The Taoiseach has been awarded the maximum damages of £30,000 at the Dublin Circuit Civil Court over allegations that he received a £50,000 bribe from a Cork businessman. Mr Ahern took defamation proceedings against Denis "Starry" O'Brien after the allegations, which appeared in the Sunday Business Post last year. Mr O'Brien withdrew his defence to the action last week.

Judge John O'Hagan today described the allegations as "utterly, completely and absolutely false and untrue". Mr O'Brien said that he had nothing whatsoever to say after today's verdict. Mr Ahern was incredulous when he heard Mr O'Brien's claim that the Cork businessman had given him a £50,000 cheque in the car park of a Dublin hotel in 1989. He told the court that he had never heard of Denis O'Brien and he could not understand why he would do something that was entirely untrue.

A succession of witnesses appeared for Mr Ahern, including political advisors, Gardaí, GAA officials and even Fine Gael Senator Maurice Manning who said that, short of treason, he could not think of a worse charge that could be made against a Taoiseach. The detail of the alleged handover of the cheque was challenged and bankers refuted Mr O'Brien's alleged banking arrangements. As the Taoiseach spoke to journalists, Mr O'Brien tried to quietly slip away.