Walsh surprised to learn private Cork dinner was FF fundraiser

FORMER agriculture minister Joe Walsh told the Mahon Tribunal yesterday he was “surprised” to discover a private dinner he attended in Cork before St Patrick’s Day in 1994 was a Fianna Fáil party fundraising event.

Evidence has been given that £50,000 was raised — an average of £5,000 a man — but no individual receipts were issued.

The function was attended by then taoiseach Albert Reynolds, then chief party fundraiser Des Richardson and then party secretary general Pat Farrell, in accountant Niall Welch’s Glanmire home.

About 12 to 14 guests were present, Mr Walsh recalled. The former West Cork TD retired from politics at the last election.

He told tribunal lawyer Patricia Dillon SC he didn’t see any sign or evidence of funds being collected and was surprised when he received documentation from the tribunal that the function was a FF party fundraiser.

Mr Walsh said FF had lost a lot of ground since the Jack Lynch era and efforts were being made to restore the party’s fortunes in Cork. He was the only minister in Cork city and county and he assumed his presence was “to give a bit of status to the occasion”.

Ms Dillon said no individual receipts appeared to have been issued to the donors and she asked Mr Walsh if he would agree it was FF party policy to issue receipts. He said he was not involved in fundraising and would not know. “I hadn’t any role in that area, good, bad or indifferent.”

Mr Walsh said he did not see any fundraising or envelopes left on the table.

The tribunal is investigating an allegation by developer Tom Gilmartin that Cork-based Owen O’Callaghan — his former business partner in the west Dublin Quarryvale project — told him he gave Mr Reynolds £150,000 in a bedroom following a private dinner in Cork in 1994.

Mr O’Callaghan and Mr Reynolds deny the allegation.

The tribunal adjourned until next Monday.

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