“My advice is I’ve broken absolutely no codes”

With Taoiseach Bertie Ahern facing a grilling in the Dáil this afternoon, over his admission of receiving the equivalent of £33,000stg in 1993/4, there are indications of some of the details likely to provide the focus of those questions. It would appear that technically a personal loan, assuming that’s what it was, would not be required to be disclosed in 1994, although, according to one report, by 1995 it would have been. Perhaps of more concern, as the Irish Times points out, 4 of the 12 “long-term, personal friends” named by the Taoiseach in his interview were later appointed to public boards – including Joe Burke, a builder and former Fianna Fáil councillor in Dublin, who was appointed chairman of the Dublin Port Company in 2002. UpdatedAccording to the Irish Times report

A number of those identified have been appointed to public boards by Mr Ahern’s governments. Mr Ahern said he appointed the men because they were friends and not because they had given him money.[added emphasis]

Des Richardson, a successful political fundraiser and long-time associate of Mr Ahern, was appointed to the board of Aer Lingus in November 1997 and served on the board until November 2002. As a member of the board, he and his family were entitled to concession rate travel.

Joe Burke, a builder and former Fianna Fáil councillor in Dublin, was appointed chairman of the Dublin Port Company in 2002, just after that year’s general election was called. The appointment was made by the then minister for the marine, Frank Fahey, after Mr Burke had asked Mr Ahern for the appointment.[added emphasis]

Jim Nugent, a businessman and consultant, served three terms as chairman of the State tourism training agency, Cert. He resigned in November 1997.

David McKenna, a businessman who ran a very successful publicly quoted recruitment firm, Marlborough, during the 1990s, was a member of the board of Enterprise Ireland from March 1999 to March 2001.

The appointments, and Bertie Ahern’s stated reason for those appointments, were picked up by Fine Gael Leader Enda Kenny

“I also want him to clarify the point that he said publicly last night that the appointment of persons, some of whom were financial donors to him, were made to State boards on the basis that they were friends,” Mr Kenny said.

And from the Guardian

There is confusion about whether Mr Ahern is obliged to disclose the money he received in 1993. Ethics legislation requiring ministers to declare personal loans was not introduced until 1995.

Meanwhile our beloved leader the Sectreary of State for Wales etc, Peter Hain, has added his tuppenceworth..

Adds A separate Irish Times article has the quote and the Standards in Public Office advice

Insisting that no favours had been offered, or received, Mr Ahern said: “I might have appointed somebody but I appointed them because they were friends, not because of anything they had given me.”[added emphasis]

Under the Standards in Public Office Commission’s rules, State appointments “should be made on the basis of merit, taking into account the skills, qualifications and experience of the person to be appointed”, the ethics watchdog’s website makes clear.

Regarding the acceptance of gifts or free services, the commission has told office-holders they should “be particularly sensitive of acceptance of gifts or hospitality from friends, or connected persons where such persons have, or are likely to obtain, a benefit or suffer a loss arising from a decision made, or to be made, by an office-holder or by the government, of which the office holder is aware.”

Updated As Mick indicates here, the eventual statement on this crisis from Tánaiste, and Leader of the Progressive Democrats, Michael McDowell is a carefully worded statement on the situation

And it’s worthwhile comparing the separate RTÉ reports on what Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said in the Dáil today

The Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has insisted there was nothing wrong in his acceptance of money from close personal friends while he was Minister for Finance.

with their report on what the PD leader’s statement said

Tánaiste Michael McDowell has said the 12 friends of the Taoiseach who advanced him €50,000 in the early 1990s were ill-advised, and it had been a mistake for Bertie Ahern to accept it.

It is also worth pointing out that Michael McDowell did not address the subsequent appointments to public bodies noted by the Irish Times.

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  • Turbopaul

    http://www.breakingnews.ie/2006/09/27/story278547.html

    Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has said there are “bigger resigning matters” for the Government than the current controversy over the Taoiseach’s finances.

