SEE HERE FOR GRAINNE CARRUTH’S EVIDENCE, MARCH 2008
Since the mention of the biography of Bertie Ahern, “Bertie Ahern: Taoiseach and Peacemaker” by Ken Whelan and Eugene Masterson came to light in recent weeks, myself and Gavin thought it might be worthwhile having a closer look at what was said in the book regarding the purchase of Bertie’s constituency office in Drumcondra and subsequently his house in Beresford.
The authors are critical of Fine Gael and the tabloid press because of the ‘nudge, nudge’ stories they regularly put out about the purchase and ownership of St. Lukes. Here are some of the details as outlined in the book. See what you think, is there a ‘nudge nudge’ factor, are there similarities between the two purchases?
The St. Lukes deal:
To finance the purchase, they [Kett and Kiely] brought together 25 local well-to-do supporters who pledged £1,000 each, with further contributions over a five year period. This was sufficient to put together a mortgage for the house with the repayments paid through the constituency organisation’s own bank.
The purchase price in the mid-80’s was £57,000. The house was assigned to a group of five trustees – again, not party activists – who for legal purposes vested the property in the Dublin Central Fianna Fail organisation. The senior TD was Bertie Ahern and St Luke’s effectively became his headquarters.
When the purchase of St Luke’s was closed it became obvious to all and sundry that the house needed serious refurbishment as there was a foundation crack in the structure. This was costed at a further £50,000 and, when approved by the trustees, the work took over a year and half to complete.
Some of the original contributors dropped out over the following few years or simply made occasional donations to the mortgage on St Luke’s. This shortfall on the purchase and redevelopment of St Luke’s combined with the salaries of the full-time constituency workers there together with sundry expenses, were causing serious headaches and making huge inroads into Ahern’s private time, until Des Richardson arrived and restructured the fund-raising requirements of Dublin Central through his annual Royal Hospital Dinner.
Summary: In effect, St. Lukes was Bertie’s home. It was apparently bought and paid for by Bertie’s friends and/or colleagues. After the property was purchased it was noticed that major refurbishment was required. (Presumably, this was before people employed an engineer to check out properties in advance of committing huge sums.).
The purchase price was £57,000 (£25,000 of which was paid up front by 25 donors) and the refurbishment cost £50,000. These figures need to be repeated – £57,000 to buy, £50,000 to refurbish, in the mid 80s?? Was the entire house reconstructed?
The Beresford deal:
He rarely stays at St Luke’s these days. He moved out to his new home two years ago… It’s about half a mile up the road in an exclusive estate off Griffith Avenue called Beresford. Again, keeping with the patterns of his life, the house is built on grounds once owned by the parish.
It cost him £139,000 to buy and is today valued at over £200,000 in the highly inflated current property market in the capital – friends say it’s the only time he has come out on the right side of the balance sheet. His personal mortgage on the property is over £100,000.
Summary: Beresford was originally bought by Michael Wall, a friend of Bertie’s, for £138,000 and sold to Bertie for £139,000. Seven months before Wall bought the house; it was found that the four year old property required an £80,000 refurbishment.
£50,000 of this was to come from Bertie’s own funds made up of £22,000 ‘dig out’ money and £28,000 he apparently saved over a number of months.
£30,000stg was also handed over, in cash, in a briefcase, to Bertie by Michael Wall and was subsequently lodged by Celia Larkin in her personal bank account. This was, we are told for the purpose of refurbishing a 4 year old house.
Massive amounts of cash, astonishingly generous friends, amazing and ‘unforeseen’ refurbishment costs? C’mon, be reasonable, where’s the ‘nudge nudge’ factor?
Update: It has been asked who the 25 supporters were. It appears the operation was run by Des Richardson. The office was/is staffed by Cyprian Brady, Grainne Carruth and Sandra Cullagh. Former Senator Tony Kett was involved, as was Daithi O Broinn. The book does not mention the names of the 25 people who donated the £1000 each.