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Saturday 24 June 2017

Austerity takes bite of Ahern's fundraising dinner

Maeve Sheehan

Maeve Sheehan

THE chill wind of recession loomed over Bertie Ahern's annual fundraising dinner in Dublin on Thursday night with no-shows and unsold seats prompting a last-minute call to arms to the party faithful.

Tables at the dinner at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Santry on Thursday night were said by sources to cost around €2,000, raising a potential €30,000 for the former Taoiseach's constituency organisation.But party sources said the fund-raising do, which was addressed by Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, would raise a fraction of that, once costs were taken out. The annual O'Donovan Rossa Cumann dinner is usually held in the Clontarf Castle hotel but the venue was changed this year.

Sources said that as the date approached, the 15 tables remained undersubscribed and last-minute invitations were dispatched to selected supporters. The fundraiser has led to speculation that Mr Ahern might be assembling a war chest in advance of a general election. He hasn't declared his intentions yet and there has been speculation that he won't run. He has told friends that he is "under fierce pressure" to run in the Dublin Central constituency. He has also tipped his hat at the presidency and was mooted as a future mayor of Dublin.

At Thursday night's dinner, Mr Lenihan gave a speech on the economy, but steered clear of his remarks last week that social partnership -- championed by Mr Ahern -- had done "enormous damage" to the economy.

Guests included some of the "lads" who contributed to a whip-around for Mr Ahern during his financial difficulties in the 1990s. They included Dermot Carew, the publican who helped raise £16,500 for Mr Ahern to buy a house, and Des Richardson, a former party treasurer and Ahern confidante, who made a contribution towards his legal fees. Others in attendance included Joe Burke, who was a trustee of Mr Ahern's constituency office and is former chairman of Dublin Port, and Chris Wall, a member of Mr Ahern's "Drumcondra mafia".

Mr Ahern held court with Anna Bogle, a widow who Mr Ahern has described an "old friend". Mr Ahern appeared to acknowledge his new relationship on Thursday night, saying at the end of a short speech: "On behalf of Anna and myself, thank you very much for the support."

Sunday Independent

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