February 1987 – May 2002
February 1982 – November 1982
June 1977 – June 1981
|Constituency||Dublin County West|
1 October 1945|
Crumlin, Dublin, Ireland
|Died||22 October 2005
|Political party||Fianna Fáil|
Liam Lawlor (1 October 1945 – 22 October 2005) was an Irish politician who resigned from the Fianna Fáil political party following a finding by a party standards committee that he had failed to co-operate with its investigation into planning irregularities, and subsequently came into conflict with the Mahon Tribunal.
Lawlor was born in Dublin. He grew up in Crumlin and was educated at Synge Street CBS and the College of Technology, Bolton Street (now part of the Dublin Institute of Technology). In his youth he played hurling and was on the Dublin minor and the Leinster Railway Cup hurling teams. After college he went into the refrigeration business, running his own company.
In 1974, he unsuccessfully stood as a candidate in the local elections to Dublin County Council. At the 1977 general election he was elected to Dáil Éireann as a Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin County West constituency. In 1979, he became a member of Dublin County Council.
At the 1981 general election he lost his Dáil seat in what was now the constituency of Dublin West, regained it in February 1982, but lost it again in the November 1982 general election. Lawlor regained his Dáil seat again at the 1987 general election, and was appointed Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Commercial State-Sponsored Bodies. He resigned the position in 1989 due to his position as a non-executive director of Food Industries, a company that wished to acquire the Irish Sugar Company. In 1991 he lost his seat on Dublin City Council, and at the 1992 general election he nearly lost his Dáil seat to Tomás Mac Giolla of the Workers' Party. It is widely believed that Mac Giolla was cheated by Fianna Fáil in the election; the emergence of information that the since disgraced and jailed George Redmond was one of the local government officials who conducted the election count has added weight to this view.
Lawlor was one of a number of local councillors who were called as witnesses before the Mahon Tribunal investigating planning and payments in County Dublin. He admitted receiving sums of money from the lobbyist Frank Dunlop which he stated were political donations and not bribes.
Lawlor was also a European member of the controversial private political group, the Trilateral Commission.
In the light of allegations of planning corruption, Fianna Fáil established an internal committee on Standards in Public Life. The committee interviewed a number of party members, including Lawlor, but eventually found that Lawlor had failed to co-operate with it by not naming an individual who had furnished him with a donation. On the eve of publication of the committee report in June 2000, Lawlor resigned from the party; however he continued to support the government in Dáil Éireann. He did not stand at the 2002 general election. Lawlor appeared at the Flood Tribunal several times and was imprisoned on three occasions (in January 2001, January 2002 and February 2002, for a total of six weeks) in Mountjoy Prison for contempt of court arising from Orders of the High Court requiring him to co-operate with the tribunal. The final report of the Tribunal, eventually chaired by Justice Alan Mahon, was published on 22 March 2012.
On 7 February 2002 Lawlor was released from jail to make a Dáil appearance during which he ignored unprecedented all-party calls for his resignation. In what the Irish Independent described as "one of the most sensational days in the House", Lawlor was released temporarily by the High Court to mount his own defence during an hour-long debate. Taken into Leinster House in a prison van, Lawlor sat alone at the rear of the Chamber while the five party leaders, in turn, called on him to step down. Instead Lawlor made an aggressive defence of his own position during a 20-minute speech while making no reference at all to the unprecedented joint motion.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who himself would subsequently be forced to resign over corruption allegations, said Lawlor had repeatedly let politics down and his position was untenable. Lawlor, he said, had been committed to prison three times and political life was "cheapened" by this. No vote was required as the decision to ask him to resign was unanimous. Lawlor was released by the High Court for about two hours on third day of his 28-day sentence for not co-operating with the Flood Tribunal. As the Dáil sat at 10.30am, Lawlor's legal advisers were petitioning the High Court to allow him make his own case to his fellow TDs. High Court president Justice Joseph Finnegan granted the request but laid down strict conditions on Lawlor's release, saying he was to be taken from Mountjoy to Leinster House, stay for the debate and then be returned to jail.
Lawlor was killed on 22 October 2005, when the Mercedes-Benz car he was being driven in on the way from Sheremetyevo International Airport crashed into a concrete street light on the Leningrad Shosse, the main road between Saint Petersburg and Moscow, twenty-three kilometres from Moscow. Lawlor had been travelling with Julia Kushnir, a Ukrainian legal assistant, aged 29, confirmed by the Lawlor family to be working as Lawlor's interpreter in Russia. She was injured in the crash that killed Lawlor. The driver, a Russian businessman, Ruslan Suliamanov, was fatally injured, when he swerved the car to avoid a man and a woman who ran out onto the road in front of it.
The funeral of Lawlor was held in Lucan on 26 October 2005.
False media claims about the accident
The Russian police initially reported that the woman in Lawlor's car may have been a sixteen-year-old prostitute. The report was the lead in a number of Irish Sunday newspapers. The Sunday Independent editor Aengus Fanning apologised to the Lawlor family for the report, following a public outcry on the reportage and condemnation of the publication from the National Union of Journalists. The Sunday Tribune, the Sunday World, The Observer, and a number of British tabloids also published the claim. The Observer initially refused to apologise for the error, but on the Tuesday following the accident, the newspaper issued a statement saying that "serious discrepancies" had arisen in the story it had published, and admitted that it had erred, removing the story from its website. The controversial nature of the coverage led to calls for a body to regulate and oversee standards in the Irish press similar to the Press Complaints Commission in the UK.
- "Mr. Liam Lawlor". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
- "Liam Lawlor". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
- "Redmond accused of fixing '92 election for Lawlor". Sunday Tribune. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
- "Apology from newspapers sought by crash survivor". The Irish Times. 25 October 2005.
- "Lawlor family 'saddened' by media coverage". RTÉ News. 24 October 2005.
- "Apology from newspapers sought by crash survivor". The Irish Times. 10 October 2005.