Bertie Ahern: Someone sent me a rope with a noose
FORMER Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said he has been the subject of “vicious” hatemail and threatening calls since leaving office in the run-up to Ireland’s economic crash.
But, in a wide-ranging interview on RTE Radio this morning, he repeatedly refused to take responsibility for the failings of the Central Bank or Financial Regulator – arguing that overseeing these institutions was “not in my remit”, and both were entirely independent.
Despite persistent questioning from Miriam O’Callaghan, Mr Ahern disagreed that – as Taoiseach and leader of the country – he was responsible for what when on in the two authorities, which have since been lambasted for being asleep at the wheel before the recession.
“We were totally detached,” he said.
“The Central Bank and Regulator are entirely independent from the political system.”
Mr Ahern had made similar statements during his appearance in front of the Banking Inquiry.
Speaking today, he insisted that he takes full responsibility for the decisions taken by his government – but that regulation of the banking system was not his area, despite his Cabinet being responsible for bringing in the legislation under which the Financial Regulator operated.
He admitted to making mistakes while in government – but focused the error in allowing revenue from property-related taxes to become too important to the national finances, and not maintaining the country’s competitiveness.
“I was as horrified as anyone else at the small level of regulation within AIB and Bank of Ireland,” he added.
He says he very much took the responsibility of the trust people gave him.
“We did extraordinarily good job on bringing up income - we lost a lot, but we didn't lose everything.,” he said
Much of what he said echoed his statements at the Banking Inquiry last week – but he said he had not received any coaching on what to say for that appearance.
Read more: What did Bertie do with the surpluses?
Mr Ahern also came out fighting when the findings of the Mahon report – that he ‘failed to truthfully account for the origin of £165,000’ lodged to bank accounts connected to him.
Judge Alan Mahon, had, he said, got it wrong.
“That’s his problem, he’s wrong,” he said.
“I hope he feels happy … They were wrong then, they were wrong now, they’ll be wrong til the day I die.”
Mr Ahern – who again pointed out that he was going through marriage difficulties during some of the time being looked at – did admit that some of his financial arrangements were unorthodox.
“Some of the things I did were fairly bizarre... I don’t deny that. But it had nothing to do with [property developer Owen] O’Callaghan,” he said.
Had he had any regrets about his own behaviour?
“I was sorry I ever met Mr O’Callaghan or [Tom] Gilmartin,” he said.
After dancing around the questions of whether he would rejoin Fianna Fail if he was asked, or whether he would voluntarily return a planned pension increase to the state, Mr Ahern was a little more forthcoming on the work he is doing now – helping in various conflict resolution processes in a number of regions, including the Ukraine and Spain.
He also denied that he has been booed a number of times at Croke Park – saying it only happened once, and that was when the country was going well in 2002 – but admitted he has received some hate mail since leaving office. .
“I got some horrendous mail and threatening calls, but gardaí got the bottom of it,” he said.
“One individual sent me a rope with a noose, which wasn’t too nice.”
He added that it was only from a small minority, and had eased off more recently. .