15 September 2008

Bertie Ahern rejects Bribery Allegation

Today Bertie Ahern (left) has told the Mahon Tribunal (Tribunal of Inquiry into Planning Matters and Payments) he "absolutely rejects" the allegation that he received a bribe of £ 30,000 to block tax designation for a Dublin shopping centre.

The former Taoiseach, who resigned in May with allegations of financial improprieties hanging over him, returned to the tribunal to give evidence about his involvement in a proposal to build a national stadium in Neilstown and the development of the Liffey Valley shopping centre at Quarryvale.

He said he has "no recollection of discussing tax designation with the developers of shopping centres in Quarryvale and Blanchardstown".
Ahern, who was Minister for Finance in the 1990s, explained that he held the department line in refusing to give tax designation for the Blanchardstown or Quarryvale shopping centres.

This was despite calls for tax breaks for Blanchardstown by the then Tánaiste, the late Brian Lenihan (Snr), the leaders of Fine Gael and of the Workers' Party, and local councillors.

Ahern remembered that he met both Owen O'Callaghan, the developer of Quarryvale, and John Corcoran, the developer of Blanchardstown, to be updated about the projects. But he had no recollection of discussing tax designation with either man.

The former Fianna Fail leader, who is still a TD for his Dublin constituency (now as a rather quiet backbencher) said he did "not receive one cent from Mr. O'Callaghan" and did not receive money to block the designation for Blanchardstown.

He recalled meeting O'Callaghan in his constituency office in 1998, where he told him he would not support the proposal to build a national stadium at Neilstown, because he had his own plan to build one elsewhere.

The tribunal continues its inquiry and Bertie Ahern is scheduled for two days of testimony.

The Emerald Islander

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