Sure he's laughing on €264k expenses sham

BONANZA: Ahern's claims reach dizzy heights since he quit

Cormac Murphy

TAXPAYERS have been forced to fork out nearly €270,000 to cover Bertie Ahern's expenses since he stepped down as Taoiseach.

Mr Ahern, whose government fuelled the property bubble, is entitled to two secretarial assistants, free mobile phone use and VIP services at airports.

He is also allowed the use of a State car for official engagements.

Mr Ahern has claimed far more money than other retired taoisigh, according to a report by the Department of the Taoiseach.

He has been paid just over €264,000 in expenses since he stepped down in May 2008, including €7,500 on mobile phone bills. The money is separate from his pension, which stands at €150,000 a year.

His secretarial expenses amounted to €106,838 last year and €114,369 in 2009.

He claimed €42,890 for secretarial expenses in the first six months of this year. This compared to €24,731 for Albert Reynolds and €13,562 for John Bruton.

Brian Cowen claimed €15,260 for secretarial assistance until the end of June. Under the current regime, former taoisigh can employ two secretarial assistants -- with a maximum annual salary of €55,415 -- for up to five years after leaving office.

They are entitled to keep on one assistant indefinitely after the initial five-year period ends.

Meanwhile, Mr Ahern has hit out at the Mahon Tribunal ahead of the publication of its final report, describing the focus on his personal finances as "trash".

When it was suggested to him that the planning tribunal would reject his convoluted explanations for his financial affairs, he replied: "Well, I don't know that. The Daily Mail said that. I wouldn't believe the date on the Daily Mail. So, you know, I haven't got a clue what will be in it."


He added: "The only thing that's important to me is the central allegation that has been made against me.

"Well, there's four: Did I interfere in the designation of Blanchardstown/Quarryvale? That's number one. Number two, did I interfere with the planning of Quarryvale/Blanchardstown? Number three, did I take money from O'Callaghan? Number four, did I take money from any of the six companies named?

"They're the only issues that matter. And the answer to the four of those, as far as I'm concerned, is No."

The Mahon Tribunal is expected to issue its final report before the end of the year.