Facing the most appalling reality

In my previous post concerning the conflict between the Mahon Tribunal and the Irish Times I mentioned the tendency in Ireland to fudge difficult situations in order to avoid facing uncomfortable realities.

This is a crucial factor in a dysfunctional democracy like Ireland. Our entire way of doing things is finely balanced on the pretence that we are just like any other accountable Western democracy.

Within hours an expert media lawyer was providing just such fudge on the RTE Six One News (2nd item).

Michael Keeley, after first explaining how European law was way ahead of Irish law in allowing journalists freedom of expression, suggested that perhaps there was some ‘wriggle room’ to resolve what he described as this major constitutional crisis.

He suggested that if the journalists gave an assurance that the leak didn’t originate from the Mahon Tribunal then perhaps a compromise could be reached.

If this or any other fudge is utilised and accepted then the High Court, the tribunal, the journalists, the Government and Irish society in general can all pretend that the law wasn’t really broken and happily return to the fiction that we live in a real democracy.

In a real democracy the High Court would insist on the law being respected in its entirety, the tribunal would insist that the source of the leak be revealed and the journalists would be thrown in jail if they persisted in standing by their principles.

This would force the Government to deal with the reality of the situation by bringing Irish law into line with European law where journalists are given extra protection to protect their sources thus making them more effective in exposing corruption.

But then again, if journalists were allowed to be more effective in exposing corruption, Irish society would be in danger of having to face the most appalling reality of all – that Ireland is a corrupt state.

Journalistic principles v The law

The High Court has ordered the editor of The Irish Times, Geraldine Kennedy and its Public Affairs Correspondent, Colm Keena, to comply with the Mahon Tribunal.

In September 2006 The Irish Times published an article giving details of Mahon Tribunal investigations being made into payments made to Bertie Ahern in 1993.

The tribunal summonsed journalist Colm Keena and Editor Geraldine Kennedy before it and asked them questions about the source of the information they printed.

Their refusal to answer led the tribunal to seek High Court orders compelling them to do so.

The critical aspect of this case seems to be the deliberate destruction of documents that would have identified the source of the leak after the journalists had received a summons to produce them to the tribunal.

It’s likely that if they had destroyed the documents before being ordered to produce them the traditional Irish fudge could have been ultilised in order to avoid facing the reality of the situation.

As it was not even an Irish court could accept such a challenge to the law. The court said:

“The deliberate decision taken by the journalists to destroy the documents at issue in the case after they had received a summons to produce them to the tribunal was an astounding and flagrant disregard for the rule of law.

“In doing this the defendants had cast themselves as the adjudicators of the proper balance to be struck between the rights and interests of all concerned, a role reserved by the Constitution and the law exclusively for the courts and it said that such a manner of proceeding is anathema to the rule of law and an affront to democratic order and if tolerated is the surest way to anarchy.”

According to an RTE report ( 2nd item); “the decision to destroy the documents was a relevant consideration in deciding what weight should be give to the arguments on both sides.”

Clearly, Geraldine Kennedy and Colm Keena passionately believe that the uncovering of corruption is sometimes more important than obeying the law. Kennedy said;

“We had an important story which we wanted to publish in the public interest. We exist as journalists to serve the people’s right to know.”

They may now have to serve time in jail to preserve their high journalistic principles.

A little light relief

Sometimes, the sheer level of corruption is this country can be a bit depressing. So, to provide a little light relief here’s a brilliant fairy tale as related by journalist Sam Smyth on the Marian Fincuane Show (15th September). My comments are in brackets.

In the early 1990s Bertie Ahern was going through a horrendous marriage breakup. He was cashing his cheques in the local pub and making maintenance payments and all the rest. He was sleeping on a camp bed above the office in Drumcondra. His wife’s family, his own family, even his own mother was deeply angry at him.

(What did Bertie do to generate all this anger?)

(Things were really looking bad for one of the best paid men in the country. Ahern, as Finance Minister, was earning about £80,000 per annum. Banks and building societies would have trampled over each other to give him any amount he wanted. Any citizen on his wage at that time could easily have afforded a substantial mortgage/property).

Smyth goes on:

Then Albert Reynolds got into trouble and it looked like his government was going to collapse. (It looked like our hero Bertie was about to become Taoiseach)

Bertie’s friends were saying, You have to have a house Bertie, you can’t be Taoiseach with no fixed address and so because it’s so easy for a Minister for Finance to raise funds by hosting (awful) dinners, every accountant and business in the country will gladly pay two, three, four grand for a table. I think this is how a lot of money was raised, probably in the name of Bertie’s O’Donovan Rossa Cumainn.

(Cleary, Sam Smyth is a citizen/journalist who sees nothing wrong with a serving Minister for Finance prostituting his office to raise funds for his local Cumainn or even to raise a couple of bob for himself)

(Marian Fincuane asked, isn’t that money supposed to go to the party? Smyth conceded that it probably was but immediately slipped into Fianna Fail speak and justified the possibility that Bertie might be stealing party funds by citing all the great things he (Bertie) had done for Drumcondra – Remember, in fairy tales all explanations are acceptable).

Anyway, Sam continues:

Bertie’s friends said ‘how can we buy this house, there’s the whole marriage thing, this could really open up things again in the family courts, people will ask, where did Bertie get the money to buy that and all the rest, these things happen in family law cases.’

So, it may well have been decided that he needed somebody to buy the house in trust. Therefore, his name is not on the deeds which would suggest that if you buy a house in trust for somebody you also have to leave it to them in the will in case you die and it goes on to your next of kin, so that’s what I think happened there.

Sometime later, relations with Miriam, (Bertie’s ex wife) and his own family warmed. He got a mortgage and took over the house.

(Ahhh, a truly happy ending to a great story but wait what does this say about the character of our hero Bertie? If Smyth’s theory is true then the much praised/compassionate/tearful Bertie is nothing more than a scheming chancer who wanted to do his ex wife out of her just desserts.

In other words, Bertie is actually a baddie. Anyway, nobody would ever have known this if the big bad wolf, in the guise of Tom Gilmartin, hadn’t appeared on the scene).

(Here Smyth, in an angry and outraged tone, described the outrageous allegations made by the evil Gilmartin against poor Bertie. And while Sam clearly doesn’t believe a word of what Gilmartin says he does concede that the allegations led (the Tribunal) onto the trail).

