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Tax-cheat TD Foley quits amid ethics probe

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — A committee of five TDs has begun an unprecedented investigation into whether their tax-cheating colleague, Denis Foley, should be censured or suspended for breaching ethics laws governing Dail votes.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern announced last week the resignation of Foley, 65, from the Fianna Fail parliamentary following his admission to the Moriarty Tribunal that he had an Cayman Islands-linked Ansbacher account and had hidden untaxed earnings in offshore accounts since the 1970s.

Foley undertook not to contest elections to the Fianna Fail National Executive, but he remains a member of the party. He is expected to continue to support the minority Fianna Fail-Progressive Democrats coalition in Dail votes.

Ahern was strongly critical of the Kerry North TD’s behavior and his evasion over a long period of his "responsibility as a citizen to observe and fulfill his obligations under the tax code."

The taoiseach also criticized his former backbencher for his attitude that his own offshore accounts and his membership of the Public Accounts Committee investigating DIRT tax evasion on bogus offshore accounts was not a conflict of interest.

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"This view failed to exercise the political judgment that would be expected of him after long years in the Dail," Ahern said.

Defending himself against criticism that he had been slow to act, Ahern cautioned TDs who have what he described as a "heads-in-baskets" approach to politics and are always urging "instant political judgments without allowing any time for consideration, reflection or adjustment."

"I am second to no one in my concern to see the right thing happen, but I believe that where action is required it should, consistent with the public interest, be done in a humane way," Ahern said.

A new code of conduct for Fianna Fail will be introduced at the party Ard Fheis next month, but it will be watered down from earlier drafts.

Instead of requiring candidates to produce a Revenue Commissioners’ certificate that they are tax compliant, they must be able to confirm that their tax affairs "are either in order or being finally put in order."

The Committee on Members’ Interests is expected to begin its Foley probe next month following a complaint from Labor leader Ruairi Quinn.

He claims that Foley breached the ethics laws by voting against a Labor motion in the Dail on 11 Sept. 11, 1997. The motion related to expanding the investigation by Judge Moriarty to cover the Ansbacher accounts.

The five-man Committee, which was set up in 1995 to administer the Ethics in Public Office Act, has an opposition majority.

It is chaired by Tony Killeen (FF) and includes Liam Lawlor (FF), John Browne (FG), Jim O’Keeffe (FG) and Brendan Howlin (Lab).

Foley’s behavior is also being brought before another all-party Committee dealing with Oireachtas procedures and privileges which has 17 members.

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