The Irish Examiner today highlighted some of the apparent discrepancies in the various accounts given of the circumstances of the payments to then-Minister for Finance, Bertie Ahern.. and some early poll results..From the Irish Examiner
Highlighting the severe strains in the Coalition over the matter, Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern expressed “surprise” that Tánaiste and PD leader Michael McDowell had found the Manchester payment of such concern on Thursday when he had not referred to it at all on Wednesday.
Developer Mr Kennedy said up to 27 Irishmen were at the 1994 meeting at the city’s Four Seasons Hotel. When asked if Mr Ahern spoke, he said: “No, this particularly dinner was a private dinner.”
The account differs from Mr Ahern’s version of events. “I did a function in Manchester with a business organisation, nothing to do with politics or whatever. I was talking about the Irish economy, I was explaining about Irish economy matters and I’d say there was about 25 people at that. The organisers of it, I spent about four hours with them,” the Taoiseach told RTÉ when he first made the payment public.
A Fianna Fáil spokesperson tried to explain the discrepancy by saying Mr Kennedy was “recalling an event 12 years ago”.
Mr Kennedy said he was not aware of Mr Ahern’s personal problems at the time of the payment.
“Someone came up with the idea that we should make a collection, to give him something.
“Possibly some people might have known about the personal problems at the time. I don’t believe I did.”
The question will be which version of events Bertie Ahern describes on Tuesday.. which version he told the Tribunal.. and whether that will be sufficent explanation for Tánaiste Michael McDowell [subs req] –
“What I am saying is that a person in his position has to be accountable in the right way to Dáil Éireann. Decent standards have to be observed and people have to be accountable. I believe and hope that he will account, warts and all, to the Dáil on Tuesday. I have the feeling that we have to act proportionately on this,” Mr McDowell told The Irish Times last night.
The Irish Times also reports that one of the earlier payment was a company cheque
The biggest of the payments to Bertie Ahern in 1993 was drawn on a company cheque, The Irish Times has learned. Padraic O’Connor, who was then managing director of NCB Stockbrokers, made the largest of the contributions to Mr Ahern around Christmas 1993 in the first tranche of money that he received.
NCB refused to confirm or deny whether the £5,000 contribution that Mr O’Connor gave the then minister for finance was drawn on one of its accounts.
The company would not say whether it had a record of the payment or whether the contribution was a gift or a loan. Neither would it say whether loan terms were recorded or whether the Taoiseach or any of his associates had ever contacted the company to make a repayment.