The governing Fine Gael party has been accused of corruption over its links with businessman Denis O’Brien in a heated Dail debate.
The Dublin parliament today discussed the report of the 14-year Moriarty Tribunal into political corruption for the first time.
Moriarty condemned former the relationship of Fine Gael and its then Minister for Communication, Michael Lowry, with businessman Denis O’Brien, who reaped an enormous profit when his company was awarded a lucrative mobile-phone licence by Lowry in the 1990s. It directly accused Lowry, who remains a an independent TD in the Dail, of corrupt practices.
Questioning the Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, socialist Joe Higgins pointed to the sponsorship of a Fine Gael golf event by Denis O’Brien, which he said amounted to a corruption of that government.
“Two months before awarding the most valuable contract in the history of this state by Fine Gael in government; the private individual that was desperately looking for it was lubricating the throats of Fine Gael grandees,” Mr Higgins said.
“Isn’t it obvious to everybody that it was to lubricate the license process, that this was all about.
“Is there any way to describe this other than a corruption of government and a peddling of government by you in Fine Gael from funds from big business.”
Kenny, who was a member of the cabinet at the time the decision to award the licence was made, denied his party was corrupt. He vowed to take “decisive action” in response to the report, and insisted that cabinet ministers had been exonerated.
Mr Kenny also said his party was acting on legal advice when it failed to disclose a donation of $50,000 from O’Brien’s Telenor to Fine Gael. He declared his government would consider “further direct action to sever the links between politics and business once and for all.”
Sinn Fein is to call on the coalition government to lay down a motion of censure against Mr Lowry.
“In my own view whatever Michael Lowry is guilty or not guilty of, what we are dealing with is a culture of corruption,” Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said today.
“It is an insight into how the golden circles function. The government are preventing, totally contrary to their stated views, any serious debate or discussion on these issues.”
Sinn Fein also today published a Dail motion calling for abolition of Universal Social Charge, a flat tax introduced by the previous government. Everyone with an income above 16,016 euro pays the tax at the same rate of 7%.
Sinn Fein is calling on the Government to abolish the Universal Social Charge and to ensure that all taxes and social insurance contributions are raised progressively so that those who have the most pay the most.
Sinn Fein Deputy Mary Lou McDonald said the USC “breaches the fundamental principal of progressive taxation - that those who have more should pay more.”
“Rather than target wealth and ensure that those who could afford to pay more did, Fianna Fail and the Greens went after those earning as little as 77 euro a week. Fine Gael and the Labour Party continue to implement this flawed and unfair policy.
“This tax does not matter a damn to the bankers, those earning over 100,000 euro a year or individuals who benefit from huge tax breaks. The people taking the hit with the Universal Social Charge are the teenagers doing the paper round, the college students in casual jobs and the mothers in part-time work. How can this be described as fair?
“I am asking all those who claim to oppose this unjust flat tax and who campaigned on a platform of ‘change’ in the recent election to put their money where their mouth is - support the Sinn Fein motion on Tuesday and abolish the Universal Social Charge”.