Ray Burke (Irish politician)

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Ray Burke
Minister for Foreign Affairs
In office
26 June 1997 – 7 October 1997
Preceded by Dick Spring
Succeeded by David Andrews
Minister for Justice
In office
12 July 1989 – 11 February 1992
Preceded by Gerry Collins
Succeeded by Pádraig Flynn
Minister for Industry and Commerce
In office
24 November 1988 – 12 July 1989
Preceded by Albert Reynolds
Succeeded by Desmond O'Malley
Minister for Energy
In office
10 March 1987 – 24 November 1988
Preceded by Michael Noonan
Succeeded by Michael Smith
Minister for Communications
In office
31 March 1987 – 6 February 1991
Preceded by John Wilson
Succeeded by Séamus Brennan (Tourism, Transport and Communication)
Minister for the Environment
In office
9 March 1982 – 14 December 1982
Preceded by Peter Barry
Succeeded by Dick Spring
In office
15 October 1980 – 30 June 1981
Preceded by Sylvester Barrett
Succeeded by Peter Barry
Minister of State
In office
1978–1980
Preceded by New office
Succeeded by Denis Gallagher
Teachta Dála
In office
June 1977 – 7 October 1997
Constituency Dublin North
In office
February 1973 – June 1977
Constituency Dublin County North
Personal details
Born (1943-09-30) 30 September 1943 (age 70)
Dublin, Ireland
Nationality Irish
Political party Fianna Fáil

Raphael Patrick "Ray" Burke (born 30 September 1943) is an Irish former Fianna Fáil politician.[1] He is a former Teachta Dála and government minister who was convicted and imprisoned on charges arising from political corruption in office. Burke was also highly influential in decisions made by Dublin Corporation, at local government level in Dublin city.

Early life[edit]

Burke was born in Dublin and educated at O'Connell Schools before becoming an auctioneer. Burke's political career commenced when he was elected to Dublin County Council for Fianna Fáil in 1967. He was chairman of the council between 1985 and 1987.

Career[edit]

Burke was elected to Dáil Éireann at the 1973 general election for the Dublin County North constituency, succeeding his father Patrick J. Burke, who had held the seat for 29 years.[2] In this seat, Ray Burke represented the same constituency and its successor Dublin North until his resignation almost twenty-five years later.

After Fianna Fáil's landslide victory at the 1977 general election, Burke was appointed Minister of State at the Department of Industry and Commerce. He supported George Colley for Taoiseach in the Fianna Fáil leadership contest of 1979, but after Colley's opponent Charles Haughey won out, Haughey still retained Burke in his government position. Burke was subsequently a staunch and vocal defender of Haughey during a number of internal heaves against the latter's leadership of the party. In October 1980 Burke was promoted to Minister for the Environment, a position he held until June 1981 and again in the short-lived Fianna Fáil government of 1982. After Fianna Fáil returned to power at the 1987 general election, Burke served as Minister for Energy until 1988, when he was appointed Minister for Industry and Commerce and Communications.

Following the formation of the Fianna FáilProgressive Democrats Coalition in 1989 he became Minister for Justice and Minister for Communications. When Albert Reynolds came to power in 1992, he did not re-appoint Burke to the Cabinet. Fianna Fáil was back in power at the 1997 general election and Burke was appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs by new Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

Corruption allegations[edit]

Within months of his appointment as Minister for Foreign Affairs, allegations resurfaced that Burke had received IR£80,000 from a property developer regarding the former Dublin County Council.[3] Burke denied the allegations but resigned from the Cabinet and from the Dáil on 7 October 1997, after just four months in office. This allegation lead to the setting up of the Planning Tribunal chaired by Justice Feargus Flood. In an interim report of the subsequent Flood Tribunal, Flood judged him to be "corrupt".[3]

After Burke's re-election in 1989, he had made it clear in interviews that he believed that the Irish national broadcaster RTÉ was biased against him and Fianna Fáil in its election coverage, and several RTÉ employees reported that while off-air at RTÉ’s election coverage, he remarked "I'm going to fucking screw RTÉ".[4][5] After the election, he was appointed Minister for Justice yet retained the Communications brief, thus holding two portfolios which had never before been simultaneously held by the same Minister.

Burke was responsible for controversial legislation that severely limited RTÉ’s ability to collect advertising revenue, and established a series of local radio stations, and one independent national radio station, Century Radio.[3] RTÉ were ordered to provide a national transmission service for Century Radio at a price that RTÉ complained was far below the economic cost of providing such a service. For example, they were required by the service level agreement to have engineers on standby covering the entire country 24 hours a day;[3] however the final payment for the entire transmission service was roughly equal to the salary for just one engineer.

