There’s no accounting for Bertie Ahern..

Seriously. None whatsoever. I had suggested in September last year that “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..” Since then we’ve had more convoluted testimony from the Taoiseach, and contradictory statements. This week we’ve heard that while the then-Finance Minister was signing blank cheques for Charles Haughey, the now-Taoiseach’s main constituency treasurer, Dominic Dillane, presented an annual report to the AGM of the Comhairle Dáil Ceanntar for six years on the B/T account, a contingency fund for St Luke’s.. without checking that account himself. But perhaps the most incredible account, so far, was heard yesterday.The testimony reported in the Irish Times today [subs req]

Counsel for the tribunal Des O’Neill SC questioned Mr Collins about an account he opened in the Irish Permanent Building Society in July 1991. Mr O’Neill said the account had not been disclosed to the tribunal.

“I had forgotten completely about that facility,” Mr Collins said.

He said he opened the account when his architectural business, Pilgrim Associates Ltd, ran into cash flow problems.

Mr O’Neill said the first transaction on the account was for a withdrawal of over £400 and the document called the account D/T.

“D/T obviously means Des Richardson and Tim Collins,” Mr Collins said.

“So you take the first letter of the Christian name of each of the beneficial owners of the account and you apply that with the hyphen between the two,” Mr O’Neill said. “I have to ask you, Mr Collins, whether or not the B/T account is in fact the first name of the two account holders, Bertie Ahern and Tim Collins?”

“The B/T account, as I stated earlier on many hours ago here, is the building trust account,” Mr Collins responded.

But, as the RTÉ report noted

In answer to Des O’Neill SC for the tribunal, Mr Collins admitted that he and another St Luke’s trustee, Des Richardson, operated a joint Irish Permanent account.

Around 25% of the lodgement slips referred to it as the DT account, which Mr Collins admitted referred to Des and Tim.

However, he denied that the BT account referred to Bertie and Tim.

Mr Collins said BT stood for building trust, even though it was only officially changed to this name last January.

Finally, for now, from Miriam Lord in the Irish Times [subs again]

Bertie and the boys have done very well out of elections. In 1989, Fianna Fáil proper established an election bank account in the name of the constituency’s joint treasurer; a lady living in Phibsboro. It dealt in the usual dribs and drabs.

But there was another account Fianna Fáil North-Central account in the same bank. Its statements went to to Bertie Ahern and Joe Burke, “care of the AIB”. Documents relating to it never left the bank.

After the election, it had a healthy surplus of £17,000.

The B/T account was set up in the same year.

Twenty years ago, it built up the equivalent of €113,000 over six years. Not a ha’penny of it went towards the upkeep of St Luke’s. That is because there was a fourth account, in the name of Bertie’s tight little O’Donovan Rossa Cumann. Fifty grand went through that one in just six months, around the time St Luke’s was purchased.

That building has been nothing but trouble. As soon as it was bought, it started to sink. Work had to be done. The money is supposed to have come out of the cumann fund.

And so to the election in 1992. The official constituency bank account was administered by a grassroot from Glasnevin. After the election, it was €15,000 in the red. On the other hand, a St Luke’s election fund set up by Tim Collins finished the election a healthy £28,000 to the good.

Meanwhile, his B/T account was flying. Thirty thousand went into it from “golf classics”.

When Des O’Neill pointed out to Tim that the constituency didn’t hold its “inaugural” golf classic until five years later, he was nonplussed.

Another 30,000 was given to Celia Larkin, Bertie’s then life partner, to buy a house.

A “humanitarian” act, insisted Tim.

All the while, St Luke’s was sinking into the nearby Tolka. Tim was adamant the sinking fund would never be touched until Bertie was knocked down by a bus. Right enough, funerals can be expensive, but somebody might have told him that Bertie will be entitled to a State funeral when that unhappy day comes around.

Strangely enough, £4,000 and £3,000 were withdrawn from the sinking fund to pay for some pint-sinking functions in St Luke’s. For “neighbours” and “builders” and “official people.”

Tim’s assertion that this fund is sacrosanct came under further pressure when it emerged that £20,000 was withdrawn when the left side wall of St Luke’s began to sink.

The money was given to Joe Burke, “the builder”, in cash.

Tim Collins, who withdrew the money from the B/T account, didn’t hand it straight to Joe, who specialised in pub refurbishment.

He thinks he might have brought it to St Luke’s in an envelope and said to somebody: “Make sure Joe Burke gets that”. He never found out if he did. But he says Joe couldn’t do the job, and apparently the 20 grand was repaid into the account a few months later. Tim thinks he may have done this, but he can’t remember.

Nor can he remember that £20 was exchanged into parity rate punts in the same bank, at the exact same time, by the teller he dealt with.

