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The Mahon Report… March 22, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.

… a good day for the government, a bad day for Fianna Fáil. I’d heard during the week that the publication was imminent, but to be honest what with everything else it didn’t capture my imagination. But, on reading it… well, let’s just say it brought it all back.

It was difficult at 11 o’clock break to download what was a fairly small PDF of the Report from the Tribunal site – perhaps an indication that public appetite for this was considerable.

Granted a brief scan of the Report conclusion leaves a certain degree of anti-climax. ‘Is that it?’ is the phrase that most readily springs to mind (there’s also the sense that this is but the tip of an iceberg). After all we could all draw our own conclusions from the information that came out during the process.

Until that is one realises how many names there are. Chapter 17 goes on, and on and on listing Councillors and payments.

And then one realises that this has been a forensic and useful exercise in examining aspects of political life in this state. Nor is it as if there are no consequences.

Particularly when it makes finding of corruption.

It’s not good at all for Padraig Flynn. Not good for Bertie Ahern. Hard to make the reputation of Liam Lawlor any worse – now he has shuffled off this mortal coil, but yes, it manages that task.

Not good for former FF Cabinet Ministers who it notes ‘made sustained and virulent attacks on the integrity of the Tribunal members’.

Not good in that it paints a picture, and an officially legitimised one of a sleazy web of corruption, favours, evasions, lies, and political chicanery centred on FF that is near impossible to shrug off.

And it is this political import which is going to have consequences well into the future. This is terrible news for Micheal Martin and his efforts to rework a battered and bruised Fianna Fáil. What does he do now? As the Irish Times noted:

“When the final report of the Mahon Tribunal is published we will act without fear or favour against anyone who is shown to have abused their position in Fianna Fáil or in elected office,” he said at the party’s ardfheis in Dublin last month.

Does that mean jettisoning Ahern and the Ahern era in a very public defenestration? Can he do that? Does he have the political space?

Conversely it’s good news for the Government parties. They’re content in the knowledge that they’re not Fianna Fáil, and although the economic news is middling poor to terrible, and their woes as regards the household tax continue to best them amongst other things, it provides a break in that cycle for today, tomorrow and the weekend.

You can’t buy breathing space like that. Moreover it reminds people why they stopped voting for Fianna Fáil and why they started voting for Fine Gael, or Labour, or Sinn Féin or Independents.

Actually that last is intriguing because so much of the formerly FF vote appears to have gone to SF and Others.

Most interesting again to see will be the Fianna Fáil vote and whether it dips further or remains where it has been.

How bad could the damage be? Hard to say. But the Report is merciless in pointing at FF. That stubborn 18 per cent or so who have stuck with the party through thick and thin have demonstrated a supreme loyalty, but can that survive intact following the revelation of this? It’s one thing for corruption to be rumoured – quite a different thing for a Tribunal to make findings such as this. It will be very very revealing of the mindset of those still supporting FF to see what happens next.

And for Martin, having sat in Cabinet beside the man of the moment, how does he fashion a narrative that is sufficient unto the day to reposition himself and FF?

Mind you, as interesting will be any movement between the non-FF opposition and the government.

And the next poll? That will be the week after next in the Sunday Business Post, unless the Irish Times or someone else decides to get in there first.

All told a lot to reflect on and some further (and unusually non-economically related, at least not specifically) political turbulence ahead.


On one related issue, worth looking at Chapter 18 1:14 which notes that the Tribunal ‘is concerned that recent changes in the planning system have resulted in an over-centralisation of power in the hands of the Minister for the Environment which is not subject to sufficient checks and balances. Consequently, the Tribunal is recommending that the MOE’s ability to give directs to Regional Authorities and Local Planning Authorities should be entrusted to a Planning Regulator. However, the MOE should continue to play a key role in adopting the NSS and NDP.’

And moreover…

The Planning Regulator should assume some of the MOE’s existing role in relation to enforcement, the Tribunal considers that his or her role should not be confined to this. In particular, the Tribunal is recommending that the Regulator should also be entrusted with the power to investigate possible systemic problems in the planning system, including those raising corruption risks…

Interesting if that is actioned.


