Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny has said his PD counterpart Michael McDowell's comment about reflecting on the information about the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s financial affairs is irrelevant.

Speaking following a visit to Malahide in north Dublin, Mr Kenny said the PDs had married themselves to Fianna Fáil for some time and are an 'irrelevance' to the formation of the next Government.

He said that what the Tánaiste says at this point is irrelevant, as Mr McDowell had reflected on these issues before and managed to get through it.

He said he would not be commenting on the matter further, and said he wished to fight the election on issues like health, policing and education.

Mr Kenny’s reaction came after Michael McDowell said he will be reflecting on all matters in the public domain relating to the Taoiseach's financial affairs.

The Tánaiste told journalists that he had had a brief discussion with the Taoiseach about matters before the cabinet meeting on Wednesday, but Mr McDowell said he had not discussed matters at length with Bertie Ahern.

Mr McDowell added he was not going into the terms of that discussion.

Mr McDowell said he had not seen yesterday's Fianna Fáil press conference because he has been out canvassing in the Dublin suburbs of Ballyfermot and Kimmage.

Earlier, the Labour leader, Pat Rabbitte, said he believes that if the controversy continues, it may damage the overall campaign.

Defence of Ahern

Meanwhile, two senior Fianna Fáil ministers have defended the Taoiseach’s handling of his personal affairs.

At the party's launch of its crime manifesto this morning, Willie O'Dea and Séamus Brennan said that the media had become obsessed with the issue.

Mr O'Dea appealed to people to get off the issue, while Mr Brennan said that Mr Ahern deserved to be treated with fairness and that it should be left to the Mahon Tribunal.

Fianna Fáil have also claimed that there is an orchestrated campaign to cause mayhem and confusion in the course of the General Election by unlawfully leaking confidential documents relating to the work of the tribunal.

The party's statement was issued in response to a story in this morning's Irish Times, giving further details about the purchase of the Taoiseach's home in the 1990s.

The Irish Times report is on the controversial transaction involving Mr Ahern, his former partner Celia Larkin and businessman Micheál Wall.

Mr Ahern first rented, and later bought, a house from Mr Wall, and has confirmed that in December 1994 the businessman gave him £30,000 in cash, which he says was used for renovations on the house, overseen by Ms Larkin.

A Fianna Fáil spokesperson said the Taoiseach would not respond to piecemeal disclosures as it would only fuel what he described as a 'carefully orchestrated campaign'.

Ahern says Government would go on

The Taoiseach has said that if the Government gets the numbers in the General Election it will continue for another five years.

Speaking in Longford, he said the only thing put to him by the Mahon Tribunal is whether he got money from Eoin O'Callaghan, or whether he thwarted the designation of Blanchardstown and the answer is emphatically no.

He added that there is no tribunal investigating his personal finances.

He also said the Mahon Tribunal issue came up only three times while he was canvassing today.

When asked if he would be meeting the Tánaiste, he said he will meet him several times during the campaign.

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