Lord plans further allegations against Flynn
Lord plans further allegations against Flynn

The Ulster Unionist Party’s Lord Laird has been accused of hiding behind parliamentary privilege to make unfounded allegations against Irish financier Phil Flynn.

Both Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Sinn Féin’s Alex Maskey condemned the remarks by Lord Laird in the House of Lords. However, Laird said he had a lot more information about Mr Flynn which he would make public soon.

In his House of Lords speech on Tuesday, the peer claimed that the Taoiseach “betrayed his own country” by allowing Mr Flynn to remain a close adviser while knowing he was associating with senior IRA figures.

He said that Flynn had associated with two members of the IRA’s ruling Army Council while working as chairman of the Bank of Scotland’s Irish branch and an advisor to the Dublin government.

Earlier this year Mr Flynn resigned his government and some of his private posts after a company in which he was an investor was raided as part of a money laundering investigation.

He has strongly denied any involvement in illegal activity.

Mr Flynn, a former vice president of Sinn Féin, was accused of IRA membership in the Seventies but cleared by a Dublin court.

Lord Laird told peers that Garda officers at the time believed Mr Flynn was a finance office for the IRA.

He also criticised Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British authorities for not questioning Mr Flynn’s close associations with Sinn Féin. He recently worked as a consultant for the party.

Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey accused Lord Laird of being “cowardly” for using parliamentary privilege, which means he cannot be sued for libel.

“Not for the first time unionists have hidden behind the farce of British parliamentary privilege to make scurrilous and unfounded allegations against Irish citizens safe in the knowledge that this archaic law prevents individuals from seeking legal redress.”

Mr Flynn called the allegations “lies”, and challenged him to repeat them outside parliament without the protection of parliamentary privilege.

Speaking to journalists at UCD, Mr Ahern also rejected Lord Laird’s claims.

“I don’t want to give too much prominence to someone with whom I disagree on everything he says. The comments that have been made are entirely untrue.

“They are entirely disingenuous. Phil Flynn has worked hard over many years, both in the trades union movement and in many other areas.

“The activities that he has now been accused of are under criminal investigation. Everybody should await the outcome, and not use parliamentary privilege to make such allegations.”

A former chairman of the Ulster-Scots Agency, Lord Laird also said that the cross-Border bodies under the Good Friday Agreement had been a failure.

He said the “dysfunctional” nature of some cross-Border bodies -- including cuts in funding and a lack of official support -- had been a factor in the electoral humiliation of his Ulster Unionist Party.

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