“The future of Fianna Fail is in jeopardy and this has not helped,” Cllr Brendan Byrne admitted frankly in the calamitous wake of the findings of last week’s Mahon Tribunal report.
He told the Democrat/DPP: “I feel so very sorry for the rank and file members of the party, who are hard working, totally honest and decent people from all walks of life. They have given their time and energy to the party, only to find that a certain few have brought this party into disrepute and behaved in a way that is totally unacceptable in Irish society. These few who have betrayed the very trust that was put in them.”
“This has been the culmination of a number of blows over recent years starting with the likes of Ray Burke and Charlie Haughey. It now leaves the Fianna Fail party incredibly weak and struggling for survival. It is as simple as that, and if we are to survive we must have a party and a political system that will not tolerate such actions.
Meanwhile, veteran Fianna Fáil Cllr Sean McEniff said that he was very “upset and disappointed” with the findings of the Mahon report.
“I totally accept the findings of the Mahon report but as a Fianna Fail member who has served as councillor for 52 years, I am both upset and disappointed with the findings,” he told the Democrat/DPP.
Cllr McEniff pointed out that the majority of members of the party had served the electorate well over many decades and had always been “straight and honest”.
His colleague Cllr Brendan Byrne said that anyone following the Mahon tribunal knew that certain findings were likely would follow but the “sheer depth of disclosure that came out, stating that corruption was endemic went further than most expected.”
He said that the Tribunal has done a “great service” to the country, but which should have been done 20/30 years ago. The fact that it had cost as much as it did and took 15 years, illuminated the fundamental difficulties in trying to expose anything in this country, as well as the archaic methodologies employed to get to the truth.
“It can sometimes take a lifetime to expose the wrongdoings in Irish society and this cannot continue. There are ways that can ensure our political system, which has been a complete system of failure, can be investigated, without these lengthy delays and obstacles.”
Cllr McEniff suggested that the Fianna Fail party now faced its biggest challenge since its foundation.
“As a party this will be our biggest challenge, but that being said, there have been hundreds if not thousands of Fianna Fáil public representatives - local councillors, county councillors, TDs, MEPs and Senators that have served both the party and country with honesty and integrity and I believe that these people should not be forgotten about in the wake of the Mahon findings,” he said.
He added that the core of Fianna Fail membership were proud people who would see that the great majority of its politicians were hard working, honest people. Like him, they would be equally disappointed and disgusted with those that had betrayed the trust of the electorate.
He also pointed out that other political parties were not immune to complicity in wrong doings and that “Taoiseach Enda Kenny would be dealing with issues within his own party when he gets back from his trip to China.”
On a personal level he found Bertie Ahern an amicable person, but that politically, he said that it was a good thing that he resigned before he was forced out of the party.
“If he had not resigned and I was on the National Executive I certainly would have been backing his immediate expulsion from the party. What he did was totally unacceptable and he has let this country and the party down. While I felt that as a then serving Minister of Finance not having a bank account and keeping money in a safe was unbelievable, I took him at his word, until the findings of the report were issued, Cllr McEniff revealed.
“I believe that it will be a new generation of young and vibrant Fianna Fail people that will help ensure that the party gets back into power, after resurrecting itself.”