Nevertheless, Century Radio failed to gain significant audience share and closed in 1991. An interim report of the Flood Tribunal found as fact that the backers of Century Radio had paid large bribes to Burke to secure favourable ministerial decisions. One of the local stations established was 98FM and in 2006 its owner, Irish businessman Denis O'Brien won a record €750,000 damages from the Irish Daily Mirror which had claimed that O'Brien had paid a bribe of IR£30,000 to Burke to secure a licence for the station.[6]

Prison time[edit]

In July 2004, Burke pleaded guilty to making false tax returns.[7] The charges arose from his failure to declare for tax purposes the payments that he had received from the backers of Century Radio. On 24 January 2005 he was sentenced to 6 months in prison for these offences, making him one of the most senior politicians in the history of Ireland to serve time in prison. He was released in June 2005 after four and a half months, earning a 25% remission of sentence because of good behaviour. He served his time in Arbour Hill Prison in Dublin.

Retirement[edit]

Burke has maintained a low profile since completing his prison sentence but attended the June 2006 state funeral of Charles Haughey, his political patron. Several former associates of Burke, from his days as a member of Dublin County Council, continue to be the subjects of tribunals of inquiry set up to investigate irregularities in the planning process in Dublin.

Burke is entitled to two public service pensions, one as a former TD at the maximum rate for over 20 years' service, and another as a former minister.[8] His barrister at his 2005 sentencing hearing stated these were his only income.[9] As well as general criticism that such pensions are overly generous,[10] Burke's continued receipt of these pensions while in prison and after his condemnation in the Flood report attracted criticism.[8][11][12][13] Their combined income value was €66,000 in 2003[8][14] and €103,838 in 2011.[15]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Mr. Raphael P. (Ray) Burke". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 14 March 2011. 
  2. ^ "Ray Burke". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 14 March 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Introduction to second Interim Report". Flood Tribunal. 19 April 2002. 
  4. ^ "Seanad Éireann – Volume 126 – Broadcasting Bill, 1990: Second Stage.". Houses of the Oireachtas. 12 July 1990. 
  5. ^ Richard Barbrook (2007). "Broadcasting and the national identity in Ireland". Retrieved 15 February 2013. 
  6. ^ "Denis O'Brien wins record €750,000 in libel damages against the Mirror Group of Newspapers". Finfacts.ie. 23 November 2006. 
  7. ^ "Burke admits making false tax returns". RTÉ News. 12 July 2004. 
  8. ^ a b c Dowling, Brian (27 November 2003). "Ex-minister on pension of €66,000". Irish Independent. Retrieved 25 November 2013. 
  9. ^ Sheehan, Maeve (23 January 2005). "Day of reckoning dawns for Ray Burke as he faces jail". Irish Independent. Retrieved 25 November 2013. 
  10. ^ McConnell, Daniel (26 October 2008). "Lavish public sector pension payouts". Irish Independent. Retrieved 25 November 2013. 
  11. ^ Drennan, John (13 November 2011). "Ex-FF ministers rake in massive pension benefits". Irish Independent. Retrieved 25 November 2013. 
  12. ^ "Ray Burke: a life". Irish Independent. 19 November 2011. Retrieved 25 November 2013. 
  13. ^ "'Withhold TD pensions until retirement' – Cllr Pringle". Donegal Democrat. 6 February 2009. Retrieved 25 November 2013. 
  14. ^ "Politicians' pensions make it all worthwhile". The Irish Emigrant. 28 December 2003. Retrieved 25 November 2013. 
  15. ^ "Written Answers - Pension Provisions". Dáil Éireann debates. 8 November 2011. Retrieved 25 November 2013. 

External links[edit]

Oireachtas
Preceded by
Patrick J. Burke
Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála for Dublin County North
1973–1977
Succeeded by
Constituency abolished
Preceded by
New constituency
Fianna Fáil Teachta Dála for Dublin North
1977–1997
Succeeded by
Seán Ryan
Political offices
Preceded by
New office
Minister of State at the Department of Industry and Commerce
1978–1980
Succeeded by
Denis Gallagher
Preceded by
Sylvester Barrett
Minister for the Environment
1980–1981
Succeeded by
Peter Barry
Preceded by
Peter Barry
Minister for the Environment
Mar. 1982–Dec. 1982
Succeeded by
Dick Spring
Preceded by
John Wilson
Minister for Communications
1987–1991
Succeeded by
Séamus Brennan
as Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communication
Preceded by
Michael Noonan
Minister for Energy
1987–1988
Succeeded by
Michael Smith
Preceded by
Albert Reynolds
Minister for Industry and Commerce
1988–1989
Succeeded by
Desmond O'Malley
Preceded by
Gerry Collins
Minister for Justice
1989–1992
Succeeded by
Pádraig Flynn
Preceded by
Dick Spring
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Jun. 1997–Oct. 1997
Succeeded by
David Andrews