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Ahern: 'I didn't act for developer'

FORMER Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has refused to say on whose behalf he sought an update on a housing development planned by a party donor.

The comments came after the Irish Independent yesterday revealed that Mr Ahern asked planning authorities about the progress of a building project submitted by Ballymore Estates, controlled by businessman Sean Mulryan and now in NAMA.

The company donated more than €7,000 to Fianna Fail.

Planning files and details of political donations declared to the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) show that Mr Ahern sent letters seeking an update on whether planning permission had been granted and when a decision would be made.

But last night Mr Ahern, who is in Abu Dhabi at the World Economic Forum, insisted he did not seek an update on behalf of Ballymore Estates, but could not say who asked him to make representations.

"Mr Ahern would like it stated that he did not make representations on behalf of any company but on behalf of the residents as elected representative in the ordinary course of his duties," a short statement from his office said.

Mr Ahern told the Irish Independent last Friday that during his 34 years as a full-time politician he made "representations" on behalf of constituents.

Ballymore also said it did not ask Mr Ahern to make any inquiries on its behalf, adding the submission was "highly likely" to have been prompted by party colleagues.

"Your story implies that this action was on behalf of Sean Mulryan or Ballymore Properties. It was not," a statement said. "Neither Ballymore nor Sean Mulryan made any representations to Mr Ahern regarding our development at Royal Canal Park.

"When you read the history of this development, it was highly likely that the enquiry from the then Taoiseach came from pressure from party colleagues who had lodged objections, or constituents who had objected to the possibility of an 18-storey tower being built at Royal Canal Park.

"Ballymore, at this time, was already in detailed discussions with Dublin City Council to reduce the size of the tower."

The records showed that in June 2006 Mr Ahern wrote to Dublin City Council seeking an update on a development planned by Ballymore Estates, controlled by Ballymore Properties, called Royal Canal Park in Dublin 15. The letter sought an "early response" to a query on whether the development had been approved.

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Ballymore donated more than €7,000 to the party and individual TDs in 2005 and 2006.

In a separate development, Ballymore confirmed it had made political donations to all political parties. "This would have been done at local level and the amounts were sufficiently small not to have to seek approval of the board," it added.

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