“no big deal..”

We’ve been remiss in not noting Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s delayed appearances in front of the Mahon Tribunal, but the absence of conclusive records of a money trail means that what we’ll end up with is likely to be speculative rather than potentially incriminating.. after all, it’s not as if he was signing blank cheques for someone.. ANYhoo.. Irish Election has been following each day’s appearance, and there’s at least one more to come. But there are a few reports worth looking at, Miriam Lord in the Irish Times on the first couple of days.. and Elaine Edwards on the latest – “The Taoiseach’s verbal exchanges with Mr O’Neill reached a point in late afternoon where the tiny sound of several dozen journalists’ last remaining brain cells exploding could clearly be heard in a sort of popcorn domino effect through the room.” There’s another report on the day’s events here. And RTÉ records the Taoiseach’s uncertainty about the actual events at the time

Mr Ahern told the tribunal that he could not be sure whether he purchased the money in one lump or instalments, or even if he carried out the transaction with the bank. Under further questioning he said that he could have had someone else carry out the transaction for him, as he would have been travelling all over the country at the time on party business.

From the Irish Times feature by Miriam Lord [subs req]

It was the Manchester money that most concerned O’Neill. Bertie gave details of what happened and, as he told it, it sounded quite bizarre. Ahern was in Manchester to watch his beloved United. On the Friday night before the game, he met with a group of friends at the Four Seasons Hotel. These guys were well-off, much wealthier than Michael Wall, said Bertie. If Michael was wealthy, these guys were “very wealthy.” One got the impression that frugal Bertie likes money more than he lets on.

They dined in the restaurant, about 20 rich businessmen who, Ahern said, had businesses in England but also invested in Ireland. During the meal, there was an informal “Q and A” with him on the Irish economy. They moved into the bar. It wasn’t a speech or anything. He’d obliged them with his wisdom on other occasions, and had often been given a gift of glass or books.

But this time he got an envelope containing £8,000 sterling in £50 notes. Bertie reckoned it was because “I stayed on and talked on the economy”. He was surprised when the host, businessman Tim Kilroe – now deceased – approached him and said the group “appreciated me coming over and appreciated me being there”. Whereupon he pressed the envelope upon Bertie, who put it in his pocket and didn’t open it until he got back to Dublin two days later.

As the questions continued, Deathly Des seemed a little disturbed that a serving finance minister should accept such a large amount from businessmen.

“It’s no big deal,” shrugged Bertie, the man who almost cried on national television because he was on his uppers at the time. No, it wasn’t a problem. “I’d answered lots of questions on the economy.”

“Some of these people were worth £50 million-plus at the time,” he added with a proud smile. “These are serious people. The idea that they went around the restaurant with a hat or a plate just didn’t happen.”

The gallery tittered. Every time it did so, and it happened with increasing frequency as the afternoon wore on, Bertie’s lips disappeared in the direction of his tonsils and his expression turned thunderous.

“For them it’s not a sizeable contribution; for me, it’s a sizeable contribution.” The details of which he can’t remember.

“In Dublin, you’d be unlikely to get even a pint off them,” Ahern sniffed.

That money, eventually, was added to the Drumcondra dig-out money and lodged, he’s not sure how, in the bank. In the meantime, it was in his busy safe.

But whether or not the money trail runs aground.. here’s a reminder that there remain other issues that might sink Captain Bertie

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.

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  • sammaguire

    It’s a witch hunt. The Tribunal is supposed to be about planning corruption. I would put the boot into Bertie if this wasn’t about his marital breakup. Would be very interesting if all TDs bank accounts were subject to such scrutiny. Don’t think too many of them (all parties) would be too keen on it. In fact I’ll vote FG or Labour next time if either Kenny or Gilmore agrees to a forensic analysis of each of their party’s candidates bank accounts.

  • Pete Baker

    “I would put the boot into Bertie if this wasn’t about his marital breakup.”

    Yeah, that’s what’s stopping you.. and obviously that’s what this is about..

    Remind me, who introduced that particular element to the discussion?

    Oh yes.. it was Bertie himself..

