Saturday 20 October 2018

Bertie Ahern walks out of interview after questions about Mahon Tribunal

  • Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern walked out of an interview with Germany's international broadcaster
  • Journalist Tim Sebastian questions Ahern on his 'own mixed fortunes' since Good Friday Agreement
  • 'They said you weren’t truthful' - journalist tells Bertie Ahern
  • Bertie Ahern: 'I agreed to meet you on the Good Friday Agreement, we’ve done that so we’re finished, thank you very much'
  • 'I’m quite happy I cleared my name' - Ahern tells programme before he walks out
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern

Kyle Ewald

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern walked out of an interview with Germany's international broadcaster after the interviewer questioned him about the Mahon Tribunal.

Interviewing the former Taoiseach about the Good Friday Agreement on DW's Conflict Zone, journalist Tim Sebastian changed topic and questioned Mr Ahern on the findings of the Mahon Tribunal, saying; "They said you weren’t truthful".

Mr Ahern responded by saying he was "happy with [his] evidence" at the tribunal, he has "dealt with the issue of the tribunal comprehensively" and added that he "won't be saying anymore about the issue".

He then walked out of the interview, saying; "I agreed to meet you on the Good Friday Agreement, we’ve done that so we’re finished, thank you very much."

Mr Sebastian welcomed Mr Ahern to the broadcaster's flagship political talk show, which promises "hard-hitting interview going beyond the normal sound-bite culture", to speak about the Good Friday Agreement.

The pair spoke about the current Northern Ireland political crisis, the Good Friday Agreement and how Brexit could affect the peace in the North.

However, Sebastian then asked Bertie Ahern about his "own mixed fortunes" since the Good Friday Agreement. He questioned Mr Ahern about his resignation from Fianna Fáil after the Mahon Tribunal found he did not truthfully account for payments made to accounts connected to him.

The report stemming from the tribunal did not find the former Taoiseach to be corrupt, but resulted in Ahern resigning from the party in March 2012. He had stepped down as Taoiseach in 2008 and as a TD in 2011. He has always rejected the report's findings.

"I’m quite happy I cleared my name," Mr Ahern told the programme.

When asked why the tribunal never reversed its decision, he replied; "No I mean, the tribunal gave its views, the tribunal gave its views."

Mr Sebastian asked; "They said you weren’t truthful."

To which, Mr Ahern replied; "No, they gave its views and I gave my evidence. I gave my evidence and I was very happy with my evidence, I was very happy with the situation that I gave and the tribunal is over and its reported and that’s it.

"I’ve definitely dealt with that issue and I’m not saying any more about that issue, I’ve dealt with it comprehensively."

When prompted about looking to run for presidency with these issues "in the public domain", Mr Ahern replied; "That will be for another day, that will be for another day."

The programme tweeted a clip of the incident, describing the interview walk-out as a "first"; "A first on #dwZone: "The former Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern called a halt to our interview after Tim Sebastian raised the financial scandal that led to Ahern's resignation as PM."

Transcript of interview before the walk-out:

Interviewer: Bertie Ahern, in the years since the good Friday Agreement your own fortunes have been mixed. In 2012, you resigned from your party after public inquiries said you lied about the source of substantial sums of money that you’d received. You said you’d go and clear your name, did you clear your name?

Ahern: Yes, I did, I’m quite happy I cleared my name.

Interviewer: Because the tribunal never reversed its decision.

Ahern: No I mean, the tribunal gave its views, the tribunal gave its views.

Interviewer: They said you weren’t truthful.

Ahern: No, they gave its views and I gave my evidence. I gave my evidence and I was very happy with my evidence, I was very happy with the situation that I gave and the tribunal is over and its reported and that’s it.

Interviewer: But do you understand why they thought that you had lied?

Ahern: I do, I’ve definitely dealt with that issue and I’m not saying any more about that issue, I’ve dealt with it comprehensively.

Interviewer: A finance minister without a bank account -

Ahern: I’ve dealt with all those issues comprehensively; I’m not dealing with them again.

Interviewer: You’re someone who wants to come back maybe as President, these are issues that are be in the public domain.

Ahern: That will be for another day, that will be for another day.

Interviewer: For a senior politician who is always to avoid impropriety, but the appearance of impropriety.

Ahern: I’ve given my total views on that issue and I’m not going to add to them.

Interviewer: Let me talk about the crash, the economic crash, the tribunal verdict on you came 4 years ago.

Ahern: Can I just explain for a minute to you -

Interviewer: Why you don’t want to talk about these things?

Ahern: I agreed to meet you on the Good Friday Agreement, we’ve done that so we’re finished, thank you very much.

Interviewer: Alright.

Ahern: *walks out*

Speaking to the Sunday Independent in 2012, the former Taoiseach told how he was going to resign as a member of Fianna Fail, the political party he had led for 14 years.

He also told the newspaper that he intended to challenge the findings of the Mahon tribunal, which he has found to be "frustrating" and "incredulous".

Mr Ahern said he had been the "victim" of a "serious breach of constitutional justice" at the tribunal before and says: "The tribunal is not a court of law. And it is not infallible."

He also said he was "hurt and disappointed" by the findings of the Mahon tribunal and said he believes a "grave injustice" had been done to him.

He added: "I bear the members of the tribunal no ill-will. Their findings in relation to me are not correct. They are plain and simply wrong.

"I have to be true to myself. It would be far easier for me to say nothing and try to forget about this nightmare. But I can't allow this blemish on my character to go unanswered. What has been said about me is erroneous, unwarranted and unjust."

Mr Ahern says he believes the "unorthodox nature" of his financial affairs had allowed the tribunal to cast doubt on the veracity of the evidence he gave.

"I have accepted before that my personal finances were chaotic, I apologise for that especially if it has caused anxiety or confusion for people, as this arose from a busy and personally traumatic period in my life. I was in the process of bringing my marital separation to a conclusion," he said.

He said he had an "enormous workload and punishing schedules", and added; "Through all of this I was the father of two young children; in a new relationship, and maintaining long-standing friendships."

Mr Ahern was a member of Fianna Fail for more than 40 years.

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