By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — After a series of admissions at the Moriarty Tribunal about his tax dodging and concealing funds from the Revenue Commissioners, Ansbacher account holder Dennis Foley may become the first TD to be suspended from the Dail under ethics laws.
The North Kerry Fianna Fail deputy is expected to resign the party whip this week, but he is now facing a series of further investigations.
His financial affairs are being scrutinized by the Revenue Commissioners.
The Dail Committee on Member’s Interests will also consider the unprecedented situation. Under the ethics laws, TDs must make a declaration if they have an interest in a matter they are voting on. Foley made no declaration when he voted in 1997 on an Ansbacher amendment to Moriarty’s inquiry brief.
New ethics laws planned by the government would make breaches a criminal offense punishable by up to three years in prison.
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Fianna Fail will want Foley to continue to vote with the government when what appears to be a likely suspension of up to three months is imposed. However, they will not want him to resign and precipitate a by-election that could worsen the situation for the minority coalition.
Foley, 65, claimed in his sworn evidence to Moriarty Wednesday that he "went into denial" when he discovered his money was in an Ansbacher account. He agreed he knew his cash was salted away in an offshore account as far back as 1983.
Despite that, he continued to remain a member of the most prestigious Oireachtas committee, the financial "watchdog" Public Accounts and Committee, and was chairman of it on two occasions, from 1982-87 and 1994-92.
The report of the Auditor and Comptroller General to PAC on DIRT tax found that Foley was by no means alone in his liking for offshore accounts in Tralee. In November 1998, £54.1 million had been hidden from the taxman in offshore accounts in bank branches in the town.
Overall in County Kerry, 59 bank and building society branches had 6.4 percent of the country’s offshore accounts, holding £209 million.
Whether his fellow tax dodgers will remain loyal to the Foley family in the next election remains to be seen. Foley is unlikely to run, but his second daughter Norma, a teacher who is chairwoman of Tralee urban district council, is expected to seek the seat.
Foley, known locally as "Dinny Forty Jobs," was hard-working with a finger in many businesses. A lot of his supporters may be forgiving of his efforts to protect his nest egg with tax dodges when they were doing the same.
What may not impress them is where part of the first £50,000 nest egg he hid in an offshore account came from. About £30,00 of it was either savings or under-the-counter cash payments for dance promotions in a local hotel.
However, the other £20,000 was political donations he held onto after it was left over following an unsuccessful run for the Dail in the 1977 general election. About £14,000 had been donated by family supporters and £6,000 by other supporters.
Sharing the North Kerry three-seater with Foley are Fine Gael’s Jimmy Deenihan, the 1981 GAA All-Star and holder of five All-Ireland football medals, and former Tanaiste and Labor Party leader Dick Spring.
In the 1997 general election, Foley had to wait until the four count to be elected. He got 26 percent of the vote, down from over 36 percent in 1992.
Establishing himself in his home town of Tralee is Sinn Fein negotiator Martin Ferris. He got almost 16 percent of the vote in 1997 — up from 2 percent in 1992. He has had a high profile in the peace process negotiations since then and it is a seat that Sinn Fein has targeted for the next general election.