News about the Irish & Irish American culture, music, news, sports. This is hosted by the Irish Aires radio show on KPFT-FM 90.1 in Houston, Texas (a Pacifica community radio station)

September 27, 2006

Shadow Cast Over Scotland Deal

News About Ireland & The Irish

BB 09/27/06 Shadow 'Cast Over Scotland Deal'
IT 09/27/06 Commissioner Calls On Sinn Féin To Back Police
BN 09/27/06 Ahern Urges Paisley To Talk To SF
IT 09/28/06 Gardaí Faced 'Brick Wall' In North Inquiry
CB 09/28/06 Former DUP Mayor To Face Disciplinary Action
RS 09/27/06 Spectre Of Martin O’Hagan’s Murder Refuses To Fade
EE 09/27/06 Justice Dept Rules Out Unsolved Murders Unit
IT 09/28/06 Controversy Over €10,000 Payment For Ahern Speech
IT 09/28/06 Green Book Of The Early 1990s Had No Legislative Force
IT 09/28/06 Joe Higgins: Ahern’s Personal Circumstances Are Irrelevant
BN 09/27/06 Ahern Defends 'Double Standards' Allegation
BN 09/27/06 Publican Rejected Taoiseach's Offers To Repay Loan
IT 09/28/06 Tánaiste’s Statement Helps To Stabilise Ahern's Position
BB 09/27/06 Work 'Set To Begin On Maze Site'
EE 09/27/06 Ombudsman Probe Policeman Was Himself Under Investigation
CO 09/27/06 Conflict Not Religious, But Fear Based: Irish RC Primate
IT 09/28/06 Opin: Ahern - An Error Of Judgment
IT 09/28/06 Opin: Opposition Explore Mysteries Left In Ahern's Wake
IT 09/28/06 Opin: Turning The Tables On McDowell
BN 09/28/06 Ahern To Meet Clinton
IT 09/28/06 Portumna Against Bridge Closure


Shadow 'Cast Over Scotland Deal'

The leader of the Ulster Unionist Party has accused the DUP
of casting a shadow over the inter-party talks planned for
Scotland next month.

Sir Reg Empey called for a rethink about going to St
Andrew's in light of remarks by the DUP's Lord Morrow.

Lord Morrow said in the assembly on Tuesday that Sinn Fein
was "not fit for government".

He said anyone "holding their breath waiting for the 24
November deadline to be met could forget it".

Sir Reg said that Lord Morrow's party leader, Ian Paisley,
had said chances of agreement were slim, "but he still left
the door open".

'Question mark'

"Lord Morrow went out of his way to slam the door yesterday
and I think the secretary of state has to address that," he

"Indeed, it puts a question mark over the whole process,
because if it is clear that the DUP is not interested at
this stage in doing any business, what is the purpose of
all of us spending public money to go to Scotland?"

The British government has laid down 24 November as the
deadline for a deal to be reached over the restoration of

The main parties meet in the Scottish town of St Andrews
month in October.

Devolution was suspended in October 2002 over allegations
of a republican spy ring.

The court case that followed collapsed and one of those
charged, Denis Donaldson, later admitted working as a
British agent.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/09/27 12:38:59 GMT


Commissioner Calls On Sinn Féin To Back Police

Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor

The North's Police Oversight Commissioner, Al Hutchinson,
has urged Sinn Féin to endorse the PSNI while advising
unionists that their opposition to 50:50
Catholic/Protestant police recruitment is wrong.

Mr Hutchinson, who is responsible for overseeing the Patten
proposals on police reform, normally steers away from
overtly political comments but yesterday, ahead of today's
17th commissioner's report, made plain his view that Sinn
Féin should support the police.

"I would certainly encourage Sinn Féin to join the policing
process," he told The Irish Times.

"There have been significant policing changes over the past
five years and I would hate to see that undermined or
understated," he added.

He made his comments as republicans deliberate over whether
they should endorse the PSNI. The DUP has also demanded
that Sinn Féin support the police before it would consider
sharing power with the party. Mr Hutchinson's comments are
also timely in that they come ahead of the all-party talks
in less than two weeks' time hosted by the Taoiseach and
British prime minister in Scotland, where policing will be
high on the agenda.

Mr Hutchinson said he wasn't just directing his comments at
Sinn Féin, but was anxious to address the issue of policing
in terms of collective political and societal

He rejected unionist opposition to the current system of
50:50 recruitment which by 2010 - when it is due to end -
is expected to see 30 per cent Catholic representation in
the PSNI. It is just over 20 per cent currently.

"There is a collective responsibility about policing and
unionists also should recognise that the 50:50 recruiting
system is beneficial for society," added Mr Hutchinson, a
former senior officer in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

He also made clear that the current political stalemate was
hampering the creation of a fully effective, acceptable and
accountable police service.

"It remains the case that collective politics has failed
policing in Northern Ireland, not the reverse," he said.

Mr Hutchinson said 124 out of the 175 Patten
recommendations had been implemented and many of those not
fully competed were in train, such as reaching a 30 per
cent target for Catholics in the police.

"While challenges still remain, with the exception of the
devolution of policing powers to the Northern Ireland
Assembly, the devolution of authority and decision-making
has, generally, been accomplished," he said.

© The Irish Times


Ahern Urges Paisley To Talk To SF

27/09/2006 - 17:58:00

The Reverend Ian Paisley was tonight urged to engage Sinn
Féin in direct dialogue ahead of next month’s crucial talks
to revive power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

Embattled Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who earlier faced
questions in the Dáil about the controversy over personal
loans he received, admitted he was worried by the lack of
direct engagement between the parties ahead of the talks in
St Andrews in Scotland on October 11.

However the Taoiseach also warned the North’s politicians
that as far as he and British Prime Minister Tony Blair
were concerned, their November 24 deadline for the
resurrection of a power-sharing government at Stormont was

Mr Ahern told Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny of Fine Gael: “I
regret the continuing absence of direct engagement between
the DUP and Sinn Féin.

“It is unhelpful to the process of getting an agreement and
I have urged the DUP to engage.”


Gardaí Faced 'Brick Wall' In North Inquiry

John Downes

Garda efforts to investigate loyalist bombings in the
Republic in the 1970s frequently hit a "brick wall" once
their inquiries led them north of the Border, an Oireachtas
sub-committee heard yesterday.

Retired Garda Sgt Owen Corrigan told the sub-committee on
the Barron report on the bombing of Kay's Tavern in Dundalk
in December 1975, that in one such instance, the initially
helpful attitude of a senior RUC Criminal Investigation
Department (CID) officer "changed completely".

This happened in February 1979 when Mr Corrigan and his
superior officer, retired Chief Supt John Courtney, sought
to meet an RUC constable in Belfast.

The constable was understood to have information about the
theft of the car used in the bombing of Kay's Tavern, but
the two gardaí were not permitted by the CID officer to
meet him.

Mr Courtney agreed with this. Gardaí had "no authority" to
go to the North to question individuals and were dependent
upon RUC co-operation, he said.

However he had passed information regarding the suspected
membership of RUC officers in the gang involved in many of
the murders on to Garda security and intelligence, known as

Both men agreed, in response to questioning from Senator
Jim Walsh (FF), that it was their belief that there was
collusion between British forces, the RUC and those
involved in the bombing.

Garda Commissioner Noel Conroy said any files requested by
Mr Justice Henry Barron had been given to him.