Somebody then came up with a ‘dog ate my homework’ excuse. They had to explain the difference between gifts and loans; there were tax implications.

The problem now is that poor Bertie cannot give the ‘simple’ story. He’s more likely to be done at the end of the day for the cover up than he ever would be for the money.

So, according to Smyth, Bertie’s story is simple. When he was holding down one of the most powerful and best paid jobs in the country he was unable to deal with the financial implications of a marriage breakdown in the same way that countless thousands of ‘ordinary’ citizens have done.

Instead of being honest with his wife and children he conspired with friends to weave a web of lies and deceit in order to keep as much money as possible for himself.

Part of this conspiracy included the prostitution of the office of Minister for Finance and the diversion of money properly belonging to Fianna Fail into Bertie’s own account. (I’m getting Haughey flashbacks here).

Tune in next week to hear another amazing story from a guy called Occam who alleges that Bertie actually took bribes. With razor sharp logic he claims that;

“All things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the right one,”

SIPO: Powerless and ineffective

Today, I finally received a decision from the Standards in Public Office Commission regarding my complaint about Bertie Ahern.

Dear Mr. Sheridan,

I refer to your email of 10th of October 2006 to the Standards in Public Office Commission (Standards Commission) concerning a complaint about An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern.

Having considered your complaint, along with observations on the matter which it received from Mr. Ahern, the Standards Commission has decided that there is no basis on which to initiate an investigation under the Ethics in Public Office Acts 1995 and 2001.

The Standards Commission may examine the matter again if additional evidence emerges from the Tribunal of Inquiry into Certain Planning Matters and Payments.

Yours sincerely

Not for a moment did I think the decision would be otherwise. Neither does it surprise me that it took a year (short of three weeks) to process what should be a simple matter

As I wrote before concerning a complaint about another dodgy politician, Pat the Cope Gallagher;

Part of the reason for making these complaints is to challenge government agencies, to expose the fact that they are practically powerless (no accident) and the little power they do have is almost never used – Deliberate policy?


I’ve been away for a few days and a lot has happened since.

On Saturday View, Justice Minister, Brian Lenihan was doing what he (and his father before him) does best – defending the indefensible. We had the usual pathetic excuses regarding Ahern’s unbelievable financial shenanigans.

It’s the media’s fault; it’s the tribunal’s fault; it was a vulnerable and traumatic time for poor Bertie, blah, blah, blah.

When a caller described the whole thing as media frenzy, Lenihan got a little carried away.


“There’s an awful lot of people turning off their radio sets this week, I met an incredible number and they weren’t all Fianna Fail supporters.”

Dave O’Connell (Presenter, in surprise):

“Turning off their radios?”


“They’re not interested.”


“Isn’t that a terrible indictment when you have the leader of a country being questioned and the public are not interested as to whether he did or didn’t get money?”


Sir Anthony rescued

What a difference a little three letter word can make.

When the Mahon Tribunal was required to state in writing what matters would go to public hearings. Instead of saying “We are going to investigate”… (the infamous Fitzwilton £30,000 payment to the corrupt Ray Burke), those silly, very well paid legal people slipped up and said “We may…”

The Supreme Court zoomed in on this tiny word and zapped any further investigation.

You could say that these good members of the legal fraternity rode in like knights in shinning armour to rescue Sir Anthony from any potential embarrassment.

Ahern's statement on FF website, May 13, 2007

Statement by An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern

Statement by Bertie Ahern at 13:45 13/05/2007

A – Background

Over the past number of months I have been the subject of intense public scrutiny and intrusion into my personal, financial and family circumstances.

For a number of years I have engaged in private correspondence with the Mahon Tribunal during the course of which I have handed over a large volume of material covering details of my personal finances over twenty years. The selective leaking of some of this information has given rise to the current controversy.

As is generally known, the reason the Tribunal is engaging in that wide-ranging investigation is that allegations were made against me by Mr Tom Gilmartin that I had accepted money from property developer Owen O’Callaghan in return for doing favours for him.

I have made it clear, and have shown, that I never received money from any person or company for any improper purpose.

As a consequence of my assisting the Tribunal by giving it documentation, the Tribunal has come back to me at various points and asked me to explain particular transactions in my bank accounts. I provided those explanations. Details of these transactions came into the public domain because of unlawful and malicious leaks last September. I explained those transactions to the public. I detailed at that time all the gifts and loans which I had received for my own use in the period following the conclusion of my judicial separation.

B – Mr Gilmartin’s allegations are false

The two allegations made by Tom Gilmartin are false and malicious. These allegations are that I received £50,000 in 1989 and £30,000 in 1992 or later from Mr Owen O’Callaghan. It is these allegations (not my financial affairs) which are being investigated by the Mahon Tribunal. A brief examination of Mr Gilmartin’s allegations will demonstrate that they simply do not stand up.

After almost nine years of investigations there is no evidence of me receiving any money from Mr. O’Callaghan and there is no evidence of me doing any favour for Mr. O’Callaghan. The allegations made by Mr. Gilmartin are hearsay. He has no personal knowledge of any facts which could support such an allegation. I simply did not receive any money from Mr O’Callaghan nor did I do any favours for him.

The allegations are baseless. They are not credible. They are borne out of spite and malice. To demonstrate this to the public, I will now refer to the history and changing nature of these allegations. Before so doing I want to note that between February 1998 and December 2002 Mr Gilmartin had 58 separate communications with the Mahon Tribunal. The timing of the making of the two allegations against me is of some importance, as is the changing content of the allegations.

(i) The £30,000 allegation

· Mr Gilmartin first referred to me receiving money from Mr O’Callaghan in his sixth communication with the Tribunal, in May 1998, but didn’t mention the sum allegedly paid until his 16th communication, in October 1998, 5 months after first raising the issue.

· This 16th communication in October 1998 contained the allegation that I received £30,000 from Mr. O’Callaghan in return for blocking tax designation which had been applied for by one of Mr O’Callaghan’s rivals.

· Mr Gilmartin’s allegation followed questions which he had been asked about the destination of a £30,000 transaction in the accounts of a company, Barkhill, in which Mr Gilmartin and Mr O’Callaghan were involved. The transaction was in June 1992. Mr Gilmartin’s allegation conveniently explained an otherwise odd transaction.

