Thursday, October 05, 2006

Planning Corruption Tribunal: Shooting the Messengers

Geraldine Kennedy and Colm Keena outside the Mahon tribunal last week (Photo credit: Irish Times)

The planning corruption tribunal has decided to apply to the High Court to compel The Irish Times to divulge the source of the leak of confidential papers detailing payments to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

In the nine years that the planning corruption tribunal has sat,
ABSOLUTELY NOTHING has been done to address the causes of the corruption - the system which results in a jump in land values by 50 times or more when rezoned from agricultural use. It's not that we're short of land in a country that's 4% urbanised.

The recent Ryder Cup freebies on offer from developers, shows that there are more ways to bribe than via brown envelopes.

The media have been criticised for its docility in the past in pre-tribunal times, when anyone with a clue, knew that corruption was rampant.

It would be a supreme irony if the messengers were now to be "shot" by the Establishment.

Editor Geraldine Kennedy and public affairs correspondent Colm Keena last week refused to provide the tribunal with any information about the source of the leak. Both cited the need to protect journalistic sources.

Speaking outside the tribunal today, Kennedy said she stood by her decision to publish the article, saying she believed it was in the public interest to do so.

During the proceedings, tribunal chairman Judge Alan Mahon expressed his "enormous concern" about the destruction of the tribunal documents on which the article by Keena was based.

The tribunal heard that Kennedy had destroyed the documents after the tribunal had ordered her to produce them to the inquiry.

Judge Mahon said the tribunal deeply regretted that Kennedy and Keena, notwithstanding their "principled stance", had failed to help the inquiry trace the leak.

"Whatever about a stance that she might take and might be expected to take to hold the document pending possibly a further airing of the issue in the High Court, to destroy it after an order was made by the tribunal is something we have to take very seriously."

Judge Mahon warned both journalists before they gave evidence of the possible consequences of failing to co-operate with the inquiry, which include a fine of up to €300,000 and/or up to two years in jail.