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BBC NI's Shane Harrison reports
"Mr Haughey is likely to dispute tribunal statement"
 real 28k

Friday, 21 July, 2000, 12:14 GMT 13:14 UK
Former Irish PM in payments probe
Protesters outside the Moriarty Tribunal in Dublin
Protesters outside the Moriarty Tribunal in Dublin
Former Irish prime minister Charles Haughey complained of feeling "overwhelmed" and "lost" when questioned at an inquiry probing allegations he received huge secret payments during his political career.

Mr Haughey, 74, spent two hours in the witness box on Friday at the long-running Moriarty Tribunal into payments to politicians.

Tribunal lawyers plan to question the former prime minister further in coming sessions about allegations he received undisclosed payments of IR£8.5m.

Some 60 people packed the tribunal room at Dublin Castle while scores more followed the proceedings on closed-circuit television in adjoining rooms.

Charles Haughey
Charles Haughey - illness restricting tribunal appearance
A group of about 20 protesters waving placards that read "Don't Let Haughey Off" had gathered in the castle courtyard but the public listened in silence as he gave evidence.

Judge Michael Moriarty said Mr Haughey, 74, would testify in two-hourly sessions each day, given his age and medical reports.

He is widely reported as suffering from prostate cancer.

The tribunal wants Mr Haughey to explain the source of millions of pounds he appears to have received on top of the salary and expenses connected with his political role in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Donations

Three times Irish prime minister and former leader of the Fianna Fail party, Mr Haughey retired from active politics in 1992 but he continues to cast a long shadow over current affairs.

An earlier 1997 tribunal inquiry uncovered evidence of donations to Haughey by businessmen, but concluded there did not appear to be any political impropriety relating to the payments.

Mr Haughey was ordered to stand trial over charges of obstructing that 1997 inquiry.

However, a judge last month postponed the trial indefinitely, ruling that criticism of Mr Haughey by deputy prime minister Mary Harney risked prejudicing the case.

Tribunals are being widely used in the Irish Republic to probe corruption allegations.

Headed by a senior judge, they have the power to force witnesses to give evidence and can ultimately produce a report and recommendations which can then give rise to civil or criminal proceedings.

Last month, current Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern appeared before the Moriarty tribunal to answer questions about how he dealt with an internal Fianna Fail party investigation into a payment made to Mr Haughey.

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