The Mahon Tribunal has been a watershed and the kind of corruption it exposed could not happen again, as Irish society would not tolerate it, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has said.
Many changes have been made to reduce the likelihood of politicians taking bribes, but further changes will significantly alter how planning decisions and county development plans are made, said Mr Gilmore.
The public will expect the gardaí and the DPP to pursue those exposed by the report, he said.
Times had changed, said Mr Gilmore, and corruption was largely a Fianna Fáil problem, with all that party’s leaders in the 30 years from when Charles Haughey took charge to when Bertie Ahern stepped down being found wanting by one tribunal or another.
“[They were] the big powers in the land at that time. Mr Haughey was taoiseach, Mr Reynolds was minister for finance, Mr Flynn was minister for the environment, Ray Burke was minister for justice, Bertie Ahern was minister for labour and Liam Lawlor was a big beast on the back benches — he was one of the big political figures of the time.”
Mr Gilmore drew back from saying corruption was innate in Fianna Fáil. However, “all of the national political figures who have been found wanting in tribunals have all been Fianna Fáil, and people can draw their own conclusions”, he said.
Mr Gilmore recalled calling in 1989 for a proper inquiry into planning in Dublin, as gardaí were investigating a planning situation in Dublin at the time.
“I tabled the question to Pee [Padraig Flynn] because he was minister for the environment and he transferred it to the minister for justice, which was Ray [Burke], and they both served in a government that was led by Haughey — that is what has changed.”
Now, said Mr Gilmore, anyone can tell the Standards in Public Office commission their suspicions, and they would investigate it.
Mr Gilmore noted the range of structures that have been put in place to prevent this kind of corruption, including the Freedom of Information Act, ethics in public office legislation, the Standards in Public Office Act, and the requirement for declarations of interest by public representatives. Disclosures and limits on donations are being brought in and a register of lobbyists and whistleblower legislation were in the pipeline.
“Times have changed — I want to nail this,” said Mr Gilmore. Now everybody knew the truth and there was “no tolerance in Irish society for people who are on the take and get personal gain from holding public office”.
He did not accept that there as a culture of corruption. “It’s a culture that only affects some people,” he said, adding that the tribunal named those responsible having forensically examined every single planning decision made by Dublin County Council.
“One of the great defences always when people are caught with their hand in the till is to say that everyone was doing it, that there was a culture. That is nonsense.
“People that took corrupt payments were corrupt and the other side of this coin is that the majority of councillors that served on Dublin county council during that time did not take corrupt payments.”
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