Taoiseach just can’t get his story straight

AS his image rapidly shifts from Teflon Taoiseach to Rent-A-Bertie, so too have the explanations he’s left scattered behind him on the money trail.

While wiser men may have kept their own counsel, Mr Ahern’s loose language and love of talking has fuelled an inferno which otherwise may have burned itself out.

For all the protestation about his private life being dragged out into the light, it was the Taoiseach who gave the original tribunal leak story ‘legs’ by indulging in a stream of consciousness in Clare that brought in everything from his separation to his Holy Communion money.

Since then, it’s been downhill all the way for Mr Ahern as he has been tripped up again and again by his own words or contradictions of his excuses.

This isn’t just the verbal dyslexia we have come to expect from a Taoiseach who will quite casually mix up Guantanamo and Guatemala. This was him fighting for his political life and he should really have done better.

We were first told we would never know who gave him the “dig-out” money or why. He angrily rejected the figure of €50,000 to €100,000 as so “off the wall” it was merely a “fraction” of the true amount — which later emerged to be IR£39,000, or €49,500.

Five days later in his

Princess Diana-style interview with RTÉ, Mr Ahern — head lowered, voice faltering as he fought to control budding tears — told us all about Paddy the Plasterer and the rest of the delightful dozen who helped him out so generously.

He insisted he had tried repeatedly to pay the money back, but the 12 — five of whom have now been given State appointments — refused.

The next day in the Dáil it was a slightly different story. He had wanted to pay them back and took advice on how to do it, but was worried such a move would be open to “misinterpretation”.

While the nation empathised or cringed at Mr Ahern’s RTÉ performance, he rolled out the political bombshell of his trip to Manchester in 1994, which left him €12,000 richer.

With a change of Government that year it was initially unclear if he was a minister at the time.

Mr Ahern’s subtle change in body language seemed to indicate it was an area he was distinctly uncomfortable with.

In the Dáil, on Wednesday, he still seemed unsure on this aspect, but thought, yes, he probably was a minister in Manchester.

On the payment, Mr Ahern mused: “It was a total surprise to me.”

Mr Ahern appears to have been a very fortunate man for parts of his tenure as

Finance Minster in the early 1990s. Indeed, he was something akin to a reluctant bride at a Greek wedding where men would come up and literally pin money to him without his knowledge.

On the TV interview and subsequently, Mr Ahern has said he spoke, unscripted, at the dinner and took part in a question and answer session with the businessmen over a period of some four hours.

John Kennedy, the Manchester business leader present at the function backed up Mr Ahern’s claim it was a non-political event, but curiously insisted the then Finance Minister never spoke at it.

The final glaring inconsistency to emerge from this bizarre affair is the status of Mr Ahern’s bank accounts. He claims he did not have one in his own name from 1987 to 1993 and did not use the joint ones he had already set up with his wife.

So where did he cash his ministerial pay cheque? Surely it wasn’t over the counter in a Drumcondra pub? In this period, Mr Ahern also told RTÉ he had amassed savings of IR£50,000, which then went on his legal bills and setting up an educational fund for his daughters. Where on earth was this deposited?

Mr Ahern has not just struggled to give answers these past nine days, but also to stick to the same ones eventually forced out of him. Is that why he is so reluctant to tell us how much he got for that Holy Communion?

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