Thursday 20 June 2019

Top broker says Ahern not telling the truth on 'dig-out'

Senan Molony and Lorna Reid

THE Taoiseach's account of how he got a IR£22,500 'dig-out' loan is untrue, according to the leading stockbroker described by Bertie Ahern as a "close" friend.

Former NCB managing director Padraic O'Connor yesterday directly contradicted Mr Ahern's claims that long-standing friends gave him a loan just after Christmas 1993.

Mr O'Connor told the Mahon Tribunal that Mr Ahern's explanation -- broadcast to more than 1.3 million RTE viewers in September 2006 -- was an untruth, as far as he was concerned.

When asked by tribunal lawyers if the Taoiseach's version of events was untrue insofar as he could say, Mr O'Connor replied: "Yes."

In the strongest contradiction of the Taoiseach's explanation to date, Mr O'Connor also said:

l He is not a friend of Bertie Ahern's;

l He felt "uncomfortable" about being named as one of the dig-out friends;

l His IR£5,000 payment was not a personal donation;

l The payment was not a loan;

l The Taoiseach did not thank him personally for it, as Mr Ahern has claimed to the tribunal;

l He took legal advice when the money was repaid with interest by Mr Ahern;

l He has never cashed that cheque.

"I could not understand why this was being said," Mr O'Connor testified in connection with being named in the TV interview. "This came out of the blue."

He said he was never a close friend of the Taoiseach and that his "surprise was total" when he heard his name mentioned on television as a dig-out contributor by the Fianna Fail leader.

"I got to know Mr Ahern at the Department of Finance in the context of the currency crisis," Mr O'Connor said.

"It is flattering to be described as a friend. I was not a close personal friend. Since I left NCB eight years ago, I have met Mr Ahern once or twice. I have no recollection of any mention made of the money paid.

"I made no personal donation to Mr Ahern."

He also insisted he was never approached to assist with Mr Ahern's legal bills arising from his marital separation and never made such a payment.

And he said it was never suggested that the money was a loan which would be repaid.

The testimony does huge damage to the Taoiseach's claims that a mystery lodgement of IR£22,500 came from friends concerned about his financial well-being.

In his TV interview with RTE's Bryan Dobson in September 2006, Mr Ahern insisted that the loan "was raised by close friends, people who were close to me for most of my life".

Mr Ahern said his friends had "come to me a month earlier" and had offered money, with a plan for a fundraiser function at IR£1,000 a head, but he had rejected this.

He named Mr O'Connor as one of those who were "all friends of mine".

Mr O'Connor has already told the tribunal in a private interview that the cheque he gave -- for IR£5,000 -- was intended as a donation to Fianna Fail. He also said that he was never a close friend of Bertie Ahern.

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