  • sammaguire

    So you honestly believe the money received had nothing to do with the break up of his marriage? I made the point before on this website that a relative of mine’s house was destroyed a few years ago after being hit by lightning. All the extended family chipped in at his time of need. Doubt very much if that relative declared this “income” to the Revenue and I wouldn’t blame him after losing everything. Bertie’s situation is quite similar. I will judge Bertie on whether he did favours for the people who helped him out. Maybe like other people they were looking for a licence to operate a mobile phone network? Who knows?

  • joeCanuck

    It’s all rather weird. I can accept that when a person is up against the wall financially, they will accept help from friends, indeed should consider themselves blessed to have such friends.
    Now if Bertie was a corrupt politician prior to this “help” one might argue that he would not have needed a “relatively” small amount. On the other hand, if, at that moment he showed himself to be corruptible and went over to the “dark side”, wouldn’t there now be many other trails to follow?
    For now, I would be prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt. Innocent until proven guilty.

  • The Dubliner

    “It’s a witch hunt.” – sammaguire

    Of course it is – via the media (and other covert influences behind the Tribunal scenes remain to be seen). It suits certain foreign and domestic interests to attempt to portray the Irish politics and business as corrupt. All lurid and unsubstantiated claims made to the Tribunal are reported as fact, all lurid commentary by the media is proffered as righteous indignation, when it is merely a violation of the right to a person’s good name and their right to be assumed innocent of any offence until proven otherwise, based on the hack’s extrapolation, speculation and malice. Minor errors in details of memory from Mr Ahern are referred to in the media with the loaded term “discrepancies” (a term used to indicate financial irregularities and offen illegalities) whereas similar failures of memory in the testimony of the Tribunal’s ‘star witness’ are referred to as lesser “inconsistencies” or simply ignored.

    In a story that was wholly under-reported in the Irish media, the former Chairman of the Tribunal, Mr Justice Fergus Flood, said of Newstalk radio a few days ago:

    “It must be said there is no suggestion to date that he [Mr Ahern] has given any benefit to his donors other than bed and breakfast. Clearly there has been no breach of standard of conduct or law of the land to date. The tribunal has acted correctly in setting up an inquiry. Unless some additional evidence is forthcoming [b]the Taoiseach will almost certainly be acquitted of any improper conduct.[/b]” – Mr Justice Fergus Flood

    Only one paper reported it but latter removed it from the online edition, now only found on Google cache.

    Likewise, another under-reported story, the Standards in Public Office Commission, the State’s ethics agency, said Ahern doesn’t have a case to answer to it.

  • The Dubliner

    The key sentence above from the former chairman of the Tribunal, Mr Justice Fergus Flood, should be bolded: “[b]Clearly there has been no breach of standard of conduct or law of the land to date.[/b]

    Folks should have the dencey to keep that in mind before launcging their hate campaigns against an innocent party, lest their own agendas become unwittingly apparent to others.

  • Harry

    Yes lads, of course it’s normal to have 8 grand in an envelope pressed into your hands while abroad as minister for finance, sorry I mean ‘in a personal capacity’. And it’s also normal to have someone arrive at your office, open a briefcase and pull out 30,000 pounds in foreign currency to be plonked on your table. Or 25,000 or … I’ve lost track. All cash of course funnily enough and all while Ahern had a TD’s salary or as Minister for Finance a salary of 42,000 gross per annum, an amount equal to the price of a house in 1994.

    His stories are cock and bull. Anywhere else his feet wouldn’t have touched the floor on the way out. He gets loans when within the jurisdiction tax liability is avoided by receiving loans and he gets gifts when outside the jurisdiction tax liability is avoided by getting gifts. Friends give him ‘loans’ and strangers give him ‘gifts’.

    Do not defend the indefensible. He’s making patsies of you. This has nothing to do with characterising the ‘Paddies’ as corrupt, it is not something to get defensive about. The man is taking you all for a ride. While people are languishing in jail for not paying their TV licence this shyster is running the country into a cul de sac and profiting from so doing. His explanations are preposterous, full of decoys and waffle to deflect from the fact that he patently can’t explain himself. In fact he doesn’t even seem to be too smart when the slightest level of scrutiny is laid upon him; no wonder he hardly appears in the public eye during his tenure and avoids interviews or engaging with the public. RTÉ seem to have been most helpful in this regard toward him over the years by doing precisely no profiles or documentaries that I can remember about who he is, where he comes from or what his political philosophy (sic) is.

