THE MAHON TRIBUNAL resumes its inquiry today of Bertie Ahern TD, who resigned as Taoiseach last May following the discovery of several unsound payments of UK sterling into his bank accounts in the mid-90s.
The Inquiry will continue its cross-examination of Mr. Ahern concerning allegations that he received bribes totalling IR£80,000 from Cork based developer Owen O’Callaghan when he was Minister for Finance in 1993 and 1994.
It is alleged that the former Taoiseach received the unethical payments in return for assisting in the rezoning and development of Quarryvale, a lucrative tract of land in west Dublin adjacent to the M4 motorway, which would eventually become the bustling Liffey Valley Centre.
UK based developer Tom Gilmartin first spotted the potential development and set about purchasing the lands in the late 80s, but ran into serious difficulties, when his financiers, Allied Irish Banks (AIB), threatened to call in the loans he had used to buy the land.
In 1991 Gilmartin was compelled to hand over a 60% share of his company, Barkhill Ltd, to AIB, who awarded rival developer O’Callaghan a 40% slice and a co-directorship of the company.
O’Callaghan eventually ousted Mayo-born Gilmartin, but not before allegedly telling him that he had bribed Bertie Ahern, to the tune of IR£50,000 and IR£30,000 for assistance in rezoning the land and securing special tax designation for O’Callaghan’s project.
An embittered Gilmartin turned whistleblower for the State and in the process revealed a planning system riddled with corruption where bribes to politicians of all stripes reached, apparently, to the very top.
Investigating his testimony, the Tribunal discovered that Ahern controlled a slew of bank accounts accessible to his mistress, his friends and his fellow Fianna Fail representatives which received a steady stream of payments in both Irish and English pounds.
Mr Ahern’s explanations about the sources and nature of this money ranged from “personal political loans” to cash gifts or ‘dig-outs’ he received from friends, to at one point infamously explaining part of the UK sterling cash lodged into his personal accounts was, likely his winnings on the horses: “I am interested in horse racing and over the years I have placed bets on horse races”.
This testimony which was sworn on the bible prior to questioning, led to Ahern’s vilification in the mainstream press, even the traditionally on side Irish Independent branding him a “a self serving serial deceiver”.
(Pictured: Left to Right) Owen O’Callaghan, Bertie Ahern, J. Alan Mahon, Tom Gilmartin