Probes into bill claims will clear me, says Brennan

TRANSPORT Minister Seamus Brennan insisted yesterday he will be cleared by the two investigations into claims he left the airport authority, Aer Rianta, with an unpaid brandy and cigars bill for £5,000.

Department of Transport officials are seeking a rapid conclusion to one of the two separate investigations. However, Aer Rianta said it will be next week before its auditors, KMPG, complete their report for presentation to the company board.

While Aer Rianta signalled the controversy will drag into a second weekend, efforts were afoot to at least conclude the other departmental inquiry. This investigation by the secretary general of the Department of Transport, Julie O’Neill is close to completion but some answers to questions she submitted to Aer Rianta are awaited.

“These are relatively straightforward questions and we have sought answers so the departmental inquiry can be concluded,” an official said.

Mr Brennan remained anxious to have the matter finalised as quickly possible. Asked if he was applying pressure for an outcome, he replied: “I think pressure is the wrong word, but I did make it clear in my statement that I would wish that the report would be finished as quickly as possible, and I did say in my statement on Tuesday that I would like to see it done in a few days,” he said.

Aer Rianta has already categorically denied it was the source of the claims, reported in a newspaper last Sunday. But the view in political circles remains that it was inspired by elements close to the company and may have been due to serious tensions between it and Mr Brennan who is seeking fundamental changes to its operations.

The newspaper report was short on details but specified that the amount involved was £5,000 and dated from 1989-92, a period when Mr Brennan was also Minister responsible for the transport department, under whose ambit Aer Rianta operated.

Mr Brennan’s officials yesterday dismissed suggestions by Labour leader Pat Rabbitte that the fact the Minister waited until Tuesday to issue a categoric denial was a reason to doubt his truthfulness.

One official said Mr Brennan was at all times sure he had nothing to do with ordering, authorising or taking delivery of such a huge quantity of luxury items. but he wanted to make sure that nobody else, such as an advisor or other official, had ordered these items in his name, the official said.

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