HOW can we be expected to believe Micheál Martin can root out corruption in the Fianna Fáil party when he can’t even identify the ministers who, according to the Mahon Report, launched a “sustained and virulent attack” on the tribunal and questioned “the legality of its inquiries as well as the integrity of its members” when it was investigating Bertie Ahern in 2007 and 2008?
I mean, it’s not as if he’s being asked to embark on a mission to find the lost city of Atlantis. Or, indeed, solve an even bigger mystery — the source of the monies that were discovered in Ahern’s convoluted bank accounts.
The list of people who could be implicated is by no means infinite and runs to just 15 members of cabinet and 20 junior ministers, after Ahern magnanimously opted to swell their ranks by three, from 17, when the party romped home in the 2007 election.
Martin should know this better than anyone seeing as he was reappointed to the cabinet that year, having first joined the front bench in 1997. But no, he has no recollection of any concerted attempt to undermine the tribunal’s work.
Odd then that the Mahon Report was so adamant that members of that government had launched “unseemly and partisan attacks” on its work, concluding: “There appears little doubt but 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 [Ahern].”
Having had 24 hours to digest the report, before he faced reporters at a press conference on Friday morning, Martin appeared to brush off this damning indictment by suggesting that because no one was specifically named it was impossible for him to delve any further into the matter.
He also pointedly said that while he unequivocally accepted the findings of the tribunal, the critique of the government did not appear in the report’s findings and was instead mentioned more generally in the summary — the implication being it somehow carried less weight.
Of course, this is an entirely disingenuous statement as it seems obvious that the reason the tribunal judges did not include their scathing criticism of the government in their findings was because that particular determination was not derived from evidence that was painstakingly adduced at the tribunal over 15 years but, rather, from the venom that was spewed in print and broadcast media during a relatively short period of time, while Ahern was spinning his financial fairy tales in Dublin Castle.
Instead of treating the tribunal’s unprecedented criticism of ministers with the seriousness it deserves, the message from a glib Martin, eager to use the proposed expulsion of Ahern from the party as cosmetic proof it has finally mended its ways, was “move on, nothing to see here…”