FF members should resign if payments proved - Ahern


IF allegations of undisclosed payments to members of Fianna Fail were proven, those involved should resign, the Fianna Fail leader, Mr Bertie Ahern, said yesterday.

Asked on RTE radio whether, if members of his frontbench had accepted undisclosed payments from Mr Ben Dunne, they should resign, he replied "Precisely, once they are proven.

He said he "knew nothing about the contents" of a Price Waterhouse report which, according to a Sunday newspaper report, listed a number of payments made by Dunnes Stores to individuals.

The report said that a former Fianna Fail minister had received a substantial sum of money from Dunnes Stores. Mr Ahern said that anyone in his party who had received undisclosed, payments "would be dealt with".

He said investigations into payments to Mr Michael Lowry must continue so as to "maintain the confidence of the public in the integrity of the political system".

He "objected most strongly" to the Taoiseach's statement on Friday that allegations against Mr Lowry predated his ministerial career. "Regardless of whether you are a frontbench Minister or a backbench politician or the leader of a party, there are laws in this country and politicians have to follow these," he said.

He described Mr Bruton's statement as "ludicrous", saying it would mean "politicians can feather their nests outside ministerial office once they don't do it inside".

He said many allegations against his own party had been made over the last few years and had later turned out to be "without foundation".

He said it was quite "proper" that the Revenue Commissioners investigate all "the names being bandied about" in connection with the Price Waterhouse report.

Mr Ahern said it was regrettable that "the legislation for members' interests does not seem to be as foolproof as we thought".

He pointed out that allegations of a "cosy cartel" between business and politicians "had over the years not really stood up".