No plans to punish former ministers

Fianna Fáil does not plan any action against frontbench spokespeople who are former ministers following findings by the Mahon Tribunal that members of Bertie Ahern’s cabinet tried to collapse the inquiry.

Fianna Fáil does not plan any action against frontbench spokespeople who are former ministers following findings by the Mahon Tribunal that members of Bertie Ahern’s cabinet tried to collapse the inquiry.

Party leader Micheál Martin said while he takes the comment “seriously”, the report “provides no details on which a response can be given”.

The report does not mention any names, but said it came under “sustained and virulent attacks” from a number of senior ministers in 2007 and 2008, when it was questioning Mr Ahern.

“There appears little doubt that the objective of these extraordinary and unprecedented attacks on the tribunal was to undermine the efficient conduct of the tribunal’s inquiries, erode its independence and collapse its inquiry into that individual,” the report states.

The introduction of the report said it was “extremely inappropriate for members of the government to launch such unseemly and partisan attacks”, and to question the legality of the inquiry and integrity of the tribunal’s members.

The report said such criticisms were “as regrettable as they were ill-considered and unfounded”.

Fine Gael Meath East TD Regina Doherty said: “The individuals involved should account for their actions. Some of those who were cabinet ministers at the time are members of the current Dáil; they should not remain silent on this issue.”

Mr Martin said he was “surprised” to see the comments included in the report, but added it was “a comment in the introduction of the tribunal report, it’s not in its findings section”.

He said it was a serious assertion, “but I have a difficulty in terms of identifying who exactly were they talking about”.

Asked on RTÉ about the charge that attempts were made to collapse the tribunal, he said: “There’s no question of the tribunal ever collapsing or any attempt to make it collapse.”

He said it had “huge funding of over €300m so I don’t think, in that context, that it was ever collapsible or going to collapse”.

Mr Martin insisted last night he had never criticised the tribunal itself, but simply questioned its evidence.

His frontbench spokesperson, Willie O’Dea, was not available for comment. He was among the strongest critics of the tribunal within cabinet during the period of Mr Ahern’s questioning.

When Mr Ahern app-eared back in the witness box in Dec 2007, ministers again lined up to defend him.

The then foreign affairs minister, Dermot Ahern, told Six One News: “I find it quite astonishing, the line of questioning.”

In an interview on Today FM, Mr Martin said he accepted the tribunal had to do its work but found it “to a certain extent unnecessary” that Mr Ahern had to go into “detailed explanation” of his marriage break-up and other aspects of his family life.

The then environment minister, Dick Roche, speaking on Morning Ireland on Dec 21, accused the tribunal of “bias” and “badgering a witness”, which, he said, boarded on “voyeurism”.

Later that day, Mr O’Dea told The News at One that the tribunal would soon be asking Mr Ahern how he spent his Holy Communion money.

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