Judges quiz AIB manager on Quarryvale meetings

SENIOR Allied Irish Bank manager Michael O’Farrell told the Mahon Tribunal yesterday he had no recollection of Cork-based developer Owen O’Callaghan announcing at a board meeting that he had it from “the horse’s mouth” a rival shopping centre would get no tax breaks.

Retired businessman Tom Gilmartin has testified that Mr O’Callaghan, his former business partner in the west Dublin development at Quarryvale, told him that then finance minister Bertie Ahern had given him an assurance in the 1990s that a rival Blanchardstown project would not get special tax designation.

The tribunal is probing Mr Gilmartin’s claim that Mr O’Callaghan told him he gave Mr Ahern £30,000 to block Blanchardstown’s tax designation bid. The allegation is denied by both men.

Asked about rows in the boardroom, Mr O’Farrell said he had no recollection of any reference being made to bribery, corruption and collusion. If these words had been used he would have remembered, he said.

Mr O’Farrell, an AIB senior corporate banking manager, had told the tribunal he relied entirely on his accurate recorded notes for his evidence.

His repeated insistence that he could not remember any of the details of a series of board meetings of the Barkhill company fronting the Quarryvale project prompted two of the three judges to quiz him further.

Judge Gerald Keys remarked he found it “a bit puzzling” that, apart from what had been written down, Mr O’Farrell had no memory of the meetings. “Even having the notes before you — does it not jog your memory?” he asked.

Judge Mary Faherty described “as pretty emotive words” allegations of blackmail and political manoeuvrings Mr Gilmartin was recorded as making against AIB and Mr O’Callaghan, his Quarryvale partners.

Mr O’Farrell replied: “I do not recall particularly these words being used.”

In the official minutes taken by AIB assistant manager, Mary Basquille, “that language does not appear to be recorded,” Judge Faherty observed.

At the time he was dealing with Quarryvale, Mr O’Farrell said he had 150 cases and was attending six meetings a day and was extremely busy. The presumption he should remember actual meetings 15 years later was “unrealistic”, he said.

More in this section