The corruption exposed by the Mahon Tribunal was “overwhelmingly a Fianna Fáil problem”, according to the Tánaiste and Labour leader Eamon Gilmore.
During Dáil statements on the tribunal’s report, which was published last week, the Government said it was taking “urgent action” to implement its recommendations.
Environment Minister Phil Hogan said he would be writing to the tribunal seeking a timeframe for the processing of third-party applications for costs and asking how the final figure could be reduced, “taking account of the pressures on the public finances”.
Mr Hogan also dismissed claims he had halted an inquiry by his department into local authorities established by the previous administration. He said those investigations into breaches of planning laws by six local authorities would be finalised in the coming weeks, despite claims by Fianna Fáil that the Government had called off the inquiries.
Mr Gilmore said laws would be explored through the constitutional convention to ensure the wrong-doing exposed in the report did not happen again.
He said there was a “direct connection” between the political culture unearthed by the tribunal and the collapse of the economy.
“The property bubble was a product of the toxic triangle between Fianna Fáil, the banks and property developers,” said Mr Gilmore.
“There was a culture, at the highest levels of Irish society, that sought to make extraordinary fortunes on property development, and some politicians were determined to have their share.”
Mr Gilmore said adverse findings had been made in three separate tribunals of inquiry against three Fianna Fáil taoisigh who led the party from 1979 to May 2008. The party now has questions to answer on why it took it so long to act, he said.
Mr Gilmore said: “Yes, there are politicians from other parties against whom adverse findings have been made, but the evidence shows that the problem was overwhelmingly a Fianna Fáil problem.
The many “honourable and decent people in Fianna Fáil” who “feel reduced by the findings” are not the victims of this report, he said.
“The victims are the people who live in poorly planned communities. The victims are those who have lost their jobs, who are in negative equity, who are picking up the tab for the destruction of our economy.”
Mr Gilmore also hit out at the Green Party, which “looked the other way” while in coalition with Fianna Fáil, he said.
He said Green ministers “deliberately chose to ignore what was happening at the tribunal” when the then taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, was giving evidence in 2007 and 2008 — evidence which last week’s report found was not true.
He also praised the role of his colleague, Social Protection Minister Joan Burton, whom he said sought to expose wrongdoing and was threatened with legal action for doing so.
Attempts to reduce third-party costs for tribunals will be enhanced thanks to a unit which will challenge expenses and legal cost claims.
The Cabinet agreed yesterday to establish the State legal costs unit, which will tackle expense claims from witnesses and lawyers who appeared before tribunals.
The unit, which will work under the State Claims Agency, will only deal with third-party claims from the Mahon and Moriarty tribunals.
The Department of Environment, which oversees Mahon, said the tribunal would hear claims from witnesses and decide on costs but these would eventually be whittled down by the new unit, it added.
Department chiefs have previously said claims have been reduced by an average 30% through legal cost accountants for the planning corruption probe. Judge Mahon has yet to rule on third-party claims that could amount to over €150m.
The unit will take over that role and also decide on claims submitted to the Moriarty tribunal
— Juno McEnroe
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