I just listened to Willy O’Dea on Saturday view. After the evidence of Padraic O’Connor this week, it now seems that the Government’s line on it is that NO conflict exists between the story of Ahern and the story of O’Connor. There is only conflict between Des Richardson and O’Connor. This is clearly a lie. But O’Dea as ever, qualified everything repeatedly by saying “it was my understanding”.
Let me be 100% clear. It is my belief that Bertie Ahern deliberately misrepresented himself in the Brian Dobson interview. It is my belief that he did not cooperate with the Mahon Tribunal. At best, he was delinquent in telling them of foreign exchange transactions. At worst, he obstructed the tribunal from carrying out its work.
Ahern: “So my life wasn’t being investigated, my marriage wasn’t being investigated, what I gave to the children wasn’t being investigated. It was – the planning tribunals are about corruption, eh, about people doing wrongdoing and I just wanted to clear my name to show that and it was right that I would have to give all these details. And I did give them.”
Wrong. His life was being investigated. The allegation is that Ahern received large cash sums. The Tribunal is investigating his accounts on foot of this. Ahern made cash lodgments in the relevant timeframe, December 1993 to August 1994 of £72,500. This was over twice his salary. Cash lodgments. A lodgment of £22,500 in December 1993, a lodgment of £30,000 in April 1994 and a lodgment of £20,000 cash was made into the account of his daughters in August 1994. It is an investigation of his life in 1993, 1994, and 1995.
Ahern did not give “all these details”. It took him over two years to tell to the Tribunal there were foreign exchange transactions.
Ahern: “The money was raised, eh, by close friends, people who were close to me for most of my life. They are not political friends, they are personal friends and they are long-standing friends.”
Wrong. Padraic O’Connor was not a close friend. He was not close to him for most of his life. He is not a personal friend. He is not a long-standing friend. He is not friends with Bertie Ahern. Can we be any clearer here? O’Connor believed he was making a political donation – but Richardson took the money and gave it to Ahern. There is a direct conflict, contrary to the views of Willie O’Dea.
Ahern: “The first one, Christmas week in 1993, my solicitor, the late Gerry Brennan, who had been a long friend of mine, he had asked friends of mine, unknown to me, and, eh, unsolicited by me, to make a contribution to help me because he knew of my financial state at the time.”
Wrong. Brennan knew how much his legal fees were because Brennan was the man charging him those fees. If Brennan knew Ahern’s financial state at the time (£50,000 in cash allegedly saved since 1987) then he would never have needed to do the whip-round. Secondly, Ahern paid his legal fees on December 23 via an AIB loan. He received the donation the following week from Gerry Brennan, not Des Richardson, as Willie O’Dea alleged.
Ahern: “So then unknown to me he went to personal friends of mine, Paddy Reilly, Des Richardson, Pádraig O’Connor, Jim Nugent, David McKenna, Fintan Gunne, who is deceased, Mick Collins, Charlie Chawke, all personal friends of mine.”
Wrong. Again. Padraic O’Connor was not a personal friend. Padraic O’Connor was not a personal friend. Clear?
Ahern: “And, em, that I would pay that back in, in full and at another date when I could.”
Wrong. Ahern already had the money to pay them back. He had £50,000 saved by this time he alleged, and he had already paid his legal bills by way of an unsecured loan from AIB.
Ahern: “All but one paid 5,000 and one paid 2½. Em, eh, they had given me that, they were all friends and I was beholden to none of them or them to me for any political issues, they were people who were well known to be very close to me.”
Wrong. Strike three. Padraic O’Connor was not close to Ahern. Padraic O’Connor was not friends with Ahern. Clear now?
Ahern: “I, I, would say I told them very clearly that I wouldn’t accept it on any other terms and that has always been the basis, and a loan with interest because I said Brian, that I wouldn’t be able to pay it back for a time but that I would pay it and pay it with interest. There was no written agreement they were friends.”
Wrong. Strike four. O’Connor has said he was never told it was a loan. He says it was a political donation. Ahern never told O’Connor he would pay him back. They were not friends. Secondly, Ahern says he wouldn’t “be able” to pay it back for a time. Yet within four months he lodged £30,000 cash. Within eight months he had lodged £50,000 cash. This is more than enough to pay them back.
Ahern: “I haven’t paid, em, the money because they refused to take it, I think they will now because they see the difficulty but I offered a number of times to repay it.”
Wrong. Padraic O’Connor never refused to take it because he never saw it as a loan. He saw it as a political donation.
Ahern: “it’s a debt that I’ll pay the interest on, and they all accept that.”
Wrong. Again. O’Connor does not accept that.
Ahern: “the person who was deemed to have paid most of this actually paid £2,500”
Wrong. The O’Connor donation was £5,000.
Ahern: “I would not have been able to pay it until about 1999 or 2000”
Wrong. In 1994 alone Ahern lodged £50,000 into an SSA. This was more than enough to pay them back.
Ahern: “I also had to pay off other bills, so the money I’d saved (50k) was gone”
Wrong. How could the money be gone when he lodged in April and August of 1994? What bills did he have to pay?
Ahern: “But they were long-standing, close, political and personal friends of mine and mainly personal friends. And on the basis that I would pay back the money, it wasn’t big money either, quite frankly, and that they were under that understanding, now I had difficulty paying it back afterwards.”
Wrong. Padraic O’Connor was not a long-standing, close, political or personal friend. O’Connor heard nothing of being paid back. Ahern would have no difficulty paying it back.
Ahern: “I didn’t see them as any risk other than friends at a time of need when they knew I was in difficulty.”
Wrong. Padraic O’Connor was not his friend, and Ahern was not in difficulty going on his bank accounts.
Ahern: “contributions, em, from friends who had a clear understanding they would be paid back.”
Wrong. How many times… Padraic O’Connor was not his friend. There was no understanding his donation would be paid back.
Ahern: “And these were, eh, close friends, they were not big business interests that were removed from me, they were people that I saw, if not on a weekly basis on a very, very regular basis”
Wrong. Padraic O’Connor was not a close friend. He did not see Ahern on a regular basis at all.
Ahern: “I had to pay my legal fees, which I did take a loan out, they helped me to clear out quicker and then I had to go through, but I did it at that particular time. I didn’t continue with, I didn’t do it again.”
Wrong. The legal fees were indeed paid by a loan, but the loan was not cleared until 1996. Indeed, Ahern had a moratorium on repayments until mid 1995. He started paying the loan back at that time, and had it repaid within 7 months. How can he say it was paid off quicker as a result of donations in 1993 is beyond me.
Ahern: “I think my friends would realise that if they had accepted back the money when I offered it, it would have been easier for me now. But they thought they were being helpful to me.”
Wrong. He never offered the money back to Padraic O’Connor. O’Connor believed he was making a political donation. Clear yet?
Ahern: “I’m giving you precisely how I got the money, from close friends, eh, people who cared about me.”
Wrong. Padraic O’Connor did not care about Ahern. He was not a close friend.
Mr Ahern’s tearful interview with Ahern was a complete misrepresentation of the facts.