© The Irish Times


Former DUP Mayor To Face Disciplinary Action

Published on 28/09/2006

A former Democratic Unionist mayor is to face disciplinary
action by the party after admitting six charges of
electoral fraud.

Coleraine councillor Dessie Stewart admitted his guilt at
Antrim Crown Court today after originally denying the
charges relating to last year's Westminster and Local
Government elections.

The elections were held on the same day in May last year.

Councillor Stewart admitted four counts of pretending to be
someone else in order to cast postal votes and two of
fraudulently stopping free exercise of a proxy vote.

In a statement tonight, the DUP confirmed the councillor
would face a disciplinary panel.

"This matter has been referred by the Party Officers to the
Party's disciplinary tribunal," the party said.

"The tribunal will now examine the issues surrounding
Councillor Dessie Stewart's case.

"The party takes a very serious and dim view of any
suggestions of electoral fraud and malpractice."

Mr Stewart has been a Coleraine councillor since 1989 and
was the mayor in 2003, having served as deputy mayor two
years earlier

During talks on the Good Friday Agreement he was a member
of the Northern Ireland Forum, serving on its agriculture
and fisheries committee.

The retired fireman is married with one son.

He is a member of the Orange Order, Black Preceptory and
Apprentice Boys and also serves on the Coleraine Harbour
Commissioners and the Riverside Theatre Trust.

Councillor Stewart will be sentenced on October 24.

He was not available tonight for comment as pressure
mounted on him from Sinn Fein, the SDLP and cross-community
Alliance Party to quit the council.

SDLP Assembly member John Dallat said the case was hugely
embarrassing to the DUP and he called on the party's East
Londonderry MP to make a statement.

"Councillor Stewart's replacement should go to the
candidate who was runner-up in the council elections and
most certainly not to the DUP," the East Londonderry MLA

Sinn Fein councillor Billy Leonard said Councillor Stewart
could no longer operate as an elected representative.

"Dessie Stewart has admitted that he pretended to be
someone else just to get some more votes," he said.

"He has totally contradicted the whole idea of people
entrusting their democratic vote and I think he is now
totally compromised."

The chairperson of East Londonderry Alliance Association,
Paddy McGowan called for his party's candidate and the
runner-up in the Skerries ward, which Mr Stewart
represents, Barney Fitzpatrick to be co-opted onto the
council in the event of the councillor quitting.

"Having pleaded guilty to multiple counts of electoral
fraud, the position of Dessie Stewart on Coleraine Council
is now morally untenable," he said.

"He should now do the decent thing and resign from the
council forthwith, in advance of being sentenced.

"This fraud gave the DUP an unfair and illegal advantage in
last year's local government elections in the Skerries DEA.

"The person most affected was the runner-up in the poll,
Alliance candidate Barney Fitzpatrick, who only lost by a
handful of votes to the DUP. Any sense of natural justice
would not see one discredited DUP councillor replaced by
another member from the same party."

Ulster Unionist Assembly members Norman Hillis and David
McClarty also called on the beleaguered DUP councillor to
quit his seat.

In a joint statement the East Londonderry MLAs said: "There
is widespread shock in Portrush and the Skerries Ward in
particular over this incident.

"Councillor Stewart should now be considering his position
and we call on him to resign his seat and give the voters
of the Skerries the opportunity to elect another
representative in an honest manner."

by David Gordon


Spectre Of Martin O’Hagan’s Unsolved Murder Refuses To Fade

as press freedom takes a back seat on the road to peace in
Northern Ireland

Five years after the investigative reporter, Martin
O’Hagan, was shot dead outside his home, journalists in
Northern Ireland have one simple question to ask police
officers who have failed to bring anyone to justice:
“Why?”. Why, they demand to know, has no one been
prosecuted, despite the publication of considerable
evidence pointing to a loyalist paramilitary gang operating
near O’Hagan’s home in Lurgan, County Armagh? And why has
the investigation failed despite the “absolute
determination” of senior government and police officials at
the time of the murder to catch the killers?

These questions will be delivered to the police by
O’Hagan’s branch of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ)
this week to mark the fifth anniversary of the drive-by
shooting on September 28, 2001. A year ago, O’Hagan’s
colleagues called for the investigation to be handed over
to another police force. This has not happened. Many people
now feel that the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI)
should itself be investigated for its failure to solve a
murder that shocked the region - as O’Hagan was the first
reporter killed during almost 40 years of strife there.
There have been repeated allegations that the police failed
to pursue inquiries with vigour for fear of exposing
informers or agents within the murder gang.

Belfast and District NUJ branch officials will also hand a
copy of their protest letter to the region’s police
ombudsman, Nuala O’Loan, to draw her attention to their
concerns. The ombudsman is empowered to hold independent
investigations into clams of police misconduct and
corruption. A report on one such inquiry will soon be
published. No formal complaint has yet been lodged with Ms
O’Loan regarding the O’Hagan murder, but his former
colleagues say this is an option that could be pursued
should the case remain stalled.

O’Hagan, 51, a father of three, was gunned down as he
walked home from a pub with his wife, Marie. He was a
short, cheerful man - known by his friends as “Marty” and
the “wee man”. He was not short on courage, however, when
reporting on the murky world of criminal fiefdoms, rooted
in the long sectarian conflict, and on allegations of
police collusion with paramilitaries.

His killers’ apparent impunity has not fostered press
freedom in the region. Despite the peace process and IRA
ceasefire of recent years, death threats continue to be
made by shadowy groups against investigative journalists.
At the time of the murder, perhaps three journalists were
said to be working under death threat. That figure more
than quadrupled in the following years, and all threats
must now be treated deadly seriously.

Only last month, another reporter on O’Hagan’s newspaper,
the Sunday World, was informed by police of a paramilitary
threat against him and advised to take extra security
measures. He had been inquiring into an unsolved murder
linked to one of the loyalist gangs.

“I call them the para-mafia,” said Jim McDowell, 57, editor
of the Northern Ireland edition of the Sunday World, one of
two newspaper groups working under a general threat. “We’ve
had several warnings over the past year or so. We regularly
run stories exposing criminal activities and we’ve upset
militants on both sides - republicans and loyalists. I’ve
had 11 threats over the years, I think. My house is like a
police station, with all the security devices.”

His office is similarly protected following past arson and
bomb attacks. Last year, one loyalist gang - angry at the
paper’s reporting - set out to intimidate newsagents
stocking the Sunday World. “In one case, petrol was poured
on bundles of papers, causing a fire that nearly killed two
people in the shop,” he said. Sunday World staff have
called for more effective police action to prevent such
threats and violence, but McDowell says there is no
question of self-censorship on his paper. “Martin O’Hagan
never gave up and neither will we,” he said. They were
determined to continue challenging the gangs. Eight years
after the Good Friday peace agreement, their readers wanted
to shake off the region’s violent past.

However, other journalists say that, despite the peace
process, self-censorship remains a real threat. “The
problems are as bad now or even worse since Marty’s death,”
said Jim Campbell, who founded the northern edition of the
Sunday World and who now writes a column for it. “Some
reporters think to themselves, ‘Is this going to alienate
someone?’ before they write an article.” Campbell, 63, who
was once shot and seriously wounded for his reporting,
points to subtler forms of pressure fuelling self-
censorship. “Some reporters feel they have good police
contacts or contacts with government officials and don’t
want to jeopardise them,” he said.

