Reynolds adds to Taoiseach’s woes

TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern was yesterday facing a second front in attacks on his personal credibility, as his Fianna Fáil predecessor Albert Reynolds questioned his role in the scandal that downed the Government in 1994.

In an interview on Newstalk’s lunchtime programme Mr Reynolds claimed Mr Ahern had possession of a report that was vital to his surviving the fallout over the Fr Brendan Smyth extradition case.

He told presenter Eamon Keane that he didn’t know why Mr Ahern had not handed him the file.

However, Fianna Fáil completely dismissed the story saying it was making no comment on a story that had been played out many years ago.

In his only brief comments on the matter yesterday, Mr Ahern said he knew nothing about the file mentioned by Mr Reynolds.

The relationship between Mr Reynolds and his successor has cooled considerably over the years. The former Taoiseach believed that Mr Ahern privately backed Mary McAleese as Fianna Fáil’s presidential candidate in 1997, while publicly endorsing Mr Reynolds.

Since then, Mr Reynolds has publicly criticised Mr Ahern on a number of occasions. Last January, he said he was “shocked” at the revelations that Mr Ahern accepted money from friends and businessmen.

Fianna Fáil’s coalition with Labour was thrown into serious crisis in late 1994 when it emerged there had been long delays within the Attorney General’s office in processing the extradition case of Fr Smyth, a notorious paedophile.

Then Attorney General Harry Whelehan (who had just been appointed President of the High Court) had argued that one of the reasons for the delay was that the Smyth case was the first to come under consideration under the 1987 Extradition Act.

But it emerged that the first case considered under the act related to a former monk named Duggan. Unlike the Smyth case, that had been dealt with very quickly.

Labour leader Dick Spring was told FF ministers had known this information about Fr Duggan for three days. He suggested Mr Reynolds misled the Dáil.

But Mr Reynolds always insisted he did not know. Yesterday, he suggested the file was in Mr Ahern’s possession at the critical time but never passed on to him. “I didn’t know about it until I was gone (resigned) three or four days or a week that the report that Dick Spring had thought I had got it, and others thought I had got, I hadn’t got it,” he said.

Asked who had the file, Mr Reynolds said: “Bertie had it at that time, yeah. So I never got it, and it was even put in the papers that I told lies about it. I never told lies about it because I hadn’t got the report.”

Asked why he thought Bertie Ahern didn’t tell him about the crucial file he said: “I don’t know… [long pause] I couldn’t tell you.”

However, there is no evidence that Mr Ahern was aware of the file or of its importance to the case.

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