Not such a sterling display, wise guy

BERTIE SOPRANO was sick of the wise guys who thought they were big enough to take him down.

These bums had short memories and needed reminding of who they were talking to. He was still the boss of bosses in New Jersey, sorry, Drumcondra, and it was time they showed him some respect.

“You make me wonder,” he spat out contemptuously as he hunched forward in the witness box: “... sometimes if you cross you guys on a legal issue you get whacked and another time if you don’t cross them you’re doing the wrong thing.”

Our dark political thriller The Mahonos was finally reaching its sinister conclusion.

Maybe in his own head Bertie thinks he really is Tony Soprano because it is now clear he no longer knows where his fantasy life begins or ends.

But he was tougher than Tony, Bertie didn’t need his crew around him to walk the means streets of Manchester — his pockets bulging with rolls of used twenties.

He was a face and the Mancs knew not to mess with him when he was doing his money deals with Tim Kilroe in the back of cars or in quayside bars.

And who could argue with that? You can imagine the recognition factor now. “Oh look, there’s the Finance Minister of the Republic of Ireland handing over a couple of grand in grubby notes to that bloke in the back of that Mercedes/by the toilets in that pub.” It’s easy to see why Bertie boasted of being well known in Manchester.

Only wimps and wise guys would use a bureau de change when you could have the thrill of a backseat currency encounter with your best bud, right?

He needed the sterling cash as deposit for his dream home in the English city.

Sure, he had 80 grand in savings but why dip into that, when he could make six trips to Manchester, his hands burning with the readies in dribs and drabs?

Salford Quays was Bertie’s dream home. No, it was more than that, it was his fantasy property. And what a fantasy it was, a little mews in a run-down part of the city.

Shame it fell through, but at least the sterling he secreted away for it meant — 15 years later — he would suddenly be able

to explain how those awkward-looking British pounds ended up in the Irish Permanent account he claimed only received punts, and thus clear up all those suspicions about why sterling was going in there and where the then finance minister got it from.

Bertie could reel off endless details about the distant, never completed Salford deal, deploying the kind of recall unkind people would imagine from someone who had just memorised everything to do with it so as not to be caught out.

Yet he still did not have the foggiest about the identity of the person he entrusted enough cash in 1995 to buy him (another) £30,000 sterling.

How curious the way Bertie’s memory excels and recedes in equal measure depending on whether clarity of vagueness suits his needs.

When the public gallery laughed at the notion of the former taoiseach pulling out the wads of cash and slapping them down on a Manchester bar stool, Judge Mahon moved to restore order and asked the punters not to snigger in future.

His request to stop laughing was greeted by more chuckling — give it up judge, this witness has made himself a figure of fun, a national laughing stock, the taxpayers are entitled to get their money’s worth from this tragicomedy.

Bertie was asked directly by the wise guys if he had ever had an offshore bank account. He denied it. No proof has been offered to the contrary. Bertie has denied a number of matters during this saga. Denials that have later proved to be untrue.

The tainted former taoiseach did not quite bring the dancing horses back into the witness box with him, but he did try and execute an extraordinary mounted back-flip.

He denied he had said a chunk of the sterling he paid into the Irish Permanent account had been from betting on the gee-gees. This, despite his sworn testimony the day before admitting quite the reverse. Where does the fantasy end?

Is he so enmeshed in this Bertie in Wonderland surrealism that even he does not know any more?

He had a parting shot for the Mahonos.

“I was at work doing me job as a political leader of this country — working my butt off. Not trying to make other than me own income — and a few sums of money that I got from others — then I end up with all of this. But that’s the story of my life.”

Oh Bertie, you’re stories are far more colourful than that.

Wise guy.

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