Rabbitte's anger over delay in tribunal

Rabbitte smells blood, a shame we are so close to summer recess for the Dail.

Mr Rabbitte said that as a result of a story in The Irish Times on Saturday, they now knew what had been asserted from the Labour benches was true, “that both the minister for justice of the day (Mr O’Donoghue) and the attorney general of the day (Mr McDowell) had full knowledge from a report submitted by then Deputy Commissioner Conroy in August 2000 of what was happening in Donegal and the circumstances surrounding the framing of the McBrearty family and so on”.

Mr Rabbitte claimed Mr McDowell had created a circumstance where Mr O’Donoghue was on the run and was even not prepared to appear on Questions and Answers when invited. He repeated his assertion that there was a nine-month delay between the time Mr O’Donoghue saw the details of the case and when the tribunal was set up.

Mr Rabbitte said that Assistant Commissioner Conroy had summarised the gravamen of the allegations in a 37-page legible, intelligible report to Mr O’Donoghue and Mr McDowell, “and now they are covering up why they failed to investigate one of the most serious public interest issues in this jurisdiction”.

Mr McDowell, who was sitting on the Government benches, remarked: “That is wrong.”

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said that in February 1999, Assistant Commissioner Carty was appointed by the Garda Commissioner to investigate allegations that gardaa­ in Donegal had engaged in criminal and unethical behaviour.

In July 2000, Assistant Commissioner Carty submitted his report, which was the investigation file, to the DPP. In August 2000, Assistant Commissioner Conroy forwarded a 37-page summary of the Carty report to the Department of Justice. This, said Mr Ahern, was not the Carty report.

Talk about clutching at straws.

Taoiseach criticises running of aquatic centre

And Bertie has been on the defensive for his pet project:

He acknowledged that the aquatic centre was a “pet project” of his. “Indeed, I am proud to claim that it is such.” The Government’s motivation was to provide a 50-metre pool and to provide a location for the Special Olympics aquatic events. “The project was delivered on time and on budget,” he insisted to Opposition heckling and laughter.

The Taoiseach was responding to Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny who described the “debacle” of the centre as an “apt metaphor for the Fianna Fail/Progressive Democrat Government – massive costs to the public, a so-called state-of-the-art attraction that is all splash, with fake waves, the roof blown off and leaking like a sieve”.

Mr Kenny claimed that the Taoiseach as the sole promoter and shareholder of the project “is personally responsible for the huge failures that have been exposed”.

He asked the Taoiseach to confirm that the aquatic centre “is leaking water at the rate of five million litres per month and that a consultants’ report has found that the original roof structure was substandard, suggesting that either corners were cut or plans were washed away at construction stage”.

Mr Ahern said he was “very sad to see the Opposition aligning themselves with the company that CSID has take to court and acting as its mouthpiece in the House today.

“Deputies appear to have no compunction about making public statements on matters before the court.”

He said he and the Government were not at all happy with Dublin Waterworld, which runs the centre. The company had “done a very good job in Killarney in the Kerry operation but it has not done a good job in this case”.

CSID had taken the company to court for breaches of the lease agreement, including failure to pay rent, to provide audited accounts, failure to pay insurance on the building and to establish a sinking fund.

A dispute over whether the company had to pay more than €10 million in VAT was referred to arbitration and a dispute over repair and maintenance had been referred to an architect for determination.

Mr Ahern said the Minister for Sport had described the capital expenditure on the centre as value for money “and I fully agree with him”.

When Mr Kenny asked who was responsible for the roof being blown off the building, the Taoiseach replied: “The wind”. He said: “I am hugely powerful but I do not organise that”.

The Fine Gael leader said that the same wind blew over a lot of other roofs at the same time and “none of those blew off”, but Mr Ahern said the freak storm in January this year damaged a large number of buildings in the area, uprooted 200-year-old trees and hit the centre.

“Our primary concern at all times must be to protect the taxpayers’ investment and that is what we are doing.”

Polish first lady tells of donation by CRH

More very dodgy sounding dealings from Poland:

Poland’s first lady, Jolanta Kwasniewska, has told a parliamentary inquiry that Marek Dochnal, who claims he arranged a $1 million bribe on behalf of CRH, introduced her to the company in 1997.

