FF may target Ahern cash in constituency overhaul

Sat, Mar 24, 2012, 00:00

DUBLIN CENTRAL BRANCH:THE FIANNA Fáil party may be about to attempt to seize thousands of euro that the Mahon tribunal has said belonged to former taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

The party’s ard comhairle is to consider a number of motions next week concerning Mr Ahern, including his expulsion from the party and transfer of functions performed by officers of the Dublin Central branch to the party general secretary with immediate effect.

“I am also going to seek that all assets held by or on behalf of that party organisation be transferred into the names of the general secretary and treasurers to act as trustees thereof, pending the establishment of a renewed Dublin Central organisation,” party leader Micheál Martin has said.

The assets include St Luke’s, which the tribunal was told was held in trust for the constituency organisation by Des Richardson, Tim Collins and Joe Burke and a substantial amount of money held in a number of accounts.

Last year Dublin Central treasurer Dominic Dillane told The Irish Times the organisation had approximately €50,000 on deposit, including €30,000 in an account, the B/T account, that is dealt with in the tribunal report.

Mr Dillane said the B/T account used to have “up to €80,000” in it, but some of the money had been used to clear the mortgage on St Luke’s. He could not be contacted yesterday.

During hearings in 2008 the tribunal was told that this account belonged to a “building trust” and held political donations put aside for the maintenance of St Luke’s.

A payment of £30,000 from the account in 1993 was used by Celia Larkin to buy a house in Phibsborough. She repaid the money in 2008, with interest. The amount repaid, €45,510, was lodged to an account in the name of Fianna Fáil Dublin Central.

The B/T account was under the control of one of Mr Ahern’s longtime associates, Tim Collins, who was neither an officer of the constituency nor even a member of the party.

He was and is, however, a trustee of St Luke’s. In 2008 control of the account was shifted to the constituency organisation.

The tribunal, in its report, found that the initials B/T stood for Bertie and Tim and that the account held money for the benefit of Mr Ahern and Mr Collins.

While some lodgements to the account were political donations, the tribunal said it could not identify the source of others because of Mr Ahern’s and Mr Collins’s decision not to disclose where the money had come from.

Other accounts examined by the tribunal were also shifted to direct constituency control during the 2008 hearings.

If the B/T money is now seized by party head office, and the tribunal report is correct, then money that belonged to Mr Ahern and Mr Collins, will move into the possession of the party.

Mr Ahern still uses St Luke’s as an office and has used the address in filings to the Companies Office. Fianna Fáil’s only elected politician in the constituency, Councillor Mary Fitzpatrick, does not hold clinics there.

Last year Mr Martin conducted a tour of the party’s constituencies and met the officer boards.

However, he did not visit Dublin Central and did not meet the officer board.