The long-awaited final report of the Mahon tribunal, the State’s longest running corruption inquiry, is to be published today.
Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern, his ex-colleagues, the Government and political parties have been braced for months for the findings of the inquiry into planning matters and payments.
Fifteen years after its establishment and with costs estimated at up to €300m, Judge Alan Mahon’s expose is to be sent to the Dáil before being published.
The tribunal is not obliged to give concerned parties advance copies of the report or to give advance warning of publication but it is expected to go live online at 10am.
Fallout is expected to focus on allegations that a developer boasted about paying off Mr Ahern with IR£50,000 in 1989, and a further IR£30,000 sum in 1992 when he was finance minister.
Ironically, the tribunal was set up by Mr Ahern’s Fianna Fáil government in 1997 to probe allegations of corruption and herald a new era in politics.
The former taoiseach has always denied taking payment for a political favour.
His evidence took the public on a mind-boggling trip through unsolicited whip-rounds, lodgements to various bank accounts – not to mention a lack of bank accounts – cash in bags and currency conversions.
Mr Ahern insisted the period was one of the most difficult of his life as he was going through marriage separation, had no home of his own and was not using bank accounts as his marriage came to an end.
The inquiry was originally sparked by cash for votes accusations in Dublin councils in the early 1990s which spread to include big hitters in Fianna Fáil. TDs, ministers and former prime ministers all gave evidence.
Allegations centred on the bribing of councillors for the re-zoning of massive swathes of land around the capital from low value greenfield to lucrative commercial or residential sites.
Current Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin recently distanced himself from the scandals and told his party faithful they would not be let down again by low standards.
“When the final report of the Mahon Tribunal is published we will act without fear or favour against anyone who is shown to have abused their position in Fianna Fáil or in elected office,” he said at the party ard fheis last month.
The inquiry sat in public for more than 900 days over 11 years, hearing from 400 witnesses and examining 130,000 pages of documents.
Three high-profile figures – former minister Ray Burke, former assistant Dublin city and county manager George Redmond and lobbyist Frank Dunlop – were found to have either arranged or accepted payments, while the late Liam Lawlor was jailed for non co-operation.
Others anxiously awaiting the fallout include former MEP Padraig Flynn, builders-turned-whistleblowers, as well as four former Fianna Fáil councillors and a Gibraltar-based businessman who have been charged over land deals.
The Mahon Tribunal is ultimately expected to cost the state about €300m when the final costs of third-party legal bills are determined.
One of the most startling figures is a running cost of €50,000 a week in the three-and-a-half years since its last public sitting.
Besides making findings of fact, the judge can determine if individual witnesses have obstructed the tribunal – and refuse them their costs.
Mr Ahern, its most famous witness, made 15 appearances at the public inquiry between April 2004 and September 2008.
He even went to the High Court in Dublin to stop the tribunal questioning him about statements he made in the Dáil, and to claim that his documents relating to his banking expert were legally privileged and did not have to be handed over to the inquiry.
Within months of the scandal over his financial affairs becoming public and his subsequent explanations, Mr Ahern resigned as taoiseach saying it had become impossible for him to continue in office.
He remains a member of Fianna Fáil and has always protested his innocence.