The findings of a report by Justice Brian McCracken into payments to politicians by Ben Dunne is published.
The McCracken Tribunal was established in February 1997 to investigate reports of payments made by Ben Dunne to former Taoiseach Charles Haughey and former Minister Michael Lowry.
David McCullagh outlines the findings of the report and the criticisms of Mr Lowry. According to the report, no political favours were sought in return for payments to Michael Lowry. However, the 100-page report does conclude that cheques for over £160,000 were received by Mr Lowry. What's more, Bonus payments of over £150,000 and nearly £400,000 for work on his house were designed to help Mr Lowry evade tax.
Justice McCracken's report concluded that if a person can behave in such a way without serious sanctions being imposed, it becomes difficult to condemn others who flout the law in a similar manner.
The report says that Ben Dunne solely controlled the account out of which most of the payments were made. However, the report also states that the board of Dunnes must bear some blame for not properly supervising the activities of the managing director.
The report also rejected claims from Charles Haughey's son Ciaran, who runs Celtic Helicopters, that a £10,000 payment was for consultancy work. The report also stated that Ciaran Haughey must have been aware that a loan to his company of £150,000 was paid off using money from the Ansbacher deposit account.
According to the report, other payments made from Ben Dunne were
Normal political contributions with no further motive.
Justice Brian McCracken recommends that Dáil and Seanad candidates should in future have to produce a tax clearance certificate and failures to make full disclosures of donations would be a criminal offence. Offenders would be disqualified as members of the Oireachtas.
According to David McCullagh,
By establishing the link between Charles Haughey and the Dunne payments the tribunal has exceeded most people's expectations.
An RTÉ News report broadcast on 25 August 1997. The reporter is David McCullagh.