Mahon Report rejects Bertie Ahern's evidence

Tuesday 20 August 2013 11.15
Final report after 15 years of public hearings
Final report after 15 years of public hearings

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has insisted that he told the truth to the Mahon Tribunal and that he would examine ways of vindicating his name.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin tonight said he would be recommending the expulsion of Mr Ahern and former EU commissioner Padraig Flynn from the party in light of the final report of the Mahon Tribunal.

In a statement tonight, Mr Ahern said he hid nothing, gave the Tribunal unfettered access to all his financial records, and after years of investigation, it made no finding of corruption against him.

He said he strongly rejected any suggestion that he sought to mislead it and that he found it remarkable that his evidence had been "summarily rejected" even where there was no evidence to the contrary.

The Mahon Report, published today, found that Mr Ahern gave untrue evidence about the source of over £215,000 lodged in bank accounts connected to him.

The report also made findings of corruption against former minister Mr Flynn, developer Owen O'Callaghan, the late TD Liam Lawlor and 11 councillors.

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Mahon Tribunal: Full report | Overview

On page lvi of the table of content and on page 2502 Chapter seventeen, of the Tribunal’s final report, Mr Conor Haughey’s name is mistakenly stated instead of Mr Ciaran Haughey. Mr Conor Haughey had no involvement with the Tribunal inquiries.

The Tribunal has unreservedly apologised to Mr Conor Haughey for this error.

Amended report in link above

What did the Mahon Tribunal cost?

Profiles: Frank Dunlop | Liam Lawlor | Owen O'Callaghan | Tom Gilmartin

Corruption affected 'every level of Irish political life'
Bertie Ahern failed to ‘truthfully account’ for source of money
Padraig Flynn ‘wrongly and corruptly’ sought donations
Liam Lawlor accepted ‘inappropriate and corrupt payments'
Owen O'Callaghan paid £1.8m to Frank Dunlop over 10 years

Updates:

2135 Fianna Fáil has issued a statement saying it will seek to expel Bertie Ahern from the party.

The motion will be put forward at a special meeting of its national executive next week.

The statement said the manner in which he received this money while holding high office meant he betrayed the trust placed in him by the country and the party.

The party has also said it will seek to expel former EU Commissioner Padraig Flynn and councillors GV Wright, Don Lydon and Finbarr Hanrahan.

2125 Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin will seek the expulsion of Bertie Ahern and Padraig Flynn from the party.

2036 Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern has issued a statement on the Mahon Tribunal report.

"After spending over a decade of inquiries and countless millions of euros, the Tribunal has not made - nor could it make - a finding to support the scurrilous and untrue allegation allegation that I had been given a corrupt payment by Mr Owen O'Callaghan (the Cork based developer of Quarryvale) or any of his companies.

"I have never received a corrupt payment and I have never done
anything to demean any office I have held. I know that some people
will feel that some aspects of my personal finances are unusual and
that in retrospect it is obvious I was wrong not to have paid more
attention to my financial affairs and records.

"I hid nothing. I gave the Tribunal unfettered access to all my
financial records, and after years of investigation, this Tribunal has
not made any finding of corruption against me. I have told the truth
to this Tribunal, and I reject strongly any suggestion that I sought
to mislead it" - Bertie Ahern

2023 Fianna Fáil TD Seán Fleming says he is writing to the tribunal to seek an "urgent correction".

"The Tribunal report, most probably inadvertently, implied that I, in my capacity as former Financial Controller of Fianna Fáil, was aware of the IR£50,000 payment to Mr Padraig Flynn by Mr Tom Gilmartin. This is simply not the case."

"I fully recognise the findings of the Tribunal report. However since an incorrect statement has been made against me which has significant consequences for me as a serving politician and Chartered Accountant I believe and hope that the Tribunal will move to correct this small but significant error."

2018 "The Mahon Report vindicates those who fought against corrupt planning and it shames elements of our political system from the top down" - Eamon Ryan.

1837 "These people betrayed the trust the Irish people put in them and betrayed the trust that members of the party up and down the country put in them" - Micheál Martin

1833 "I accept the findings of the tribunal" - Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, speaking on Six One.

Asked if Bertie Ahern's position in Fianna Fáil was untenable, Martin said he did not want to pre-empt the Fianna Fáil officer board meeting tonight.

