How Pádraig Flynn must rue his arrogant dismissal on The Late Late Show of Tom Gilmartin’s corruption allegations as those of a man “not well” and “out of sorts”.
It was Jan 1999 when Mr Flynn, then Ireland’s EU commissioner, appeared on the programme.
The allegation that he had received a £50,000 donation intended for Fianna Fáil from Mr Gilmartin was already known by that stage.
The property developer had given a statement to the tribunal to that effect — details of which had emerged in the media several months before Mr Flynn appeared on The Late Late Show.
But Mr Gilmartin hadn’t yet decided whether he would further co-operate with the inquiry and give evidence. Then Mr Flynn appeared on the talkshow, and was asked by host Gay Byrne what he was going to do about the tribunal and the £50,000.
Mr Flynn insisted: “I never asked or took money from anybody to do favours for anybody in my life.”
Mr Byrne pushed him, suggesting he knew Tom Gilmartin.
“Oh yeah, yeah,” replied Mr Flynn. “I haven’t seen him now for some years. I met him. He’s a Sligo man who went to England and made a lot of money. Came back. Wanted to do a lot of business in Ireland. Didn’t work out for him. Didn’t work out for him. He’s not well. His wife isn’t well. And he’s — he’s out of sorts.”
That was the catalyst. After watching Mr Flynn’s appearance on the Late Late, Mr Gilmartin made up his mind. He would co-operate, would give evidence, and would tell the full story behind the shocking corruption he had witnessed when trying to get development projects off the ground in Dublin in the 1980s and 1990s.
Everything that followed — including the ensnaring of Bertie Ahern by the tribunal — stemmed from that moment.
The tribunal, in its final report last week, found Mr Gilmartin to have been a truthful witness, and found Mr Flynn to have been corrupt. It found Mr Ahern, meanwhile, to have lied about huge sums of money that flowed into his bank accounts in the 1990s.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin promptly proposed to expel Mr Flynn, and that motion — together with a motion to expel Mr Ahern — was due to have been heard at a special meeting of the party’s national executive on Friday.
Mr Flynn, like Mr Ahern, decided to resign before he was kicked out. It is an ending that would have been inconceivable when he was at the height of his powers in the party when he rose to justice minister in 1992.
But then, it isn’t a fate unknown to his family — his daughter, Beverly, was expelled from Fianna Fáil in 2004 after her failed libel action against RTÉ.
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