There have been reports of a growing sense of antipathy
among certain politicians and establishment figures - and
even in the mainstream press - towards people branded
“Journalists Against the Peace Process” (JAPPs). These are
reporters who seek to unearth inconvenient truths that may
be unpalatable to leading figures of the peace process.
Even government officials have been heard referring
pejoratively to certain journalists in such terms. One man
who says he was called a JAPP for asking awkward questions
is Ed Moloney, an award-winning Irish journalist and
author, now based in New York. He recently accused certain
media colleagues of wilfully turning a blind eye to IRA
ceasefire breaches and of covering up the truth to
“protect” the peace process.

Kevin Cooper, chairman of Belfast NUJ branch, of which
O’Hagan was secretary, defends those who rock the boat. He
said: “Genuine truth is not based on misconceptions. It is
achieved through eyes wide open - not eyes wide shut.”

Sanctions against JAPPs can range from a petty lack of co-
operation from officials to violent threats from thugs.
“There are powerful vested interests that don’t want
certain information dug out,” explained Cooper. “They would
rather their past roles were kept secret.”

In terms of numbers, slightly fewer reporters in Northern
Ireland are believed to be working under violent threat
this year - about a dozen now compared with 16 a year ago.
But one journalist who has faced such threats, Mick Browne,
36, said: “I don’t think the situation is getting better.
These things ebb and flow.”

In the past year, he has received one veiled threat and
found the wheels of his car tampered with to render it
dangerous. He has also found difficulty in getting certain
stories published, such as the reporting of a campaign by
Republican elements to intimidate a family to leave west
Belfast. He refuses to be silenced, but concedes there is a
threat to press freedom: “A culture emerges of what
journalists should and should not follow up. They can be
conditioned not to pursue difficult issues. In some ways,
the press freedom situation here is no better than it was
20 years ago.”

Many reporters seek to resist the pressures. Two police
raids on journalists’ homes have prompted official
complaints. Liam Clarke, the Northern Ireland editor of
London’s Sunday Times, and his wife Kathryn Johnston had
their home raided in 2003 after they published leaked
transcripts of telephone conversations between a senior
Republican politician and government officials. Clarke says
the authorities had sought to create a “chill factor” by
using heavy-handed policing to stifle investigative
reporting. But the couple complained to the ombudsman who
ruled the police action unlawful - leading, earlier this
month, to a compensation payment by the PSNI. Clarke says
they complained in order to put down a “marker” to prevent
routine raids on journalists’ homes.

Another journalist, Anthony McIntyre, had his home raided
in 2003 by police who took away his computer, disks and
notebooks, saying they were looking for stolen documents.
McIntyre called it “political policing, censorship and a
trawl for my contacts”. He got his property back after
protesting that the raid was unlawful. McIntyre, 49, a
former Republican prisoner who is a major contributor to
The Blanket website, said of local press freedom: “Any
improvement has been quantitative rather than qualitative.
Since the peace process there has been a tendency by some
with political agendas to squeeze journalists into using
them as players rather than letting them operate as
impartial reporters.”

Meanwhile, the unsolved murder of O’Hagan still haunts
press freedom. McIntyre would like to see the stalled case
going to the European Court of Human Rights, and is among
journalists who believe that a referral to the police
ombudsman might help break the deadlock. Eamonn McCann,
chairman of Derry NUJ branch, said: “The message of not
bringing the case to prosecution is that journalists cannot
expect the protection of the forces of law and order. Many
people think they know who was responsible, but the
investigation has gone cold. It seems the police simply
hope the whole thing will go away.”

Jim Campbell, who worked with O’Hagan for many years, said:
“The police say they’ve no evidence to bring prosecutions.
I believe they’ve plenty of evidence.” In a recent article
he wrote that the police knew: the man who tipped off the
Loyalist Volunteer Force gang about O’Hagan’s movements on
the night he died; the person who received the tip-off; the
LVF man who burned a vehicle linked to the attack; the LVF
man who threatened O’Hagan before the shooting and another
who later boasted of killing him.

The NUJ’s Irish secretary, Séamus Dooley, has repeated a
request - made last year - for an outside police force to
take over the murder investigation. In a letter this week
to Peter Hain, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland,
he says: "The failure to apprehend those responsible and to
secure convictions through the courts is deeply worrying
and our members have lost confidence in the current
investigation." Dooley requests a meeting with Hain and
adds: "Since Martin O’Hagan’s murder, threats to the lives
of media workers have undermined the ability of journalists
to carry out their professional duties."

The PSNI says it will conduct a review of the investigation
and discuss the outcome of this with O’Hagan’s family. The
police have always denied they had agents in the murder
gang or that they were seeking to protect anyone. In the
past, eight suspects have been arrested but then released
for lack of evidence. Officers say they have conducted an
"extensive investigation" and have appealed for people with
new information to come forward. A spokesman said they
"shared the frustration of ... family, friends and
colleagues that no one has been made amenable for this

A Northern Ireland Office spokesman said: "I haven’t come
across the term Journalists Against the Peace Process, but
I would deny that the Northern Ireland Office would be
obstructive towards any investigative journalist."

The PSNI spokesman added: "We police fairly, impartially,
even-handedly and professionally. We treat all journalists
with the same courtesy and professionalism."

Kevin Cooper said: “At the time of the killing, the then
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, John Reid [now
British Home Secretary], gave assurances that all resources
would be devoted to the investigation.” Five years ago, Mr
Reid said: “I have spoken to the chief constable and I
share his absolute determination to track down the cowards
responsible for this act of savagery.” Cooper added: “We’re
still waiting. We want to know why.”


Justice Dept Rules Out Unsolved Murders Unit

27/09/2006 - 3:25:10 PM

A special detective unit in the Republic to investigate
unsolved murders during the Troubles was today ruled out by
the Justice Department’s top official.

The Historical Enquiries Team (HET) in the North is
currently probing over 3,000 outstanding cases with a £30m
(€44.5m) budget and 84 staff.

However Justice Department secretary general Sean Aylward
today told the Oireachtas Justice Committee that such a
similar agency in the Republic would be a strain on
existing Garda resources, and not a good idea.

Mr Aylward today appeared before public hearings into the
Barron Report into bombings and shootings which killed 18
people and injured dozens of others.

The senior civil servant said he didn’t think it was
practical for a Historical Enquiries Team to be established
in the Republic.

“The scale of unsolved murder cases in Northern Ireland is
massive,” the told committee members.

“I’m not persuaded that setting up a similar team in the
South would bring us any closure.

“It would involve a significant diversion of human
resources and garda resources away from ongoing activities
and I would have a concern about that.

He insisted that gardaí carried out regular reviews of
unsolved cases.

“At the moment our view would be that to set up a team here
would not just be the right thing to do,” he added.

The Oireachtas Committee today held the second of three
days of public hearings into atrocities blamed on loyalist
paramilitaries who acted with collusion from British
security forces.

The Justice for the Forgotten group representing victims
appeared before the all-party body earlier today.

Set up in January, the HET is looking at more than 3,250
murders committed between the start of the Troubles in 1969
and the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

So far, at least 78 cases have been passed onto the
Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman Nuala O’Loan for
investigation because of allegations of evidence of police

Hand-picked detectives are focusing on all unsolved murders
in chronological order.

Officers are collecting and assessing existing records and
exhibits and probing further avenues which may yield new

Mr Aylward also told the committee that his department was
unable to find crucial police investigation documents
missing since the 1970s.

The secretary general also blamed the Freedom of
Information culture for officials not writing down
information anymore.