"I did promise swift and comprehensive action... There are procedures we have to work through... Within the next short period we will have a clear indication of what action we (Fianna Fáil) are going to take"

1824 Some interesting quotes from 2007 (discussing Bertie Ahern's appearance at the Mahon Tribunal)

20 December 2007 - Dermot Ahern:

"I find it quite astonishing. the line of questioning from the Tribunal brings to mind what Supreme Court Judge Sue Denham said back in July when the Supreme Court had a decision on the Tribunal where they said the Oireachtas had given the Tribunal a job to do to investigate urgent planning matters and she said what was happening 10 years on was the antithesis of an investigation into urgent planning matters."

21 December 2007 - Willie O'Dea:

"I'm waiting for the day that the tribunal goes back to Bertie Ahern's first communion money and starts questioning whether he got it in notes or coins or whether he put it in a real bank or a piggy bank or did he get a half crown from Owen O'Callaghan.

"Where are we going and where is it going to finish up?"

21 December 2007 - Dick Roche:

"I felt it was petty, it was personal and prurient and at times, it bordered on voyeurism.

I found it difficult to see yesterday what a lot of the cross examination had to do with... (the matter at hand)"

1752 David McCullagh: The Fianna Fáil Officer Board - which is to meet this evening to consider the Mahon Report - can make recomendations to the party's National Executive, but can't itself take disciplinary action against party members.

Seven days notice has to be given for any meeting to consider disciplinary action, and while a National Executive meeting was due to be held next week, Friday would be the earliest date for a special meeting.

The members of the Officer Board are the party leader, Micheal Martin; the five Vice Presidents, Senator Mary White, Deputy Timmy Dooley, former TD Aine Brady, Kathryn Byrne, and Lisa Chambers; the two honorary secretaries, Deputy Dara Calleary and former TD Margaret Conlon; and the two Honorary Treasurers, Niall Collins TD and Hugh Dolan.

1705 Former TD Noel Ahern says he is pleased the central accusation against his brother was found to be untrue.

Speaking to RTÉ News outside St Luke's in Drumcondra, he said that the accusation that Bertie Ahern received £80,000 from Owen O'Callaghan had not been proven.

Noel Ahern said he was disappointed the tribunal did not fully accept the evidence given by the former Taoiseach and others who spoke for him.

"It is a pity Bertie didn't convince the tribunal of the truth of what he had to say."

1649 Micheál Lehane has been looking at Bertie Ahern's evidence at the Mahon Tribunal

1629 Transparency International Ireland is calling for radical reform of how corruption is investigated.

"It took 15 years and some €300 million to find out what the gardaí and Standards in Public Office Commission should have exposed. The problem was law enforcement agencies were never allowed to do their job."

1616 Statement by Charlie Flanagan on behalf of Fine Gael:

"The Party is currently studying the report and its findings and wholeheartedly welcomes the announcement by An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny TD, that the Government has referred the report to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the Garda Commissioner, the Revenue Commissioners and the Standards in Public Office Commission.

"Serving Fine Gael public representatives against whom any adverse findings have been made will be dealt with by way of the Party's internal disciplinary procedures."

1614 Joe Mag Raollaigh just knocked on the door of St Lukes. No answer.

1547 Bertie Ahern's 1997 statement on the McCracken Tribunal

1522 One section of the report, believed to be the module dealing with Carrickmines, has been withheld for legal reasons. The Tribunal says this runs to 200 pages and will be published "as soon as possible".

1512 Joe Higgins says the report is a "damning indictment of the corrupt nexus between developers and establishment politicians, especially from Fianna Fáil."

1445 Frank Dunlop says he has "absolutely no comment" to make in relation to the Tribunal findings.

1415 All 3,270 pages of the Mahon Report (it is easier - and kinder to the environment - to just click the link at the top of this page to read it)

1410 The tribunal is recommending that Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) be given an increased role in the enforcement of conflict of interest measures, in so far as both the Oireachtas members and local councillors are concerned.

It is recommending the introduction of simplified complaint procedures, that anonymous complaints be permitted, and that SIPO be given increased powers of investigation.

1408 The tribunal wants stricter regulation of gifts given to government ministers, and for it to be a criminal offence for a minister to "retain a gift above a nominal value", which is received in connection with that office and where that gift or benefit is "not lawfully due".

It recommends that "politically exposed persons", who are currently liable to be monitored, be widened so that those who leave public office be included for not just one year after they depart but for ten years after they leave office.

1345 Taoiseach Enda Kenny says he is surprised by the findings Mahon Tribunal report.

"It clearly sets out corrupt practices by a number of politicians... The findings in relation to Bertie Ahern speak for themselves.

"As far as Fine Gael is concerned ... I have referred the report to the internal disciplinary committee."

