Ahern ‘changed mind’ on Liffey Valley

HAVING accepted an invitation several months earlier, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern changed his mind about performing the opening of the Liffey Valley shopping centre in 1998, the Mahon Tribunal heard yesterday.

Tribunal lawyer Patricia Dillon SC, suggested to former lobbyist Frank Dunlop that the tribunal’s investigation had by then turned the whole Quarryvale development — on which the west Dublin shopping centre was built — into “a political hot potato”.

In May 1998, Mr Ahern’s office said the Taoiseach had agreed to do this function, which was then scheduled for October 19. But to suit the Duke of Westminster, who owned part of the west Dublin site, the opening was delayed until November.

In a statement to the tribunal, the Taoiseach has said he was unable to attend the refixed November opening due to “heavy schedules”.

Asked to explain Mr Ahern’s change of heart, Mr Dunlop observed: “Politicians read newspapers.” Ms Dillon pointed out by late 1998 the tribunal had sought details of banking records connected with Quarryvale.

Questioned why he had routed his written request for Mr Ahern to open the centre through Fianna Fáil chief fundraiser Des Richardson, Mr Dunlop said he was not getting a reply from the Taoiseach’s office to his own [verbal] request and Mr Richardson was seen as person with ready access to Mr Ahern. Ultimately, said witness, neither of these overtures were successful.

Earlier, Mr Dunlop told the tribunal he had it in his mind to get a success fee of IR£500,000 “or more” when the capping on the size of the Quarryvale shopping centre project was lifted. But he never got any success fee from Mr O’Callaghan, he said.

The tribunal has hired the services of a forensic analyst to probe overwritten or obliterated entries in Mr Dunlop’s diaries, it emerged yesterday.

When Ms Dillon put it to Mr Dunlop he wanted to conceal details of financial dealings between himself and Mr O’Callaghan during the 1990s, the witness said this was “possible”.

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