“It has brought about a change in the administrative
culture as things are not put down on paper anymore,” he
told committee members.

“It’s a loss to history and to public administration.

“This is an unfortunate side-effect of the Freedom of
Information system.”

Committee member Kathleen Lynch of the Labour Party said it
was frustrating for gardaí that their investigations in the
1970s hit a brick wall when they were referred into the

“They got so far and as soon as they went over the Border,
they stopped,” she said.

The incidents being discussed by the Committee include
bombings in Dundalk, Dublin Airport bombing and the Miami
Showband killings.

The sub-committee is chaired by Fianna Fáil TD Sean Ardagh
and comprises six other members of Dáil and Seánad.

Justice for the Forgotten and the Pat Finucane Centre
believe that it is now possible to make links between four
attacks in the Republic in the two-year period from May
1974 to March 1976, which claimed the lives of 38 people.

The hearings will continue at Leinster House on October 4.


Controversy Over €10,000 Payment For Ahern Speech

Stephen Collins

Manchester payment: The Taoiseach's admission in the Dáil
yesterday that he was paid the equivalent of over stg£8,000
for speaking to a group of businessmen in Manchester, while
he was minister for finance in 1994, has added more fuel to
the controversy over payments made to him.

Under the terms of the cabinet procedure instructions in
force in 1994, Mr Ahern should not have accepted a payment
of anything like this size in his capacity as a minister.

"The convention is for a ministers to accept relatively
inexpensive gifts to mark occasions such as official
openings and not to accept expensive gifts, or when
presented to return them," according to the booklet which
was given to every member of the government at the time. It
said where doubts arose concerning the rules and
conventions in relation to gifts, the final decision would
rest with the taoiseach.

The cabinet guidelines were subsequently amended in 1998 in
the light of the ethics in government legislation. Under
these guidelines, ministers are prohibited from retaining
gifts exceeding €650. "Where such a gift is made to an
office holder, by virtue of his or her office, it may be
retained in the minister's department until its future is
determined, whereupon it will be vested in the minister for

"Any such gift, or where doubt exists about the value,
should be notified to the secretary general to the
government as soon as possible," says the cabinet handbook.

It says in an appendix to the section on gift:. "All office
holders are expected to adhere to the fundamental principle
that an offer of gifts, hospitality or services should not
be accepted where it would, or might appear to, place him
or her under an obligation."

The Taoiseach raised the issue of the Manchester payment in
his television interview on Tuesday night.

Asked about it in the Dáil by Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny
yesterday, he said that he had spoken to a number of
business groups in Manchester over a number of years and
the only time he received money was in 1994.

He told the Dáil he received a cheque for £8,000 and the
money had been dealt with properly. Last night Mr Kenny
said that it appeared from what he had said over the past
two days that Mr Ahern had been invited to the function in
Manchester as minister for finance.

"I am aware of no occasion when a minister of any
government was paid to speak at a function. The cabinet
handbook which sets the rules in relation to gifts given to
ministers, makes it clear that gifts above €650 in value
must be retained in the minister's department. The handbook
also makes it clear that any such gift should be notified
to the secretary general to the government as soon as
possible. This payment of £8,000 clearly constituted a
gift," said Mr Kenny.

"It would appear from the Taoiseach's comments that he
accepted €10,000 for this nixer and lodged it to his bank
account. This issue is very serious and requires further
investigation and explanation by the Taoiseach.

"The matter will be raised again in the Dáil. If issues
like this continue to arise regarding the Taoiseach's
actions, his position could become untenable," said the
Fine Gael leader.

© The Irish Times


The 'Green Book' Of The Early 1990s Had No Legislative Force

Liam Reid, Political Reporter

Ethical guidelines: then and now: Ethical guidelines for
government members in the early 1990s advised that
ministers should not accept expensive gifts and that they
should declare any potential conflicts of interest when
making government decisions.

The guidelines, which had no legislative force, were
contained in the so-called cabinet "Green Book", which was
given to all office-holders at the time.

In 1995, these guidelines were superseded by the Ethics in
Public Office Act, which set down strict enforceable
criteria to which ministers were legally required to

The "Green Book" guidelines were in place at the time in
1994 when as minister for finance, Bertie Ahern received
the equivalent of €10,000 following a speaking engagement
to businessmen in Manchester.

The guidelines stipulated: "The practice has been for
ministers and ministers of state to accept relatively
inexpensive gifts to mark occasions such as official
openings etc, and not to accept expensive gifts or when
presented to return them".

The guidelines also advised that ministers "should not
engage in any activities that could reasonable be regarded
as interfering or being incompatible with the full and
proper discharge of the duties of his office".

In relation to potential conflicts of interest, the "Green
Book" advised that "where any matter before the government
is one in which a member of the Government or his family
has a material interest, this should be drawn to the
attention of the government before the matter comes up for

These guidelines were replaced in 1995 by the Ethics in
Public Office Act. This was again updated in 2001 by the
Standards in Public Office Act.

The present coalition Government has drawn up its own code
of conduct for the Taoiseach and members of Government
under the legislation, the latest version coming into force
in 2003.

The current code of conduct "seeks to ensure that office
holders must at all times observe, and be seen to observe,
the highest standards of ethical behaviour in the carrying
out of the functions of their office".

Under the code's guidelines, office holders are required to
declare any gift they receive exceeding €650 in value in a
given year.

"Excluded from this requirement is a gift given to an
office holder, for purely personal reasons, by a relative
or friend of the office holder or of his or her spouse or
chil,d or of the spouse's child [child being a son or
daughter of any age], unless acceptance of the gift could
have materially influenced the office holder in the
performance of his or her functions as a member or office

The code also places a requirement on an office holder to
make a "statement of material interest" in certain cases.

"In circumstances where an office holder [the first office
holder] proposes to perform a function of his or her
office, and he or she has actual knowledge of a material
interest . . . the first office holder is required to
furnish a statement in writing of the facts and the nature
of the interest concerned.

"The statement should be furnished before performance of
the function or, if this is not possible, as soon as may be

The clause has in the past been explained by the ethics
watchdog the Standards in Public Offices Commission (SIPO)
as meaning that if an office holder believes there is a
potential conflict of interest in relation to a decision by
Government, they must notify the relevant person with an
official declaration.

In relation to the Taoiseach, he or she is required to
furnish such a statement, in confidence, to the chairman of

© The Irish Times


'Your Personal Circumstances Are Irrelevant'

Michael O'Regan

Joe Higgins: Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins said the
Taoiseach should not have brought his personal life into
the controversy over payments.

"It is not relevant. But again, last night, deliberately,
you cast RTÉ's Bryan Dobson in the role of agony aunt in
order to divert attention from the critical issues you are
refusing to answer," said Mr Higgins.

"Your personal circumstances are irrelevant, because you
said last night that you already had got a bank loan to pay
off pressing bills."

Mr Higgins said it had taken him two minutes to draft the
letter which the Taoiseach should have sent with a bank
draft in returning the money.

To laughter from all sides, Mr Higgins read: "Ah jaysus,
lads, you'll have me in huge trouble if you don't take back
the 50 grand. My circumstances have improved, and I will
have 50 reporters traipsing me for the rest of my life if
this comes out. Bertie."

Perhaps, said Mr Higgins, the Taoiseach would have used a
PS: "Tell Paddy the plasterer to stay clear of Calelly's
house. He is in enough trouble with the painter already."

Mr Higgins accused the Taoiseach of facilitating the
powerful and the wealthy at every hand's turn.