Enda Kenny

1326 Caitríona Perry profiles Frank Dunlop and his evidence at the tribunal.

1324 There is concern that recent changes in the planning system have resulted in an over-centralisation of power in the hands of the Minister for the Environment, which is not subject to sufficient checks and balances.

The tribunal is recommending that the Minister for the Environment's ability to give directions to Regional Authorities and Local Planning Authorities should be entrusted to a Planning Regulator.

1323 A recommendation has been made that where elected members use the material contravention procedure to grant planning permission, they should be required to give at least one month's notice of their intention to do so to the relevant regional authority and to the Minister for the Environment.

1318 The tribunal recommends that the term donation be changed to include "any donation given, used or received for political purposes".

It should also be more strictly regulated to prohibit indirect donations which "pose corruption risks" as do anonymous and cash donations.

These should be prohibited above a certain value; €55 for donations to an individual and €175 to a political party.

It also wants an overall limit placed on the amount which an individual may donate, as the current arrangement could allow "corruption or the appearance of corruption". It also asks that expenditure rules be extended to cover "all political expenditure”, as those rules are currently deficient from an "anti-corruption perspective".

1314 The Government is to refer the report to the Garda Commissioner, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Revenue Commissioners and to the Standards in Public Office Commission.

A statement from the Government said: "A three-day Dáil debate on the report will take place next week.

"The Government will consider the findings and recommendations next Tuesday."

1311 The property developer Owen O'Callaghan will seek judicial review of the findings of the Mahon Tribunal which he "utterly rejects."

"The Tribunal arrived at its conclusions based on procedures which were biased, unfair and unjust."

1246 Liam Lawlor abused his role as an elected public representative to a very significant degree.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Lawlor provided services and advice to landowners/developers (including to Dunlop as their agent) in his capacity as an elected politician, for personal gain.

In effect, Lawlor, while an elected public representative, conducted a personal business in the course of which he corruptly sold his expertise, knowledge and influence as a councillor and as a TD for personal financial reward.

1254 Findings of corruption have been made against 11 councillors.

Five of these cannot be named because they are before the courts.

The six named individuals are Fianna Fáil’s Finbarr Hanrahan, Cyril Gallagher and GV Wright, Fine Gael's Tom Hand, Labour's John O'Halloran and Independent Pat Dunne.

1248 Liam Lawlor's relationship with Frank Dunlop and Owen O'Callaghan was "firmly based in corruption."

The bulk of funds paid by Dunlop and O'Callaghan to Lawlor were payments made directly in relation to Lawlor's activities concerning the rezoning of Quarryvale.

1247 The contention by Charlie Haughey's son - Conor Haughey, - that he and John Barnicle had only got IR£10,000 from the proceeds of the sale of Abervanta Ltd's interest in the Cargobridge lands was rejected.

Evidence was given to the tribunal in 2006 to conceal the fact that Haughey and Barnicle had between them received in the region of IR£164,000 from the sale.

1238 The suggestion that Eamon Dunphy "embellished or otherwise altered his evidence" was rejected.

Owen O'Callaghan conveyed to Mr Dunphy that Ahern had been "given an inducement” and was "taken care of” by O'Callaghan in return for a “promised favour".

This was corroborative of Gilmartin's allegations in relation to Quarryvale.

It was also accepted that O'Callaghan told Mr Dunphy that O'Callaghan "gave inducements to politicians" and also "found it necessary to engage in corrupt activity in order to successfully develop property in Dublin".

1237 Beverly Flynn has told RTÉ News that her father - Pádraig Flynn - is making no comment on the findings of the Tribunal report.

1328 Statement from Bertie Ahern's spokesperson:

"Bertie Ahern is reviewing the final report of the Mahon Tribunal and will issue a statement in due course."

1216 There has been no sign of Bertie Ahern at his home in Drumcondra today, though his vehicle is parked at the property.

At least 10 photographers have been waiting outside the house - some since 7.30am.

1211 Conor Hunt has been taking a look at the controversial issue of costs at the Mahon Tribunal

1201 Bertie Ahern should be “honest with people and tell the truth,” according to Independent TD John Halligan

Speaking to RTÉ News, Deputy Halligan said many people are asking questions about where the money came from.

"It would do no harm to be honest with them at this stage."

1156 Frank Dunlop's practice of making payments to councillors was known to those who met him in November 1992. At the time he was a lobbying to secure the rezoning of the Lissenhall Lands.

Tim Collins, Michael Hughes and Colm Moran acquiesced in the "contemplated corrupt activity on the part of Mr Dunlop”.

Cllr Cyril Gallagher received a IR£1,000 corrupt payment in relation to the Lissenhall rezoning.