    He said Sinn Féin’s position on the need for open competition for appointments to State boards had been vindicated by the Taoiseach’s admission that he had appointed friends.

    “Sinn Féin has called for all such appointments to be made on the basis of open competition and the Taoiseach has opposed this. Our position has been vindicated.

    Deaputy Ó Caoláin does make a vaild point, which also shows yet again that Sinn Fein are fit for govt.

    However, Sinn Fein are only fit for govt becuse those already in power have been proven time and time again to be less than honest, honourable and moraly fit to hold public office.

    The bar for public office is now lower than a Snakes belly!

  • smcgiff

    If he gets through this he’ll no longer be the Teflon Taoiseach, but Bullet-Proof Bertie.

  • Turbopaul

    Bertie should have taken a leaf out of the President of Pakistan’s book, forgive the pun.

    Bertie should have responded by saying that he cannot comment as he has signed a book deal, but all will be revealed when his book is released!

  • Crataegus

    Hands up anyone who believes the Bertie babble. How many of you have friends that are willing to give you an unsecured loan, interest free, that you never pay back? This tale just does not belong to the world as I know it. Whose been reading the fairy tales?

    People in public office cannot accept gifts beyond perhaps a bottle of Scotch at Christmas and during the course of the work they are going to get a few free meals from lobbyists, but beyond that they must not go and accepting hard cash should involve doing hard time.

  • seabhac siulach

    “If he gets through this he’ll no longer be the Teflon Taoiseach, but Bullet-Proof Bertie.”

    He’ll get through it if the PDs think it’s in their interest to hold on in there. Nothing to do with Bertie.
    If on the other hand it becomes clear that it is more electorally beneficial to screw Bertie…then we shouldn’t have to wait long for McDowell to open that big yap of his…and spew forth some verbiage on morality, etc.
    My money is on them hanging in there (for the good of the country obviously)

    Honour, morality, ethics…merely words in the gombeen republic.

  • smcgiff

    Seabhac,

    Maybe that’s what Bertie meant when he said that he wanted assurances that McD wouldn’t cut and run when he became Tainiste!

  • Greenflag

    SS,

    ‘Honour, morality, ethics…merely words ‘

    Here are some more words – tangible economic results , fastest growing economy in the EU , low unemployment , highest GDP per person etc.

    Not a bad return for 39,000 . Just look at the return in NI for the 170 million paid out to the INI ? Bertie has always had a lot of friends and many of them sincerely believed and still believe that having Bertie in Government was preferable to not having him in Government and if it took 39,000 to ‘smooth’ his return to a normal life following the loss of his house , and marriage and to help educate his kids it has been proved to have been more than worth it !

    Perhaps we need to stop electing relatively poor Taoisigh with no inherited wealth or large family buisiness or retainers to maintain an opulent lifestyle? Only millionaire Taoisigh perhaps ?

    Crataegus.

    ‘How many of you have friends that are willing to give you an unsecured loan, interest free, that you never pay back? ‘

    I’ve never needed one but I do know people who have given such loans to friends and who are not too bothered if they don’t get it back . Personnally I’ve given a 4 figure sum as an unsecured ‘loan’ to somebody whom I know personnally who had some bad luck . I might get it back someday but I was just glad to help that person get their life back on track .

    It’s a fact of life that some people fall through the cracks in our ‘welfare state’ .

    ‘This tale just does not belong to the world as I know it. ‘

    I can believe that Crat . After all yiz are the hard headed North – Just look at the overall result of being ‘hard headed ‘ ?

    Where’s it getting ye ?

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Seems we have a cultural difference N v S as to what is acceptable and what is not.

    Accepting a loan from their friends is OK for a Government Minister as long as they declare the loan and the conditions attaching.

    When anyone stands for office they put themselves up for public scrutiny and have to act with financial (and other) standards above the rest of us as they are responsible for spending our money and passing laws as to what is accceptable, that we have to accept.

    Has Bertie got clean hands ?????????????