"Therefore, it is no surprise to me that wealthy
businessmen should cough up €50,000 to you. What is
shocking is that still you apparently do not see that a
minister for finance, taking large amounts of cash from
businessmen, is by any objective yardstick a massive
conflict of interest, by anybody's standards." Mr Higgins
said that, in 1993, the average industrial wage was €13,416

"So three times that amount, by any ordinary worker's
standards, would be a colossal amount."

Mr Ahern said that the impression was being given that his
friends were "captains of industry", which was very far
from the truth.

"They are people who assisted me at a particular time
because they knew the circumstances. I accepted that only
on the basis that they were loans with interest. And that's
the position."

He said everybody appointed to a State board, whether by
himself or his colleagues, was a person believed to be
qualified for that appointment.

"They are appointments based on merit, taking into account
the particular combination of skills, qualifications,
background and life experience which each person has," he

Mr Ahern added that three of the five had been on State
boards long before they had given him a loan. He thought
the other two would be considered, under any fair
examination, to be outstanding people. He added that
"comprehensive" documentation relating to the loans existed
and it was with the tribunal.

Mr Higgins referred to the "Trappist-like silence" of the
Tánaiste and the PDs.

© The Irish Times


Ahern Defends 'Double Standards' Allegation

27/09/2006 - 16:14:34

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern today defended himself in the Dáil
against allegations of “double standards” in public office.

Mr Ahern last night admitted receiving up to £39,000
(€49,500) in unpaid loans in 1993 and 1994 while he was
Finance Minister.

Opposition leader Enda Kenny today asked Mr Ahern in the
Dáil: “How is it that you are prepared to apply one
standard to others but apply a different standard to

Mr Ahern said several scurrilous allegations had been made
against him in the past.

Referring to last week’s Mahon Tribunal leaks that
triggered the controversy, he added: “The truth is more
powerful than even the most baseless of political attacks.
It was done in a calculated way to damage me.”

Reading from a script, he added: “I have served the State
honestly and I challenge anybody to prove otherwise.”

Mr Ahern told RTÉ last night that 12 friends helped him pay
legal bills arising from the legal separation from his wife
Miriam in 1993.

Mr Kenny today also criticised Tánaiste Michael McDowell
for his lack of response almost 24 hours after Mr Ahern’s

“And from you Tánaiste, the silence is deafening,” Mr Kenny

Mr McDowell is due to discuss the issue with his
Progressive Democrats party after 6pm and may make a
statement afterwards.


Publican Rejected Taoiseach's Offers To Repay Loan

27/09/2006 - 15:17:02

One of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s close friends who helped
put up a £39,000 (€49,500) loan for him in the early 1990s
revealed today he refused to take the money back four

Dublin publican Charlie Chawke said he gave £2,500 (€3,172)
as part of two payments Mr Ahern received from a dozen
donors to cover the cost of legal bills following his
marriage break-up.

He said he was approached on four separate occasions to
take the cash back but each time turned it down.

“On at least four occasions … I was asked to accept the
money back and I said no. I didn’t want it and I walked
away and dismissed it. I didn’t want it back,” the publican

He said the last time he was offered repayment was a couple
of years ago, but could not be more specific, adding only
that Mr Ahern was Taoiseach at the time.

Mr Chawke insisted the money was intended as a loan from a
friend, not a political donation or gift.

“I don’t know anything about gifts or otherwise, other than
he accepted it as a loan,” the publican told RTÉ Radio.

“This wasn’t a politician accepting money from people, this
was a friend helping out a friend, or friends helping
friends, and that was the only way I looked at it.

“I’m not involved in politics but I’m a friend for a long
time of Bertie Ahern’s. I was only too delighted. I hold
the man in the highest of esteem. I was delighted to be in
position, it was only £2,500 and I could afford it at the
time and it didn’t put me under any great stress.

“I was delighted to be involved helping the man in trying

Mr Chawke denied he was ever approached directly by Mr
Ahern for money, insisting it was intended as a gesture of
goodwill from friends.

He added that he decided to stump up the cash after talking
with other donors in his pub the Goat Grill pub, Goatstown,
in south Dublin.

Mr Chawke has since had to have his leg amputated after
being shot during a raid at the bar in October 2003.

He was one of 12 donors who paid varying sums in 1993 and
1994 totalling £39,000 in the currency of the day – to help
Mr Ahern. Others included well-known political fundraiser
Des Richardson and businessman David McKenna.

Several of the dozen are close friends of the Taoiseach
from north Dublin.

Others include Joe Burke, a Donegal-born builder who was
appointed chairman of Dublin Port Company (DPC) for a five-
year term from April 2002 by the then Marine Minister,
Frank Fahey.

It was one of several political postings to State bodies at
the time that drew accusations of cronyism from opposition

Fintan Gunne was one of two associates named by Mr Ahern
who are now dead - the other being the Paddy Reilly
involved in the first payment in 1993.

Formerly a cattle dealer from Carrickmacross in Co
Monaghan, Mr Gunne became one of Ireland’s leading
auctioneers and acted for several prominent business
figures before he died in 1997.


Statement From Tánaiste Helps To Stabilise Ahern's Position

Stephen Collins, Political Correspondent

The Progressive Democrats helped to stabilise Bertie
Ahern's position last night, but a long-awaited statement
from Tánaiste Michael McDowell was based on the assumption
that nothing further would emerge to damage the Taoiseach's

Phrases like "based on what the Taoiseach has stated" and
"in the light of what the Taoiseach has said" give Mr
McDowell an out, in the event of information emerging in
the future which shows that Mr Ahern has not told the full

However, if the Taoiseach has dealt with all the issues
surrounding his finances in the course of the past two
days, then the PDs are committed to keeping him in office
until he decides to call an election some time next year.

The Tánaiste did suggest that Mr Ahern should now pay back
the money, with interest, that he got from his friends in
1993 and 1994.

Mr McDowell issued his statement after a one-hour meeting
of his parliamentary party in Leinster House last night and
he appeared to have the complete backing of the party for
his strategy.

The statement was critical of the Taoiseach's friends
rather than Mr Ahern himself for providing him with money
and landing him in the current political mess.

"Based on what the Taoiseach has stated, it is clear to me
that the actions of a group of friends in late 1993 and in
1994, in advancing to him monies to assist him in the
discharge of liabilities arising from his separation, were

"Based on what he has stated, it would also appear that
these actions were well-intentioned and were not intended
by them to have any improper effect or to compromise the
Taoiseach in his then role as minister for finance or
public representative," Mr McDowell said.

"In the light of what the Taoiseach has said about their
identity and of pre-existing relationships of personal
friendship and trust, and in the light of the scale of the
individual payments, it is reasonable to accept that the
motive for the payments was benevolent and was not intended
to compromise, to be corrupt, or to obtain improper
influence or reward.

"It seems to me that the Taoiseach should probably have
declined such help even in the very difficult personal
circumstances which he faced in 1993. However, I think it
fair to say in the light of what the Taoiseach has stated
that accepting such help was an honest error of judgment
and was neither dishonest nor corrupt."

Mr McDowell suggested that the Taoiseach should now refund
the money with interest and that if the donors were
reluctant to accept it, then it should go to charitable

He also condemned the "unlawful, very carefully timed, ill-
motivated betrayal of confidence by someone with access to
the papers of the tribunal" and said it risked becoming
discredited and ineffective if it could not prevent such

Labour leader Pat Rabbitte accused Mr McDowell of adopting
a self-serving formula to keep his party in office.

