By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — With Liam Lawlor being released from Mountjoy Prison this week after serving the first seven days of his sentence for contempt of an order to cooperate with the Flood Tribunal, pressure is mounting on him to resign from his Dublin West seat.
A report in the Sunday World that a bonfire at his Lucan home the day before he went to prison included personal business and financial documents is expected to result in a new investigation.
The newspaper said it recovered a sheaf of partially burned documents that blew into the road from the bonfire in Lawlor’s garden.
Fine Gael’s justice spokesman, Alan Shatter, said that if the allegations are true they may require further action from the Flood Tribunal and an investigation by gardai.
Lawlor was jailed for failing to obey a court order to answer questions about his financial affairs and hand over documentation.
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The Tribunal, which is investigating planning corruption, called in the Mountjoy governor, John Lonergan, on Monday and he handed over three mobile phones belonging to the TD that were part of personal property taken from him when he went to prison.
The TD is due to resume giving evidence to the Tribunal after his release. There is concern in some political circles that he could reveal embarrassing details about political donations made to a number of politicians.
All the opposition parties now agree the former Fianna Fail TD’s position is untenable and a motion asking him to go forthwith will be raised in the Dail when it resumes after the Christmas break on Jan. 30.
While the opposition parties want Lawlor to resign now, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said in a letter to Fine Gael leader John Bruton that he should go if he fails to cooperate fully with the Tribunal within the timetable set out by the High Court.
When sending Lawlor to jail, the judge suspended the balance of a three-month sentence until November to give the TD time to cooperate.
The taoiseach said the government would be offering its own motion that will, in effect, seek Lawlor’s resignation in November if he still fails to cooperate.
Lawlor has voted for the Fianna Fail/Progressive Democrats since he became an Independent and it is unlikely he will voluntarily resign his seat.
Bruton accused the Taoiseach of an "elaborate and evasive formula" designed to give the government the appearance of distancing itself from Lawlor while still being able to count on his vote.