Ray Burke (Irish politician)
|Minister for Foreign Affairs|
26 June 1997 – 7 October 1997
|Preceded by||Dick Spring|
|Succeeded by||David Andrews|
|Minister for Justice|
12 July 1989 – 11 February 1992
|Preceded by||Gerry Collins|
|Succeeded by||Pádraig Flynn|
|Minister for Industry and Commerce|
24 November 1988 – 12 July 1989
|Preceded by||Albert Reynolds|
|Succeeded by||Desmond O'Malley|
|Minister for Energy|
10 March 1987 – 24 November 1988
|Preceded by||Michael Noonan|
|Succeeded by||Michael Smith|
|Minister for Communications|
31 March 1987 – 6 February 1991
|Preceded by||John Wilson|
|Succeeded by||Séamus Brennan (Tourism, Transport and Communication)|
|Minister for the Environment|
9 March 1982 – 14 December 1982
|Preceded by||Peter Barry|
|Succeeded by||Dick Spring|
15 October 1980 – 30 June 1981
|Preceded by||Sylvester Barrett|
|Succeeded by||Peter Barry|
|Minister of State|
|Preceded by||New office|
|Succeeded by||Denis Gallagher|
June 1977 – 7 October 1997
February 1973 – June 1977
|Constituency||Dublin County North|
30 September 1943 |
|Political party||Fianna Fáil|
Raphael Patrick "Ray" Burke (born 30 September 1943) is a disgraced Irish former Fianna Fáil politician. 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 County Council.
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.
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. Ray Burke represented this 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 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, where he made controversial changes to the legislation governing oil and gas exploration. In 1988, he was appointed Minister for Industry, Commerce and Communications.
Following the formation of the Fianna Fáil–Progressive 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. Following the 1997 general election Fianna Fáil was back in power, and Burke was appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs by new Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
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. 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 led to the setting up of the Planning Tribunal chaired by Justice Feargus Flood. In an interim report of the subsequent Flood Tribunal, Flood judged Burke to be "corrupt".
After Burke's re-election in 1989, he had made it clear in interviews that he believed that the national broadcaster Raidió Teilifís Éireann (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". 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 allowed for the establishment of a series of local radio stations and one independent national radio station, Century Radio. 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, when 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, 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.
In July 2004 Burke pleaded guilty to making false tax returns. 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 six months in prison for these offences, making him one of the most senior Irish politicians 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.
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. His barrister at his 2005 sentencing hearing stated these were his only income. As well as general criticism that such pensions are overly generous, Burke's continued receipt of these pensions while in prison and after his condemnation in the Flood report attracted criticism. Their combined income value was €66,000 in 2003 and €103,838 in 2011.
- "Mr. Raphael P. (Ray) Burke". Oireachtas Members Database. Retrieved 14 March 2011.
- "Ray Burke". ElectionsIreland.org. Retrieved 14 March 2011.
- "Introduction to second Interim Report" (PDF). Flood Tribunal. 19 April 2002.
- "Seanad Éireann – Volume 126 – Broadcasting Bill, 1990: Second Stage.". Houses of the Oireachtas. 12 July 1990. Archived from the original on 7 June 2011.
- Richard Barbrook (2007). "Broadcasting and the national identity in Ireland". Retrieved 15 February 2013.
- "Denis O'Brien wins record €750,000 in libel damages against the Mirror Group of Newspapers". Finfacts.ie. 23 November 2006.
- "Burke admits making false tax returns". RTÉ News. 12 July 2004.
- Dowling, Brian (27 November 2003). "Ex-minister on pension of €66,000". Irish Independent. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
- Sheehan, Maeve (23 January 2005). "Day of reckoning dawns for Ray Burke as he faces jail". Irish Independent. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
- McConnell, Daniel (26 October 2008). "Lavish public sector pension payouts". Irish Independent. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
- Drennan, John (13 November 2011). "Ex-FF ministers rake in massive pension benefits". Irish Independent. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
- "Ray Burke: a life". Irish Independent. 19 November 2011. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
- "'Withhold TD pensions until retirement' – Cllr Pringle". Donegal Democrat. 6 February 2009. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
- "Politicians' pensions make it all worthwhile". The Irish Emigrant. 28 December 2003. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
- "Written Answers - Pension Provisions". Dáil Éireann debates. 8 November 2011. Retrieved 25 November 2013.
- The Flood Tribunal
- Wikisource: Cole Report into the granting of Irish passports to Khalid bin Mahfouz and associated persons