1. BERTIES BUDDIES, BACKERS, BBBBBBBJAYSUS « gfmurphy101 - March 22, 2012

[…] country seems to be outraged over the findings issued today by the Mahon tribunal, that cast doubt over the ‘truthfulness’ of Bertie Aherns evidence to the tribunal. […]


2. The Mahon Report – A Plague On All Your Houses « - March 22, 2012

[…] Fianna Fáil and An Taoiseach na Chófra, Bertie Ahern, don’t let this distract you from the other main conclusions of Mahon and co. It suits much of our still intact Post-Colonial Ascendancy, the members of the […]


3. CMK - March 22, 2012

9 o’clock on RTE reporting that a motion to expel Bertie will be put to the Fianna Fail executive next week……


WorldbyStorm - March 22, 2012

I guess they have to do something and quick – no?


CMK - March 22, 2012

I was hoping they were going to disband and resign all their Oireachtas seats. It looks like a knee jerk reaction, I’d expect some sneaky stuff: a long drawn out process until things die down and Bertie is welcomed back (via the servants entrance) into the party.


4. dilettante - March 22, 2012

A quick scan would seem to implicate FG, Labour and DL people as well.
Not all that good for the government surely?


Tomboktu - March 22, 2012

Who is/are the DL person/people?

The Labour one is John O’Halloran, a former councillor. He had been allowed an exemption from the party whip on Dublin County Council because Liffey Valley was in his ward. However, when he continued to vote for developers against the whip, Labour moved to discipline him, and he resigned from the party before they could expel him.

Fine Gael, unlike Fianna Fáil, moved to deal with people, albeit only when the evidence emerged in the tribunals.

I think the central issue is not the presence of rotten apples (ditto for the sex abuse among clergy) but how those in authority responded to it: In FF, they facilitated those abusing power; in FG, they ignored their actions until it became public; in Labour, they moved against them at the time; in other parties, they were so small that there were no rotten apples.


WorldbyStorm - March 22, 2012

DL has one cllr I can find. Billane. pp 833


irishelectionliterature - March 23, 2012

…Mick Billane later joined Fianna Fail. 🙂


WorldbyStorm - March 22, 2012

That’s true Dilettente. The RTÉ website puts it like this:

Findings of corruption have been made against 11 councillors.

Five of these cannot be named because they are before the courts.

The six named individuals are Fianna Fáil’s Finbarr Hanrahan, Cyril Gallagher and GV Wright, Fine Gael’s Tom Hand, Labour’s John O’Halloran and Independent Pat Dunne.

And taking that into account I think you’re right, there’s plenty of blame to spread around. The only thing is that I wonder if Ahern won’t overshadow the rest?


Sara - March 22, 2012

I think the bigger problem is indeed what is going on in our councils and the failure of planning in Ireland since 1963 (motion four being the main object in question). The roster of Dublin county councillors implicated by Mahon is particularly depressing.
What of the rest of the country?
In any case, these problems were well understood by 1982:


WorldbyStorm - March 22, 2012

I think that’s true. And in that respect it is clear that reps of the two then largest parties were hugely compromised.

Great question re the rest of the country.


Mark P - March 22, 2012

Yes, both points are well made, particularly the one about the rest of the country.

In many ways, this is probably best thought as the political equivalent of a report into child abuse in one diocese.


Mark P - March 22, 2012

Worth emphasising that the independent Dublin Councillor “Pat Dunne” named in the report is not the same person as the People Before Profit Dublin City Councillor Pat Dunne who is currently in office!

It will be interesting to see if any newspaper makes a costly mistake with their file photographs tomorrow.


WorldbyStorm - March 22, 2012


Might have been better not to say that so that they did make that costly mistake…

On a tangent anyone know what Billane’s career was politically subsequently?


Mark P - March 23, 2012

On the file photographs thing, one of the Northern papers once published a file photograph of the Socialist Party’s Peter Hadden to accompany an article about a loyalist paramilitary of the same name. That was not a cheap mistake.

