The ransom paid to release Ben Dunne from IRA kidnappers in 1981 had nothing to do with then taoiseach Charles Haughey, the businessman has claimed.
The former Dunnes Stores executive also recalled in a radio interview how he joked with Sinn Féin leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness about his kidnap ordeal at a more recent fundraising lunch.
Although he says he does not know who paid any ransom, Mr Dunne dismissed the suggestion that IR£1.5m was put up by developer Patrick Gallagher at Mr Haughey’s request.
“No, no, no. Number one, the amount I think, I know, in my opinion is wrong,” Mr Dunne told told Miriam O’Callaghan on RTÉ Radio.
“And Charlie Haughey and Patrick Gallagher, God rest both of them, had nothing to do with the kidnap being paid whatsoever, in my opinion. And I think I would have an idea if they did have.”
Mr Gallagher was reported in 2007 to claim having provided the ransom money, and that he did so on foot of a request from Mr Haughey and an accountant who he gave the funds to before Mr Dunne’s release. He also claimed that Ben Dunne Sr later repaid the money to him.
Mr Dunne said he believes money was paid for his release, but that the amount was far less. He joked he was never worth £1.5m, and was then asked if it was Dunnes Stores who paid it.
“I don’t know. I was never told. I have heard different stories,” he said. “I asked my father and he wouldn’t tell me. He said: ‘Look, it’s none of your business. What I’ve done, or what we’ve done, is our own business, you’ll never know.’ ”
Mr Dunne said that paying ransom is wrong, but that nobody knows what they might do in such circumstances. He said that he did not co-operate with the garda investigation because of intimidation by the kidnappers, who told him they knew where to find his family if he spoke.
He recalled a lunch he was invited to some time ago by his friend, Sinn Féin TD Mary Lou McDonald, where he had to sit at the top table with Mr Adams and Mr McGuinness.
“You could feel the electricity and McGuinness and Adams looked very, just not comfortable,” he said. “I wasn’t too comfortable myself either.”
“But I don’t like that situation to be allowed go on, so I turned around and I said: ‘Listen fellas, if this is a fundraising lunch, it’s a refund I’ll be looking for.’ ”
He said all three laughed and went on to discuss lots of things — except kidnapping.
The 65-year-old also said he was angry over the 2011 Moriarty Tribunal finding that he was corrupt — in relation to dealings with former minister Michael Lowry — but that he knows himself he is not.
“I’m in business today and I’ve a lot of people who’re doing business with me, and I know that if they thought I was corrupt, they wouldn’t be dealing with me,” he said.
And he said the revelations about his payments to Mr Haughey in the 1980s mean he must be the only businessman in Ireland never asked for donations by politicians.
“They run a million miles from me. Brown envelopes, money and Ben Dunne, it’s about the worst ingredient. ‘If you want to win a seat in an election in Ireland, don’t go near Ben Dunne’ it’s a fantastic slogan to have around me,” he said.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved
More in this section