Monday 27 March 2017

Highlights of Bertie Ahern’s evidence to Mahon Tribunal

Sarah Stack

Sarah Stack

THE Mahon tribunal rejected Bertie Ahern's evidence on his banking and financial affairs.

Looking back, the then Taoiseach's 15 colourful days in the witness box in Dublin Castle were some of the highlights of a marathon investigation.

- On September 13 2007, Mr Ahern was adamant about dealing in US bills: "There are no dollars. There were never any dollars. It is a complete red herring."

- A day later he admitted receiving an envelope stuffed with £8,000 in £50 notes, unsolicited, after speaking at a function in a Manchester hotel in 1994 to a crowd of about 20 extremely wealthy Irish ex-pat businessmen "worth about £50m each".

- Later that month the then Taoiseach repeated his denials of taking a bribe. With tempers fraying, he also warned he did not know when his ex-girlfriend Celia Larkin drove him to a bank on Dublin's O'Connell Street to make a lodgement.

"If I was to remember every time I drove up and down O'Connell Street, I'd be doing well," he said.

- In December that year he was back on the stand again answering questions about bank accounts, or the absence of them: "There's nothing in the law or the constitution that I have to have a bank account," he said.

"Some people dye their hair yellow or put rings in their noses. I decided I wasn't going to open an account. Put it the other way round - there was no reason that I should."

- Mr Ahern defended his affairs in February 2008 when it emerged lodgements in 1993/94 were up to three times his salary at the time.

He denied using party funds to feather his nest, adding: "I actually have a good record over the years of giving money to the party, like election spending refunds, when I could, strictly speaking, keep it myself."

- Then came the win on the horses. He alleged £8,000 from racing bets was paid into his daughters' bank accounts in 1996: "I am interested in horse racing and... I have won various sums of money. Some of these would have been won in Sterling."

- By 2008 Mr Ahern was in a dogfight for political survival and accused the tribunal of trying to "hang" his former aide, mother-of-three Grainne Carruth, who broke down in tears while giving evidence only to later expose her boss for dealing in Sterling.

- An emotional Mr Ahern ended his evidence to the Mahon tribunal with a parting accusation that its lawyers tried to 'trap and trick' him and claimed political foes had waged an eight-year campaign to wreck his good name and reputation.

"I never in my life took a bribe or a backhander or anything from anybody," he said.

"I've had to deal with this for eight-and-a-half years, a concerted bid by a few people who did everything they could to damage me, but I did my best before this tribunal to tell the full truth."

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