"We may as well have single-party government, as the PDs
are now handcuffed to Fianna Fáil for the duration of this
Dáil. After almost a week of untypical silence, Mr McDowell
has made a fateful decision for himself and his party."

Fine Gael echoed the charge, saying that the PDs were
"clearly driven by a determination to keep Fianna Fáil in
power for 15 years and were not concerned with the issue of
accountability in high office".

© The Irish Times


Work 'Set To Begin On Maze Site'

Work to transform the former Maze prison site is set to get
under way next month, the DUP has said.

Party assembly member Edwin Poots, chairman of the Maze
Panel, said demolition work would begin within weeks.

The government's proposals for the 360 acre site near
Lisburn include a multi-sports stadium and "centre for
conflict transformation".

A competition has been launched to build the 42,000-seater

As well as the outdoor stadium, the plan also features an
indoor stadium, a hotel, equestrian arena and land for
housing and industry.

Mr Poots said the first stage of work would leave 180 acres
of the site completely cleared and the demolition of the
infamous H-Blocks and prison wall would begin next year.

"If Northern Ireland is to succeed in hosting any aspect of
the 2012 Olympics by having a national stadium and sporting
centre of excellence in place there is an imperative for
the ground work to start now," said Mr Poots.

"The Maze Panel recognises there is an historic opportunity
to leave a lasting legacy to the people of Northern Ireland
that everyone can support and, as work commences, it is
vital that momentum is not lost and those involved in this
project remain focused and committed to achieving the 2012
target date."

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2006/09/27 17:29:23 GMT


Ombudsman Probe Policeman Was Himself Under Investigation

27/09/2006 - 3:45:37 PM

A senior police officer who probed criminal allegations
against staff at the North's Police Ombudsman’s Office was
himself under investigation by Nuala O’Loan’s team, it was
disclosed today.

Amid claims that the police inquiry was seriously
compromised, Public Prosecution Service director Sir
Alasdair Fraser has been urged to examine the case.

Four serving and one former member of staff in the
Ombudsman’s Belfast office were cleared last month after no
evidence of wrongdoing was found.

Those investigated, including some in senior positions, had
been questioned about perjury allegations made by another
member of the Ombudsman’s staff. Mrs O’Loan was not one of
the five.

Although a recommendation not to prosecute was sent to the
PPS, police chiefs were today under pressure to explain
their handling of the case.

Ian Paisley Jr, a Northern Ireland Policing Board
representative, claimed it had been undermined by a
potential conflict of interests.

He said: “The whole thing just stinks.

“It’s amazing that out of 7,500 officers they couldn’t get
one who was not under investigation by the Ombudsman.

“This has seriously compromised the credibility of the

“It must be above reproach, but this just creates the
impression the Ombudsman thinks she is untouchable.”

The Democratic Unionist MLA has written to Sir Alasdair
seeking action.

Concerns were also raised with Northern Ireland Deputy
Chief Constable Paul Leighton at a private Policing Board

The high-ranking officer whose involvement is under
scrutiny was appointed earlier this year.

He was brought in to probe allegations by one of Mrs
O’Loan’s staff members who was, and remains, suspended from
duty over a connected dispute.

The police inquiry relates to a court case involving a
constable who opened fire during an incident in
Newtownabbey, Co Antrim in June 2001.

After the suspended Ombudsman staff member reported his
concerns, a criminal investigation was launched.

But by that stage the detective was already the subject of
an ongoing investigation into his handling of an earlier
murder inquiry.

Once he finished his probe, Mrs O’Loan declared her full
confidence in those who had been under scrutiny.

“It has been a difficult time for those members of my staff
who had these false accusations made against them,” she
said last month.

But her office refused to say anything about today’s

Mrs O’Loan’s spokesman said: “It would be inappropriate for
us to comment on allegations that have been made against
identifiable officers.”

The Police Service of Northern Ireland emphatically denied
their inquiry was in any way flawed.

With PSNI officers regularly the subject of Ombudsman’s
inquiries, a spokesman for the force said: “The
investigation was carried out in an open and transparent
manner and, like all investigations, it pursued all
relevant evidence and lines of inquiry.

“The investigation was conducted in a thorough and
professional manner.

“A decision on how to proceed was referred to the Public
Prosecution Service in the interests of transparency and


Northern Ireland Conflict Not Religious, But Based On Fear, Catholic Irish Primate Says

Catholic Online (

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (Catholic Online) – The conflict
in Northern Ireland is not one of religion where competing
Christian traditions are protagonists in a struggle for
dominance, but one where denominations are building the
culture of peace, said the primate of all Ireland.

Delivering the keynote address of the annual general
assembly of the Conference of the European Justice and
Peace Commissions Sept. 23 at the Wellington Park Hotel,
Archbishop Sean Brady of Armagh stressed that churches are
a part of the solution, not the problem, in creating the
conditions for and proclaiming the message of peace.

Some 60 delegates from throughout the continent attended
the annual Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Europe gathering
in the first year it has been held in Ireland and focused
on the theme “Challenge of Reconciliation: What Europe can
learn from Northern Ireland.”

“One of the common mistakes made by people outside of
Northern Ireland,” Archbishop Brady said, “is to believe
that the conflict here is essentially a conflict of
religion, of competing Christian traditions resolutely
intolerant of one another and vying for dominance. This is
a convenient but inaccurate presentation.”

The situation in Northern Ireland, as with all conflict
throughout the world “the result of a complex mixture of
history and politics, of culture and identity, of tensions
over land and resources, of fear of those who are different
and ultimately, of the need for each of us to belong,” he

That complexity is seen in the city the conference is
meeting, the archbishop said. “Belfast is a city of
contrasts, of people of humour and generosity, of welcome
and warmth. Yet it is a city which bears within its
terraced streets and fine public buildings, a legacy of
violence and pain which continues to dim its dreams and its
possibility of becoming one of the most vibrant and
welcoming cities of Europe.”

The conflict in Northern Ireland is not at base one of
religious traditions battling one another, he said. “It
is,” he added, “a sectarian conflict in the sense of
sectarianism understood as hostility or suspicion directed
against those who belong to a different religious

While noting that he believes that Northern Ireland is “a
story of hope,” Archbishop Brady said that its history
teaches that “violence is a scourge” that “can never be the
basis of peace.”

“Violence may sometimes achieve domination over others or
their community but it cannot win that community’s
participation or consent,” he said.

Violence, either by the government or paramilitary
organizations, leaves “an indelible mark on the memory and
emotions of those whom it, he stressed.

“As the experience of Northern Ireland suggests, once the
first act of violence is perpetrated, whether in defense or
in aggression, the original reason for the use of violence
is quickly lost sight of in the deadly cycle of violence,
hatred, revenge and misunderstanding which almost
inevitably follows,” he said.

To break the cycle of violence requires that genuine
social, economic and political inequalities are addressed,
and that people are able to “participate in the political
process (and) to articulate and organize around their
legitimate concerns,” the archbishop said.

“In this regard,” he said, “I welcome all recent
initiatives directed at supporting the ability of the
loyalist community to develop its social and political
capacity. A confident unionism and a confident nationalism
are not mutually exclusive possibilities.”

Yet, he said, the failure of some paramilitary
organizations to fully accept “the principle of majority
consent in the Good Friday Agreement” and to reject the use
of violence for political ends remains a source of “deep

Noting that there has been “slow but immensely significant
progress” toward building “a more equitable, balanced and
accountable system of law and order here in Northern
Ireland,” Archbishop Brady stressed that “no society can
achieve a stable peace without an effective system of law
and order.”