CRH, which denies the bribery allegations, has said its only contact with Mr Dochnal was in relation to the purchase of his company’s stake in a holding company prior to the privatisation of a Polish cement plant in 1995.

Mrs Kwasniewska said Mr Dochnal was instrumental in arranging a meeting at which CRH agreed to give 500,000 zloties (€125,000) to her charity, Communication without Barriers, the biggest single donation it received in 1997.

“I’m certain that Mr Dochnal’s conversations with that firm were very significant. I wouldn’t have met CRH, were it not for the previous conversation with Mr Dochnal I’ve got here a letter from CRH, where this company points to Mr Dochnal as the organiser.”

Mrs Kwasniewska said CRH suggested that Mr Dochnal help to arrange her official programme during a visit to Ireland in 1997 with her husband, President Aleksander Kwasniewski.

“CRH, an Irish company, which took part in the privatisation of the Ozarow cement factory in 1995, introduced Mr Dochnal to me as somebody who could arrange certain details concerning our meeting before our official visit,” she said.

The inquiry heard further details of Mr Dochnal’s allegation that he bribed Poland’s former privatisation minister, Wieslaw Kaczmarek, on behalf of CRH.

Comptroller to investigate aquatic centre costs

I wonder what this investigation will turn up…but I have a feeling it will be very little:

The Comptroller and Auditor General John Purcell is to investigate the cost implications to the Exchequer relating to the recent controversies at the €62 million National Aquatic Centre.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said he no longer stands over previous claims that the company which won the contract to operate the National Aquatic Centre was a company of international standing.

He made his comment in the Dail following questions on the ongoing controversy surrounding the centre which is the subject of a bitter legal dispute between the current operators of the centre, Dublin Waterworld, and the State company which controls the State-owned facility, Campus Stadium Ireland Development (CSID).

Mr Ahern also claimed that reports of major leaks and cracks at the centre were “red herrings”.

CSID is suing the operators, Dublin Waterworld, for control of the centre, claiming it has failed to comply with its contract on a number of basic issues, such as paying rent and maintaining the facility. Dublin Waterworld is countersuing on claims it owes more than €10 million in VAT, and has also raised issues about the alleged leaks and quality of the building.

Pool firm in €1m arrears paid €4.5m to subsidiary

Very very dodgy, and what is interesting about this is that we all knew it sounded odd back when the contract was awarded.

A High Court judge has said it is “difficult to see” how €4.5 million could have been paid for unspecified services to a subsidiary of the company that secured the contract for the National Aquatic Centre during a time when the parent company was in rent arrears of some €1 million.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly made the comment after senior counsel Denis McDonald, for Campus and Stadium Ireland Development Limited (CSID), said he was concerned that the situation regarding management of the €62 million centre at Abbotstown was growing “murkier and murkier”.

CSID, whose shareholding is held by the Taoiseach and two Government Ministers, in 2003 awarded the contract for the State facility to Dublin Waterworld Limited (DWL).

$1m bribe paid for CRH, Polish inquiry told

Interesting stuff coming out of Poland, and a denial from CRH:

A Polish businessman has told a parliamentary inquiry that he paid a bribe of almost $1 million (€827,000) on behalf of CRH, Ireland’s biggest company, to a Polish government minister.

Marek Dochnal, who is in prison awaiting trial on a separate bribery charge, told the inquiry he paid most of the sum to a former minister for privatisation, Wieslaw Kaczmarek, in connection with the privatisation of a cement plant at Ozarow, in central Poland, in 1995.

Mr Dochnal said he paid Mr Kaczmarek between $600,000 and $700,000 in cash through an intermediary and transferred a further $250,000 to a Swiss bank account.

A spokesman for CRH, a building materials firm, said the company was unaware of the allegations. “If the allegations were made, they are absolutely without foundation.”

Ministers 'failed to act' on Garda report

The Irish Times has more on the secret report it detailed on Saturday. The Opposition will be looking for a scalp.

The report, details of which were revealed by The Irish Times on Saturday, was sent to the Department of Justice by then deputy commissioner Noel Conroy, who now serves as Garda Commissioner.

Marked “secret”, it contained a summary of Assistant Commissioner Kevin Carty’s investigation into allegations of “criminal and unethical behaviour” by Donegal gardaa­ between 1991 and 1998.

