Wednesday 18 September 2019

Simon Coveney's adviser says 'Bertie Ahern rehabilitation makes him sick'

Tanaiste Simon Coveney. Photo: Colin Keegan / Collins Dublin
Tanaiste Simon Coveney. Photo: Colin Keegan / Collins Dublin
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Tanaiste Simon Coveney has sought to distance himself from comments made by his special adviser about former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

The Tanaiste's adviser and former Newstalk broadcaster Chris Donoghue said the "reintroduction" of Mr Ahern as a "credible instead of a disgraced Taoiseach makes him sick".

Mr Donoghue also said Mr Ahern has never addressed the Mahon Tribunal's findings against him in the Irish media.

The comments on Twitter were made while Mr Ahern was being interviewed on RTE Radio One by Marian Finucane.

During a briefing in the Department of Foreign Affairs last week, the Tanaiste said his adviser expressed "personal views".

"I don't control everything that people who work for me say and I shouldn't," he added.

Asked if Mr Ahern was using the Brexit debate to rehabilitate his reputation after the Mahon Report, Mr Coveney said: "I don't think it's helpful for a Tanaiste to start commenting on a former Taoiseach and I am not going to do it."

Mr Coveney said he has spoken to Mr Ahern on a number of occasions about Brexit and his work on the Good Friday Agreement.

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. Photo: Damien Eagers/INM

"I think he has a contribution to make in terms of his experience in Northern Ireland. I think in many ways Bertie Ahern's greatest achievements were linked to the Peace Process," Mr Coveney said.

"I think he understands the parties well in Northern Ireland and I have benefited from hearing his views. But I am not going to get into personality comments in relation to it," he added.

The Mahon Report rejected Mr Ahern's evidence surrounding the source of more than £215,000 lodged in bank accounts connected to him.

The report states that "much of the explanation provided by Mr Ahern as to the source of the substantial funds… was deemed by the tribunal to have been untrue".

It also rejected the former Taoiseach's claim that some of the payments were a result of dig outs from friends who were helping him after he was going through a marital separation. Mr Ahern rejected the tribunal's findings.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin put down a motion to expel Mr Ahern from the party shortly after the Mahon Report was published in 2012.

Mr Martin said the comments in the report about the former Taoiseach were "extremely serious" and said he "fell short of the standard of personal behaviour which all holders of public office should uphold".

Mr Ahern resigned from Fianna Fail before the party could vote on expelling him.

Earlier this year, Mr Ahern walked out of an interview with German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle when he was questioned about the Mahon Report.

Sunday Independent

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