In an interim report after a five years of investigation, the tribunal chairman, High Court Judge Feargus Flood, pulled no punches. He said Burke was a liar and a crook and that as result of bribes he pushed through legislation to benefit his paymasters.
The unequivocal findings of Flood, 73, were that Burke received seven payments totaling about euro 250,000. He concludes Burke corruptly received a payment in 1973 from developers for the purchase of his former North Dublin home and that it was not a normal commercial transaction. It was to ensure he used his influence for them.
In the 1980s, Flood said, Burke received offshore payments from two other developers. Flood was unable to discover what specific action Burke took to advance their interest but was satisfied on the balance of probabilities he acted in their interest in the performance of his public duties.
In 1989, Flood continued, Burke received a payment to advance the interests of the now-defunct independent national radio station, Century Radio, that was set up in opposition to RTE. He issued a ministerial directive to RTE to provide facilities to Century and he capped RTE’s advertising, proposed altered the format of Radio 2FM and diverting broadcasting license fee income to Century.
These actions were to promote the interests of Century and did not “serve the public interest,” Flood said.
In 1989, Flood found, Burke received a payment from developers in connection with proposals to change the planning status of land in north Dublin.
A son of a Fianna Fail TD, Burke was appointed to the Foreign Affairs portfolio after the June 1997 general election by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. Under pressure about the payments controversy, Burke stepped down from his ministry and quit politics in October 1997, resigning his seat as an TD. Burke had previously held the portfolios of environment, energy, communications, justice and industry and commerce.
The judge also laid it on the line for 15 witnesses who came before him. They had “hindered and obstructed” the tribunal proceedings. This is a criminal offense. On conviction it carries a fine of up to