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Friday, 27 September, 2002, 14:57 GMT 15:57 UK
Leading Irish politician resigns
Mara resigned so as to not damage the "yes" campaign
A senior Irish politician heading a campaign for the Yes vote in a forthcoming referendum on the Nice Treaty has resigned after being accused of failing to co-operate with a tribunal investigating political corruption.

PJ Mara said he did not want to damage the referendum campaign mounted by the governing Fianna Fail Party, because it was fundamental to the future of both Ireland and Europe.

Fianna Fail sources say Foreign Minister Brian Cowen will now head the campaign for the 19 October vote, which is due for an official launch on Sunday.

The Irish Government led by Prime Minister Bertie Ahern has faced opposition calls for an urgent parliamentary debate since the initial findings of the Flood Tribunal on political corruption were published on Thursday.

The report accused the former Fianna Fail minister, Ray Burke, of receiving payments from businessmen from the 1970s to the late 1990s.

Brian Cowen (L), Northern Ireland Secretary of State John Reid
Cowen (L) said the inquiry should have no impact on the referendum

It also named Mr Mara as someone who had not co-operated, because he had failed to disclose a bank account.

There were immediate opposition calls for his resignation.

Mr Burke himself resigned from the cabinet in October 1997.

He has always maintained that the donations he received during his career were legitimate political contributions.

Opposition parties also called into question the judgement of Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern for appointing Mr Burke Minister for Foreign Affairs in 1997.

PJ Mara was directing Fianna Fail's campaign for the Nice Treaty referendum, and had masterminded the party's general election campaign in May.

Irish voters rejected the Nice Treaty in a referendum June 2001. If they do not approve it next month, the EU's plans for enlargement will be plunged into crisis.

The Flood Tribunal's interim report is to be forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions, who will decide which, if any, matters to take forward.

The publication of the report paves the way for the tribunal to resume hearings in the second half of October.

It will then consider allegations of corruption in planning in Dublin in the 1990s.

See also:

27 Sep 02 | Europe
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