I’d be interested in hearing what happened to Billane too. I’ll also be interested in hearing what Olivia Mitchell, who it’s important to emphasise was not found to have engaged in corruption, has to say about the “inappropriate” donation she received.


irishelectionliterature - March 23, 2012

I may be wrong, but Billane fell out with Pat Rabbitte and ended up in Fianna Fail.
Looking at the report is Rabbitte the only one listed who actually returned the cash?


Jack Jameson - March 23, 2012

And Pee Flynn.


Jack Jameson - March 23, 2012

That post by me adding the name of Pee Flynn was in ref to WBS’s comment:

The only thing is that I wonder if Ahern won’t overshadow the rest?

Meaning Pee Flynn too as (a) He’s alive and (b) He’s so loathsome.


5. Tomboktu - March 22, 2012

CMK: “9 o’clock on RTE reporting that a motion to expel Bertie will be put to the Fianna Fail executive next week……

‘Tis true. Following is from the FF website

(iii) Bertie Ahern

Although the central allegation against Bertie Ahern was not sustained, the evidence confirmed by the Tribunal and its comments relating to him are extremely serious. The receipt by a senior office holder of large amounts of money which a sworn Tribunal has held is of unclear origins and the failure to give any credible explanation requires an unequivocal response. No matter how high a member rises within the party and in elected office, they still carry a duty of trust for the members of Fianna Fáil and for the people who elected them.

The report records that Bertie Ahern gave a significant amount of evidence to the Tribunal which, in the opinion of the Tribunal, was untrue.

It is a matter of profound personal and professional regret to see confirmed in this Report the extent to which Bertie Ahern fell short of the standard of personal behaviour which is expected of the holders of high office. In the manner in which he received this money while holding high office and in the giving of rejected evidence to a sworn tribunal Bertie Ahern betrayed the trust placed in him by this country and this party.

I, together with the party’s officers with whom I have met and consulted, believe the conduct of Bertie Ahern as outlined in the evidence made public through the Tribunal and the findings of the Tribunal constitute conduct unbecoming a member of Fianna Fáil. Accordingly, I will propose a motion to expel him as a member of Fianna Fáil at the special meeting of National Executive. We are writing to Mr Ahern to inform him of this decision.


Starkadder - March 22, 2012

How are the mighty fallen…


Sara - March 22, 2012

Well planned.


6. mengdie - March 23, 2012

They were understood long before then too – in 1974, Uinseann MacEoin accused councillors from Dublin County Councillors of “lobbying in packs together” to carve up land during the preparation of the 1972 county development plan. Even by 1967, the city and county manager was complaining about property speculation in areas that were then only rumoured to be slated for rezoning.


7. mengdie - March 23, 2012

Sorry, that last comment was in response to Sara.


8. Pollwatch: Sunday Business Post/Red C 25th March 2012 | Stephen Spillane - March 24, 2012

[…] The Mahon Report… (cedarlounge.wordpress.com) […]


9. Tomboktu - March 24, 2012

And the next poll? That will be the week after next in the Sunday Business Post, unless the Irish Times or someone else decides to get in there first.

They didn’t wait like you said 🙂

Dotski has the following prediction for seats on tomorrow’s Red C Poll:

FG: 67
Lab: 29
SF: 27
FF: 19
ULA: 4
Oth: 20
GP: 0


10. Gombeen politicians still in charge??? | Machholz's Blog - March 25, 2012

[…] The Mahon Report… (cedarlounge.wordpress.com) […]


11. Tomboktu - March 26, 2012

A quick scan would seem to implicate FG, Labour and DL people as well.

And that beaming light of integrity in Irish politics, the Progressive Democrats.

I intend to run that past any canvasser for any party McDowell sets up.


12. Dr. X - March 26, 2012

Can I download the Mahon report anywhere?


Jack Jameson - March 26, 2012
Dr. X - March 26, 2012

Go raibh maith agat.


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