Flynn failed to explain property dealer's gift

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EC COMMISSIONER Padraig Flynn suffered a potentially fatal blow to his career last night when it was revealed he was asked three months ago by Fianna Fail, the main Irish Government party, to explain a gift of IRpounds 50,000 from a property developer, but failed to reply

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern yesterday sought to distance himself from Mr Flynn, a former cabinet colleague and EC social affairs commissioner, as the row threatened to damage Ireland's coalition government.

Mr Ahern declared: "We have no desire to hide dark secrets from the past. Neither the government nor the Fianna Fail party have any jurisdiction over the European Commissioner."

The cash gift was allegedly given to Mr Flynn when Sligo-born businessman Tom Gilmartin was promoting a major Dublin property development in 1989 when Mr Flynn was Irish environment minister and joint FF treasurer.

Mr Ahern revealed that in a letter to Mr Flynn dated October 6, Fiana Fail's general secretary Martin Mackin asked if he received the pounds 50,000, if it was for the party; whether he had passed it to any party officer, and if so when and if any receipt was given.

Mr Ahern's inquiries had established separately that the cash never reached party headquarters, he told the Dail. Mr Flynn has so far not replied.

The revelation that the Commissioner, first appointed in January 1993, has not been able to clear up the matter with his own party sunk hopes he had of being reappointed when his term in Brussels ends in June, and will add pressure on him to quit earlier. Mr Flynn, 59, has said he will make no further statement on the pounds 50,000, but will co-operate with a Dublin judicial inquiry under Mr Justice Flood, currently investigating alleged planning corruption.

The Commissioner has only made only qualified denials about the affair, saying: "I never took money from anybody to do political favours in so far as planning is concerned."

In an Irish television interview a fortnight ago, Mr Flynn claimed Mr Gilmartin, 61, and his wife were sick. He with- drew the remarks later.