AFTER YESTERDAY’S evidence, it is not inconceivable that the tribunal will fail to clear former taoiseach Bertie Ahern of the allegation that he received money from developer Owen O’Callaghan. It is already clear that the tribunal has reason to find that Ahern has failed to explain the large amounts of money lodged to his accounts in the 1993 to 1995 period.
But, as ever, Miriam Lord has the best lines.
So, it may be possible to believe that Bertie Ahern really believes he did nothing wrong, that he somehow believes he worked on the right side of an invisible moral line between private donations and public duty. He has already thrilled the tribunal with his take on the subject of donations for political/private use.
During his days of giving direct evidence, when he came out with truly risible excuses to explain how large amounts of money, much of it in foreign currency, came to rest in his many accounts, did Bertie honestly expect sensible people to take him seriously? Maybe he did, for he insists he adhered to the rules of good government.
Owen O’Callaghan was told a rival firm would not be getting tax designation. Good news for Owen. Yesterday, Bertie said that was because it was policy. (Whether or not he told Owen this we don’t know.) And sure if a few rich businesspeople thought they were on to a good thing because he gave them his ear – but nothing much else, it transpires – then nobody was hurt. Bertie did nothing wrong and he was in a financially strapped position at the time.
Sure wasn’t everyone at it? It remains to be seen whether the tribunal judges adopt a similarly morally ambivalent approach when it comes to writing their report. In the meantime, Bertie will nurse his hurt and hope the public comes around to his way of thinking come the next presidential election.