Readers will be aware that I have been following events at the tribunals closely for several years. When I lived in Dublin I attended Flood and Moriarty on a regular basis. I saw the evidence of many ‘star’ witnesses including James Gogarty, Ray Burke, Liam Lawlor, Charlie Haughey, Denis O’Brien, Michael Lowry, and many others.
You may not be aware, given the lack of media coverage, but last week was probably the most important week in the history of the Flood/Mahon tribunal.
It was the most explosive evidence I have ever heard. It was certainly also one of the most dramatic weeks. Over two days, Wednesday 19th and Thursday the 20th of March, we heard clear and concise contradictory evidence against the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern. This evidence was based in part on the recollection of employees of his bank branch and on documentary evidence that recently became available to the Tribunal.
In terms of the so-called Bertiegate saga, the evidence on those days is as important, if not more so, as the day the scandal first came to light following a leak to the Irish Times in September 2006. It was more important than all of the days Ahern gave evidence combined. It was more important than all the evidence given by Ahern’s friends and colleagues.
It has been shown that when Ahern was asked about lodgments to his Irish Permanent account he believed that there was a lack of documentary evidence to either support or deny his story. The bank had said they could not find documentary evidence. So Ahern told the tribunal that lodgments came from an accumulation of salary cheques.
The bank later found documentary evidence. And this documentary evidence proved that lodgments to Ahern’s accounts were made in cash, in Sterling. Ahern had never told this to the tribunal, at any stage, in the prior three years.
When his secretary Grainne Caruth, who made the lodgments on Ahern’s behalf, was asked about these lodgments she was shocked. She then claimed that she could not remember lodging the Sterling sums to Ahern’s accounts. She could not remember lodging the equivalent of two years’ of her own salary in one day.
The judges clearly did not believe that she could not remember. Which means she was lying under oath. Perjury.
It also means that the Taoiseach lied to the Tribunal. It could also mean that many of his friends lied to the Tribunal. This includes Tim Collins, who claimed the B/T account was a Building Trust account, when really it was the Bertie/Tim account.
The upshot of all this is that Ahern also committed perjury. Collins too. His digout friends are looking more suspicious. A criminal conspiracy if you will.
So our leader, our Taoiseach, lies under oath. He may say he ‘forgot’ to the tell the tribunal about sterling. But this does not cut it. Sterling went into his personal accounts, and he never told the Tribunal. He thought they would never find out about it for lack of documentary evidence. But unfortunately for him, the evidence turned up. Now he is caught.
And how did RTE, which prides itself on Tribunal issues, cover this massive story? With silence.
The story was demoted to second or third on the news agenda on both days. There were no talking heads live from the tribunal, simply stock news reports, with little follow up analysis to explain the gravity of the news. No doorstopping of Ahern over the weekend.
By Sunday, it’s influential This Week programme on RTE Radio 1 was on the story. Except a newbie, and apparently a trainee, was put on the task of helping us understand the week’s events. She failed miserably. It was an embarrassment.
By this week, it has fallen off the news agenda. Ahern has simply refused to talk about it. Gone to ground. Will deal with it later. And the journos it seems have accepted that.
It is not good enough. It is not acceptable.
Where did the Sterling come from and why did Ahern not tell the Tribunal? Two simple questions. We need answers. Not at the end of May. Not in the Tribunal. Not next week. Now.
I, for one, demand it.