Wednesday 18 September 2019

Ahern pal Burke will not face sex assault charges

Dublin Port Company Chairman Joe Burke photographed in his home at Shrewsbury Square
Sandymount yesterday
Dublin Port Company Chairman Joe Burke photographed in his home at Shrewsbury Square Sandymount yesterday

Sam Smyth

FORMER Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's close friend Joe Burke will not face charges for an alleged sexual assault, the Irish Independent can reveal.

Breaking his 11-month silence since the incident, the Dublin Port Company Chairman apologised for the behaviour which led to him being questioned by gardai.

Mr Burke, part of the so-called Drumcondra Mafia which helped propel Mr Ahern to power, said he regretted the embarrassment he caused to the former taoiseach, his family and friends.

The 59-year-old revealed he stopped drinking after he was accused of sexually assaulting a 23-year-old woman following a night out in Lillie's Bordello on New Year's Eve and how it has cost him "the love of his life", Senator Maria Corrigan.

"I'm not the first and I'm sure I'll not be the last man brought down by drink," he said.

"I miss Maria very much, she was the love of my life, and that relationship was a casualty of those events," he added.

Emotional

In an in-depth interview, an emotional Mr Burke also referred to his suicide attempt shortly after being accused of sexual assault.

Even though they are no longer together, Mr Burke hinted he used his influence with Mr Ahern to promote his then girlfriend's Seanad ambitions.

"The Taoiseach had 11 nominations and some had to go to the Greens and the PDs, but if I said I didn't have a word in his ear everybody would know I was lying," he said.

"But he didn't inform me (when she was appointed a senator), he told Maria first."

The Irish Independent has learned that a member of the garda team investigating the alleged sexual assault told Mr Burke on Thursday evening that he would not be charged.

The gardai had forwarded the file on their investigation to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in September.

Mr Burke declined to comment last night but a source close to him said he was "mightily relieved" and that "a huge weight has been lifted from his shoulders".

Mr Burke had been accused of sexually assaulting a woman who had returned with her friend to a house in Malahide, Co Dublin, where Mr Burke was staying, after the New Year's Eve drinking session.

Denied

The woman called 999 at 5.36am and told gardai she had been sexually assaulted. Shortly after her call, Mr Burke rang Malahide garda station and invited them to come to the house, where he vehemently denied any wrongdoing.

The next day, gardai found Mr Burke slumped over the wheel of his gold Mercedes car in Ringsend and took him to nearby St Vincent's Hospital, where he was admitted.

Following his release from hospital, Mr Burke was treated for a serious illness at a private clinic in south Co Dublin.

"I'm a year older and a year wiser," he said.

After he left the clinic in March, he was arrested under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act and questioned before being released without charge.

Mr Burke said the incident and the subsequent fallout had greatly affected his life.

"The loss of my relationship with Maria hurt, it still hurts much more than the loss of my business," he said. " Maria . . . is a beautiful, capable, intelligent woman who will be a member of Dail Eireann.

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