No need for O’Rourke to give more evidence

Seán McCarthaigh

The controversial ex-politician, who is at the centre of allegations of political corruption, launched a thinly veiled attack on Ms O’Rourke’s evidence on Tuesday evening following her appearance at the inquiry on the previous day.

Mr Lawlor suggested her recollection of an alleged meeting between the developer Tom Gilmartin and a group of Fianna Fáil ministers including Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, at Leinster House in 1989 was motivated by the loss of her Dáil seat in 2002.

The former Dublin West TD tried to question Mr Gilmartin as to whether he believed Ms O’Rourke was suffering from a “case of post-Westmeath loss-of-seat syndrome”.

Ms O’Rourke lost the Westmeath seat she had held since 1982 at the last general election to her party rival, Donie Cassidy.

Although Mr Lawlor withdrew the comments at the inquiry after pressure from the tribunal chairman, Judge Alan Mahon, the former TD subsequently repeated them outside the hearing to journalists.

At the start of yesterday’s hearing, counsel for Ms O’Rourke, Paul McGarry, said his client had come to the tribunal and given “clear and unambiguous” evidence under oath.

Mr McGarry pointed out that all parties had been given the opportunity to cross-examine Ms O’Rourke during her appearance at Dublin Castle.

Mr McGarry noted that Mr Lawlor had availed of such an opportunity to question Ms O’Rourke on two separate occasions last Monday.

The barrister acknowledged that Mr Lawlor had withdrawn his controversial comments under pressure from the tribunal.

However, he took issue with the former TD’s claims that the matter was more a political issue and argued that it questioned the veracity of evidence given to the inquiry.

Ms O’Rourke remained “willing and ready” to return to the tribunal at any stage to provide more evidence if required, Mr McGarry said.

In response, Judge Mahon said the tribunal was satisfied that Mr Lawlor had withdrawn his remarks within the proceedings themselves.

The chairman also reassured Ms O’Rourke’s legal team that the statement would not form part of their considerations when compiling their report. While the tribunal did not require Ms O’Rourke to return to give further evidence, she was free to do so if she wished, Judge Mahon said.

Meanwhile, Mr Lawlor was criticised by Judge Mahon for failing to notify the tribunal at the start of yesterday’s hearing that he had arranged to fly to Prague today when the issue of him continuing his cross-examination this morning had already been discussed.

Mr Lawlor claimed there had been a misunderstanding and he subsequently announced he had altered his travel plans to resume his questioning of Mr Gilmartin at 10.45am today.

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