Dealing with cash for 7 years was ‘easier’

BERTIE AHERN told the Mahon Tribunal yesterday he had dealt in cash for the seven years after his marital separation, because he thought it was “easier”.

The tribunal is inquiring into the sources of Mr Ahern’s personal finances amid allegations — which he rejects — he was given bribes totalling £80,000 in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Sparks flew when tribunal lawyer Des O’Neill SC asked him why he took out a £19,115 AIB loan in late 1993 when he had £54,000 in cash available.

Mr Ahern said he had a commitment to put £20,000 into an account for his daughters and this money was not available to him.

“No it wasn’t available to me, it wasn’t because I had it designated and clearly linked in my mind and a commitment to give to my daughters.

“That’s what I’d saved it for. I had saved it since 1987 through the whole period of my separation which I don’t think is any of your damn business,” said Mr Ahern.

Earlier, Mr Ahern said he saw nothing wrong with the fact he did not open his own bank account following his separation.

He said it might not be considered normal but there was nothing in the law that stated people had to follow the norm.

His wife Miriam continued to operate joint accounts following their separation. “I was out of the house, separated, it wasn’t like you felt you were never going back,” he said.

Questioned in detail about his living conditions when he stayed in the upstairs apartment above the constituency office in Drumcondra, Mr Ahern said he paid a nominal rent.

Effectively he had a bedroom as party meetings frequently took place upstairs.

He said he would have staff cash his cheques and leave the cash on his desk. Occasionally he would cash them himself.

Asked why he did not open a bank account, Mr Ahern retorted: “I decided to cash my cheques full stop.”

In the late 1980s, he was receiving his TD’s salary, ministerial salary and payment for his membership of the then Dublin Corporation.

At one stage Mr Ahern’s lawyer Conor Maguire SC intervened to say Mr Ahern had been asked the same question six times about why he did not open bank accounts.

Mr Ahern told Mr O’Neill: “Now I know it doesn’t fit in with the way you do things but it’s the way I did things.”

Mr O’Neill said while Mr Ahern had his money in cash he was foregoing high interest rates.

Counsel said when Mr Ahern took office in 1987 and up to 1993 one could get 19.5% interest on overnight deposits.

Asked if he gave any consideration to the fact an appropriate way to maximise returns on savings was through some form of savings plan.

Mr Ahern: “No, I gave no thought to it. I can assure you during those years that was not my worry.”

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