22 February 2008

A Pot calling the Kettle black...

Today the Chairman of the Mahon Tribunal asked counsel for the Taoiseach to withdraw what he called "disgraceful and offensive comments". Judge Alan Mahon (left) said suggestions that the tribunal was biased and had an agenda were untrue. He told Conor Maguire SC that comments made by him suggested the Mahon Tribunal was a witch-hunt pursued by a bunch of crooks. He said the suggestion that the tribunal consisted of three judges on an illegal, corrupt and criminal frolic of their own was offensive and should be withdrawn.

The exchange between the two men lasted for more than half an hour, and members of the public clapped and cheered in support of the tribunal during the exchange.
Judge Mahon said Bertie Ahern's senior counsel was in effect accusing the tribunal of being corrupt. This - the judge said - was disgraceful.

The tribunal also formally ruled that the Taoiseach was not prejudiced by the non-circulation of correspondence with a number of stockbroking firms, regarding the Fianna Fáil fundraising activities.
After four hours in the tribunal's witness box yesterday, Bertie Ahern spent a second consecutive day at the Mahon Tribunal today. One begins to wonder if and how these frequent appearances before the investigation reduce the Taoiseach's ability to lead the country and government, and in which way the clouds hanging over him have a lasting effect on his personal and political reputation, which could also reflect back on Ireland as a whole.

In the light of recent revelations about Bertie Ahern's finances and his apparent inability to recall the origins of various large sums of money, one is moved to question his credibility. Anyone I know would remember the receipt of a £5000-cheque, and who he received it from. This should be even more the case for a man who has been dealing with money all his adult life, first as an accountant, then as a politician and especially as the country's Minister for Finance and Taoiseach.

The verbal attacks made by Ahern's senior counsel yesterday on the Mahon Tribunal are in particular unfortunate and uncalled for. It appears that here is a rather dark pot calling the shining and well-polished kettle black...

The Celia Larkin Link
Meanwhile another twist in Bertie's never-ending story emerged. The Taoiseach has denied that a £ 30,000 loan from a Fianna Fáil fundraising account that Celia Larkin (right) - then and for many years his mistress and partner - used to buy a house has any implications for him.
Speaking as he left the Mahon Tribunal this evening, Bertie Ahern said the decision was one for the trust and it was entitled to do it.
It emerged this afternoon that Ms. Larkin is the registered owner of a house bought using a loan of £ 30,000 from the St. Luke's Building Trust account of the Fianna Fáil central Dublin constituency organisation. It was loaned in 1993 to assist with the purchase of the property.

A solicitor for Ms. Larkin and her aunt argued that the matter is not connected to the tribunal and does not fall under its terms of reference.
In the early 1990s, the house in which Celia Larkin's aunts lived with friends was put on the open market. It was proposed that the women remaining could rent the upstairs portion of the house. But concerns about that arrangement were expressed and Ms. Larkin assisted with the purchase. The house cost over £ 40,000 and one of Ms. Larkin's aunts provided part of the price. The property was then bought in Ms. Larkin's name and she undertook the maintenance.

Bertie Ahern told the tribunal this afternoon that there was no legal agreement drawn up for the loan, but "it may have been recorded in minutes or notes". It was agreed if the house was sold, or if the trustees of the Building Trust Account sought repayment, the funds would be returned immediately.
Ahern also confirmed that the loan was only repaid "since [last] Christmas". He said that the funds repaid for the loan with interest will be returned to the Building Trust Account.

The Emerald Islander

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