Bertie to be banished by FF

Fianna Fáil will expel Bertie Ahern next week after he was found to have lied to the Mahon Tribunal about massive sums of money flowing into his accounts.

Mr Ahern and a number of other Fianna Fáil members, including corrupt former minister Pádraig Flynn, will be kicked out of the party following the inquiry’s damning findings.

After a meeting of its officer board in Dublin last night, party leader Micheál Martin announced the proposed expulsions, which will go to a special gathering of the wider national executive next Friday for sign-off.

It will mark the most significant step in Mr Martin’s efforts to distance the party from the now toxic political legacy of Mr Ahern.

While the tribunal did not make a finding of corruption against Mr Ahern, it said he “failed to truthfully account” for over £215,000 lodged to bank accounts connected to him.

As a result of this failure to tell the truth, the tribunal could not establish whether Mr Ahern had received payments from property developer Owen O’Callaghan — the central allegation involved.

Mr Ahern last night insisted he had “never accepted a bribe or a corrupt payment” and said there was “no evidence whatsoever” to show he had ever received anything from Mr O’Callaghan. “Nor could there be because, put simply, this never happened,” he said.

However, while Mr Martin accepted that the central allegation against Mr Ahern was “not sustained”, the tribunal’s other findings about the former taoiseach were “extremely serious”.

“In the manner in which he received this money while holding high office and in the giving of rejected evidence to a sworn tribunal, Bertie Ahern betrayed the trust placed in him by this country and this party.”

The expulsion of Mr Ahern will not end the difficulties which the tribunal report poses for Mr Martin.

The tribunal said that Fianna Fáil ministers in Mr Ahern’s government launched a “sustained and virulent attack” on the tribunal in 2007 and 2008 in a bid to “collapse its inquiry” into his finances.

While the tribunal did not name the ministers, Mr Martin himself was among those who raised questions about the inquiry at the time.

Government chief whip Paul Kehoe last night said Mr Martin and other current Fianna Fáil TDs who were ministers at the time had questions to answer.

Mr Martin said on that issue, the tribunal had provided “no details upon which a response can be given”.

Other damning findings by the tribunal included:

* Pádraig Flynn “corruptly” sought a £50,000 donation from developer Tom Gilmartin meant for Fianna Fáil but which Mr Flynn used for “his personal benefit” to help buy a farm;

* The late party TD Liam Lawlor corruptly received hundreds of thousands of pounds in payments from Mr O’Callaghan and PR consultant Frank Dunlop, among others;

* Mr O’Callaghan and Mr Dunlop pursued a strategy of “corruptly paying elected political representatives” in order to get favourable land rezoning decisions;

* A number of councillors, including Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour representatives, took or sought corrupt pay-ments for votes in the 1990s;

* Such corruption was both “endemic and systemic” from the late 1980s to the late 1990s, affecting “every level of Irish political life”;

* A 1989 Garda corruption inquiry failed to thoroughly investigate complaints by Mr Gilmartin on these matters.

The Government is now referring the 3,270-page report to the DPP, the gardaí, Revenue and the Standards in Public Office Commission for consideration.

Mr Flynn and Mr O’Callaghan could face Garda investigations as a result, although it is thought that Mr Ahern is unlikely to face an investigation given no finding of corruption was made against him.


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