Taoiseach resigns

Wed, Apr 2, 2008, 01:00

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern with Tanaiste Brian Cowen at Government Buildings this morning. Photograph: Bryan O'Brien
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern with Tanaiste Brian Cowen at Government Buildings this morning. Photograph: Bryan O'Brien

Bertie Ahern is to step down as Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fáil on May 6th, he announced this morning.

Amid mounting pressure about his personal finances, Mr Ahern said he was proud of his political achievements but denied any wrongdoing.

Flanked by cabinet colleagues including Brian Cowen, Mary Harney, Martin Cullen, Noel Dempsey, Brian Lenihan, Mary Harney and John Gormley, Mr Ahern said a "constant barrage of commentary" was distracting the work of Government.

He said his decision was "solely motivated by what is best for the people" and was "solely a personal decision...inspired by the desire to refocus the political agenda".

"I've been priviliged to serve my community, party and country for many years," an emotional Mr Ahern told reporters in Government Buildings.


Never in all the time that I served in politics have I ever put my personal interest ahead of the public good  

He said he was proud of his work on the Northern Ireland peace process, on successive social partnership agreements, on delivering a modern economy and of Ireland's involvement in the European Union.

He also said he had "ended the myth that Fianna Fáil is incapable of sustaining a coalition government" and paid tribute to both Mr Gormley and Mary Harney.

However, the work of Government had been "distracted by my life, my lifestyle and my finances".

Mr Ahern was set to come under pressure in Dáil this afternoon as the Opposition parties sought an explanation for evidence given to the Mahon tribunal by his former secretary.

The Opposition was due press Mr Ahern on the sterling payments lodged to his Irish Permanent building society account by Gráinne Carruth.

The tribunal is investigating claims that Mr Ahern received money from property developer Owen O'Callaghan. The claim by Tom Gilmartin has been repeatedly denied by Mr O'Callaghan and by Mr Ahern himself. However the tribunal invetigations have thrown up questions on lodgements to Mr Ahern'spersonal accounts in the early 1990s.

The total value of lodgements and other transactions that have to date been queried by the tribunal in its public inquiries into Mr Ahern's finances, exceeds £452,800. The lodgements and transactions occurred between 1988 and 1997, although the vast bulk of the money was lodged in the period to 1995.

The total is the equivalent of €886,830 in today's terms, applying the consumer price index for the period 1994 to 2008. The total excludes lodgements where the tribunal has been shown the money was transferred from one bank account to another, but includes such lodgements where neither Mr Ahern nor the tribunal have been able to find independent confirmation as to what occurred.

Mr Ahern said he would be "comprehenisely dealing with these matters at the tribunal" and denied any wrongdoing.

"Never in all the time that I served in politics have I ever put my personal interest ahead of the public good," he added.

"I have never received a corrupt payment...I have done no wrong and wronged no one".

Last week, Ms Harney and Mr Gormley said Mr Ahern needed to clarify the situation in relation to his finances.