Brussels chief faces inquiry over land deal

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The Independent Online
THE FUTURE of the European social affairs commissioner, Padraig Flynn, was in doubt last night as he came under intense pressure from the Irish government to answer allegations that he received IRpounds 50,000 (pounds 46,000) from a property developer when he was the environment minister.

Ireland's deputy premier, Mary Harney, claimed his position was "impossible" after what she called "devastating" claims by the Luton-based developer, Thomas Gilmartin, that Mr Flynn had repeatedly telephoned him since last September pleading with him to change his account of the 1989 payment. Ms Harney discussed the affair yesterday with the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern. Mr Ahern said it "would be in the public interest" for Mr Flynn to make a public statement on what happened. Fianna Fail sources confirmed to The Independent that the cash did not reach party headquarters.

Opposition questions on the cash will dominate proceedings when the Dail resumes tomorrow. Last week the businessman reversed his decision not to testify before a Dublin judicial tribunal investigating planning corruption after Mr Flynn claimed that Mr Gilmartin was sick. This allegation was quickly withdrawn.

Mr Flynn has not admitted receiving the cheque, but has made only partial denials, saying: "I never asked or took money from anybody to do favours for anybody in my life." He later said: "I never took money from anybody to do political favours in so far as planning is concerned."

Mr Gilmartin says when he paid Mr Flynn, "I asked who I would make it payable to. He just said, 'Don't, just leave it on the desk'."

Mr Flynn has succeeded in maximising European money, including agricultural payouts, for Ireland, but the controversy has undermined his chances of Dublin nominating him Commissioner for another term later this year on a IRpounds 140,000 salary.