  • Greenflag

    ‘Has Bertie got clean hands ????????????? ‘

    If you’ve ever looked at your hands under an electron microscope you could easily deduce that nobody on earth has clean hands .

    The question that most people in Ireland will be asking will be

    ‘Is Bertie a safe pair of hands?’

    And the answer to that will be IMO a definite YES .

    I have a feeling that this ‘opposition ‘ tactic could yet backfire very badly for the Coalition . If there were hundreds of thousands or million involved that would be different -but we all know that Bertie lives in a modest house in Drumcondra and is not dripping in millions .

    ‘Seems we have a cultural difference N v S as to what is acceptable and what is not. ‘

    To an extent perhaps but then none of government politicans are clerics nor linked with paramilitary organisations .

    I’m reminded of an old Austrian/Prussian joke .

    An Austrian officer captures a Prussian . In high indignation the Prussian sneers.

    ‘We Prussians fight for honour and integrity but you Austrians fight only for money !’

    ‘Why not ?” retorts the Austrian ‘After all , each of us fights for what he needs most .’

  • páid

    FD,

    I think there is a cultural difference E-W at any rate. the west island’s scandals are usually about politicians lying over money; whereas on the east island it’s politicians lying over sex.

    There is a deep-seated reason for this which I have not worked out.

    The beauty of life in the north part of the west island is you can pick and choose which you prefer, over a bag of popcorn.

    popcorn being supplied by the sex maniacs.

  • George

    Seabhac,
    “Honour, morality, ethics…merely words in the gombeen republic.”

    I didn’t know you had joined the hardline unionist cause? If you haven’t, you should because you now seem to be spilling similar bile about the Irish state.

  • Greenflag

    ‘There is a deep-seated reason for this which I have not worked out. ‘

    Jayzuz have yiz no brains up der or wha ?

    Rationale ‘

    The west island never had much money nor did we have much sex until after the Late Late Show The east island never had much sex but had loadsa money . Now that the west island has loadsa money and loadsa sex they don’t want too many people to know so they have to lie about it . And now that the east island has loadsa sex and loadsa money they have the same problem .

    Now if you don’t have to lie because you don’t have loadsa money or loadsa sex the answer it’s probably because you live in Northern Ireland and spend all your time gurning for both 🙂

  • Crataegus

    I am amazed that there are those trying to defend Bertie, it is not a question of how well the South is governed nor does it have any other inferences about the economy or the weather. What it boils down to is; is there cause for concern and did he act inappropriately.

    Is it suitable that a person of high office receives loans from business friends. Loans from Banks and close family yes, but others who may have wider interests no. People in public office must be above reproach as they should set the business and ethical standards of the country. If they can’t do it they should not be there. This applies to all countries not just Britain and Ireland. If you don’t think it important try doing business in Nigeria!!!!!!!!

    All politicians with the wiff of dubious money dealings should go. Paying politicians considerations for their time is more common than I would like. This is not an exclusively Southern problem, we had the peerage issue in Westminster (among other things) and in the North I have no doubt that some strange relationships will unfold with time.

    All aspiring politicians need to remember that once you accept a gift of this nature someone has a hold on you for ever. You are bound to fortune and luck.

  • steve

    I’d say McDowell is furious, after deciding to fall in line last week, he now has sit beside bertie and take the flak…ouch. Knowing him, he may be the one to tip the canoe yet.

    As for the anti-south vibes in the thread, us gombeens will carry on with our peace, prosperity and inclusive democracy….

  • Greenflag

    ‘I am amazed that there are those trying to defend Bertie,’

    More a case of forgive and forget and move on . This happened nearly 15 years ago and Bertie did reveal the details to the tribunal .

    There comes a time when constantly digging up the past Northern Ireland style in the interests of one side or the other becomes counter productive . In NI’s case diminishing returns from the navel gazing set in around 1972 /74 .

    We Southerners are a bit more ‘practical ‘ about the ‘real world’ We know that insisting on the highest standards of so called personal ethics and rigid principle leaves people being represented by the likes of Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams .

