independent

Saturday 19 April 2014

The end of an era as Bertie says farewell to the HQ he used as his base since 1987

IT truly is the end of the Bertie Ahern era.

Yesterday control of his iconic former headquarters, St Luke's, was relinquished and handed over to the national Fianna Fail organisation.

Bought in 1987, St Luke's, at 161 Drumcondra Road, Dublin, and across from Fagan's pub, was to become the epicentre of Mr Ahern's political empire.

At his pomp, Mr Ahern hosted former President Bill Clinton British and Prime Minister Tony Blair at St Luke's, which also hosted many meeting connected to the Northern Peace Process in the late 1990s. The building was also to feature heavily in the Mahon tribunal investigations into Mr Ahern's finances, which ultimately brought him down in 2008.

A former doctor's surgery, the two-storey redbrick building became an alternative seat of government while Mr Ahern was Taoiseach.

Fianna Fail's statement, confirming it had taken possession of the property, made no reference to Mr Ahern.

"Earlier this year, it was agreed with the Trustees of St Luke's, Drumcondra, Dublin 9, that the St Luke's Office Building would be transferred into the ownership of the National Party. The Trustees of St Luke's engaged proactively and positively with this process," the statement said.

"At the time of the purchase of the property in 1987, the trustees decided that St Luke's was to be used for the benefit of the local Fianna Fail organisation in the Dublin Central Constituency and that the ultimate beneficiary of the trust was the Fianna Fail National Party," it continued.

"The process has been completed this week and the property has now been signed over to the National Party. Fianna Fail wishes to thank the Trustees of St Luke's for their full and active co-operation throughout. It has been a very constructive process."

It was in late 1987 when a large group of mostly men gathered in the Gresham Hotel to finance a base for Mr Ahern, the coming man in Irish politics.

He had just finished a successful year as lord mayor of Dublin. He had separated from his wife Miriam, so the aim of this gathering was to buy a base for the man described by Charles Haughey as "the most cunning, the most devious of them all".

The initial sale document was signed by D Richardson, later to be identified as businessman and fundraiser Des Richardson.

"I can assure you I didn't buy it personally," Mr Richardson told the Mahon tribunal many years later.

The St Luke's Club later became a trust administered by a group of local Ahern followers – his solicitor Gerard Brennan (deceased), Des Richardson, Joe Burke, Paddy Reilly (deceased) Tim Collins, and Jimmy Keane (deceased).

After it was bought, another £50,000 more was required for renovations.

St Luke's came to be the embodiment of the former Taoiseach's life in Irish politics.

Mr Ahern never really liked the Dail, with its backslappers and hangers-on. St Luke's was where he did business and where he entertained his friends.

Fianna Fail councillor Mary Fitzpatrick, who was a long-time rival of Mr Ahern said she had no comment yesterday on the transfer of the property.

Sunday Independent

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