Eamon Gilmore: The leaders of the political parties in the Dáil need to look at putting together an agreed request

THE LEADERS of each political party in the Dáil should collectively ask Judge Michael Moriarty when the 13-year-old payments-to-politicians tribunal will be wound up, according to Labour leader Eamon Gilmore.

In a move that reflects the growing sea change in attitude in political circles towards the long-running tribunal, Gilmore told the Sunday Tribune: "The leaders of the political parties in the Dáil need to look at putting together an agreed request. I am suggesting that we agree a motion to direct the Clerk of the Dáil to ask the tribunal for a progress report.

"It was the Dáil that set up the tribunal and when it was set up it was in the terms of reference that the tribunal would be conducted in as economic a manner as possible. I don't think that anybody at the time thought that it would last for 13 years and be still going.

"My view is that the Dáil has a responsibility to ask the Moriarty tribunal what is happening and ask for a progress report as to when it is likely to report."

On Wednesday, Fianna Fáil senator Jim Walsh raised the issue of costs being claimed at the tribunal for six days a week, 52 weeks of the year.

"The tribunal must clarify if that is correct or incorrect... if it fails to give an explanation, there will be an onus on the house to institute whatever appropriate investigative procedures are necessary to establish what is happening in the calculation of costs. This potentially impacts on the credibility of tribunals and both houses..."

While the main political parties have been reluctant to publicly criticise the Mahon or Moriarty tribunals, the prospect of calling time on the tribunals has been privately questioned as they may continue into 2012 and leave the taxpayer with a final bill of almost €1bn.

During a Taoiseach's questions debate in the Dáil on Tuesday, Kenny asked Cowen: "Does the Taoiseach believe that the sole chairman of the tribunal is now in a position to produce a credible and impartial report?"

Cowen said he had been asking questions about when the tribunal's report may be completed but stressed the importance of allowing it carry out its functions independently.

Sinn Féin's Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, independent TD Michael Lowry and Gilmore also raised the issue last Tuesday.

Speaking to the Sunday Tribune, Gilmore said: "Moriarty's terms of reference are still valid. It has to report but there are two issues here that need to be addressed. Firstly, the length of time it is taking and, secondly, the costs that are associated with it.

"We have been told on a number of occasions that the legal costs were going to be brought under control, that daily fees would be changed and salaries brought in but that never happened."