Moriarty refuses to accept Haughey cannot continue to give evidence

Monday 16 October 2000 20.59

The Chairman of the Moriarty Tribunal has refused to accept that Charles Haughey cannot continue giving evidence to the inquiry, even though Mr Haughey's doctors warn it could shorten his life. In a dramatic turn of events at the Tribunal today, lawyers for the former Taoiseach made public details of his medical condition and history. Mr Haughey is suffering from prostate cancer, and doctors say his life expectancy could be reduced if he continues giving evidence to the Tribunal.

Mr Haughey himself directed, over the weekend, that his medical history be entered into the public record. However, this was done without first consulting the Tribunal. Mr Haughey's doctors said that he is undergoing palliative treatment for terminal prostate cancer. Mr Peter McClean, a consultant urologist, has said that if Mr Haughey continues to appear before the Tribunal, either in public or in private, the stress and pressure involved could shorten his life expectancy. Mr McClean has been seeing Mr Haughey since he was first diagnosed in 1995. He said that he examined Mr Haughey after the last public session and found him fatigued, stressed and disorientated.

Mr McClean met with the Tribunal lawyers Wednesday. At that meeting he described Mr Haughey as a physically strong man and there was no suggestion that his mental capacity is impaired. The Tribunal team wrote back to Mr Haughey’s solicitors noting that the doctor did not know what was involved in giving evidence and saying it would continue with its public duty and would consider a new regime for Mr Haughey to give evidence which would minimise the impact on his health. That was how matters stood when they met again this morning, John Coughlan for the Tribunal was perturbed by developments and said if there had been any deterioration in Charles Haughey’s health since last Wednesday it should have been brought to the attention of the chairman.

Lawyers for the Tribunal were not expecting Mr Haughey's lawyers to enter this evidence into the public domain and were clearly taken aback. John Coughlan said that they had made every effort not to involve outside doctors with an effort to ensure Mr Haughey's privacy. They had taken the view from medical reports last week that there was no evidence that Mr Haughey's mental capacity was impaired and they noted the absence of pain treatment.

Mr Justice Moriarty said that he had a duty to both Mr Haughey and to the Oireachtas, he said that he could not regard it as a fait accompli that that there was no other way in which Mr Haughey's evidence could be taken. He said that he would continue to explore other options in the coming days. Seemingly annoyed with the manner in which maters developed this morning, the chairman said that it was regrettable that initially private documents were entered into the public domain in a garbled fashion.