(ii) The £50,000 allegation

· It was not until communication no. 34 in November 1999 that Mr Gilmartin first alleged that I got an additional £50,000 from Mr O’Callaghan in 1989. Mr Gilmartin said that he had been told this by an unnamed former business partner of Mr O’Callaghan.

· In communication no. 41 in May 2001 Mr Gilmartin changed this allegation. He now said: “I also recall [Mr O’Callaghan] telling me … that he had given £50,000 to Bertie Ahern in 1989”.

· In communication no. 43 in September 2002 Mr Gilmartin alleged that I received a large sum of cash from Mr O’Callaghan after a football match in 1990.

· This changing and unreliable story is essentially the same as the story which was written by Mr Frank Connolly in 2000 and which was proved to be a lie in the Circuit Court.

The £50,000 payment was allegedly made in 1989 – 5/6 years before the transactions now under inquiry. The £30,000 payment was first alleged to have been made in 1992 – 2 to 3 years before the payments in my accounts now being looked at by the Mahon Tribunal. I received no such money at any time.

It is as a result of these allegations that I am now the subject of inquiry by the Mahon Tribunal.

C – My Finances

The general context of my family, matrimonial and financial affairs needs to be set out. It demonstrates conclusively that I took no bribe, engaged in no corrupt act and never breached the public trust. The following facts merit particular comment.

(i) I have been in political life for 30 years and I have held Government office for 18 of those years. The only transactions being examined by the Mahon Tribunal cover a period of 24 months immediately following the resolution of my matrimonial difficulties and during a period of great flux in my life. The timing of these transactions needs to be seen in that context.

(ii) There is no pattern over many years or decades in high office of unexplained financial transactions.

(iii) My lifestyle is as simple as it is honest. There was and is no vast wealth and no high lifestyle.

D – Leaks and questions about my house

The public is already aware of the leaks which occurred last September and I explained the transactions in question last October.

More malicious leaks have occurred in recent weeks. There is no doubt in my mind that the motivation behind these leaks is political. This information has been published in an effort to discredit me and to damage Fianna Fáil. Its purpose is to suggest that I misled the public and that I am untrustworthy. I have great confidence in the good sense of the Irish people who will see the leaks (based as they are on incomplete and misstated facts) for what they are – an act of public deception.

That these various leaks are politically inspired is clear from their timing:

(a) The first leaks in September 2006 occurred shortly before the return of the Dáil after the summer recess and was intended to set the agenda for the Dáil.

(b) Near the end of the last Dáil session the fact that a complaint had – several months previously – been made about me to the Standards in Public Office Commission was leaked. The leak was clearly designed to set the agenda in the run up to the election.

(c) On Sunday 14th April 2007 a story appeared in some newspapers concerning a Garda driver who had made an allegation seven years ago that I had supposedly brought a briefcase full of cash to Manchester. The timing of that leak could only have been designed to set the election agenda.

The recent leaks – based on incomplete data from the Tribunal – are consistent with an agenda to damage me and the Fianna Fáil party.

I will now address the particular question which has arisen relating to the renting and purchase of my house.

I am conscious of the fact that the Mahon Tribunal is continuing its work. I am also concerned that the privacy to which certain third parties are entitled has been violated by these unlawful leaks and the resultant media frenzy. I do not want to add to the discomfort suffered by those third parties. However I will try to lay out the full account of these matters as best I can in the circumstances.

E – Ownership of Beresford

I will take some time to explain – in detail – the ownership of the house at Beresford during the time when I rented the property.

The period we are talking about was a time of enormous change in my own life. I went from being Minister for Finance, to leader of Fianna Fáil who expected to be Taoiseach, to leader of the opposition, to Taoiseach. My plans and circumstances were constantly changing, and that is why the details may be complex.

Let me start by making it clear that Mr Wall owned the house, paid for its acquisition and later sold it to me at market value.

The main points in relation to the ownership of my house can be summarised as follows:

Michael Wall’s Purchase

1. Mr Wall paid the deposit of £13,800 sterling on the house from his own bank account.

2. The stamp duty on the house was paid for out of Mr Wall’s own funds.

3. Mr Wall borrowed £96,600 from the ICS Building Society which, combined with about £27,000 from his own bank account, comprised the remainder of the purchase price. The money from the ICS Building Society came by way of a normal mortgage, which he paid off by way of monthly installments from his bank account.

4. Mr Wall and I agreed that I would have an option to purchase the house. I intended to exercise this option when my political future was clear and secure. This occurred later, when I was elected Taoiseach.

Refurbishment and Renovation

5. It was decided to carry out refurbishment and other work and it was agreed that each of us would contribute to the cost of this work.

6. My former partner Ms Larkin agreed to administer this work, as I was very busy and Mr Wall lived in England. About £50,000 was spent on this work.

7. Mr Wall provided about £28,700 for refurbishment and related expenses and to cover the stamp duty on his purchase. I will explain in a moment why he paid this in cash. He was spending his own money on his own house, administered on his behalf by Ms Larkin. I provided about £30,000 towards the work on the house.


8. In 1994 I agreed to rent the house from Mr Michael Wall which he was intending to buy for occasional use on his visits to Dublin and because of the fact that he was considering setting up a business in Ireland. It was agreed he would use it as a place to stay on his visits to Dublin.

9. I rented the house for two years, from 1995 to 1997, over which period I paid market rent on the house.

10. Mr Wall paid tax to the revenue authorities in the UK on the rent he received from me.

11. My tenancy was properly registered with the local authority within weeks of the coming into effect of the Housing (Regulation of Rented Houses) Regulations 1996, which occurred in May of that year.

12. Mr Wall stayed in the house 10-20 times during the period while I was renting it from him and after I bought it from him.

My Purchase

13. In 1997 I bought the house at a price based on a professional market valuation. I paid £180,000. I paid the deposit of £30,000 on the house out of my building society savings and took out a mortgage for the remainder of the price, by way of a loan of £150,000 from the Irish Permanent Building Society. I paid stamp duty out of my current account.

F – History of my dealings with regard to the house at Beresford

I hope you will bear with me as I give you a detailed account of these matters.

(i) Mid to late 1994

As everyone is now aware, my marital separation proceedings concluded in December 1993. During 1994 I decided that I would rent a house of my own. I had been in unsettled circumstances for some time, and I wanted to settle things down. In this period I was living in a flat at the Fianna Fáil constituency office in St Luke’s, Drumcondra Road, Dublin 7.

