemically, corrupt.
Those at the centre of it operated as if they were untouchable.
The “Drumcondra Mafia” and the “Teflon Taoiseach” wouldn’t sound out of place in an episode of the Soprano’s but sadly these where the people entrusted with the public interest of Irish citizens.
When people did ask questions, the political gangsters high on the trappings of power acted with a level of audacity that is nothing short of astonishing.
Throughout the duration of the Tribunal’s workings, a serious amount of criticism was directed at it by members of the very political elite who had established it in the first place.
Rather than defend its integrity they chose to attack its independence for self-serving reasons.
Attempts were made to end the Tribunal altogether with “concerns for public spending” used as it a smokescreen to hide naked self-interest and self-preservation.
The report of the Mahon Tribunal states that during 2007 and 2008, members of the Cabinet embarked on a “sustained and virulent attack” against the tribunal.
Cabinet members questioned not only the legality of the tribunal, but also the integrity of its members.
These attacks came mainly but not exclusively as a result of the tribunal’s inquiries into Bertie Ahern’s conduct.
Deputy Mícheál Martin was a senior member of the cabinet then and is the Fianna Fáil party leader now.
For me, Deputy Martin has a number of questions to answer regarding the conduct and credibility of his party colleagues who are still members of this Dáil and where Cabinet Ministers at that time.
The public have a right to know if these people, people like Deputy Martin and Deputy O’Dea are willing to share in the collective responsibility that comes with serving in Cabinet and are they willing to take ownership for the “attack” against the tribunal.
The public also has a right to know if these attacks went to the top – were they part of an orchestrated campaign at the behest of disgraced former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern?
If Fianna Fáil could find it within themselves to be honest, to put citizens interests before party interests,
to act in the States interest rather than Fianna Fail’s interest they would do the decent thing and address this section of the Report.
Instead of taking responsibility for the actions of a Cabinet he served in, Deputy Martin rounded on every other party in this chamber.
He was busy pointing out what he saw as their flaws and failings as if this made what was discovered about Fianna Fail in the Mahon report any less repulsive.
Rather than lecture others, Deputy Martin should concentrate on getting his own house in order.
It is simply not good enough for the now leader of Fianna Fail, a then Cabinet Minister, to say that he does not know who the tribunal is referring to when it talks about these attacks on its integrity.
One only has to read the media reports from the time to know the Ministers who attacked the Tribunal.
Deputy Willie O’Dea, a man not unknown to the Courts for attacking the integrity of honest people, had no hesitation in attacking the tribunal with his flippant comments about communion money and half crowns from Owen O’Callaghan.
And just as people in 2010 did not believe Deputy O’Dea when he said, “I did not commit perjury.” They do not believe him now when he states that “I did not try to undermine the Mahon Tribunal.”
It is the nature and scale of these attacks, along with the corrupt payments the Tribunal investigated demonstrated the entirely decrepit nature of politics in this State at that time.
For those people who may still be serving politicians at whatever level, or to those in this House who may have been involved in this culture of corruption and whose names have not emerged yet,
they would do well to remember what somebody should have said to Bertie a very long time ago – your sins will find you out.
Listening to the public debate on this report is it any wonder people have no faith in the political system?
For too long the party political elite in this State, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour and the now defunct PDs fostered a culture of dependency by citizens on politicians.
We have seen establishment politician after establishment politician allow a system develop where people felt subservient to those in power.
Citizens developed the thinking that if you wanted to access your rights then you needed the nod and the wink of your local TD to make it happen.
People have criticised the cost of the Tribunal, and those were against its very existence were and still are, happy to feed in to that.
Yes it was long and expensive, but unfortunately it was necessary to as part of a bigger job to restore faith in the political structures of Ireland.
The truth should not have had to cost so much, and I hope when the DPP investigates the contents of the Report, it does not take as long to hold people to account.
The allegation of “corruption” against Bertie Ahern may not have been sustained in the Tribunal, but Justice Mahon certainly didn’t hold back when he said that he didn’t believe a word that came out of the man’s mouth during the course of his contributions to the Inquiry.
Poor ‘oul Bertie feels hard done by these days.
It is time to shut up or put up Bertie.
If you feel aggrieved by the findings of the tribunal then off with you to the Courts.
Let him recount to the Courts the nature of his dealings and the bank accounts he didn’t have, and his tales of “I won it on the horses.”
Let him spin his untruths and false statements anyway he wants and roll the dice and see what the outcome is.
Or better still why not save us all the bother of listening to your sorry tale again by climbing back into that cupboard of yours and closing the door never to reappear again.
The days where politicians feel that they can operate like Mafia dons must be over if we are to ever restore public confidence in politics again.
Hundreds of people across the country are bunkering down, hoping this will blow over, that the outrage and anger of the people will be a one week wonder.
They believe that if they can only avoid scrutiny, wait it out, bide their time, then they will be able to come out from under whatever stones they're hiding under today and normal service will resume.
How fundamental a break do we want with the Frank Dunlops of this world?
How committed are we to confronting and challenging these people? - To breaking the golden circles, because there was never just the one, at the intersection of property, capital and elected representatives.
The debate and the choices before us are bigger than Mahon, and certainly bigger than the grubby little men exposed as corrupt in this report.
In a few weeks’ time when all has been said and done on the Mahon Report.
When the politicians have finished the finger wagging and political posturing what happens?
Well that depends of those of us in this chamber and how we react to this report.
I know that the vast majority of elected reps in this chamber, from all parties and none, are, I believe, motivated by their commitment to public service.
Corrupt politicians got us into this mess and it is for politicians opposed to corruption to get us out if it.
It is not enough for any person or any party to turn away from the collective job which faces us, the job of cleaning up politics for good.
This is the Government should consider the establishment of an all-party Oireachtas committee - one with a single task and a set time frame, whose objective is the implementation of the Mahon Tribunal's recommendations.
If people want to restore trust among the electorate in the notion of representative democracy, what better way to do it than for us all to sit here next September and with one voice - approve the most far-reaching reforms of the political system this country has ever seen.
It is no small task, it is a massive challenge, but it is one Sinn Fein is up to, one we would approach with humility and in the spirit of cooperating with the other political parties in the Oireachtas.
I would also urge the Taoiseach to look again at scope and remit of the Constitutional Convention.
Mahon sent us all a clear message.
Our political system is corrupt from the ground up, the architecture of this state is crumbling.
Trust in the institutions of democracy in Ireland is falling apart.
A Constitution is a contract between the people and the state.
The Constitution of this State has been broken.
It cannot, I believe, be fixed or repaired.
It must be created anew.
The Government should cease the opportunity afforded by its decision to hold a Constitutional Convention to open up a real debate on what the Republic envisage by the men and women of 1916 really was.
Let us give the people of the island, north and south the opportunity to build a New Republic, a 32 county Republic, a republic which cherishes all of the children on this Nation equally.
ends

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