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Monday 20 January 2020

Ahern video footage to be kept secret

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

THE Mahon Tribunal has ruled that thousands of hours of televised testimony from former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and other witnesses will never be broadcast to the public.

The tribunal has video recordings of all witness testimony since 2002 -- but their existence was not widely known until the Irish Independent reported on them earlier this week.

At that stage, the tribunal said no decision had been taken on what to do with the footage.

The decision by Judge Alan Mahon and his colleagues Judge Mary Faherty and Judge Gerald Keyes to now block the release of the footage forever means the public will not be able to see some of the dramatic tribunal moments for themselves.

The video recordings were in place for the tearful breakdown of Mr Ahern's former secretary Grainne Carruth in 2008 after she accepted she had lodged sterling on his behalf. Mr Ahern announced he was resigning as Taoiseach two weeks later -- although he said it was not motivated by events at the tribunal.

And there were also video recordings of the evidence of witnesses such as former EU Commissioner Padraic Flynn, Mr Ahern's former partner Celia Larkin, former Fianna Fail TD Liam Lawlor and developer Tom Gilmartin.

In a statement on its website, the Mahon Tribunal said it wanted to deal with the queries about the future use of the video footage.

"These electronic recordings have never been shown or released to any third party, and will not be in the future," it said.

It had been thought that the recordings had been in place since public sitting began in 1999 but the tribunal said they had started in 2002.

That means that around 588 of the 917 public sitting days lasting five-and-a half hours each were recorded -- accounting for around 3,200 hours of footage.

"Such electronic recording has proved useful on a number of occasions in correcting errors in the stenographically recorded transcripts of evidence. A number of such errors were corrected at the request of witnesses," the tribunal said.

The final Mahon Tribunal report is expected to be published within weeks -- but the the tribunal has not given a precise date.

Irish Independent

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