At about the same time, Mr. Michael Wall a friend of mine from my visits to Manchester, was planning to buy a house in Dublin. I had known Mr Wall for some years. He had a large coach business in Manchester with a fleet of 40 or so buses. He also owned a pub and some other property in Ireland. Mr. Wall and I were both friends of the solicitor, Mr Gerry Brennan.

Mr Wall made frequent visits to Dublin and was planning to increase the frequency of those visits, because he was thinking of opening a coach business in this city. He came to the conclusion that he was better off owning a house here, rather than staying in hotels on every visit. Therefore he was interested in buying a house.

I was looking to rent a place. He was looking to buy a place that he could occasionally stay in. A mutually convenient arrangement was agreed whereby I could rent a house from him and he could stay with me whenever he wanted. I was very busy at the time, as I was Minister for Finance, so I asked my then partner, Celia Larkin, to make the necessary arrangements with Mr Wall on relation to this matter.

(ii) November/December 1994

In November 1994, I was elected leader of Fianna Fáil following the resignation of Albert Reynolds. It seemed for a few days that I would be elected Taoiseach and the Fianna Fáil / Labour government would continue.

I wanted a house urgently at this time, because during the 1992 Fianna Fáil leadership campaign, remarks had been made about the fact that I did not have a permanent residence. In 1994, I was determined that similar issues would not arise. I thus wanted to speed up my move into a permanent residence.

I therefore moved to rent the house and I made an arrangement with Mr Wall that I would have an option to buy it at a later stage.

The house which Mr Wall had selected had been seen by Ms Larkin, and it appeared that, although it was quite a new house, an amount of work should be done to it. This included the construction of a conservatory, the installation of new bathroom fittings, an attic conversion and the purchase of new furnishings, such as carpets, curtains, beds and so on.

As it was Mr Wall’s house, Mr Wall said that he would, broadly speaking, pay for the structural work and fittings and I would pay for matters such as the furnishings.

Because of the changing nature of the political situation, I did not have much time to deal with this issue. Mr Wall put down a booking deposit on the house at the start of December. Then several days later, he was visiting Dublin in order to attend a constituency function on the first weekend in December, so we met at that time.

This meeting between myself, Mr Wall and Ms Larkin took place on Saturday 3rd December 1994 in my constituency office. He gave me the money towards the refurbishment and related expenses and the stamp duty. The money came to about £28,700, mostly in sterling though there may have been some Irish pounds as well. At that time, the amount was approximate, as we did not make exact calculations about what everything would cost.

As I understand it, the reason why Mr Wall brought this money in cash was that this was more convenient for him. He had a large business which operated in cash. I had not asked him to bring the money in any particular form.

The arrangements for his purchase and the letting of the house were being made shortly after I was elected leader of Fianna Fáil and at a time when I thought I was about to be elected Taoiseach.

That £28,700 or so was also to be used to pay the stamp duty which Mr Wall would have to pay when the purchase of the house was finalized. It was convenient for Mr Wall to give money covering a combination of the structural work and stamp duty at the same time, as we expected the sale to move quickly at that stage. As I will go on to explain, Ms Larkin did, in due course, pass on the money for the stamp duty, to the Revenue. The stamp duty was paid after the sale of the house.

For a day or two, I held the money in the safe in my office in Drumcondra. On the following Monday Ms Larkin lodged it into an account she opened for the purpose of holding Mr Wall’s money separate from other money, so that it could be used for matters relating only to Mr Wall’s house.

Ms Larkin also opened another account which was a 28 day fixed term account. I transferred £50,000 into this new account from my own bank accounts. This account related to the refurbishment of the house and related expenses. This money was comprised of elements of my savings, gifts and loans which I described last year. I can confirm that this was not a new sum of money. This £50,000 is money I disclosed to the public last September / October. It is not a separate or additional sum. It is the same £50,000 to which I have previously referred. Ms Larkin found that the bank account into which she had lodged my own money was not convenient because it was a 28-day fixed term deposit account. The money was transferred to an ordinary deposit account from which it was subsequently withdrawn.

(iii) Subsequent Developments

As matters transpired, I did not become Taoiseach in December 1994 and the urgency went out of the situation. I went into opposition and the matter of renting the house became less urgent.

I gave some consideration to purchasing this house or another house myself. But I decided that my personal position was not stable enough. During this time, I did change some of the monies into sterling. I subsequently reverted to the original plan that Ms Larkin would administer my money and Mr Wall’s money for the purpose of the house. Mr Wall bought the house for £138,000, paid for it in the normal way, by a combination of deposits and a mortgage.

(iv) The rental went ahead as did the refurbishment

I rented the house from the summer of 1995. Substantial refurbishment work was done as planned, including the construction of a conservatory and the purchase of many furnishings and fittings.

These works and the fixtures and fittings were funded from the account which Ms Larkin had opened to hold Mr Wall’s money and the cash which I was holding comprising my own money. A summary of the financial position is as follows:

· The total amount of money spent on works and refurbishment was over £50,000.

· In addition, £8,442 of Mr Wall’s money was passed on by Ms Larkin to pay Mr Wall’s stamp duty bill.

· The balance of Mr Wall’s £28,700 or so was spent as part of the total cost of works and refurbishment and related expenses of about £50,000.

· Of the £50,000 I had set aside, only £30,000 was spent, allowing me to re-lodge about £20,000 to my own accounts after all the work was finished in December 1995.

(v) Proof of expenditure

It has been said that it is not credible that so much money would be spent in the house.

Therefore, in order to clarify this point I am circulating a booklet of papers comprising various invoices and receipts indicating how this money was spent (Appendix 1). I also attach a more detailed explanation of how the money was spent. (Appendix 2).

(vi) The lodgment on 5th December 1994 was not a dollar lodgment

There has been some speculation about this sum. The lodgment of about £28,700 on 5th December 1994 was a cash lodgment which is not exactly £30,000 sterling but rather is a lesser sum and may have been a mixture of sterling and Irish pounds. Hence it is in an irregular amount. It is not a dollar sum. I never had $45,000 either then, before then or since. There are no dollar transactions in my accounts. I do not deal nor have I ever dealt in dollars.

