Ray Burke leaves prison

Former Foreign Affairs Minister Ray Burke, who was jailed for fiddling his tax returns, has been released, the Prison Service said today.

The former minister, who held the Foreign Affairs, Justice and Environment portfolios during more than 20 years as a Fianna Fáil deputy, was jailed for six months, of which he served four and a half months.

He was released from Arbour Hill prison yesterday lunchtime, just ahead of his scheduled release tomorrow, an Irish Prison Service spokesman said.

Burke was jailed in January this year by Judge Desmond Hogan at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court for tax evasion.

At the sentencing, the judge said Burke had abused his special position as a member of the Irish Parliament.

Burke, from Griffith Downs, Drumcondra, north Dublin, had admitted in July 2004 to knowingly or wilfully furnishing incorrect information during a tax amnesty of 1993 by failing to declare income of €116,000.

He also pleaded guilty to knowingly or wilfully furnishing incorrect information to the Inspector of Taxes in December 2003, by failing to declare income of €30,000.

The court case came after seven years of investigations at the planning tribunal and a fraud probe by the Criminal Assets Bureau.

In 2002 the tribunal found he had received corrupt payments of almost €250,000, and the acquisition of his home in north Dublin was also found to be corrupt.

Burke began his political career as a Fianna Fáil member of Dublin City Council in 1967 and served until 1978.

He was elected to Dáil Eireann in 1973 as TD for North Dublin and took up the Environment post in 1980 and 1982.

Between 1987 and 1989, he served as both Energy and Industry Minister, before becoming Justice Minister in 1989.

Burke was Minister for Foreign Affairs in 1997, at a critical juncture in the Northern Ireland peace process, but walked out after just five months in the job.

The former minister, known as Rambo for his gung-ho political style, had been a political ally of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who famously declared he would climb every tree in north Dublin to find the evidence which would clear Burke’s name.

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