Thursday 20 June 2019

Bertie Ahern's former base St Luke's bought by secretary whose tribunal evidence hastened his downfall

St Luke's Drumcomdra
St Luke's Drumcomdra
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

Bertie Ahern’s old constituency base of St Luke’s in Drumcondra is being purchased by his former secretary, the Irish Independent can reveal.

Grainne Carruth and her accountant husband, Eamonn O’Connell, plan to use the famous Dublin building as their family home.

Ms Carruth previously worked at St Luke’s for over half a decade and was a crucial witness in the Mahon Tribunal, which brought about the downfall of Mr Ahern.

She memorably broke down in tears when she accepted she had made a sterling lodgement on his behalf, contradicting evidence given by the former Taoiseach.

Bertie Ahern
Bertie Ahern

Ms Carruth and her husband fought off other bidders to secure the property for €774,000.

The sale price is almost €180,000 more than the Fianna Fail organisation had sought when the property was put on the market last March.

St Luke's Drumcomdra
St Luke's Drumcomdra

Sources indicated the sale will officially go through some time in the next week.

It is understood Ms Carruth has always had an attachment to the building on Lower Drumcondra Road, where she worked before transferring to Government buildings in the mid-1990s.

Grainne Carruth
Grainne Carruth

In its current guise, St Luke’s is made up of meeting rooms and an office on the ground floor, with living quarters upstairs.

However, the couple are to convert the 1,900 sq ft property into a house and will live there with their three children, aged between 12 and 15.

They had been on the look-out for a larger residence when St Luke’s came on the market.

Their new home will only be a short distance from Mr O’Connell’s accountancy practice, OCMC, which is located in neighbouring Cian Park.

The two-storey red-brick building served as the nerve centre for Mr Ahern’s constituency organisation during his time as Taoiseach between 1997 and 2008, and over the years has entered into political folklore.

It has hosted many politically sensitive meetings related to the North, as well as visits from former US president, Bill Clinton, and former British prime minister, Tony Blair.

Although the sale of the property was approved by Fianna Fail’s national executive last month, members were not informed who the winning bidder was. The proceeds from the sale are expected to be used to pay down the party’s debts and to fund the upcoming general election campaign.

St Luke’s was bought by a trust comprising friends of Mr Ahern for £56,000 in 1988.

The trust signed over ownership of the building to Fianna Fail in 2012.

Ms Carruth’s evidence at the tribunal in March, 2008, was a pivotal moment in the downfall of Mr Ahern – and he stepped down as Taoiseach two months later

She had initially insisted she did not remember making certain lodgements for Mr Ahern.

However, under cross examination, she admitted that on the balance of probabilities she had lodged Stg£15,500 to Mr Ahern’s building society accounts and those of his daughters in 1994.

The testimony contradicted earlier evidence from Mr Ahern that the money came from salary cheques.

Mr Ahern later described the tribunal’s treatment of Ms Carruth as “appalling and low-life stuff”.

Irish Independent

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