Thursday 21 March 2019

Ahern accuses tribunal of trying to 'hang' secretary

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern autographing a book entitled 'De
Collection of Diaries of a Nortsoide Taoiseach' on his way into the
Mahon Tribunal in Dublin Castle where he defended former
secretary Grainne Carruth
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern autographing a book entitled 'De Collection of Diaries of a Nortsoide Taoiseach' on his way into the Mahon Tribunal in Dublin Castle where he defended former secretary Grainne Carruth

Lorna Reid and Fergus Black

A FURIOUS Bertie Ahern rounded on the Mahon Tribunal yesterday accusing it of trying to "hang" his former secretary Grainne Carruth.

"We were not trying to hang her," tribunal chairman Judge Alan Mahon replied.

"Well just short of it," riposted Mr Ahern.

In tetchy exchanges with his nemesis, tribunal counsel Des O'Neill, Mr Ahern said he still felt sore at the tribunal's actions.

"If you want to justify your existence and say you are right then I will fight you tooth and nail in here and outside that you are wrong," the former Taoiseach said.

Mr Ahern said that when the information was received from the building society about the sterling transactions he simply didn't have time to read it.

"With your usual efficiency and your large amount of staff and huge legal team you had Grainne Carruth in here trying to hang her before I got back (from Brussels)," he added.

Mr Ahern said the information from the building society was received after three and a half years of "long and empty letters" from that institution.

The information indicated there were sterling lodgments. This contradicts Mr Ahern's earlier evidence and that of Ms Carruth.

Asked why he simply didn't tell his lawyers this and that his earlier evidence was incorrect, Mr Ahern said he wanted to look at the information.

But that week, beginning March 7, 2008, he simply didn't have the time, he insisted. There were more than 570 pages of documents to be read. He had to prepare for a full week of the Dail, answering questions "on the hoof" and then on to an EU summit in Brussels where "monstrous briefs" had to be read, and then on to the US.

He didn't have time for anything other than a brief consultation with his lawyers . He had no time to ring Ms Carruth.

Mr O'Neill suggested Mr Ahern could simply have told his lawyers and a letter could have been written to the tribunal to this effect.

Mr Ahern then claimed he only heard that Ms Carruth was due to appear at the tribunal when he was in Brussels.

The tribunal yesterday heard Mr Ahern knew that substantial lodgments to his account and those of his two daughters were in sterling a full 13 days before Ms Carruth gave her evidence.

Daughters

While Ms Carruth initially denied dealing in sterling, she later broke down in the witness box and acknowledged that certain lodgments totalling more than stg£15,000 were made by her on behalf of Mr Ahern and his two daughters.

Mr Ahern had earlier this year accused the planning inquiry of "low life stuff" over its treatment of Ms Carruth.

Yesterday, he was asked whether he was concerned that he knew Ms Carruth had initially denied in evidence that she was ever involved in sterling transactions.

Mr O'Neill said Ms Carruth would have been in a different position in relation to her evidence on March 19 and 20 if Mr Ahern had contacted her.

Mr Ahern said that while he was concerned, that was not his only concern. "As you appreciate, I was dealing with the Dail in my old job and with the European Council and the US."

He was busy with other things and while Mr O'Neill thought there was nothing else other than the tribunal, he was Taoiseach and had other things on his mind.

Mr O'Neill said the tribunal subsequently received information from Irish Life and Permanent that the lodgments represented the proceeds of an exchange of sterling.

Mr Ahern accepted the lodgments could only have been in sterling when he looked at that correspondence he received from the tribunal.

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