Pointing to “organized paramilitary crime that still
exists” in Northern Ireland, he said that “the tolerance of
subversive or criminal activity is incompatible with
responsibility for the administration or law and order.”

“Law and order,” he added, “is essential to the common

He characterized the current situation in the country as “a
glass that is half empty or half full, depending on your
point of view.”

There is “a real peace,” though an unstable one, he said,
noting that people are under much less stress because of
the improved security. “The ceasefires, the Belfast
Agreement and the decommissioning of IRA arms have made a
huge difference. People feel a lot more secure, a lot more
at ease.”

Yet, he noted that “the evil of bigotry and sectarianism
still exists.”

He urged action in the coming months on putting in place a
local power-sharing assembly with the all of the
constituent elements of the Northern Irish community. “I
believe that the majority of people in Northern Ireland
want to see such a process evolve and to see it soon,” he

Peace is fragile, he said, and cannot be won solely by the
efforts of “politicians, civil servants, diplomats.

“Political and legal processes can definitely go a long
distance. But there is, however, a growing awareness that
these legal and political means can only do so much. In
themselves they are not adequate to the task of healing and
reconciling,” he said, adding that they can heal memories
or bring about actual forgiveness.

“It will only happen,” the archbishop said, “if we all
become like St. Francis, channels of peace and instruments
of this shared future. It will only happen if we are all
inspired to banish hatred from our own lives and to bring
love, to replace injury with pardon and to build up trust
by dispelling doubts and fears.”

He pointed to “the spiritual dimension” as a key element in
the building of the conditions of peace, and one in which
the religious community has a distinct role in promoting.

“Here Christians certainly have something unique to offer,”
he said. We are often reminded of the call of God to the
ministry of reconciliation, to the making of peace, to the
seeking of the unity willed by Christ so that the world
might believe. We ignore this call at our peril.”

The archbishop said that Christian faith traditions need to
“find new ways of giving common witness to the peace of
Christ which can transform the world.”

He pointed to expressing “our interdependence” through
working together on such areas of mutual concern as
education, the challenge of secularism, the values of
family and marriage and the gospel of life.

“The time for healing wounds has come. The time to bridge
the chasms that divide us has come. The moment to build is
upon us,” he said.

Archbishop Brady expressed the hope that “the children of
the next generation will never have to suffer the fear and
the pain which their parents suffered” and that the people
of Northern Ireland “will seize the opportunity which now
exists to build a peace.”


Opin: An Error Of Judgment


The removal of a Taoiseach from office can be a long and
painful process, as both Charles Haughey and Albert
Reynolds found to their cost. Now their successor, Bertie
Ahern, is struggling to retain the confidence of the Fianna
Fáil parliamentary party and the public at large. He
received qualified support last night from the leader of
the Progressive Democrats, Michael McDowell, who judged his
action in accepting personal payments to be an honest error
of judgment, but neither dishonest nor corrupt. He believed
"with the Taoiseach", he said, that the payments in
question should now be fully refunded with interest.

After six days of stunning silence, this was a vital
intervention designed to steady the Coalition Government.
With a general election in sight, the leaders of all
parties in the Dáil are acutely aware that a false move or
a serious miscalculation could have dire consequences. That
is as much the case for Fine Gael and the Labour Party as
it is for the PDs. The Taoiseach enjoys such a high level
of popularity with the public that all leaders are judging
the public mood just as much, if not more than, they are
judging the bizarre set of circumstances which compromise
the Taoiseach.

But, the storm still rages. The leader of Fine Gael, Enda
Kenny, was the first prominent politician to say that Mr
Ahern's position as Taoiseach could become untenable. The
Labour Party leader, Pat Rabbitte, saw Mr McDowell's
decision as "fateful".

It was interesting that the new Tánaiste, like the
Opposition leaders, believes that a line has not been drawn
in the sand on the whole saga of the payments to Mr Ahern
while he was minister for finance in 1993. On no less than
four occasions in his supplied script, he offered PD
support "based on what the Taoiseach has stated" and "in
the light of what the Taoiseach has said". He provided
himself and his party with wriggle room in the event of
other disclosures.

Whether that will be enough to justify Mr McDowell's
signature gesture in climbing up a pole in Ranelagh with
the poster "Single Party Government - No Thanks" during the
last general election is another matter.

At the opening of a new Dáil session, the exchanges between
Mr Ahern and the Opposition party leaders could hardly have
been more fraught. The Taoiseach was fighting for his
political life; his opponents for an opportunity to serve
in government.

Mr Kenny cut to the core of the whole issue in his well-
judged round of questioning of the Taoiseach. Was it wrong
for a serving minister for finance to accept monies from
business friends for any purpose? He did not get the right
answer. Mr McDowell and his parliamentary party found the
actions of Mr Ahern's friends to be "ill-advised" and found
their motives benevolent. They also opined that, in the
sphere of public affairs, an individual is not as free as
others to accept such well-intentioned assistance. They
didn't find the payments wrong either.

© The Irish Times


Opin: Opposition Leaders Explore The Mysteries Left In Ahern's Wake


Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's explanation of help he received
from friends has not answered all of the questions, writes
Mark Hennessy, Political Correspondent

Following his emotional RTÉ television interview, Bertie
Ahern was tense as he entered the Dáil, prepared,
presumably, for more Opposition assaults.

However, Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny, particularly,
adopted a softer tone, concerned, perhaps, not to allow him
to play the sympathy card once again with voters. Though
Labour leader Pat Rabbitte was more robust, both know that
Mr Ahern must suffer another blow in this affair if his
career is to go into free-fall. If not, they could be
blamed for hitting a man when he is down.

So far, most in Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats
believe that while he has been badly damaged he will
survive - as long as his version of events stays intact.

For now, the Opposition has turned its attention to a
payment of £8,000 sterling that Mr Ahern received in
Manchester from a business dinner in 1994, and their
appetite has been particularly whetted by his obvious
reluctance to detail when the event took place, who
attended and who contributed.

By taking it, Mr Ahern has raised a question about whether
he has breached long-standing rules governing the conduct
of cabinet ministers.

The current "Green Book" rules for ministers' conduct note
that while there are "no formal guidelines", ministers
should only accept "relatively inexpensive" gifts to mark
occasions such as formal openings, and give anything else
to the State. The rulebook governing cabinet members'
conduct prior to the mid-1990s were slightly different,
though it did make clear that ministers could not accept
gifts of any significance while they were acting as

Clearly, the Manchester money was lodged into his personal
account - and not in any political account used to run his
Dublin North Central constituency operation, or anything
else. Even if tax has been paid, Mr Ahern would appear to
have more explaining to do. Giving more details about the
conditions attached to the payments received in 1993 and
1994, he told the Dáil that a 3 per cent interest rate had
been agreed - much lower than the 7 to 8 per cent on offer
to ordinary bank customers then.

On television, Mr Ahern said his friends had refused a
number of attempts he had made to repay the "debt of

Pressed by the Opposition yesterday, Mr Ahern went into a
meandering reply about the efforts he had made to repay.
"They would have been repaid before now but I had some
difficulty in getting friends to accept that," he said.

However, he also indicated that other considerations had
been on his mind - that repayment would spark charges that
there was something wrong with the loans in the first place
if they were ever revealed subsequently. Given the
political climate then and now, he was probably right to
have such concerns, but it does raise a question about the
seriousness of any efforts he did make to repay.

