Bertie Ahern insists he has never taken “a corrupt payment” and that the Mahon Tribunal has done him a “grave injustice”.
Mr Ahern announced yesterday that he would resign from Fianna Fáil before the party could expel him.
But in a 1,400-word newspaper article outlining the reasons for his decision, the former taoiseach insisted his resignation was “not an admission of wrongdoing” and that he was now considering options to “vindicate my good name”.
In particular, he said he had never been given “a red cent” by property developer Owen O’Callaghan — the central allegation which led to the tribunal investigating Mr Ahern.
“Owen O’Callaghan never gave me a red cent and not a shred of evidence was produced, after years of inquiry, to give even an ounce of credence to this dirty, vicious allegation,” he said.
“At the end of the day, the tribunal report shows: there is no evidence capable of sustaining a finding that Mr O’Callaghan transferred money to me.
“There is no evidence capable of sustaining a finding that I received any money from Mr O’Callaghan. There is no evidence that I made any decision for the benefit of Mr O’Callaghan.
“There is no evidence that I made any decisions relevant to (Mr O’Callaghan’s) Quarryvale development.”
The tribunal found Mr Ahern had lied to it about the source of more than £215,000 which flowed into bank accounts connected to him in the 1990s. It said due to his “untrue” evidence it had been unable to determine if he took money from Mr O’Callaghan.
As a result, the inquiry stopped short of labelling Mr Ahern corrupt, but utterly rejected his claims that “dig-outs” and loans from friends were among the sources for the money.
On the back of the tribunal findings, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin proposed that Mr Ahern be expelled from the party for conduct unbecoming. That motion is due to go before a special meeting of its national executive on Friday.
But Mr Ahern claimed the motion was already causing “debate” within FF and said he would resign rather than allow the issue to become “divisive”.
“The last thing I want to do, given that I have now retired as a public representative, is to be a source of political division in the party I care so deeply about.
“I appreciate the support that party members have pledged to me unprompted in the past week. I have decided the best way that I can now serve Fianna Fáil is to tender my resignation as a member of the party. I want people to understand that this is a political decision. I believe Fianna Fáil and indeed all political parties in this state have more pressing issues to contend with than whether or not I am a member of a local cumann in Drumcondra.”
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