TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern's list of unanswered tribunal questions lengthened last night after he revealed he is in contact with the taxman about the source of a mystery IR£5,000.
The revelation came at the end of his latest testimony after the Mahon Tribunal hit back at criticism of how the Taoiseach had been treated. It also signalled it would be recalling Mr Ahern in the New Year. Mr Ahern's woes increased as he revealed contact with the Revenue Commissioners about the source of a IR£5,000 cheque part-lodged to a building society account held in his name.
The existence of this latest payment was revealed for the first time yesterday as the tribunal said it was also investigating the source of the cheque lodged to an Irish Permanent account on January 31, 1994.
The tribunal is investigating a series of lodgments to accounts belonging to Mr Ahern totalling more than £100,000.
Yesterday's exchanges were again strident, with Mr Ahern losing his temper again as his loan dig-out story was directly called into question for the first time. He lashed out as his "close, personal friend" Padraic O'Connor, saying if the former NCB stockbrokers managing director wanted to disown him "that's his bloody business".
But tribunal lawyer Des O'Neill told Mr Ahern if Mr O'Connor was telling the truth about his contribution to the dig-out loan actually being for the Fianna Fail organisation, then the Taoiseach's version of this December 1993 loan could not be true.
Mr Ahern will be back at the tribunal in January and February to face further questions on the dig-out payments.
As the spinning war intensified outside the tribunal chamber, the Government and opposition exchanged claims about the reactions to Mr Ahern's evidence.
The Government was accused by opposition sources of actively offering to send out a series of ministers on radio and TV shows to attack the tribunal and defend the Taoiseach.
But government sources said the opposition was making a 'political football' about Mr Ahern's testimony.
The tribunal judges gave a clear signal though that the inquiry won't be swayed by accusations of bias and unfair treatment of the Taoiseach.
Tribunal chairman Judge Alan Mahon rejected criticism of the tribunal.
"In no way is Mr Ahern being treated any differently to other witnesses in this regard," he said.
The first mention of the IR£5,000 cheque followed a series of questions put to the Taoiseach about corporate donations.
The tribunal has previously heard that Mr O'Connor believed associates of Mr Ahern's were asking other stockbrokers to make donations to the politican.
Working on behalf of Mr Ahern, the forensic accountant Des Peelo has been in contact with the Revenue Commissioners about the source of the IR£5,000 cheque.
The tribunal is investigating who provided the cheque, half of which was lodged to an account held in the Mr Ahern's name and opened on January 31, 1994, with the remainder given to the person making the lodgment in cash.
The tribunal was told the IR£2,500 cash was then lodged to another bank account held by the Taoiseach and opened on the same day. However, the building society is unable to locate a copy of the cheque.
The public hearings ended as Mr Ahern's legal team had not been circulated with the documents, and the tribunal was adjourned until January.
Mr Ahern angrily turned on Mr O'Connor for denying giving Mr Ahern a personal dig-out of IR£5,000.
"Now, if years later Mr O'Connor wants to disown me and he doesn't know me well that's his bloody business,"he retorted.
On the mystery cheque, Mr Ahern said that apart from the IR£5,000 donation from Padraic O'Connor, in December 1993, he could only find one payment from another stockbroking firm -- Davy -- during the 1992 general election campaign.