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.
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.
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.”
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.