The Taoiseach has again told the Dáil it was an 'error of judgment' for him to accept loans and gifts for personal purposes in the early 1990s.

Bertie Ahern expanded on his apology to the Dáil last week, which he described as unqualified: it covered the decisions to accept the money, he confirmed.

There would now be a change in the ethics law requiring office holders offered a gift from friends to consult the Standards in Public Office Commission.

The Opposition returned to the issue at Leaders' Questions this afternoon.

The Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny, told the Dáil that the Government's plans are a political hoax in legislation to try and make out that everything is okay in Government.

Mr Kenny also said it was the PDs' last gasp effort at propriety.

However, it is thought that while the relationship between Mr Ahern and Tánaiste Michael McDowell may never be the same again, the issue is slipping off the agenda.

Earlier, Mr Ahern and Mr McDowell appeared together on the steps of Government Buildings to declare an end to the difficulties that had arisen between them on the issue.

The Tánaiste denied they had ever had a cross word.

Mr McDowell told journalists that it was always wrong for office holders to accept gifts from strangers but that the information had been leaked to damage the Government, and it would be grotesque to reward the leaker by breaking up the Coalition.

He said the future of the Government is safe following the recent controversy.

Mr Ahern apologised again for his actions 12 years ago in accepting gifts and loans from friends and associates.