“So there was no connection with the meeting of a month earlier?”

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was back in front of the Mahon tribunal this week. In the Irish Times Miriam Lord surveys yesterday’s appearance

Much of the evidence yesterday concerned his dealings with an American investment company called Chilton O’Connor, and a scheme to build a national stadium in Dublin. This appeared to be tied into O’Callaghan’s plan to build a shopping centre in Quarryvale. The late Liam Lawlor and Frank Dunlop were also involved. Ahern told the tribunal he met representatives of the company in late 1994. The tribunal produced ample documentary evidence that they had dealings more than a year earlier. They met in Los Angeles airport when Bertie was in America on St Patrick’s Day duty. He didn’t remember the meeting, which came to light from papers in Liam Lawlor’s files.

However, memory suitably jogged, he is certain that the meeting was very, very brief. Something to do with the IDA and bringing inward investment to Ireland. The documents say otherwise. They indicate quite an amount of contact between Ahern and the interested parties on the matter of government support – both Neilstown and the Phoenix Park racecourse were mentioned as venues. This came as news to Bertie, who declared – typically, nothing to do with the matter at hand – that the only stadium he supported was Croke Park. It’s a shining success now, but back then he was “hammered” for his foresight. Ever the victim, his support for Croker, he sniffed, “caused hell and high water, of course, by all the naysayers who now think it’s a brilliant idea”. To use the politically popular phrase, in Mahon, we are where we are. And at the moment, this seems to be nowhere. It will suit Bertie Ahern just fine for it to stay that way.

And in the absence of a money trail.. Adds Ahern bids goodbye to the tribunal.Today’s appearance seems to have been more eventful – with RTÉ reporting that Ahern’s senior counsel has accused the tribunal lawyers of pursuing an agenda against the former Taoiseach. The tribunal meanwhile has heard about the timing of a lodgement of £30,000 in cash.

Mr Ahern today accepted the evidence given earlier this year by Mr O’Callaghan that he, Mr Ahern, the then Minister for Finance, told O’Callaghan during a meeting in the Department of Finance on March 24th, 1994, that neither Blanchardstown nor O’Callaghan’s proposed development at Quarryvale, would be getting designation. Mr Ahern said he was merely telling Mr O’Callaghan what was well-known Government policy at the time.

Des O’Neill SC, for the tribunal, said Mr O’Callaghan had also said he had relayed this assurance back to colleagues at a subsequent meeting with his bankers. Similar evidence has been given by Mr Gilmartin, who has said Mr O’Callaghan told him after the meeting with the bankers that he paid Mr Ahern £30,000 in return for the assurance.

Mr O’Neill said that on April 25th, 1994, Mr Ahern lodged £30,000 in cash to a special savings account in AIB O’Connell Street, Dublin. Mr Ahern has said the lodgement was the first of a number of lodgements of cash he’d accumulated in his safe over a number of years. “So there was no connection with the meeting of a month earlier?” said Mr O’Neill. “Absolutely not,” said Mr Ahern.

That’ll be the winnings on the horses.. obviously..