Nobody in St Luke’s would have batted an eyelid when Tim arrived with his bulging envelope. This is the place where Michael Wall handed over 30,000 in cash to Bertie.

No wonder St Luke’s was sinking – it was the weight of all the cash.

The urgent repair was carried out a number of years later. They must have been wearing water wings in St Luke’s by then.

Was Tim Collins’ evidence credible? No. Bring in the TV cameras quick. People need to witness this farrago.

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  • slug

    I find it extraordinary that the political system in the Irish Republic has not required him to resign ages ago.

  • joeCanuck

    Reminds me of a comic book (?) from years ago – Ripping Yarns.

  • Greenflag

    ‘I find it extraordinary that the political system in the Irish Republic has not required him to resign ages ago. ‘

    Fair point . But not that extraordinary. The system was set up at a time when there was not a lot of money sloshing around in party political circles. I suspect Bertie has also benefited from the Republic’s voter’s preference for results to high sounding principles .
    Instinctively we know politics is a dirty business like making sausages or laws.

    It appears that in Northern Ireland there is no end of highly principled politicians who stand by their principles such ” No Surrender’ or Tiocfaidh ar La’ oblivious for several generations of the ‘results’ of such ‘principles’ ?

    On balance I think we’re better of with Bertie and his bumbling for now . That said it’s past time that FF gets it’s collection procedures up to a standard that doesn’t put accountants in the dock sounding like right eejits 🙂

  • Mark McGregor

    Pete,

    To me a major issue is how the minor partners in the coalition think it doesn’t amount to an issue. The Greens in particular have shown how power can corrupt so easily. He’d be out on his ear if Comhaontas Glas had an ounce of integrity and now the northern greens are inextricably linked to this 26 county shower of green gombeen men.

  • AntiChrist

    It’s all very simple.

    1. In order to get planning permission for a shopping centre, Owen O’Callaghan, a Cork developer, gave Bertie a lot of sterling.

    2. Bertie, and his gofers, put it in dribs and drabs into accounts he could get at in his own good time.

    3. Now Bertie has to account for the source of these funds so he ropes in whip-arounds, golf classics, and digouts to try and account for it.

    4. No-one with an IQ higher than that of a magnolia tree believes him

  • Pete Baker

    Mark

    I can’t emphasise enough how profoundly uninterested I am in how this plays in terms of any inter-party rivalry – including how the Greens react to what may be revealed by the tribunal.

    I’m much more interested in documenting, as accurately as possible, what is actually going on.

  • austin

    Take the blinkers off Pete-you’ve got to learn to see the bigger picture.

  • Pete Baker

    I do fine with the approach I take to blogging, austin, thanks all the same.

    Reaching for conclusions has little interest for me.

  • austin

    beware of complacency, Pete-Heed your own advuce to others.

  • Pete Baker

    austin

    Wrong.

    I don’t offer “advuce to others”.

    It’s just the approach I take. If I become complacent I’m sure it will be pointed out.

    And back to the topic..

  • Crataegus

    There’s no accounting for Bertie Ahern is a nice turn of phrase but equally as more of the detail becomes clear there is no accounting for those that refuse to accept their responsibility and end this farce. How can you possibly run a government with this dragging on in the background? Bertie needs to go and the various Parties need to ensure that that happens.

    What really surprises is the inept and amateurish nature of the set up. It is not that difficult to make money appear and disappear, all you need to do is set up a framework that will withstand close examination, a framework that is plausible, a framework that all adhere to. I will say no more than these people are both amateurish and lazy. It is their laziness and belief that they are in some way untouchable and above the law that is their undoing. Clever boys who in their arrogance prove to be not as clever as they think.

  • Greenflag

    ‘there is no accounting for those that refuse to accept their responsibility and end this farce.’

    And thus more than likely end their own political careers ?

    ‘It is not that difficult to make money appear and disappear, all you need to do is set up a framework that will withstand close examination, a framework that is plausible, a framework that all adhere to.’

    I don’t think Bertie had ever any real interest in religion or in setting up his own church .

    ‘What really surprises is the inept and amateurish nature of the set up. I will say no more than these people are both amateurish and lazy.’

    So you would prefer a fully qualified professional thief running the country ? As for ‘lazy’ you don’t know Bertie . Chap hasn’t had a minute since 1994 .

    ‘How can you possibly run a government with this dragging on in the background?’

    Did you ever see the British TV series ‘Yes Minister’ ? Ministers come -Ministers go -few ever make a real difference . Bertie has made a real difference . Which is why he’ll get to go in his own time . I’m not saying I approve -that’s just the way it is . Anyway the Greens know that 2012 is a few years away yet and now that they have got used to ‘power’ well you know how it is . Principles and politics ye see 🙂