Mr Howlin said it was now beyond doubt that Mr O’Donoghue, the then minister for justice, and Mr McDowell, the then attorney general, had “extensive knowledge of the scale and the serious nature of Garda abuses in Donegal when they were obstructing calls from the Labour Party and others for the establishment of a tribunal of inquiry.

“There is now an obligation on Ministers O’Donoghue and McDowell to explain why, more than a year after they received this report, they insisted on voting down an Opposition motion in November 2001 that would have provided for the establishment of such an inquiry.” Both Labour and Fine Gael are due to raise to raise the matter at leaders’ questions tomorrow.

Fine Gael’s justice spokesman Jim O’Keeffe said: “There appear to be inconsistencies between what was said then and what is said now. Things just don’t add up.

“Clearly the Government, including Mr O’Donoghue and Mr McDowell, had enough evidence to set up the tribunal far, far earlier than they did. Explanations are required from both ministers as to why they so doggedly resisted setting up an inquiry for so long.” However, representatives for the two Ministers dismissed the allegations.

National Aquatic Centre roof blows off

The roof of the National Aquatic Centre blew off in a storm at Christmas – and apparently there were not near enough bolts. But the plot thickens:

There have been two separate structural investigations into the incident – one by the insurers and the other by the Office of Public Works as it is a state-owned building. It is not known which of the reports contained the allegations.

The €62 million National Aquatic Centre has been dogged by controversy for some time. A High Court action taken by Campus Stadium Ireland Development (CSID), the NAC’s landlord, to remove the centre’s operator, Dublin Waterworld, is due to be heard next month.

Waterworld is accused of paying no rent or insurance, and of having failed to file accounts, since it took over running the complex two years ago.

At a preliminary hearing, Justice Peter Kelly said it was ‘nothing short of astonishing'” that a valuable state asset should have been leased to a company with a share capital of €127 and no fixed assets.

People might remember that when the contract was originally awarded there was some concern at giving a shelf company the contract. The concerns have proved correct, and the government has done nothing about it.

McBrearty to sue as state apology falls short

There are lame apologies, and then there are lame apologies.

‘I am thus authorised on behalf of the defendants to apologise to you for the offending conduct by such members of An Garda Siochana as found by Mr Justice Morris in his second interim report.

‘I am also authorised to express regret for the same and the injury, damage and distress to which your client has thereby been exposed over a substantial period of time.â€?

The response of the McBreartys is summarised by the SBP.

In response, McBrearty’s lawyers wrote back saying that he was “disgusted to realise that, when the defendants came to finally “admit liability’, they have done so in such a conditional and supine manner as to remove its supposed benefit”.

Their civil action against the State will now go ahead.

Garda concerns raised in 2000

McDowell has now claimed that there is nothing new in the secret report that has surfaced, covered in a front page Irish Times story

In the Dail last week, Mr McDowell said it did not finally become clear to the government that a tribunal had to be set up until January 2002, following a review of the full text of the Carty report by barrister Shane Murphy SC.

However, the 37-page summary sent by Mr Conroy 18 months earlier acknowledged that Mr Carty had found serious evidence that significant numbers of gardaa­ had behaved improperly.

Dealing with the investigation into Richie Barron’s death in Raphoe in 1996, Commissioner Conroy said the Carty report had highlighted the inadequate investigation into his death and detailed “incidents where false information and testimony” were tendered to cast suspicion on the McBrearty family and others.

Summarising the report, Mr Conroy said it was “an extraordinary coincidence” that Bernard Conlon had been able falsely to allege that Mark McConnell had threatened him “without some assistance from somebody with a knowledge of the Barron investigation”.

The conduct of two gardaa­, Sgt John White and Garda John O’Dowd, “gave grave cause for concern”, wrote Mr Conroy, while some of the prosecutions taken by them “were devoid of the discretion and balance that might be reasonably expected by any citizen of this State”, he told Mr O’Donoghue.

“On the balance of probabilities and accumulated circumstances there is reason to believe that both members engaged in an abuse of process,” Mr Conroy wrote.

Green Party TD Ciaran Cuffe last night said the Conroy summary proved the government had had enough information to set up a public inquiry in 2000, but that it had deliberately chosen not to do so.

For the record I do not believe McDowell or O’Donoghue. I believe they delayed the establishment of the tribunal by up to two years.