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Burton questions Kenny’s photo-op with O’Brien

Joan Burton, the social protection minister, has raised questions about Government members interacting with individuals criticised by tribunals following the appearance of Enda Kenny at a public event with businessman Denis O’Brien.

She noted that Mr O’Brien had continued to "pop up at various public events," most recently at a ceremony at the New York Stock Exchange, where he was photographed sharing a balcony with the Taoiseach.

"It is perhaps time for the Government to reflect on how it should in future interact with people against whom adverse findings have been made by tribunals."

Her comments follow those of Lucinda Creighton, the Europe minister, who recently said the Government should avoid inviting Mr O’Brien to another economic forum in Dublin due to the Moriarty findings.

The tribunal found that former Fine Gael minister Michael Lowry received payments of stg£447,000 from Mr O’Brien and gave him information of significant value in securing the State’s second mobile phone licence.

Ms Burton’s comments came during a second day of debate in the Dáil on the Mahon Tribunal report.

She said the inquiry’s descriptions of corruption were not surprising for anyone who had served on Dublin County Council in the 1990s, when she was served with 42 libel actions after raising concerns.

"It was because greedy developers sought to corrupt greedy politicians and because greedy politicians, mainly from Fianna Fáil, sought to extort brown paper envelopes from developers. The result was poor planing and devastated communities."

She welcomed Government plans for further laws to cover ethics for public representatives.

"We do not want to return to the days of ‘uno Duce, una voce’, the immortal phrase which the former Fianna Fáil press secretary PJ Mara, himself a tribunal veteran, used to describe Charles Haughey, nor do we want a Berlusconi-style, media-political complex with its attendant codes of omertà undermining the principles of transparent democracy."

Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea said he regretted making remarks which may have undermined the inquiry during its term, as the tribunal alleged regarding former cabinet ministers.

But he also said it was justifiable to criticise a tribunal as it was to criticise a court. "If it is permissible to criticise the courts without undermining their authority, surely it is permissible to criticise a tribunal similarly."

Meanwhile, former councillor Finbarr Hanrahan resigned from Fianna Fáil yesterday, following Bertie Ahern, Padraig Flynn, GV Wright, Don Lydon and John Hannon.

The tribunal made negative findings against the six, and expulsion motions against all of them were due to be heard at a meeting of Fianna Fáil’s national executive this Friday.

The expulsion motions will no longer be necessary following the resignations.

But the meeting will go ahead to discuss Fianna Fáil’s intention to reclaim the St Luke’s property in Mr Ahern’s former Dublin Central stranglehold for the party.