High Court judgment unlikely to have significant impact on work of tribunal

Four Courts, DublinLabour always believed that the former Taoiseach’s High Court action challenging the Mahon Tribunal’s right to question him about certain statements he made in the Dail was more about delaying the work of the Tribunal than upholding the constitutional right to privilege of members of the Oireachtas.

The tactic worked in terms of delaying the Tribunal from questioning him on matters of relevant public interest. However, it could not prevent his exit from office much earlier than he had planned, which was largely due to the determination of Labour and other opposition parties to hold him to account politically.

At the time the action was initiated we acknowledged that there were serious legal and constitutional issues surrounding the privilege of members of the Oireachtas. A number of the issues raised by Mr. Ahern’s legal team were conceded by the Tribunal early in the hearing. The High Court judgement on the outstanding matters will now have to be studied to establish the extent to which the questions relating to privilege have now been further clarified.

Given that the Tribunal has access to its own information and the fact that many of the statements made by the Taoiseach in the Dail were also repeated outside, I do not believe that this judgment will have a significant impact on the Tribunal’s further inquiries into Mr. Ahern’s financial affairs.