We knew this was coming. Ahern has decided to take a case to the High Court and is challenging aspects of its investigation. Ireland.com reports:
Today, lawyers acting for Mr Ahern in the High Court in Dublin secured leave to seek a judicial review challenging the handing over of specific documents, including advice from a banking expert.
Despite the political tension surrounding the work of the tribunal, Mr Ahern insisted today’s action referred to legal technicalities and said he plans to appear as a scheduled witness at the tribunal next week.
Mr Ahern later told reporters: “These are a few technical legal issues where my legal team advised that I have absolutely no alternative.”
The Taoiseach, who was not in court, is also seeking to prevent the tribunal questioning him on statements made under the privilege of the Dáil parliament.
“They (his legal team) say the Dáil privilege, which has always been challenged by politicians, and the other two issues are related to professional advice that my legal team got independently, and the tribunal are seeking that advice,” said Mr Ahern.
“The legal team say that that is not proper procedure and the third point is, where the tribunal have independent legal advice, financial advice, and they won’t give it to my people.”
He is seeking legal privilege over the documents, which he believes should be subject to the same immunity as if he were a witness before the High Court.
Brian Murray SC, for the Taoiseach, maintained that the tribunal has no right to question statements he made about his personal finances under privilege in the Dail, even if they were repeated elsewhere.
He also secured a temporary stay on a production order until Thursday afternoon, when the matter will come back before the High Court.
The documents, which contain advice from banking expert Paddy Strong, had been due to be handed to the Mahon Tribunal at 4.30 this afternoon.
During the ex-party application made by the Taoiseach’s legal team, Mr Murray said the Taoiseach is also seeking the discovery of documents from the planning tribunal in relation to allegations regarding foreign exchange transactions.
Mr Justice Bryan McMahon said the Taoiseach has an arguable case.
The Taoiseach, who sat in the tribunal witness box over several days in September and December, is due to appear before the Mahon Tribunal again for two days on February 21st and 22nd.
Last month, the government narrowly won a Dáil vote on a motion supporting the Mahon Tribunal after a heated debate by TDs.
The government motion urged the tribunal to continue its work and said it looked forward to receiving its report as soon as possible.
The motion also condemned the leaking of tribunal documents as a breach of confidentiality and said it infringed the rights of those affected.
Bryan McMahon is an interesting character. Kerry born, son of a writer, and appointed to the High Court last year (from the Circuit Court on May 2, just before the General Election). He was also appointed to the board of the Abbey Theatre by fellow Kerryman and Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue. I digress.
Ahern is clearly again trying to delay the tribunal. He has done so for 3 years, and he is continuing to do so. I get the feeling that they are trying to throw as many legal challenges at the tribunal as possible, and hoping that one will stick. The Dail privilege of statements made outside the Dail is nonsensical.
The reference to a Dail speech was highlighted by Irish Election, I especially like this bit from September 2006:
The Taoiseach: I know the law, although I am not an expert on every aspect. However, many years ago my tax advisers checked the issues in detail on the basis that it was a loan with interest. Subject to correction, I believe that the rate throughout the loan period was 3% — the interest rate that a person would have received on a deposit from 1993 or 1994. It was calculated yearly, and the total interest would be more than €20,000. I receive an annual figure from my tax adviser. It was calculated over the entire period on that basis. I paid capital gains tax and gift tax. It is not appropriate for me to spell out what I paid, but I assure the Deputy that I did so following advice.
An annual figure from your tax advisor? Really? Can we see that? Can we discover it? You paid capital gains and gift tax? Really? Can you show us the receipts? Will Revenue agree?
Do we need a ‘green revolution’ to get Ahern out of office?