Evidence ‘not surprising’ in light of donation culture

A GREEN Party TD yesterday said he was “not surprised” by any of the evidence presented to the Mahon Tribunal given the culture of corporate and political donations which has long existed.

Paul Gogarty, who is vying to become the party’s new cathoirleach, said that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil politicians had previously been embroiled in planning controversies and there was “no surprise” that questions might be asked of the Taoiseach.

“This [the Mahon Tribunal] is a process which will take several years and the Green Party has an agreed position that it would be inappropriate to judge pending a report,” he said.

In the intervening period, the Dublin Mid-West TD said his party would pursue its belief that all corporate donations should be banned and personal donations reduced to €100 per person. Although a review of donations is not enshrined in the agreed programme for government with Fianna Fáil, he said Environment Minister John Gormley would be able to examine new limits and parameters.

Yesterday, Fine Gael’s Fergus O’Dowd called on Mr Gormley to “affirm the independence of the Mahon Tribunal and confirm the confidence of the Government in its integrity”.

His comments followed a claim by Defence Minister Willie O’Dea that the tribunal is acting outside its remit.

“Minister O’Dea has launched a serious attack on the independence and integrity of the Mahon Tribunal. He has obviously been selected by Fianna Fáil to run the Taoiseach’s defence in the media,” he said.

In an interview with a Sunday newspaper yesterday, Mr O’Dea defended the Taoiseach, claiming it was “impossible to understand” how the tribunal has allowed a “general trawl in public” into Mr Ahern’s life as a “definite matter of urgent public importance”.

On Thursday, Mr Ahern could face up to nine hours of questioning when he resumes giving evidence to the Mahon Tribunal at 10am. The tribunal is expected to concentrate on the Taoiseach’s claim he bought stg£30,000 from AIB in 1995 to repay money advanced to him by Manchester-based businessman Michael Wall. It will also return to a lodgment of IR£28,722.90 in 1994 which the tribunal has previously suggested amounts to $45,000.

Meanwhile, the Green Party is to hold a conference on October 6 to discuss whether to back the new European constitution. A vote will then take place at a second meeting in November, with the party requiring a two-thirds majority to change its traditional stance of opposing European Union treaties.

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