    And then there’s also the question of how much the british would be willing to pay Irish politicians who were willing to accept tokens of their appreciation for ‘help’ down the years..

    One wonders.

  • sammaguire

    Nobody denies it was messy Harry. The point you’re missing is the Tribunal should be investigating Planning Corruption not Bertie’s marital breakup and the voyeuristic examination of what Celia paid for the curtains and what type of carpets they bought etc etc.
    As to his political philosophy, the Irish people have endorsed it a few times by reelecting him as Taoiseach. Maybe you don’t agree with him. Fortunately we live in a democracy and we all have our say as to whom we want to be governed by.
    Your insinuation that Bertie is/was a British agent here and on another thread is just comical. If it wasn’t a joke I can’t take your future contributions on Slugger too seriously to say the least. And…pay the old TV licence on time next time!

  • Harry

    What you seem to be missing sammy me old china is that the relationship between these cash payments and Ahern’s marital affairs is entirely unproven, was never suggested by the tribunal and shows every sign of being dust thrown up by Ahern himself to throw investigators off the scent of where these payments really came from and what their purpose was – it was Ahern who went on about his family, no-one else. Then his brother, memorably, came on to tell us if his mammy was alive she’d be horrified by all this. The Aherns show every sign of being premier league chancers.

    Ahern tells us he was broke and needed money to pay off his wife and to pay towards his childrens future education. (Tug on the heart-strings there now, at least just enough to squeeze in another political victory to be given power over the country). Now he tells us that around the same time he was putting 50,000 sterling into and out of his account, plus another 25,000 and then another 16,500 plus another 8,000 plus etc. etc. and now, funnily enough, far from being so short of cash as he told us previously (crying) he tells us that it wasn’t a big deal at all and that really he can’t remember any details about any of it.
    And of course there’s all the guff about curtains and a conservatory, again from a man who would have us believe he was on his uppers.

    If you can’t cop bullshit of this nature when you see it sam then there’s no hope for you. Or perhaps you’re just another gombeen Fianna Fáiler who’s every bit as much a chancer as the shyster himself.

    On the issue of Irish politicians being in the pay of the british – it stands to reason that the british would seek to influence politics in the south as it is an essential element of the northern dispute. Furthermore no irish politician has ever been unmasked for this as far as I know, which I find incredible. And Irish polticians have shown themselves to be singularly cheap in the matter of being bought. More, there are many policies pursued and actions taken by the southern government that make sense only from the point of view of self-preservation or british influence or both.
    I merely put the idea out there for the consideration of those who may have something to say on the matter or who may have the resources to investigate such things.

  • joeCanuck

    I think you should contact the Tribunal immediately Harry so that you can go in and give your evidence.

  • The Dubliner

    “Or perhaps you’re just another gombeen Fianna Fáiler…” – Harry

    And there we have it. You spew your forth your lurid allegations about Bertie Ahern being a British agent based on nothing more substantial than your own paranoid delusions in a transparent attempt to discredit FF and indulge your pathological hatred of them, caring nothing about either the facts of the case or a person’s right to his or her own good name.

    As an architect in Dublin, I dare say I know a tad more about how the building industry operates than you do; and large quantities of cash with deals done on nothing more than a handshake and trust was the culture back then. The trust is still there among the old-timers, but the cash isn’t. That’s anecdotal, of course.

    Do I take your rant more seriously than I take the inside knowledge on the former chairman of the Tribunal, Mr Justice Flood? Err, why don’t you take a guess?

    “It must be said there is no suggestion to date that he [Mr Ahern] has given any benefit to his donors other than bed and breakfast. [b]Clearly there has been no breach of standard of conduct or law of the land to date.[/b] The tribunal has acted correctly in setting up an inquiry. Unless some additional evidence is forthcoming [b]the Taoiseach will almost certainly be acquitted of any improper conduct.[/b]” – Mr Justice Fergus Flood

  • Pete Baker

    Dub

    “other than bed and breakfast.”?

    Mr Justice Flood is being somewhat disingenuous.

    From the original post – i.e. above

    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]

    And Mr Justice Flood is not currently assessing the evidence.

  • The Dubliner

    Assessing it currently or not, he is more qualified to offer an opinion on it than you are. Ergo, I accept his opinion before yours or that of other third-party observers.

    He also states that he is referring to the evidence “to date.”

