Former taoiseach Albert Reynold’s attempts to solicit funds from a developer were improper and his failure to inquire into a donation to one of his ministers was wrong, Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin has admitted.
The Fianna Fáil leader faced a barrage of questions over his shamed party yesterday as the fallout from the Mahon Tribunal report into corrupt payments to politicians continued.
Mr Martin had neglected to comment on the tribunal’s findings that Mr Reynolds had sought large donations from a Cork developer in the early 1990s in his initial responses to the report.
But when the inquiry’s damning findings on Mr Reynolds were put to Mr Martin at a press conference yesterday, the Fianna Fáil leader criticised the former taoiseach’s actions.
The inquiry found that a request by Mr Reynolds to developer Owen O’Callaghan for donations to Fianna Fáil was an “abuse of political power”.
Mr Reynolds also failed to inquire about a £50,000 payment from a separate developer, Tom Gilmartin, to one of his then ministers, Pádraig Flynn, despite being told about it in 1992, the inquiry found.
Addressing the two criticisms in Judge Alan Mahon’s report, Mr Martin said: “They [Mr Reynolds and Bertie Ahern] were wrong in that decision. Albert Reynolds should have made stronger efforts to find out if that assertion at the time was true in relation to Tom Gilmartin. It subsequently proved to be true.
“I’ve accepted the findings of the tribunal in relation to that and particularly the broader finding around it being improper to solicit large funding like that in their capacity as either taoiseach or as minister.”
The tribunal said a party official told Mr Reynolds about the £50,000 payment to Mr Flynn but the then taoiseach, instead of quizzing his minister about it, went on to reappoint him in his cabinet.
The money was placed in a complex set of offshore accounts and eventually used to purchase a farm in Mayo in Mr Flynn’s wife’s name.
The report was also critical of Mr Reynolds writing to Owen O’Callaghan and seeking payments for Fianna Fáil in 1993, at a time when the Cork developer was lobbying the government to support the building of a football stadium in Dublin.
The request resulted in an £80,000 payment to Fianna Fáil.
The inquiry found that pressurising a businessman who was lobbying the government over the project was “entirely inappropriate, and was an abuse of political power and government authority”.
Mr Reynolds initially gave evidence to Mahon but was later excused after submitting medical information that he was unfit to do so due to cognitive impairment.
In his statement yesterday, Mr Martin added that there was “no circumstance” in which the cheque received by Pádraig Flynn could be justified.
He said that no matter how high a member rises within the party and in elected office, they still carried duties of trust for members of Fianna Fáil and the people who elected them.
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