Burke denies asking for IR£500k

BUSINESSMAN Joe Burke, an associate of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, yesterday flatly rejected developer Tom Gilmartin’s allegations that he asked for IR£500,000 in connection with the Quarryvale development in 1990.

Mr Burke, who is chairman of the Dublin Port Company, told the Mahon Tribunal that official records showed Mr Gilmartin’s allegation to be untrue.

Insisting he only met the developer once in 1989 at the request of Mr Ahern, who was then Minister for Labour, Mr Burke termed the developer’s allegations “outrageous” and said he “totally refuted” them.

Through his legal advisers Mr Ahern has already slammed Mr Gilmartin’s allegations as “both ridiculous and fanciful.”

According to Mr Burke — a Fianna Fáil councillor on Dublin Corporation from 1985 until 1991 — Mr Gilmartin thought he had a problem with buying corporation land at Irishtown in west Dublin for the Quarryvale development.

But Mr Burke, who was also vice-chairman of the corporation’s planning committee, said the sale was approved without a vote or discussion because Mr Gilmartin’s tender was the highest at IR£5.1m.

Mr Gilmartin alleges Mr Burke asked him, during some “chit-chat”, for money for Mr Ahern in September 1990, saying “you know you can trust Bertie and you know that Bertie is looking after you”.

Mr Burke said he had no detailed recollection of what had transpired in Mr Gilmartin’s offices on St Stephen’s Green.

“The only thing I do remember very clearly, that when I arrived he did apologise that he couldn’t even offer me a cup of tea because his secretary was gone on an early afternoon, or an afternoon off,” he said.

As a member of Fianna Fáil in Mr Ahern’s constituency Mr Burke agreed he was involved in fund-raising and asking people for money on behalf of the party — but not for “any individual”.

Mr Ahern and himself were joint signatories on bank accounts for Mr Ahern’s constituency, while Mr Burke agreed he was a trustee of St Luke’s [constituency office] and chairman of its house committee.

In his statement to the tribunal, Mr Gilmartin alleged Mr Burke asked him “would I not be prepared to pay a half million pounds because I knew Bertie Ahern was looking after me.”

He added that when Mr Burke started mentioning the £500,000 he thought the conversation was about the deposit on the corporation land deal and whether Mr Gilmartin would get it back if it did not go through.

However, Mr Burke explained yesterday, the land deal had gone through in February 1990, so Mr Gilmartin could not have been thinking about a return of a deposit in September.

Replying to tribunal chairman Judge Alan Mahon, Mr Burke disputed Mr Gilmartin’s account that he had driven the developer to Dublin Airport in a pick-up truck.

“If I remember correctly, chairman, it was a Dodge truck, something in the region of about 18 foot long.”

The Dodge truck was the only transport the company had, “other than a concrete mixer.”

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