Sunday 28 December 2014

Ruling has vindicated me - Bertie's 'dig-out' pal

Mahon Tribunal conclusions had caused Chawke 'extreme agitation'

Published 27/07/2014 | 02:30

Charlie Chawke pictured at one of his pubs.  Picture: Arthur Carron/Collins
Charlie Chawke pictured at one of his pubs. Picture: Arthur Carron/Collins

PUBLICAN Charlie Chawke has said he is happy his reputation has been vindicated following his successful challenge to the Planning Tribunal, in which he claimed it had breached fair procedures in finding he had not cooperated in his evidence about a 'dig-out' for former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

"It's a good judgment for me and I'm very glad to get it because I didn't obstruct anything and I didn't tell any lies," Mr Chawke said when asked for comment on the High Court's decision last Thursday to find in his favour.

"This judgment is very important for me and for my family. I felt very aggrieved at the time [of the tribunal report], that they said that I didn't tell the truth. So I'm vindicated now," he added.

"I think the tribunal should now have the good grace to apologise," he said.

Asked if he believed the High Court's ruling would have a wider application to the other individuals who had contributed to the 1993 'dig out' for Mr Ahern, Mr Chawke said: "I don't know. That's up to them. I gave my donation. People say I didn't, but that's not true. I have to defend myself."

In its final report, which it published in March 2012, the tribunal chaired by Mr Justice Alan Mahon said it "did not accept as true the evidence" given by Mr Chawke, David McKenna, Des Richardson, Tim Collins and Jim Nugent that Mr Ahern had at various times between 1993 and 2006 raised the issue of repaying the IR£25,000 they and five others had been involved in raising for him in the so-called 'dig out' of 1993.

Having believed the tribunal was operating on the assumption that the collection for Mr Ahern had taken place, Mr Chawke had been surprised at the tribunal's conclusion that no such contribution had ever been made to, or repaid by the former Taoiseach.

In bringing his challenge to the tribunal's conclusions, Mr Chawke argued its finding carried with them an "imputation of poor character" which "impinges directly on his personal and business reputation". He emphasised his decision to bring the proceedings had been motivated by his "extreme agitation" at a "wholly unfair finding which damaged his reputation in a serious way". The tribunal denied these claims.

In her judgment, Justice Marie Baker noted that Mr Chawke hadn't been given an opportunity to deal with the fact of the payment to Mr Ahern. She said none of the vitiating factors, such as frailty of memory, that might have allowed the tribunal to conclude Mr Chawke had not knowingly been untruthful had been present and ruled that the "deductive reasoning" process under which the tribunal found he had not cooperated was not arrived at by fair procedures.

Sunday Independent

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