Bertie gives up keys to St Luke's and will never be back
FORMER Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has handed over the keys to St Luke's and has vowed never to set foot again in the headquarters so closely associated with his career in politics.
The Sunday Independent understands that the trustees of St Luke's and officials in Fianna Fail have agreed a deal on the transfer of the landmark building in Drumcondra in north Dublin.
Solicitors representing both sides are now engaged in legal arrangements that will conclude in the transfer of the building to Fianna Fail before the end of the month.
According to sources in Drumcondra, St Luke's has been "stripped bare" in recent weeks, a process which also saw the removal of a safe in the building in which Mr Ahern kept cash when he had no bank accounts following his marriage breakdown.
Local sources last week told the Sunday Independent that the safe was seen to "twist in the wind" as it was removed by use of a small crane in daylight hours, although this claim could not be verified yesterday.
It has been confirmed, however, that Mr Ahern's secretary, Sandra Cullagh, locked up the building and handed the keys to one of the trustees. It is understood that the keys have since been passed to Fianna Fail General Secretary Sean Dorgan, an indication that no last-minute hitch is expected before the deal is concluded within the next fortnight.
A query last week if Mr Ahern might facilitate a final interview at St Luke's was met with rejection by a source close to the former Taoiseach: "Bertie's gone from St Luke's and will never set foot in it again," the source said.
It is understood that Mr Ahern has placed his belongings in storage while he searches for a suitable office which he intends to maintain in Drumcondra. As a former Taoiseach, the cost of staffing that office will be partly met by the taxpayer.
Mr Ahern announced his resignation from FF in March after the publication of the Mahon Tribunal Report, which made adverse findings against him but did not conclude that he had acted corruptly.
The question for Fianna Fail now is what to do with the building. No decision has been taken. Some would like to see St Luke's transformed into a headquarters for Fianna Fail in north Dublin, or certainly for the constituencies adjoining Dublin Central, where it is located.
However, other sources maintain it would be better to put St Luke's for sale on the open market, as associations with the building had become "tainted".