Though pushed by Labour leader Pat Rabbitte, Mr Ahern
refused to say if the Revenue Commissioners have accepted
his view that the money is still regarded for tax purposes
as outstanding loans, and, therefore, not subject to gift
tax - even though not a penny has been repaid in principal,
or interest.

"Many years ago, my tax advisers checked the issues in
detail on the basis that it was a loan with interest," he
told Mr Rabbitte.

Does this mean that the Revenue signed off on it? If so, it
would surely have been in his interest to reveal on Tuesday
or yesterday that he has been given a guarantee that he has
acted properly. If such a clearance has not been received,
which is the more likely, it means a final determination on
the status of the money by the Revenue Commissioners has
still to be made, though tax lawyers divide on what
decision they would make. If, however, they were to find
against him, he would be faced with a bill for outstanding
tax and penalties.

Finally, Mr Ahern has raised curiosity about the emphasis
he has placed on the fact that he did not have a personal
bank account during the years in question while he was
separating from his wife, Miriam. It is difficult to
understand the relevance he places on this fact, but it is
odd since, in the same breath, he said that he "used
cheques separately to deal with issues".

His emphasis on his lack of a bank account is even more
odd, given that he has also said that he had saved €50,000
between 1986 and 1993. And he would have been paid by
cheque as a cabinet minister.

© The Irish Times


Opin: Turning The Tables On McDowell

Mary Raftery

Guess who said the following: "The public are entitled to
have an absolute guarantee of the financial probity and
integrity of their elected representatives, their
officials, and above all of ministers. They need to know
that they are under financial obligations to nobody, other
than public lending institutions, except to the extent that
they are publicly declared."

It was Bertie Ahern, speaking in the Dáil in December 1996.
In fact, he was so fond of it that he repeated it verbatim
just two months later.

Or what about this one? "In principle, apart from token
presentations in respect of functions performed at home and
abroad, neither politicians nor officials should accept
personal gifts of value from outside their family."

Yep, Bertie again, also in December 1996.

And this? "In a well-ordered democracy. the only gifts a
politician should legitimately receive are public tokens of
appreciation or mementoes of insignificant financial value
at meetings with foreign visitors or at public functions.
The reason we have ethics in Government legislation is to
ensure we outlaw what we regard as unethical."

Bertie, of course, 1996.

This is fun.

You'll never get this one though: "We must make it clear in
this House by our actions that we are going to insist on
the highest standards in public life. It would be very
dangerous, if the message were ever to go out, either here
or abroad, however ill-founded, that Government here
operates on the principle of backhanders, or that there are
golden circles with a high entrance fee. We must nip that
notion in the bud once and for all." Bertie again, this
time in September 1997.

I could go on and on, but I'll stop now. Well, maybe just
one more: "Politics and participation in public life is a
career of public service. It is not an avenue of enrichment
or lifestyle enhancement from private donors, even where
they only want to help people perform in a particular
manner . . . Anyone who abuses their position or knowingly
flouts the rules will go. The political fabric of our
democracy is precious."

He said that one twice as well, in both 1996 and 1997.

Finally, this is irresistible: "We must draw a line under
bad habits that may have grown up over the last 30 years,
and return to the ethos and public spirit that prevailed
under the founders of this State, Eamon de Valera and W.T.
Cosgrave." (February 1997)

Whether the €50,000 which the Taoiseach received in 1993
from his friends was a gift or a loan, we have Bertie
himself to assist us on this thorny issue. In 1996,
referring to Fine Gael's Michael Lowry and the
contributions received from Ben Dunne, he pointed to the
need to be able to prove that money received was in fact a
loan. He added that "the making of such a large personal
loan on more favourable conditions than would be available
from any lending institution would clearly represent a
personal favour that ought to be declared."

If a gift, then the Taoiseach is again of great assistance.
In December 1996 he said that gifts must be declared
"because of a legitimate concern that substantial
undeclared gifts could have a hidden influence on political
or other types of decision-making."

And when it comes to those decisions, which presumably
include appointments of one's friends to State boards and
bodies, the Taoiseach provides further clarity (December
1996 again): "Where payments have on both sides been
legitimately given and received, in the legal and tax
sense, it would still be important that they be put in
their overall context, allowing people to be satisfied that
they were purely ex gratia and not connected, either before
or after, to any particular decisions."

With regard to Michael McDowell and the PDs, they would do
well to bear in mind what happened to another small party
in coalition with Fianna Fáil. The Labour Party paid an
enormous political price for refusing to oppose the tax
amnesty of 1993 (that year again!), described by the
Progressive Democrats as a "shameful act".

That amnesty allowed defaulters to clear their accounts
with a one-off payment of 15 per cent, much below the
normal rates paid by compliant individuals.

There were no penalties or interest applied and absolute
secrecy was guaranteed. It was the antithesis of everything
the Labour Party stood for on tax and on equity, and yet it
remained part of the government which introduced it. The
minister for finance responsible for this amnesty was
Bertie Ahern.

At that time, it was Michael McDowell who landed the body-
blows to Labour.

"How can the Labour Party, which is supposed to be the
party of workers, become the party of evaders, cheaters and
multi- millionaires who want to launder their cash in this

One can think without difficulty of a myriad of ways in
which that particular table can now be turned against the
PDs in the context of their approach to the current crisis.

© The Irish Times


Ahern To Meet Clinton

27/09/2006 - 19:02:13

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is to meet former US President Bill
Clinton for talks in Dublin on Friday morning, it emerged

Mr Clinton, who attended the Ryder Cup event last weekend,
today hosted a speaking engagement in the capital.

A Government spokesman said tonight: “Mr Ahern will meet
with Mr Clinton for discussions on Irish aid and other
matters at Farmleigh House on Friday morning.”

The 42nd US president spoke at a €1,000-a-head seminar
entitled Leadership for the Future at the Burlington Hotel.

More than 800 guests heard Mr Clinton speak on the global
terror threat, the world energy crisis and third world


Portumna Against Bridge Closure

Michelle McDonagh

Residents and businesspeople in Portumna, Co Galway are
objecting to plans to shut down the town for six weeks next
year to repair a bridge over the river Shannon.

Galway County Council is planning to close the bridge which
links Galway to Tipperary in September and October next
year. Local county councillor Willie Burke said there was
no way a shutdown of the town would be tolerated for six to
eight weeks. "We know the work has to be carried out, but
there are so many other things that can be done, ie
building a temporary bridge like the Army do so that
traffic can still pass over the bridge or working 24/7 so
that the work can be finished in one to two weeks." He said
the council needed to go back to the drawing board and come
up with a solution that would minimise the impact on the

"Closing the bridge for six weeks would have an enormous
impact as 50 per cent of Portumna's trade comes over the
bridge from Tipperary."

One solution being put forward is to provide a ferry
service. Travelling to Banagher and crossing the Shannon
there would add an extra 35 miles to people's journeys.
Built in 1911, the bridge at Portumna consists of two
fixed-span steel sections and a timber-decked swing

© The Irish Times

To Subscribe to Irish Aires Google News List, click Here.
To Unsub from Irish Aires Google News List, click Here
For options visit:

Or get full news from Irish Aires Yahoo Group, Click here

To Get RSS Feed for Irish Aires News click HERE
(Paste into a News Reader)

To September Index
To Index of Monthly Archives
Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?