With the absence of a paper-trail broadly established, former Taoiseach [and former Finance Minister – Ed] Bertie Ahern is back in front of the Mahon Tribunal this week and, while we’ve yet to hear today’s version, he has already been re-imagining his accounting.. again. At Irish Election, John Carroll has found an interesting reference in relation to that story. I simply can’t do the latest testimony justice.. but I know someone who can. Miriam Lord’s tribunal sketch in the Irish Times today is worth the subscription alone.
Just when it seemed impossible that the story of Bertie Ahern’s money couldn’t get any more ridiculous, he surpassed himself with a series of outlandish explanations about the source of his sterling cash reserves. By the end of the day even he began to sound slightly embarrassed by the twaddle he was peddling to the Mahon tribunal. The public gallery found it hilarious. And it was.
A thoroughly enjoyable gallop through the fertile fields of thinking, as seen through the fearful eye of a cornered statesman. At least we now know from what side of the family Bertie’s novelist daughter draws her talent. It took a long time to get to this point, but there was an inevitability to it. When certain people find it difficult to explain to certain authorities how they came by their money – lack of documentary evidence, lack of witnesses, lack of memory, lack of credibility and such-like – there remains an age-old fall-back position. “Where did you get your loot?” “Won it on a horse, Guv.” Yesterday, on Day 868 in Dublin Castle, Bertie finally fell back on De horse, eh, de fence. We saw it coming and laughed. But in reality it was bloody sad.
Miriam Lord continues [it’s too good not to include the rest of the article].
The former Taoiseach was finding it difficult to explain amounts of sterling money that found their way into his building society account in 1994, particularly as he was adamant that sterling never went into it. He was adamant right up to the time the building society discovered records it didn’t know existed.
Bertie insisted he had not tried to mislead the tribunal. Hadn’t he given them full clearance to go through his records?
He had, but he did it after his amigo Tim Collins had contacted the building society to ascertain the precise nature of the documentation it had relating to an account he held jointly with Bertie. The institution informed him that their records only went back seven years. Search away, Bertie told the tribunal. They’d find no sterling.
Then a more detailed investigation took place, and they discovered they had documents going back much further. Drat. And after the then taoiseach’s secretary, who lodged the sterling sums for him, had been in the witness box swearing that she lodged punts. Just as he had also sworn in evidence.
The secretary, Grainne Carruth, was then recalled in the light of the new information, where she continued to insist she lodged punts. In the end, she had to concede it was sterling and was reduced to tears.
Bertie was aware, 11 days before her appearance, that it was sterling. He never told her and left her to her fate. Grainne’s ordeal caused public disquiet and anger within Fianna Fáil. It has been said subsequently that her evidence, and her reaction to it, precipitated his resignation.
RTÉ’s Bryan Dobson asked him in an interview if this was the case, and why didn’t he tell Ms Carruth that the money was sterling.
Bertie, ever the victim, went on the attack. It was “unfair” and “unnecessary” what happened to Ms Carruth. “If they’d bothered to ask or tell me the information, I would have done that, but that’s neither here nor there.”
But, of course, it was. Des O’Neill threw his words back at him yesterday. Why did he say what he said to Dobbo when “it can’t be true”.
Deathly Des didn’t accuse the witness of lying. But the incontrovertible fact is that Bertie told a bare-faced lie to Dobson and the public on the Six One news.
“I feel sore about this,” complained Bertie, shamelessly.
Not half as sore as Ms Carruth did when he dropped her in it.
No. Bertie couldn’t get a message out to Grainne in 11 days because he was too busy. He added that he didn’t have a big staff to do things for him like they do in the tribunal.Who did they think he was? Taoiseach?
He had had a Cabinet meeting and a full week in the Dáil with “Questions and Answers” to think about.
He also had two days at the Council of Europe that week, where he had to “front for Ireland”. No shortage of front where Bertie is concerned.
And then there was a trip to America, where he made a big speech, and he was expected to think of tribunal matters too?
“I never started this. I didn’t put up Mr Robson’s (sic) interview.”
It’s all the tribunal’s fault.
Bertie didn’t explain the lie but he explained the sterling. You see, in 1993 he was thinking of buying an apartment in Salford for investment purposes. So he went to his multi-millionaire pal in Manchester, Tim Kilroe, on about six occasions and asked him to change small amounts of punts into sterling for him.
Bertie was Ireland’s minister for finance at the time. He took the sterling home and put it in his safe, saving for the deposit for the flat. He could, one supposes, have saved his punts at home and converted them when he needed to pay the deposit. But he didn’t.
In the end, a familiar story, he abandoned the idea. He lodged the money and blanked it from his memory.
Oh, and he also won sterling on the horses. No surprise there from noted student of the turf, Bertie. He kept that talent a secret.
He also always kept “a float” in sterling for holidays in England and Scotland. A little-known fact.
The former taoiseach had one flash of memory yesterday. He said he won £8,000 on a horse in 1996. That’s a new amount of money, and a new excuse.
Sadly, his Manchester foreign exchange man Tim Kilroe is dead. So too, one suspects, is the horse.
So it has come to this. Bertie Ahern is reduced to flogging a dead horse.
His evidence is a joke.
What does that make Bertie?