FORMER EU commissioner and attorney general David Byrne said yesterday that he had absolutely no doubt that Bertie Ahern’s constituency office in Drumcondra was bought for the benefit of Fianna Fáil.
Mr Byrne told the Mahon Tribunal that it was quite clear from legal documents that a trust had been established for the purpose of buying St Luke’s for the benefit of the party.
The Tribunal is investigating the purchase of St Luke’s because it discovered a number of bank accounts linked to Mr Ahern and his associates containing large sums of money which also appear to have been outside the control of elected officials of Fianna Fáil cumainn in the Dublin Central constituency.
Tribunal lawyers have so far been unable to trace the source of the £56,000 used to purchase the property. But they recently found out that Mr Byrne had been asked by solicitor, Gerry Brennan, in 1997 to provide a report on the acquisition, legal ownership and financing of St Luke’s.
The former AG said it was his legal opinion that thelegal owners of St Luke’s were the trustees. They were close associates of Mr Ahern — Des Richardson, Tim Collins, Joe Burke, as well as the late James Keane and Patrick Reilly.
He also stated that he regarded the local Fianna Fáil organisation as the beneficial owner of the property.
His 1997 report noted that the proceeds of any sale of St Luke’s “cannot be handed over to any individual member of the party.”
It still recorded that a group known as the “St Luke’s Club” was formed at a meeting in the Gresham Hotel in December 1987, at which it was decided that 25 people would donate £1,000 per annum for a five-year period to finance the purchase of a new constituency office to replace the existing one in Amiens Street. The group also decided that five members of the club would be appointed as trustees.
Conor Maguire, SC for Mr Ahern, yesterday referred to a document which explained some background to several of the accounts being investigated by the Tribunal.
Mr Byrne stressed that he had never seen the document before yesterday but agreed that it appeared to have been prepared in 1997 in response to his own draft report.
It is understood that the document, whose author is unknown, was recently received by the Tribunal as part of discovery by the Fianna Fáil organisation in Mr Ahern’s constituency.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved