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.
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.
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.
Summary of expenditure during refurbishment
Kinsella Interiors: 29,000.00
All Season’s conservatories: 6,000.00
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.