Returning to Fianna Fáil, Bertie Ahern must answer the five key questions to restore his credibility as a public figure

HERE are the five key questions Bertie Ahern must answer if he wants to take his political engagement beyond just being an ordinary Cumann’s membership of Fianna Fáil.

The three-time election winner dramatically resigned as Taoiseach in 2008, directly as a result of pressure on the credibility of his evidence before the Mahon tribunal, a follow-up to Judge Feargus Flood’s original inquiry into planning and payment irregularities.

As the tribunal moved on, news of payments into Mr. Ahern’s personal bank and building society accounts broke. There were gigantic cash deposits over a two-year period – but the tribunal was limited to a two-year investigative window.

It turns out that one of Mr. Ahern’s excuses for his huge piles of cash was that he didn’t have space to house them before. Bertie Ahern didn’t have a bank account when he was Treasury Secretary.

In turn, this extraordinary state of affairs was apparently related to Mr. Ahern’s separation from his wife Miriam. He gave Bryan Dobson a tearful television interview that drew widespread public attention — and played for sympathy at the emotionally deepest time of his life.

But it still didn’t explain the deposits, some of which were later revealed to be sterling amounts, not the euro cash he allegedly received from friends during “digs”. And there was also a large deposit that effectively amounted to tens of thousands of dollars by the exact exchange rate used in its industry that day.

And so to the questions he has to answer if he wants to be credible as a public figure in a political restart. Surely if Mr. Ahern hopes to become a presidential candidate, these questions will never go away.


Bertie Ahern and Celia Larkin

1. Why did you claim to have “won it on the horses” when the Mahon tribunal’s evidence finally became too much?

Mr Ahern abruptly changed his stance and explanations just before the end of his hearing at Dublin Castle, stating that some accommodations had been won by betting on horses

2. Were there really any excavations?

Mr Ahern said some placements were because he received amounts of cash when his friends decided to hold whistle rounds in at least two pubs after learning of his marital woes.

Eight names were publicly offered by Mr Ahern on television but problems arose for him when one of those named, Paraic O’Connor of National City Brokers (NCB), denied being a friend.

When this was presented to the Taoiseach on a tour of Dublin, he was silent for at least seven seconds, apparently struggling with the answer to reply.

3. Did you take money from a developer?

It’s important to remember that the tribunal didn’t just go fishing. Information was first received from developer Tom Gilmartin that Cork-based developer Owen O’Callaghan told him sometime in 1992 that he had paid Mr Ahern a total of IR£80,000 when he was Government Secretary.

It has been claimed that IR£50,000 was paid in 1989 when Mr Ahern was Employment Secretary and IR£30,000 later when he was Finance Minister.

4. Do you still claim that deposits were made in sterling on behalf of your landlord?

The story became even more complex when Mr Ahern attempted to present the pound amounts visible in the bank window as funds being brought over from Manchester by a man named Micheál Wall, Mr Ahern’s landlord. It was “his money for his house” and intended for the refurbishment of the house on Griffith Avenue in Dublin to make it habitable for a Cabinet minister.

Mr Wall ran a coaching shop in Manchester and attended Man United games at Old Trafford with Mr Ahern. He apparently brought bags of cash with him whenever he visited Ireland – although it was unclear why he had to deposit the money on behalf of his tenant.

At one point it was suggested that Mr Ahern’s girlfriend, beauty consultant Celia Larkin, would play a role in the renovation of the home.

5. Where did all the dollars come from?

The tribunal’s findings were devastating regarding a confusing array of payments on bank and building society accounts. It found that Mr. Ahern “has not truthfully stated the origin of certain cash deposits in accounts held in his name, the name of his daughters who were minors at the time, and in the name of Ms. Larkin.”

But the dollar deposit was particularly tricky — Mr. Ahern didn’t seem to have friends or landlords that far away. The December 1994 amount “originated at $45,000,” the court found — despite its denial of a currency conversion. The circumstances “by which Mr. Ahern came into possession of this dollar sum remain unclear.”

Overall, Mr Ahern failed to explain the true source of more than IR£165,000 old Irish pounds, or more than €200,000 at the time. And the tribunal only looked through a strictly temporary window into its financial affairs. If he has defiantly failed to explain those sums to an investigation launched by the very Oireachtas in which he served, how can the citizens the Oireachtas represent trust him in the future? Or does he really think he can win a run for Áras an Uachtaráin? Returning to Fianna Fáil, Bertie Ahern must answer the five key questions to restore his credibility as a public figure

Fry Electronics Team

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