Thursday 27 November 2014

Bertie's former FF branch faces €200k bill for tribunal

Published 26/01/2014 | 02:30

Bertie Ahern in Drumcondra yedterday (Saturday)
 Picture By David Conachy. 14/12/2013
Bertie Aherb

Bertie Ahern's former local Fianna Fail organisation is facing a massive bill of almost €200,000 arising from the planning tribunal and a row is looming over who should pay it, the Sunday Independent has learnt.

Fianna Fail Dublin Central was dragged into the long-running Mahon tribunal as part of its investigation into the former Taoiseach's finances.

According to sources, the organisation was recently advised that its legal costs of just under €200,000 will not be covered by the State. "If the tribunal rules against us it could be twice that," a local Fianna Fail source said.

Its lawyers now have to make a submission to the tribunal before it makes a final ruling.

The potentially massive hit to the constituency organisation is further complicated by the fact that it has no money.

The Dublin Central organisation's assets were taken over by Fianna Fail headquarters after the irregularities highlighted in the tribunal report.

The prime asset was St Luke's, the valuable red-brick Drumcondra property that Bertie Ahern used as his constituency base for decades. The source indicated that the local constituency may have to turn to the national Fianna Fail organisation to stump up the money for the fees.

"Dublin Central has been contacted about the costs incurred at the tribunal and relevant submissions are in progress. If the tribunal decides not to pay our costs and claims that we sent them astray, they could also say we must pay their costs too," a Fianna Fail source added.

He added: "Dublin Central is responsible for the fees but there are no assets. The assets, which included St Luke's, were sequestered by the national Fianna Fail organisation."

Although the Mahon tribunal has finished its inquiries, it is still working through third-party legal claims from those who were required to give evidence or assistance. Those who were granted the right to legal representation can apply to have their costs covered by the State, but the tribunal can refuse to pay the costs of those found to have obstructed or misled the tribunal.

FF's organisation in Dublin Central was ordered to produce all of its bank accounts, minutes of meetings and other documents to the Mahon tribunal, as part of its investigation of Mr Ahern's financial affairs. It was granted limited legal representation.

An ex-treasurer of the constituency testified that a small suitcase full of Mr Ahern's documents had been destroyed. There was also conflicting evidence about bank accounts named after the O'Donovan Rossa Cumann and whether they were linked to Mr Ahern or to the constituency.

Although the central allegation that Mr Ahern had received a large political donation was not proven, the planning tribunal found the explanations he and others gave about his complicated finances were untrue.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin ordered a root-and- branch review of the Dublin Central constituency, "because a lot of evidence was produced concerning the handling of its affairs".

The party's national executive took over the functions of the local organisation and the assets transferred to the national Fianna Fail organisation.

The trustees of St Luke's signed over the property at the end of 2012.

Irish Independent

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