In addition two points need to be emphasized. Firstly, at the appropriate AIB rate for dollars on that date, a lodgment of £28,772.90 would equate not to $45,000 but to $44,277.68. Secondly, there are a number of combinations of sterling and Irish pounds that result in the amount which was lodged. The sum of $45,000 was never lodged to any account maintained by Ms. Larkin for the purpose of the house.

(vii) My purchase of the house

Between 1995 and 1997 Mr Wall stayed in the house from time to time, though less frequently than we had previously planned, because after a serious accident in 1995 he abandoned his plans to open a business in Ireland. After I bought the house, he continued to stay occasionally.

In 1997 I was elected Taoiseach. My financial situation had settled to a point where I was comfortable to buy the house, using the option to buy which I had arranged from the start. I therefore bought the house for €180,000 in October 1997. My purchase of my home was financed by a mortgage of £150,000 from the Irish Permanent Building Society, the balance of £30,000 was financed from accumulated savings in a savings account with that Society.

This was based on a market valuation from an auctioneer who had put the open market value at about £185,000.

I have lived in that same house for 12 years and I own no other property.

(viii) Mr Wall’s will

Mr Wall made a supplementary Irish will, dealing only with this house, in addition to his main will, in which he left considerable property to his family. I did not know about this will last October It was only brought to my attention earlier this year.

There are a number of points about Mr Wall’s will which are inconsistent with the suggestion that I actually owned the house at Beresford while renting it. They are as follows:

(a) Mr Wall bought the house in March 1995 and I rented it from him from May 1995. No will then existed.

(b) The will was not made until the 6th June 1996 more than a year later. If it is alleged that the will proves my concealed ownership then logic would dictate that it be signed when the house was bought.

(c) The fact is that I actually bought the house in 1997. I did not inherit it. I exercised the agreed option.

(d) A will would be a meaningless legal document – if it was to protect my supposed ownership – as it could be revoked at any time and with no legal right to insist on a further will or any right to inherit the house.

However, most importantly of all I was unaware of the will, did not request it and did not seek that my solicitor put it in place. It was Mr Wall who – on his own initiative – decided that he should make the will, not I.

G – Conclusion

In political debate, robust exchanges are par for the course. I accept that as a fact of life. But what I don’t accept is the trawling through my family, matrimonial and personal circumstances. My family have suffered from the tactic of selective disclosure and the publication of half-truths.

I stand accused of no crime but find day in day out lurid news headlines and copious details of my private life distorted, misrepresented and sensationalised. Some details of my house have been published but others – which explain what happened – are ignored. The full facts are suppressed. Accusation is presented as fact and distorted fact is presented as reality. Today I have presented a complete picture for everyone to view.

I will not accept the verdict of my political opponents or the masters of the half-truth on how I have behaved. I will place my reputation and career in the hands of the only people whose judgment matters – the Irish people for whom I have worked as hard as is humanly possible.

I know that some people will feel that some aspects of my life are unusual. I am sorry if that has caused any confusion or worry in people’s minds. All of these issues arose in a period when my family, personal and professional situations were rapidly changing and I made the best decisions I could in the circumstances in which I found myself.

I hope now that we can fight this election on what matters to the people – the future of our country and not the minutiae of my life and events which occurred some 14 years ago.

Finally let me state unequivocally: I have done nothing wrong and I have wronged no-one.

Appendix 1
Supporting documentation

A – Kinsella Interiors

1. Invoice from Kinsella Interiors undated.
2. Invoice from Kinsella Interiors dated 3rd August 1995.
3. Bank draft dated 26th June 1995 for £10,000 payable to Kinsella Interiors.
4. Bank draft dated 5th September 1995 from Kinsella Interiors for the sum of £19,000.
5. Receipt dated 5th September 1995 from Kinsella Interiors for the sum of £19,000.

B – Stamp duty

6. Bank draft dated 28th April 1995 for £8,442 payable to the Revenue Commissioners.

C – All Season’s Conservatories

7. Bank Draft payable to All Season’s Conservatories dated 20th June 1995 in the sum of £3,000.
8. Bank Draft payable to All Season’s Conservatories dated 4th July 1994 in the sum of £3,000.
9. Receipt from All Season’s Conservatories for £6,000 dated 5th July 1995.

D – Weatherglaze

10. Bank draft payable to Weatherglaze Systems Limited dated 20th June 1995 for £5,250.

E – Brown Thomas

11. Invoice from Brown Thomas dated 21st June 1995 for £2,096.20.
12. Bank draft payable to Brown Thomas dated 21st June 1995 for £2,116.20 (£20 cashback).
13. List of Brown Thomas purchases.

Other items for which no documentation survives includes flooring of the attic, provision of attic ladder, purchase and installation of bathroom fittings, house painting, brass sockets, switches and downlighters.

Appendix 2
Summary of expenditure during refurbishment

Kinsella Interiors: 29,000.00
All Season’s conservatories: 6,000.00
Weatherglaze: 5,250.00
Brown Thomas: 2,116.20
Miscellaneous household items for which bank records are available: 2,090.84
Total of expenditure for which documentation is available: 44,457.04

In addition several thousand pounds were spent on matters for which invoices are no longer available including:

a) flooring of the attic with chipboard and provision of attic ladder
b) bathroom fittings
c) painting of house
d) brass sockets, switches, and downlighters.

A further £8,442 of Mr Wall’s money had been spent on the stamp duty payable when he purchased the house.

Brian Dobson interview with Bertie Ahern, full text

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

A full text of Brian Dobson’s RTÉ interview with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

RTÉ’s Brian Dobson: Taoiseach, before we come to the detail in relation to this and you’ve acknowledged that payments were made from friends and associates in the late 1993, can you explain to us first of all the context in which this occurred, the background to this exercise?

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern: Eh, yes, over the, eh, last number of years, a number of false allegations, half truths, lies were made against me, eh, to both the tribunals, and there have been so many of them I won’t detail them all, but the main ones, that I took a bribe of £50,000 in a car park in the Burlington Hotel from Starry O’Brien which was meant to come from Owen O’Callaghan in the all-Ireland final day of 1989, the second one was that I took a bribe from Owen O’Callaghan of 30,000 in 1992; that I had bank accounts the Netherlands, Antilles, Liechtenstein, Jersey, England; that I had 15 million in an offshore account; that I had received 30,000 and a payment of 50,000 from Owen O’Callaghan to another politician some time in 1994.