  • Pete Baker

    Dub

    I don’t care whether you rate my opinion or not. I’ve pointed to evidence that contradicts the assertion you’ve made in relation to the quote provided.

    Although I suspect the quote relates solely to the Wall contribution.

    But if you’re content with Bertie appointing his friends to positions because they’re his friends rather than because they’ve contributed to the cause, even if they’ve done that too, then so be it.

  • Harry

    I see eye to eye with you Dubliner on many things and don’t want to engage in vitriol with your good self. However what the cash nature of the building industry has to do with large Forex lodgements going into and out of accounts which have a beneficial interest by a serving TD and Minister (but in someone else’s name) is beyond me. Not only did Ahern take money and he admits he took money, he did so repeatedly in large amounts for reasons that not only are ludicrously unconvincing but which change weekly if not daily depending on what new circumstances the stories are made to fit.

    If I had tried to explain myself in such a way in similar circumstances to the Revenue they would have had my balls for dinner years ago. Ahern however is apparently to be treated differently.

    How many stories do you want Ahern to be given credit for? The 45,000 dollars which he says he can disprove with 67 different calculations as opposed to the tribunals 25 but which, funnily enough himself and his counsel maguire point blank refuse to present the information on? Or his pre-election story that all would be cleared when he had a chance to appear before the tribunal but which, now that he’s appearing before the tribunal, becomes infintely more garbled and murky not less so? Or his claim that he bought 30,000 sterling to give back to Wall but records of which don’t exist in the bank but which he subsequently didn’t give back to the bank because Wall ‘had an accident’? Or his claim that an amount equating to 25,000 sterling was made up of 8000 sterling and 16,500 punts whereas bank records show only one not two amounts deposited which could equal that amount, meaning that, definitively, it was one sterling transaction and one only thus undoing completely Ahern’s story. Or his story that he deposited 28,000 sterling in his bank branch whereas records for that day show only 1900 in sterling was lodged in the bank? Or his story that a cheque for 5000 was given by a friend for personal use but was in fact in the name of NCB and was for FF election expenses?

    This man is the leader of my country. I don’t need to give him a criminal’s chance of evading conviction to determine what I think of his behaviour or to draw very reasonable conclusions. His actions and policies affect my life everyday, for I live in this country and am subject to his governance. His governance is corrupt and the idea that because we don’t have a signed confession from O’Callaghan saying ‘Dear All, you were right all along, Bertie & I are corrupt and I gave him loads of money just like you thought, signed Owen’ doesn’t mean I don’t have the right to take action through my words to defend myself from the effect of his self-evidently unconscionable and dangerous behaviour.

    Justice Flood made his intervention from a strictly legal perspective – meaning that without such a note from O’Callaghan it would be extremely difficuly, under law, to convict Ahern of corrupt behaviour. It is very difficult to prove a link between any particular gift of money and a specific instance of patronage. That is why a whistleblower is required in most instances to prove this – in this instance Gilmartin. That is why corrupt people deal in cash – to leave no paper trail. That is why they could only get Al Capone on tax evasion.

    Ahern is being tried in the court of public opinion; according to the balance of probability and the exercise of balanced judgement to be found in that court he is obviously guilty of inapproriate behaviour. He should stand down.

    Fianna Fáil has been a disaster for this country – from its overseeing of the practical death of the Irish language in spoken form to its anti-intellectualism, its protection in full knowledge of those carrying out massive and widespread abuse of children decade after decade to its catholic triumphalism, its recasting of the history of the state to diminish and exclude those narratives – such as the struggles of labour – which did not suit to to its use of emigration as a safety valve to avoid facing challenge were those hundreds of thousand sto remain in the country, and on to its abandonment of northern nationalists to today, where it has taken an unparalleled opportunity for progress and blown it on the least interesting, least sustainable and most exploitative form of economic expansion – all in all Fianna Fáil has been a disaster. A disaster that is in terms of what we are capable of and where we could be as a nation.

  • sammaguire

    So the bit about Bertie is just an extension of your anti FF rant (last paragraph)? There hasn’t been much emmigration over the past 20 years for some reason. Perhaps you might give FF a teeny weeny bit of credit?? No they’re all gangsters I suppose. The funny thing about it I feel I have quite alot in common with you politically apart from the obvious chip on your shoulder. Not that you’ll agree with me.