An acceptance of a IR£20,000 payment, from Rayband Ltd, by Cllr Ann Devitt was "entirely inappropriate”.

1151 The Tribunal rejected Bertie Ahern's claim that he had no recollection of the lodgement of STG£15,500 over the course of seven months in 1994 to his own and his daughters’ Irish Permanent accounts.

The tribunal did not believe Mr Ahern had saved sterling towards an investment property in Manchester, but was unable to determine the source of the funds as Ahern failed to truthfully account for them.

1139 Pádraig Flynn requested that Tom Gilmartin make a substantial donation to Fianna Fáil, probably at a meeting in April 1989.

The request was made on the understanding that steps would be taken by Flynn to ease or remove obstacles and difficulties being faced by Gilmartin in relation to Quarryvale.

Pádraig Flynn

1133 "I was genuinely shocked at how forthright it was" - Journalist Sam Smyth on the publication of the Mahon Report.

1120 In relation to the lodgement of £28,772.90 to a bank account of Celia Larkin on 5 December 1994, the source of the lodgement was not STG£30,000, as Bertie Ahern contended, but was "in fact US$45,000 cash".

1127 A decision in 1992 by Pat Rabbitte, then a Democratic Left Councillor and TD, to return a donation of IR2,000 to Frank Dunlop was described as "commendable and correct”.

1115 In relation to a request to Owen O'Callaghan for a donation to Fianna Fáil made by letter from Albert Reynolds and Bertie Ahern in September 1993 - which culminated in a donation for IR£80,000 - the tribunal said it was against the backdrop of O’Callaghan lobbying for state subvention for a sports stadium in Neilstown.

Mr O Callaghan "felt compelled to make the donation" because of his concern that failing to do so would impact negatively on his effort to get Government support and funding for the project.

The tribunal does not deem the request for the donation corrupt, but said it was entirely inappropriate and an abuse of political power and government authority.

1118 More on the Bertie Ahern payments:

Ahern failed to disclose the source of the following lodgments:

IR£30,000 on 25 April 1994
IR£20,000 on 8 August 1994
IR£24,838 on 11 October 1994
This lodgement "had in fact been funded by STG£25,000"

1115 Tom Gilmartin's told the tribunal he received a call from a person who identified himself as "Garda Burns", who effectively warned him against speaking to gardaí about allegations of corrupt payments and demands for money.

The purpose of the call "was to discourage, intimidate or warn Gilmartin to desist" from any further cooperation with the garda inquiry.

1114 Complaints by Tom Gilmartin to gardaí about Redmond, Lawlor and Cllr Hanrahan were not thoroughly investigated.

1108 Tom Gilmartin claimed that in February 1989, when he emerged from a meeting room in Leinster House with then Taoiseach Charles Haughey and a number of ministers, he was confronted by a an unidentified person who proceeded to corruptly demand IR£5m from him.

He also told the tribunal he was provided by the individual with details of an offshore account into which the money was to be paid.

1108 Former Fianna Fáil TD GV Wright received a IR£5,000 "corrupt" payment from Christopher Jones in November 1992, in relation to the Ballycullen/Beechill rezoning projects.

The money was not given to assist his political expenses, but rather to ensure he would "exert influence on his Fianna Fáil councillor colleagues."

1104 Of monies paid by Owen O’Callaghan to Shefran Ltd - IR£65,000 was retained by Frank Dunlop, who paid most or all of this to councillors for the purpose of securing their support for rezoning the Quarryvale lands.

These payments took place close to the time of local elections in 1991 and the tribunal said they were corrupt payments.

1100 Bertie Ahern's "usual practice" in the period 1987-1993 was "to cash salary and expenses cheques...rather than using a bank account", but it rejects Ahern's evidence that he had accumulated about IR£54,000 in savings.

1058 Evidence given by two Arlington executives - that they could not recall why they gave Lawlor STG£33,000 in April 1989 - was rejected.

The tribunal says it is satisfied was not, as claimed by Lawlor, a political donation.

It is satisfied that Lawlor accompanied Gilmartin to a meeting with Assistant City and County Manager George Redmond in May 1988, and at it corruptly requested payment of IR £100,000 for himself and a similar amount for Mr Redmond.

This request was rejected by Gilmartin. The tribunal finds that Mr Redmond was aware that this request was being made on his behalf by Lawlor, and was complicit in this. It also finds that Lawlor did seek a 20% stake in the Quarryvale project on two separate occasions, and such demands were corrupt.