Eh, that I fixed a designation for Golden Island in Athlone for Owen O’Callaghan, eh, that I had a bank account in Mauritius and, eh, they produced forged documents to show that I had this bank account.

Now these allegations were made to both, eh, tribunals. So the tribunals rightly under their terms of reference and had no option, and naturally I was totally obliged and assisted them to produce evidence that these allegations and there were others too.

So I had to give full discovery of all my records, my bank accounts, my wife’s bank accounts, bank accounts I had in my children’s names, em, you know, the Fianna Fáil bank accounts associated with my constituency, so I had to give them all those records.

Dobson : Included in that was the records relating to your separation from your wife in 1993.

Ahern : Yes, I, I had given, obviously I had given all of the records that, that related to it, I hadn’t given the court documents, but I’d given all the details of monies that were transferred between us and between the children.

Dobson : And it was the leak of those documents and that information last week that has given rise to the current controversy and you’ve confirmed that most of the details in that original Irish Times story were correct.

Ahern : Yes, I had given all the documents in confidence to the tribunals. Over the years I’ve dealt with tribunals for nine years on all kinds of issues, some party and some personal, but these were personal ones. I had given all the documents to show that none of these allegations, eh, were correct. So my life wasn’t being investigated, my marriage wasn’t being investigated, what I gave to the children wasn’t being investigated. It was – the planning tribunals are about corruption, eh, about people doing wrongdoing and I just wanted to clear my name to show that and it was right that I would have to give all these details. And I did give them.

Dobson : And the situation now is that some of those details are in the public domain. Are you prepared now this evening to clarify to the Irish people exactly what was involved and what led to this collection on your behalf in 1993?

Ahern : Eh, I am Brian, because, em, you know I’ve obviously taken advice over the last few days and in the normal course of events any information that I have given or that others have been asked to give were given always for the strict rider that it’s all confidential. Eh, but the effect that it leaked out, I am left with no alternative and my legal advisers have told me, eh, that I have asked them, they’ve thought about this for a few days, that’s why I had to wait and, em, they say that I’m entitled to protect myself.

Dobson : Why was the money raised then for you?

Ahern : The money was raised, eh, by close friends, people who were close to me for most of my life. They are not political friends, they are personal friends and they are long-standing friends. And in Christmas of 1993, em, if I can go through, there are two issues here. The first one, Christmas week in 1993, my solicitor, the late Gerry Brennan, who had been a long friend of mine, he had asked friends of mine, unknown to me, and, eh, unsolicited by me, to make a contribution to help me because he knew of my financial state at the time.

Dobson : He was aware that there were demands of you financially as a result of your separation?

Ahern : Yes, he, he was my solicitor in my, he was my solicitor right through.

Dobson : What were the figures involved?

Ahern : Well what he, he raised, should I say first of all they offered, eh, they came to me a month earlier, my High Court case which had been dragged out, I separated in 1987 and I had been in the High Court a number of times in 1993 and it concluded in November 1993. Em, Gerry Brennan came to me and he said that, em, they wanted to raise a function for me. Em, 1,000 a head, 25-30 people. I said no, I wasn’t going to do that, that was personal [ indistinct].

Anyone does that it’s for politics, so I refused. So then unknown to me he went to personal friends of mine, Paddy Reilly, Des Richardson, Pádraig O’Connor, Jim Nugent, David McKenna, Fintan Gunne, who is deceased, Mick Collins, Charlie Chawke, all personal friends of mine. And they gave me 22,500 either Christmas Eve or Stephen’s Day in 1993.

Dobson : That was to settle, at that stage, your legal bills?

Ahern : It was, they, they knew, a good few of them knew that I had taken out a loan with AIB in O’Connell Street to settle my legal bills. I had taken out the loan so I actually used the loan to settle the bills. Em, I didn’t want to take the money, I took it on the agreement, it was Gerry Brennan and Des Richardson, I didn’t deal with them all, they gave me the 22,500 and I said that I would deal, take this as a debt of honour, that I would repay it in full, that I would pay interest on it. I know the tax law, I’m an accountant. And, em, that I would pay that back in, in full and at another date when I could.

Dobson : Now, this amount, this 22,000, was this evenly divided between this group, did they all contribute more or less the same?

Ahern : All but one paid 5,000 and one paid 2½. Em, eh, they had given me that, they were all friends and I was beholden to none of them or them to me for any political issues, they were people who were well known to be very close to me.

Dobson : This was a loan and you made it clear to them at that stage that that was the way you regarded it.

Ahern : I, I, would say I told them very clearly that I wouldn’t accept it on any other terms and that has always been the basis, and a loan with interest because I said Brian, that I wouldn’t be able to pay it back for a time but that I would pay it and pay it with interest. There was no written agreement they were friends.

Dobson : So there are no documents to support this?

Ahern : There are no documents, well, well, other than, well there is the documentation that all of these people have now given to the tribunal.

Dobson : And have you paid interest in the interim?

Ahern : I haven’t paid, em, the money because they refused to take it, I think they will now because they see the difficulty but I offered a number of times to repay it. I offered, some of them said take it when I retire from politics, others said they would put it into my constituency. I refused that and always had taken it that it was as a loan, that, that I would repay back.

Dobson : So as we speak, the loan, none of the money has been repaid and no interest has been paid.

Ahern : No, but, but the understanding, the first understanding still remains that it is a debt of honour, it’s a debt that I’ll pay the interest on, and they all accept that.

Dobson : Was that the extent of the money that was raised at that time?

Ahern : That was the extent of the money that was raised at that time. There were other people, can I say last week, the impression, just for correctness case, the impression given that this was four people and that it raised between £50 and £100,000, as you can see that was not the case and the person who was deemed to have paid most of this actually paid £2,500. Em, there were others that wanted to assist at the time and later on in 1994, four of them gave me £16,500. Em, they would have contributed at Christmas but they were good friends of mine and they were Joe Burke, em, Dermot Carew, Barry English and Paddy Reilly who’s a different Paddy Reilly, he’s known to my friends as Paddy Reilly the plasterer. He wouldn’t be known publicly.

Dobson : So the total figure now at this stage is £38,000?

Ahern : £38,000, that’s right.

