Check against delivery
The Mahon Tribunal report exposed the insidious and corrupt behaviour of some in Irish public life; behaviour that has done inestimable damage to our economy, our environment, our international reputation and perhaps most of all to the trust of Irish people in office holders and public officials.
The Tribunal has made a series of recommendations for changes in the law on corruption and its prevention. I am glad to report to the House that I have already taken concrete steps in this regard not only to implement the Tribunal’s recommendations, but to go beyond those recommendations, in providing for anti-corruption legislation with innovative preventative and punitive measures. The particular measures that I propose are outlined in the General Scheme of the Criminal Justice (Corruption) Bill which I published on the 20th June.
The Tribunal has also made recommendations concerning the application of enhanced customer due diligence measures to domestic Politically Exposed Persons in the context of anti money laundering controls. I propose to go further than the Tribunal has recommended and to apply such controls to members and senior managers of Local Authorities. The necessary changes to the general scheme of the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) (Amendment) Bill will be brought to Government in the Autumn.
A number of the recommendations of the Tribunal relate to asset confiscation and forfeiture. As indicated in the Tribunal Report the current provisions regulating the confiscation of proceeds of crime as set out in the Criminal Justice Act 1994 and the Proceeds of Crime Acts 1996 and 2005 are already relatively robust. While existing measures under Proceeds of Crime legislation do allow for the targeting of benefits derived from corrupt conduct, the Tribunal’s recommendations seek to further improve the overall effectiveness of the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act.
The recommendations of the Tribunal in relation to asset confiscation will now form part of a broader review that has already been undertaken in relation to both the Proceeds of Crime legislation and the Criminal Justice Act.
The Mahon Tribunal Report also made two recommendations in regard to improving the conduct of future tribunals. These recommendations are already reflected in the text of the Tribunals of Inquiry Bill 2005. I have arranged for its restoration to the Dáil Order Paper and the Bill will be dealt with on Report Stage.
I believe the commitments which have been given to progress work on the recommendations of the Tribunal, and indeed the progress that has already been made on a significant number of the recommendations, reaffirms this Government’s commitment to change any perception that corrupt behaviour can ever again, in any shape or form, be tolerated in public office or that a blind eye might again be cast on such behaviour.
Of course, we continue to deal with the legacy of that corrupt behaviour. Our criminal justice system will continue to play its part. While evidence given before the Tribunal cannot be used itself as a basis for a criminal prosecution, the evidence does catalogue the behaviour of those involved and it will assist our law enforcement agencies in pursuing any appropriate matters. I can assure the House that where the Gardaí have evidence of wrongdoing they will pursue it fully.
Finally, I can confirm to the House that the steps which I have outlined, demonstrate my firm commitment, and that of this Government, to ensuring that there is a robust, comprehensive and effective legislative framework underpinning the State’s response to corruption in public office.