13 October 2000 Edition

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Crazy golf


The lawlessness of Liam Lawlor was astounding on Tuesday, as the Dublin West TD refused to attend the Flood Tribunal, as requested, and instead let it be known that he might pop out for a round of golf.

Lawlor wants to know what he's accused of, he said, before he locks horns with the tribunal prosecution. This is despite a lengthy history of correspondence with the said tribunal and a myriad of media speculation, and direct accusations, alleging his involvement in corrupt political practices.

Lawlor obviously thinks that he's not subject to the rule of law.

As Lawlor teed off, the tribunal went ahead without him. The former Fianna Fáil member, who resigned from the party last year, may now face jail or a fine of £10,000 for defying an order to appear before the tribunal. Tribunal Chairperson Feargus Flood has referred the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions, with whom the legal proceedings will rest.

The Revenue Commissioners may also be casting an eye on Lawlor's financial affairs, after questions regarding his payment of taxes were raised during the Tuesday session, conducted in his absence at the tribunal.

It was revealed that the TD had availed of a tax amnesty, in order to repay a capital gains liability he owed from earnings accrued during the late 1980s and early 1990s. This information, considered in the light of the tribunal's inquiries into the £35,000 he received from Arlington Securities during that period, along with hefty payments from Frank Dunlop and National Toll Roads, has led to uncertainties over whether Lawlor fully disclosed his earnings for that period when requesting the amnesty.

If it is established that Lawlor failed to make this disclosure, he will face a mandatory jail sentence.

Lawlor's insistence that he will not appear before the tribunal until the accusations against him are clarified smacks of spineless evasion. As one of the tribunal lawers put it, their interest in his affairs is ``abundantly clear''. He has been written to on 50 occasions by the tribunal team. They have also corresponded with 224 financial institutions in their quest for information on his financial affairs and now, in his conspicuous absence, they have been forced to consider legal action in order to circumvent his golfing excesses. Lawlor's responses have been distinguished by denials, evasions, verbose letters and unadulterated arrogance.

Whatever his game is, Lawlor, if convicted of financial malpractices, should not be allowed the leniency thus far conferred on corrupt politicians. That individuals in the height of financial comfort, entrusted with the welfare of the Irish people, have been allowed to evade the same law faced by everyone else, is a telling indictment of the justice system.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1

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