Dobson : Again was that in the form of a gift or as a loan?

Ahern : No, that was clearly a loan, it was on the same basis and again they are long- standing friends. It was unsolicited. These people are friends of mine, people like Joe Burke was my neighbour of 35 years ago. They gave it on, on that basis. So all of this information I gave the first one obviously was taken somewhere, the second hasn’t come out but they were the two amounts.

Dobson : And again just to be clear, the second 16,000, again that’s a loan but no interest has been paid and none of that money has been repaid?

Ahern : That money has, has not been repaid.

Dobson : You regard that as a debt which you expect to discharge?

Ahern : It is a debt of honour that I have to discharge. And em, eh, I made this point, to be honest Brian, and I would not have been able to pay it until about 1999 or 2000 and, eh, a number of times since, Dermot Carew, who was the one who organised, again unsolicited by me, the second amount, they understand and I think all of them would say they, they were loans.

Dobson : Is that the extent of the payments?

Ahern : That’s the extent of the payments Brian, just, I just want to make another few points.

Dobson : Just to be clear, there were no subsequent payments in connection to these matters of separation or anything else in the period since then?

Ahern : No, no – can I just make two other points I think are important? I was not impoverished when I was going through the separation, it was a very dark period for me and very sad period for me. I didn’t, I had taken out a loan like anyone else would, but colleagues knew what the situation was. From 1987, when I separated from Miriam, until the end of 1993 was a long, protracted period that happens in family law cases. And, em, delays and delayed for one reason or another. Miriam was, I had no account in my own name in that period. Miriam had joint accounts and, em, I paid Miriam maintenance but also saved money during that period and I’d saved quite a substantial amount of money because it was from the time I was lord mayor in ’86 I’d saved in the order of 50,000. The trouble was that in the separation I agreed to provide 20,000 for my children to an educational account as part of the agreement that I made. I don’t like giving details of the children but for completeness, I did that. I also had to pay off other bills, so the money I’d saved was gone. So my friends knew that. I had no house, the house was gone so they decided to try and help me.

Dobson : That explains the 38,000, that’s the figure we are talking about here?

Ahern : That’s what it was, the only other thing, Brian, totally separate and nothing to do with this, but I don’t want anyone saying I didn’t give full picture. I did a function in Manchester with a business organisation, nothing to do with politics or whatever, I was talking about the Irish economy, I was explaining about Irish economy matters and I’d say there was about 25 people at that. The organisers of it, I spent about 4 hours with them, dinner, I did question and answers, and all the time from 1977 up to current periods I got 8,000 on that, which you know whether it was a political donation.

Dobson : This was a regular event?

Ahern : I’d actually done the event a number of times, but I only once got a contribution. So I think at all of the times in my personal accounts, I’ve gone through them and given my personal accounts, that is the only other payment, its nothing to do with this but it was a payment that was in my accounts and I did give that to the tribunal as well.

Dobson : At the time of this 38,000 that was raised for you in late 1993 and into 1994, you were minister for finance, perhaps the second most senior political position in the country. Did you have any qualms about taking this money from these individuals given the position that you occupied?

Ahern : Well I think probably I had every qualms, they wanted to run a function and I wouldn’t let them. They wanted to give me the money and I refused. But they were long-standing, close, political and personal friends of mine and mainly personal friends. And on the basis that I would pay back the money, it wasn’t big money either, quite frankly, and that they were under that understanding, now I had difficulty paying it back afterwards. I think the impression is that some of them are very wealthy, I mean some of them might be, some of them were probably wealthier then than they are now, quite frankly.

Dobson : But some of them were people in business, they had business interests, they were in position potentially to benefit from decisions you would make as minister for finance.

Ahern : Well, you know, all I can say on that, they didn’t and never did they ask me. Em, they were not people that ever tried to get me to do something. I might have appointed somebody but I appointed them because they were friends, em, not because of anything they had given me and you know, and I think they appreciate that these were debts of honour, they gave them to me. Em, ah, I suppose on hindsight back, I wasn’t to know then, em, that I would be Taoiseach that I would have more money, that my daughters would be far more self-sufficient, I didn’t know these things. Em, you know, so whether I should have took it or not, but I always seen them as loans. I didn’t see them as any risk other than friends at a time of need when they knew I was in difficulty, when they knew that where I was staying and how I was living was a source of conversation.

Dobson : Can I put to you on the other hand, Mr Justice Brian McCracken had to say just a couple of years later in 1997 and something with which you said you concurred? He said that it is quite unacceptable that a member of Dáil Éireann and in particular a cabinet minister should be supported in his personal lifestyle by gifts made to him personally and this is what you have to say in response to that. You said that Mr Justice McCracken, and I quote Bertie Ahern here, ‘stresses a point I have repeatedly emphasised that public representatives must not be under a personal financial obligation to anyone’. Now at the very least there’s an appearance there that you were under personal financial obligation to this group.

Ahern : Well, I, I don’t accept that, em, Brian one bit. The difference of talking about somebody taking millions and somebody taking 100s of 1000s, em, in exchange for contracts and other matters and taking what is a relatively small contributions, em, from friends who had a clear understanding they would be paid back. I do not equate those. Em, if I was to take several 100s of 1000s pounds or several million from people where I had no association with or, em, eh, eh, people that were totally business interests, that would be totally, totally wrong. Em, perhaps you could say in politics nobody should ever take anything from anyone, perhaps that . . .

Dobson : You would have to declare it now?

Ahern : Eh, eh, yeah, and I wouldn’t have had a difficulty quite frankly, em, declaring it, I, I’ve broken no law. I’ve broken no ethical code. I’ve broken no tax law. Eh, I’ve always paid my income tax, I paid capital gains tax but I’ve never had much in my life to pay and I paid my gift tax. I, I never, so I broke no ethical code and, em, if I had to have returned on these things, I wouldn’t have had a difficulty. I did point out to my friends a number of times that it was better that I clear these and you know, they would sometimes laugh it off, but they all accept and and have accepted that these are loans to be repaid and will pay.

Dobson : But the suggestion for example today that the standards in Public Office Commission might be looking at this because of the benefit you got from having the, so far anyway, the interest waived on that and that could be something that could be retrospective to the legislation.

Ahern : Well that’s that’s not my advice, I was well aware of the legislation, I have long checked these things back by eminent tax people, I’ve looked at the legislation closely and, em, my advice is that it’s not the case.

