Ahern accused of making up stories to fit the facts
TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern was accused last night of telling a "cock and bull story" to the planning tribunal and making up "complicated stories to fit known facts".
Mr Ahern survived an attempt to have him sacked following his evidence to the inquiry by 81 votes to 76. But as the controversy over his Mahon Tribunal testimony rumbled on, the person who Mr Ahern gave cash to buy stg£30,000 for him in 1995 has still not come forward.
The Green Party, PDs and Independent TDs who support the Government voted for Mr Ahern in the motion of no confidence put down by Fine Gael. In a stormy three-hour Dail debate, Mr Ahern was accused to telling "lies" and was called upon to resign.
But Mr Ahern accused his opponents of trying to put a "sinister twist" to allegations being investigated by the tribunal.
Enda Kenny's decision to put down the motion so quickly, rather than gradually turn up the pressure on Mr Ahern over several days came in for criticism in political circles.
By contrast, the tone of the Fine Gael leader's speech on the motion received critical acclaim, while the simple language used by Labour leader Eamon Gilmore was also praised.
But Fianna Fail Ministers rallied behind their party leader as Tanaiste Brian Cowen delivered a strong defence, accusing the opposition of "sham hypocrisy".
In his statement, Mr Ahern himself explained away a lodgment to his bank account equalling US$45,000 by saying the bank records were wrong.
He said there was no basis for the allegation the lodgement was dollars.
And again Mr Ahern denied receiving payments from property developer Owen O'Callaghan.
"After four days in the witness box, that remains the position. There is not a scintilla of evidence of any such payments. This is so because I never received any such payments," he said.
All six Green Party TDs, two PDs and four Independents, Finian McGrath, Beverly Flynn, Michael Lowry and Jackie Healy-Rae voted with the Taoiseach.
Green Party leader John Gormley said his party was "not the moral custodian of Fianna Fail" and would wait for the outcome of the tribunal.
Putting down the motion, Mr Kenny said Mr Ahern was wrong to accept large sums of money, had not co-operated fully with the tribunal and had not told the truth to the Irish people.
Fine Gael's leader said "most of the events" set out by the Taoiseach were "fictitious" and part of a web of "constructed stories to fit known facts".
And Mr Kenny compared the Taoiseach to his predecessor Charles Haughey but acknowledged Mr Ahern had "done the State some service".
Mr Gilmore said the "national disbelief" on Mr Ahern's testimony left the Taoiseach's credibility in shreds.