Weekend might not bring relief for Ahern

While Bertie’s gifts/personal loans might not be the subject of discussions in the D�il again until Tuesday, elsewhere they remain a topic of interest. Not least in the Irish Times, who today suggest that the revelation of the Manchester gift of �8,000, which Ahern claims was for his appearance in a personal capacity, came about because he believed the Irish Times had that information already. Also related, the Irish Times lawyers have told the Mahon Tribunal that they will not be revealing the source of the leak. Adds RT� reportFrom the Irish Examiner Breaking News

The newspaper’s editor and public affairs correspondent have been summoned to appear before the inquiry today to answer questions about the source of the leak.

However, their lawyers have told the tribunal that, while they respect its work, they will be fulfilling their right to freedom of expressing and will not be revealing sources.

The hearing also heard that editor Geraldine Kennedy had destroyed the relevant documentation.

That would prevent the documents, themselves, being used to identify the source of the leak, which the Irish Times believes forced Ahern to reveal the Manchester payment

The Taoiseach, it is understood, revealed the existence of the Manchester money because he believed The Irish Times had information about it but was unable to publish the details.

And a Fianna Fail backbencher has criticised Bertie Ahern for the earlier disclosed payment

Carlow-Kilkenny TD MJ Nolan said today that Mr Ahern had compromised his position by not making a real effort to repay the money.

“It doesn’t reflect well on a minister of Government to seem to be compromised by anybody,” he said.

The issue of Bertie Ahern’s appearance at the Manchester meeting is also highlighted by Stephen Collins in the Irish Times

Then came news of Mr Ahern’s Cavan interview and his attempts to explain how he could speak to a group of businessmen in Manchester about the Irish economy when he was minister for finance and yet somehow not be there in an official capacity.

“I did the dinner a number of times . . . often go along, you know, to speak about what’s going on in Ireland, what’s happening . . . was it official? No, it was not an official dinner. I had no official script, my costs in Manchester I paid myself as I always do,” he said.

“So, no official script, not an official function, not in my capacity as minister, paid my own way, spoke at the function, and on one occasion the assembled group of about 25, plus the group who were with me from Ireland, gave me the sum of money that I mentioned. That’s all that happened.”

Following his claims that the �50,000 he got from business friends in Dublin was a loan and not a gift, even though he had not paid any of it back in 13 years, the claim that the money he got in Manchester was actually a gift, but was not given to him in his capacity as minister, further eroded the Taoiseach’s credibility.

Also of interest is the apparent disagreement on whether formal guidelines existed at the time for personal gifts to Ministers – FF Minister Brian Cowen say not, but RT�’s Prime Time last night thought differently.