Dobson : We are not talking here just about tax liabilities; we are talking about your requirements under the ethics legislation.

Ahern : I’ve, I’ve checked that and I repeat, my advice is I’ve broken absolutely, em, no codes, ethical, tax, legal or otherwise and, eh, I’ve checked that to the best of my my ability. And these were, eh, close friends, they were not big business interests that were removed from me, they were people that I saw, if not on a weekly basis on a very, very regular basis, most of them would be known to be very, em, very close to me.

Dobson : And yet people watching this, Taoiseach, perhaps they have gone through a separation themselves and they’ll appreciate just how difficult and painful that can be, will say that the financial consequences of that is something they’ve had to deal with themselves. Perhaps had to go to the bank to borrow money and repay the interest and you were in a position where you were able to have a whip-around organised on your behalf to meet your debts.

Ahern : Well, you know, I have been involved many times in my life in whip-arounds for friends, em, for people close to me, and I value friendships. I’ve done it for constituents; I’ve done it for people who have been in need. Em, I, I think people understand that, people say all that has happened since you were unwise to do that in 1993 but it it didn’t happen since. What I did was in 1993, em, and you know I have given all of my records, I’ve given all of my accounts, I’ve probably, this is right that I should give it, there’s no privileged position being Taoiseach or anything else. But, em, as far, I, I was not, eh, I don’t want this to be an investigation by a tribunal into corruption, there was no corruption in this. There was no favours sought, no favours given. There was no cosy contracts given to me or, eh, to any members of my family for business interests.

Dobson : But there is also the important question here of the appearance of being above reproach and that is really the issue here, isn’t it, Taoiseach, that you have created circumstances in which that can be called into question?

Ahern : Well, I, I, I wouldn’t like to think that. I wouldn’t like to think that any member of society or anybody else who takes at a time of need, a loan and would pay interest on it, that that is not beyond reproach. I wouldn’t like to have the stigma that because a group of a dozen of my friends, when they saw my life being one thing and go to another, eh, it’s not for me to plead how bad life was then but I mean it was clearly obvious that those who cared about me and those who were with me. I had to pay my legal fees, which I did take a loan out, they helped me to clear out quicker and then I had to go through, but I did it at that particular time. I didn’t continue with, I didn’t do it again. I didn’t, you know, do anything that was untoward in anyway. And I wouldn’t like, well people would say based on all that has happened in the McCracken tribunal, the Mahon tribunal but that hadn’t happened in 1993, 1994.

Dobson : Are you prepared to go into the Dáil and make a further statement and to answer questions?

Ahern : If people want me to do that, leader’s questions are on every day and I answer things every day. Em, I’m quite, eh, frankly not sure what I’d have to answer, I’ve looked at all the the issues of this and, em, I think my friends would realise that if they had accepted back the money when I offered it, it would have been easier for me now. But they thought they were being helpful to me. Em and I had other loans, you know, I have, I’m in a good position as Taoiseach now. My daughters are doing well so I don’t have difficulties; and I, I think my mortgage is well advanced now. But I did things as everybody else did.

Dobson : Just 38,000 today perhaps mightn’t be a terribly significant amount of money, but back then it was a very substantial amount of money, it would have bought you a house here in the city of Dublin, it was a sizable contribution.

Ahern : I bought my house a few years later and I can tell you it was a long way, nearer 200,000 than 38,000. Em, it is what it is, I’m not going to say, I, I’m, you know, clarifying what the position is. I mean you know, I gave confidentially all my information, people saying 50,000 to 100,000 and, eh, any other money was my own money. Obviously lodgments after my separation was over and money that I saved and put back into my accounts, I don’t know where the figures come from. I think people are perhaps looking at my own money that I’d saved and put back into, I didn’t have an account in my own name during the separation years.

I opened an account after the separation work was over and I put back in my own money and then paid out, perhaps that’s what people are adding it up. But the impression that I got between 50 and 100,000 and may be far more from just a few people wasn’t correct. I’m giving you precisely how I got the money, from close friends, eh, people who cared about me. Perhaps I should have just got a bigger loan and let’s be honest, I would have, I was Taoiseach a few years later it wouldn’t have killed me one way or the other. And I’m paying back the interest so I, I really don’t think I did anything wrong in anyway.

Dobson : Do you think this has been damaging politically, has it damaged your, particularly in the run up to the election your capacity to lead Fianna Fáil into the general election?

Ahern : Well, I mean that’s another issue, I don’t want to go into it, but I mean this was designed, I think people would examine my accounts. I mean, I’ve looked at my accounts since ’77, I’ve given you the only three things, there might be a few small ones but I tried to match up every single issue back, em, after 29 years in politics. And in my constituency since 1982, eh, I’ve probably as good records as there is, and, and luckily, because people close to me kept very good invoices and records, I was able to give this data but the the leak last week, by whoever, I have been accused that I was pointing the finger but by whoever, it was a leak which had nothing to do with the tribunal, it had nothing to do with planning, building, zoning or anything else. And, and it it was done to damage me, I suppose those people who set out in a calculated way to do that, whoever they were, probably have succeeded to some extent.

Dobson : There has been some damage, does that come from perhaps the way it was handled initially. You confirmed some of the details and then you said it was none of anybody’s business what money you got and now you’re giving this interview.

Ahern : Well the point is, em, I think if I was legally advised, what I would have said the first morning, the whole lot is nobody’s business, it’s the tribunal. And I’d say no more about it ever. But for the Taoiseach of the country that is just unsustainable and it is ridiculous that wherever I’ve gone for the last week, that there has been you know 50 journalists running around behind me, like pied pipers, its ridiculous. So I said to my legal people, I cannot sustain keeping things that are not secret, I gave this information, this wasn’t dreamt up, nobody sneaked into my safe and found it, I gave this information to the tribunal, it shouldn’t have been leaked.

I don’t know who leaked it, I’m not blaming anyone, I don’t want to be taking anyone’s character but somebody took mine, and in a very cynical way. But it’s best that I just give the true facts and, em, you know from the position of the Irish public they’ve always been kind to me about being separated. They’ve always been understanding and, em, if I’ve caused offence to anyone, I think I have to a few people, em, I’m sorry.

Dobson : Taoiseach, thank you for talking to us.