Statement: Bertie Ahern
I NOTE the publication today of the Mahon Tribunal Final Report which are not the findings of a court of law.
At the outset, I want to make clear that I have had the great honour and privilege to serve as an elected politician for over 30 years. I have dedicated my life to politics and serving the interest of the Irish people in politics. I have never accepted a bribe or a corrupt payment.
The Tribunal into Certain Planning Matters was established to inquire into allegations of planning corruption in Dublin. After spending over a decade of inquiries and countless millions of euros, the Tribunal has not made – nor could it make – a finding to support the scurrilous and untrue allegation that I had been given a corrupt payment by Mr Owen O’Callaghan (the Cork-based developer of Quarryvale) or any of his companies.
On this key substantive point there is no evidence whatsoever to show I received anything from Mr O’Callaghan.
Nor could there be because, put simply, this never happened.
The only reason that the Tribunal was allowed to investigate me was the entirely untrue and unworthy allegation that I had received money from Owen O’Callaghan. Without that allegation (which in truth was no more than rumour and gossip) it had no mandate at all to carry out a general inquiry into my finances and a trawl of my personal life.
From the report it is clear, not a single witness at the Mahon Tribunal directly stated that I was given a bribe (other than Mr Thomas Gilmartin). And he stated he was only repeating what he claimed he had been told by Owen O’Callaghan. Mr O’Callaghan was always clear that he never made that claim to Mr Gilmartin.
It is a matter of fact that I had nothing at all to do with the rezoning of the lands at Quarryvale. I was not a councillor on Dublin County Council and never exercised planning or zoning powers in respect of that site.
I am disappointed that the Tribunal has said that I failed to give “a truthful account”.That statement is unfair and inaccurate having regard to the evidence. It is one that I cannot and I will never accept and I will continue to examine ways in which to vindicate my name.
I was honest with the Tribunal and I gave it truthful evidence and I reject completely any suggestion that I did otherwise.
What I find most remarkable is that even where there is no evidence to the contrary, in many instances, my evidence has been summarily rejected and no good reason has been set out for why this is the case.
I am incredulous that the Tribunal has made findings rejecting the evidence of a number of individuals – including a number of friends who loaned me money – whose evidence supported mine. In the case of almost every person who lent me money, their explanations were not challenged at the hearings in any substantial way. I believe this is fundamentally unfair.
I find it extraordinary that the Tribunal has also disregarded the expert evidence that was given to it on tax, accounting and banking matters which supported me.
In particular, I believe that the notion that I got large sums of sterling and dollars is objectionable, inaccurate and without an iota of foundation.
Given the significance of the issue, this conclusion is all the more surprising because it has been arrived at without deploying the resources of a forensic accountant or an independent banking witness.
The Tribunal had unlimited resources available to it.
I find it startling and disturbing that despite its resources, the Tribunal did not employ any relevant experts but at the same time, declined to hear my expert banking witness to establish whether in fact their hypothesis could form the basis of any finding about foreign currency.
I note that the Tribunal’s report does not explain why the Tribunal did not call my expert in evidence, but still contradicted his conclusions.
I have accepted before that my personal finances were chaotic and this arose from a busy and personally traumatic period in my life.
I have apologised for any concern that this has caused people but I have never done anything wrong or illegal.
I have never received a corrupt payment and I have never done anything to demean any office I have held. I know that some people will feel that some aspects of my personal finances are unusual and that in retrospect it is obvious
I was wrong not to have paid more attention to my financial affairs and records.
I truly regret if this has caused any confusion or worry in people’s minds. All of these issues arose in a period when my family, personal and professional situations were rapidly changing and I made the best decisions I could in the circumstances in which I found myself. I have long said that if I could go back in time I would do things differently, and for that confusion I am sorry. But I must repeat I never took a bribe or corrupt payment.
I never made a political decision in return for a payment.
I hid nothing. I gave the Tribunal unfettered access to all my financial records, and after years of investigation, this Tribunal has not made any finding of corruption against me.
I have told the truth to this Tribunal, and I reject strongly any suggestion that I sought to mislead it.