By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — The minority FF/PD coalition will be weakened with Kerry North Fianna Fail TD Denis Foley set to become the first member of the Dail to be suspended under new ethics rules.
The Dail Committee on Members’ Interests recommended Foley be suspended on full pay for 14 working days or almost five weeks. The maximum suspension he faced was 30 days.
The suspension, which is to be put to the Dail this week, followed admissions by Foley at the Moriarty Tribunal about his tax dodging by concealing funds in an Ansbacher-connected offshore account.
In a unanimous report, the all-party committee found that Foley was negligent in not revealing he was an account holder before voting in the Dail in 1997 against the Ansbacher Accounts being probed by the Moriarty Tribunal.
The punishment meted out by the committee is regarded as derisory by many commentators, with one pointing out that footballers get longer suspensions.
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Independent Senator Joe O’Toole said the suspension was too lenient and said an Oireachtas member was disbarred for three days recently for simply refusing to sit down in the chamber.
"How would you go into your local pub and explain this away. It just couldn’t be done. It doesn’t make any sense.
"I believe each of the houses (the Dail and Seanad) should have it as an absolute rule that people found, after due process, to have accepted bribes or if somebody is found to have been corrupt, they should be indefinitely suspended.
"This has got to do with the status of democracy and how we do our business," he said.
Foley, 65, claimed in his sworn evidence to Moriarty 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 in 1982-87 and 1994-92.
Despite being required to do so, he did not declare his offshore account prior to last year’s televised investigation of the DIRT tax and bogus offshore accounts scandal by the Committee.
Tralee-based Foley is known locally as "Dinny Forty Jobs" because he has been involved in a variety of businesses.
The first £50,000 nest egg he salted away included about £30,000 of either savings or under-the-counter cash payments for dance promotions in a local hotel.
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.