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Good Friday Agreement ‘cannot absolve’ Ahern on Mahon implications: Martin

Micheál Martin says comments made about Ahern in the Mahon report are “extremely serious”.

Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire

MICHEÁL MARTIN has said that although achievements like the Good Friday Agreement are “real and enduring”, they cannot absolve Bertie Ahern of the implications of the Mahon Report.

At a press conference in Dublin city this morning, the Fianna Fáil leader said the party welcomes the Mahon report and its findings. He said that the central allegation against Ahern was not sustained in the Tribunal’s findings, but said that the comments made about him are “extremely serious”.

He also said that the amounts of money discussed in the Tribunal are “very serious and cannot be ignored”.

Referring to the motion to expel Ahern and other FF members from the party, Martin said that this is “the only route for us to take action” against people for falling short of the standards of public office which should be upheld.

Martin said that as the Tribunal did not identify any individuals in its criticism of persons who it says had attempted to interfere in its work, he cannot take action on that aspect of the Mahon report. He also emphasised that he had personally played no part in those attempts and that he “was always very clear in my communication that the Tribunal should be allowed to get on with its work”.

He said there is no possibility of disbanding the party, adding that “there is nothing I take more seriously” than rebuilding trust in the party.

The TD also said he was “very upset and angry” at how people had abused their positions and said he “unreservedly” condemns the actions of those found to be corrupt by the Tribunal.

Martin also defended his position in not taking action until after the report had been published, saying that more information had emerged over time and that he could not pre-empt the Tribunal’s findings. He said that the situation regarding Ahern’s finances weren’t made known until around 2008.

“This idea that just because you sat in government with somebody… that somehow you committed some act of impropriety in unacceptable. I derive my legitimacy from the fact that I went before the people and was elected again,” he said.

Private funding has a role in politics, he said, but there’s a difference between legitimate donations and corrupt payments.

“I would accept that that culture was wrong and I think all parties engaged and still do to the present day,” he said of political donations. “We have to change our approach to how we fund politics.”

Organisation

Martin said that he wants to review and restructure the party’s Dublin central organisation. All assets from the local organisation are being transferred to the national party.

A formal “root and branch” review will be carried out, which he said is not a reflection on members on the ground but is being done to re-establish trust in the running of the organisation.

The strongest supporters of taking action on Mahon have been the party’s rank and file members, he said. “They see the damage which is being done to a Fianna Fáil party whose traditions they are proud of but which have been badly undermined.”

Expulsion

The party’s officers met last night to discuss Martin’s proposals to expel Bertie Ahern from the party in the wake of the report’s publication yesterday morning.

Two vice-presidents of the party abstained from a vote on recommending the expulsion, but the motion to expel him, Pádraig Flynn and a number of councillors named in the Mahon report will be put to the party’s national executive next Friday.

“The report of the Mahon Tribunal is extremely serious for all who care about public life in Ireland,” Martin said after the meeting. “The report has wide implications for different parties, groups and individuals.  I am very clear about those implications which relate to Fianna Fáil and those members of the party who betrayed the privilege and responsibility of holding public office.”

Speaking on RTÉ Radio One this morning, Ahern’s brother Noel Ahern said that some people might see Martin’s move as an effort to show how “macho” he is.

- Additional reporting by Hugh O’Connell

Audio: Listen to Micheál Martin’s press conference in full (MP3) >

In full: Micheál Martin’s statement on Mahon and expelling Bertie >

See TheJournal.ie‘s Mahon Tribunal coverage in full >

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