    No thanks . We get along fine as a country with an ‘imperfect’ human being for a Taoiseach !

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Greenflag: “More a case of forgive and forget and move on . This happened nearly 15 years ago and Bertie did reveal the details to the tribunal . ”

    C’mon, who do youse think he is, Buddy Cianci?

    Grrenflag: “We Southerners are a bit more ‘practical ‘ about the ‘real world’ We know that insisting on the highest standards of so called personal ethics and rigid principle leaves people being represented by the likes of Ian Paisley and Gerry Adams . ”

    Better to be led by an ordinary decent criminal, eh?

    Seriously, tho, if a politician is going to play on the far side of ethical behaviour, there should be an expectation that they are sufficiently competant so as not to be caught.

    Once caught, even by their own admission, they should be cashiered and a new crook installed in their place.

  • Turbopaul

    Brian Rix could not have writren a better farse.

    Here’s the line up for the future of Northern Ireland and Ireland as a whole.

    First, we have a spent politician, yesterday’s man, soon to be ex Brit Prime minister Tony Blair.

    Second, we have the Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahearn surrounded by cash for favours scandal.

    Third, we have Gerry Adams, with all his baggage.

    Fourth, we have a Evangelical Firebrand Dr Ian Paisley.

    All that is missing is Widow Twanky, and Aladdin.

    Is this what it has come down to, “The Marx brothers” deciding the future of NI?

    October Scotland,
    November Northern Ireland
    December Broadway

  • smcgiff

    ‘Seems we have a cultural difference N v S as to what is acceptable and what is not’

    What’d be the point of cozying up to a NI politician? They’d need to have power for that. IF that EVER comes about then you can judge.

  • Captain Renault

    I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!

  • Greenflag

    Buddy Cianci?

    afraid I’m unacquainted with Buddy Cianci although I’m a fan of that other Buddy Chianti .

    ‘Better to be led by an ordinary decent criminal, eh? ‘

    So what court has convicted Bertie of criminal activity ? GFY !

    It may have escaped your notice but we live in a democracy and people are not convicted unless proven guilty .

  • Greenflag

    smcgiff,

    ‘What’d be the point of cozying up to a NI politician? They’d need to have power for that. IF that EVER comes about then you can judge.’

    Ever ? It did come about . Lord Brookeborough he of the ‘would’nt employ a Catholic around the place’ was well known as a cattle smuggler . Any oul farmers in the Co Fermanagh , Sligo border areas know that . Theres no point in detailing the corruption links between the OO/UUP going back to the foundation of the NI State . The place was built on cozying up to those in power . Unfortunately not if you were an RC /Fenian !

  • Greenflag

    “The Marx brothers” deciding the future of NI?

    Well if they could be resurrected they’d probably do a better job than any of the locals over the past what 86 years . They could hardly do worse !

  • Pete Baker

    Before this thread turns into a whatabout discussion… this is about Standards in Public Office.

    And it’s worth noting that, although it was not required until 1995, in 1994 Bertie Ahern could have decided it was prudent to reveal, what he has now described as, a personal loan.

    Then there’s the appointments issue to consider.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    I think this thread has exposed the cultural differences I refered to!

    ‘Sure if you’re a daecent fella the odd few bob in your hip pocket now and then is OK.’

    Worked for Charlie for a long time now it’s working for Bertie…………what has really changed.

    This does not of course mean that some politicians ( and civil servants) in NI are above reproach, we have a self admitted criminal as Secretary of State.

  • andy

    Peter B (and SF) are on the money here.
    On the radio the other day Aherene said he may have appointed some of his benefactors to public appointments … but it was because they were his friends.. not because they had given him money. As if that was an excuse!
    The Public Appointments system in the UK has its flaws but at least it would hinder (if not stop completely) this kind of risible nepotism.

    I’m also at a loss to see people defending Aherene – maybe its due to a lack of alternatives?