Ahern’s lawyer warned by judge

SPARKS flew at the Mahon Planning Tribunal yesterday when Bertie Ahern’s lawyer, Colm O hOisin SC, accused the inquiry of “pushing an agenda” in the examination of the Taoiseach’s bank accounts.

Voices were raised during the angry exchanges with tribunal chairman Judge Alan Mahon warning Mr O hOisin to be “careful” about his language, while Judge Gerald Keys termed the comments of the politician’s lawyer a “disgrace”.

Judge Mahon said it was particularly offensive for Mr O hOisin to suggest the tribunal had a particular agenda and the tribunal rejected that completely.

But the senior counsel indicated he was referring to the tribunal’s legal team as pushing a particular line.

However, tribunal lawyer Des O’Neill SC said he absolutely rejected such comments which were without foundation. It was not for him to make a case for or against the Taoiseach, said Mr O’Neill.

The probe into the Taoiseach’s personal finances arise from Sligo-born developer Tom Gilmartin’s claim he was told Mr Ahern was allegedly given £80,000 in return for political favours connected with the Quarryvale lands in west Dublin.

Mr Gilmartin claimed Cork-based property developer Owen O’Callaghan bragged how he allegedly paid Mr Ahern two sums seeking to influence the planning process in the early 1990s. Both Mr Ahern and Mr O’Callaghan deny the allegations.

Yesterday’s row erupted after Mr O’Neill attempted to re-examine AIB bank official Jim McNamara about a tribunal letter sent to Mr Ahern last March.

When the question was put to Mr McNamara he confirmed that Mr Ahern had asked last March about evidence of foreign exchange transactions in his lodgments, even though the tribunal had not asked about this in their letter to Mr Ahern.

Earlier Mr McNamara agreed with Mr O hOisin that it would be a “folly” for Mr Ahern not to inquire about his finances ahead of giving evidence. He agreed there was nothing untoward in Mr Ahern going to the bank to get the details.

Ms Rosemary Murtagh, operations manager of the AIB Bank’s currency services section, confirmed that a lodgement made on behalf of Mr Ahern on December 5, 1994 was “most likely” in dollars. She had been taken through a mathematical table showing exchange rates, and Mr O’Neill suggested no other figure in the dollar currency conversion range on money her section received for that particular day would allow for a figure other than $45,000.

She said a Stg£30,000 lodgement could not equate to the amount remitted to the bank’s currency services section by the O’Connell Street, Dublin branch in December 1994.

The tribunal has adjourned until September.

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