1055 The tribunal rejects that a collection was held in December 1993 by Des Richardson and Gerry Brennan, and rejects that Bertie Ahern was given £22,5000 "in the manner claimed" on 27 December 1993. It says that Mr Ahern did not receive that sum "either as a gift or as a loan".

The tribunal also rejected the evidence of Bertie Ahern, Des Richardson, Charlie Chawke, Michael Collins, David McKenna and Jim Nugent in relation to the collection.

It did accept Padraic O'Connor's assertion that he and Mr Ahern were not close personal friends in 1993, and also accepted Mr O'Connor's evidence that Des Richardson requested a donation be made towards the expenses of Mr Ahern's constituency office, but not to Bertie Ahern personally.

The tribunal was unable to confirm Des Richardson's evidence that a bank draft for IR£5,000 (included in the IR£22,500 payment) had been funded by NCB Stockbrokers on Mr O'Connor's instructions.

"Contrary to Mr Ahern's claim," the tribunal found that the payment did not come from Mr O'Connor personally.

The tribunal accepted Padraic O'Connor's evidence that Bertie Ahern - contrary to Mr Ahern's claim - never acknowledged a payment of £5000, nor did Mr Ahern offer to repay the money.

1051 Liam Lawlor was paid IR£40,000 by Frank Dunlop in 1991 which was funded by payments from Mr O'Callaghan to a company called Shefran Ltd, and that Owen O' Callaghan was fully aware of the payment to Lawlor.

It also finds that Lawlor received payments totalling IR£41,000 from O’Callaghan between 1991 and 1996 and states that the relationship of Lawlor with Dunlop and O' Callaghan was firmly based in corruption.

The bulk of payments made by Dunlop and O'Callaghan to Lawlor from 1991 to 96 concerned the rezoning of Quarryvale lands and were corrupt.

1046 The tribunal finds that the late Liam Lawlor, then a councillor and TD, accepted inappropriate and corrupt payments from Arlington PLC.

It accepts Tom Gilmartin's evidence regarding his first meeting with the Mr Lawlor - the venue and the topic of discussion - Arlington and Bachelors Walk.

It also accepts Gilmartin's claim that Mr Lawlor claimed to be a representative of the Irish Government. It accepts that at a date in May 1998, Lawlor attended uninvited at Arlington plc's offices in London and claimed to be a representative of the Irish Government.

The tribunal says it is satisfied that on the basis of these representations, Arlington believed Lawlor was so close to government that a failure by them to make significant payments to him might result in a lack of support from the government and authorities for the Bachelor's Walk project, making it more difficult to achieve.

The tribunal says that this resulted in Arlington giving the equivalent of almost STG£75,000 in payments to Mr Lawlor over an 11 month period - acceptance of which was inappropriate and corrupt.

1036 Former Minister and EU Commissioner Padraig Flynn "wrongly and corruptly" sought a substantial donation from Mr Tom Gilmartin for the Fianna Fail party and having being paid IR£50,000 by Mr Gilmartin for that purpose proceeded to use that money for his personal benefit.

The Tribunal was satisfied that the £50,000 funded at least a significant portion of the purchase of a farm in Co Mayo in the name of Padraig Flynns wife and was not used except minimally for political expenditure associated with Mr Flynn.

1028 A lodgement of IR£28,772.90 made by Celia Larkin on 5 December 5 1994 into an AIB account on Upper O'Connell Street was not - as contended by Bertie Ahern - around Stg£30,000 in cash, given by Micheal Wall, but was in fact $45,000 dollars in cash

1021 The Tribunal says its investigations into Bertie Ahern's accounts sought to establish or exclude a connection between funds related to Mr Ahern and Mr Owen O'Callaghan, but its inquiries in this regard were "inconclusive."

This was so because much of the explanations provided by Ahern, as to the source of the substantial funds available to him, were deemed by the Tribunal to be "untrue".

1015 The report stops short of a corruption finding in respect of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern but it totally rejects his evidence and that of related witnesses about the sources of monies in his own and related bank accounts.

It says Ahern failed to truthfully account for a total of IR£165,214.25 passing through accounts connected with him.

It also finds that in relation to the B/T account, known as the Bertie/Tim account by bank staff in the Permanent TSB, Ahern and his associate Tim Collins failed to truthfully account for IR£50,000 lodged into this account between 1992-94.

In the introduction to the Report the Judges say a number of senior Cabinet ministers made sustained and virulent attacks on the integrity of the Tribunal members.

They say there is "little doubt" the objectives of these extraordinary and unprecedented attacks on the Tribunal was to undermine the efficient conduct of the Tribunal, erode its independence and collapse the inquiry.

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