ONE of Bertie Ahern's closest friends and a central figure in the controversial Sheedy affair has been quietly appointed chairman of Dublin Port.
Joe Burke, a prominent Fianna Fail activist who employed Philip Sheedy as an architectural advisor to his building firm and made representations to have him released from prison, was appointed to the top job just days after the election was called.
An attempt to make former High Court Judge, Hugh O'Flaherty another prominent figure in the controversy Ireland's representative on the European Investment Bank led to such a political storm that the Government eventually scrapped the nomination.
But Mr Burke, a prominent builder and former Fianna Fail councillor who is often described as a member of Bertie Ahern's "kitchen cabinet", was appointed chairman of Dublin Port, a multi-million-pound business controlled by Marine Minister Frank Fahey.
The Sheedy affair arose after south Dublin architect Philip Sheedy killed young mother Anne Ryan in a high-speed car crash while drunk. Burke later visited Sheedy in prison. After an unexpected hearing before Judge Cyril Kelly, the remainder of Sheedy's four-year prison sentence was suspended. In July 1999, in an unprecedented move, Cyril Kelly resigned from the High Court and Hugh O'Flaherty resigned from the Supreme Court amid calls for their impeachment.
At the time of the Sheedy controversy, Mr Burke said: "I am told he was one or two milligrammes over the limit, I have read about other more serious ones who did not get a prison sentence."
Mr Burke has since quietly continued with his building firm, J&H Burke and Son.
Although Mr Fahey made the appointment on April 25, it has not been formally announced by his Department.
Dublin Port, which makes annual profits of over £10m, confirmed that Mr Burke was appointed chairman of April 25, just days after the Election was called.