Haughey used party fund to pay £15,800 shirt bill

 

Evidence emerged yesterday that substantial cheques made out to Fianna Fail and sent to party Headquarters in Upper Mount Street, Dublin, ended up in the party leader's account which Mr Charles Haughey ran from his office in Leinster House.

It also emerged that Mr Haughey was able to make withdrawals from this account for reasons that had nothing to do with politics. In February 1991, when he was Taoiseach, a cheque for £8,332 was written on the account and used to buy a draft in French francs.

The draft was used to pay Chevret, Paris, an expensive shirtmaker used by Mr Haughey. In September of that same year a further £7,500 was used for the same purpose.

When Mr Haughey's government was threatened by the possibility that the FF Sligo-Leitrim TD, Mr John Ellis, might be declared bankrupt as a result of proceedings being contemplated by Mahorhamilton Mart, Mr Haughey called Mr Ellis to his office and gave him £12,400 in cash to settle the matter.

In March 1990 similar proceedings were being contemplated by Swinford Mart and again Mr Haughey called Mr Ellis to his office. This time the TD was given £13,600 in cash. Both sums came from the party leader's account.

An allowance is paid by the Exchequer to leaders to assist them in the running of their political parties. The total paid to Mr Haughey in the period 1984 to 1992 was £1.05 million.

Mr Haughey had his leader's allowance account in AIB Baggot Street. The signatories were Mr Haughey, Mr Bertie Ahern, the present Taoiseach, and Mr Ray MacSharry. Mr Ahern has already given evidence that he countersigned "most" of the cheques written in the years 1984 to 1992, and that he would at times sign blank cheques for "administrative convenience".

When the late Brian Lenihan needed expensive treatment in the Mayo Clinic in the US in 1989, donations to Mr Haughey were lodged in the party leader's account. Yesterday counsel for the tribunal, Mr John Coughlan SC, said that in 1989 the amount lodged to the account, in excess of the allowance from the Exchequer, was £220,000.

He also said that payments from the party leader's account identified as being for Mr Lenihan's care totalled £82,528. The tribunal is to investigate whether this constitutes the total lodged to the account for Mr Lenihan's fund and, if not, how much of the £140,000 which has still to be accounted for was meant for the fund.

The tribunal heard from Dr Edmund Farrell, the former chief executive of the Irish Permanent Building Society, concerning two donations of £50,000 to Fianna Fail in 1986, and a further donation of £40,000 in August 1991. The cheques were made out to Fianna Fail and, Dr Farrell believes, were sent to Mr Haughey at party HQ.

However, the cheques were never received by Fianna Fail but were instead endorsed by Mr Haughey and lodged to the party leader's account. The tribunal is now to investigate whether these funds were used for the reasons intended.

Mr Coughlan said the evidence available to the tribunal was at odds with a statement made to the media by Mr Haughey in July. At issue is another cheque from the Irish Permanent, for £20,000. The money was meant for the Lenihan fund and was delivered to Mr Haughey in the Taoiseach's Department in June 1989.

Another Irish Permanent cheque for £10,000, intended for Mr Haughey's personal political fund, was issued at about the same time. The two cheques were lodged to the account of Celtic Helicopters on June 13th, 1989.

Last July Mr Haughey said the cheques were "inadvertently" lodged to the account of the company run by his son, Ciaran. A withdrawal of £30,000 was made on the same date and, Mr Haughey said, "an examination of the available bank records indicates that this cheque for £30,000 was in fact lodged to the party leader's account."

However, the tribunal showed yesterday that there was no lodgement of £30,000 to the account around that date. A lodgement of £36,000 was made on June 20th, 1989.

However, the tribunal revealed that a cheque from Mr Larry Goodman for £25,000, intended for the Lenihan fund, was part of that lodgement. So the £30,000 could not have been lodged. Also, a bank official gave evidence that the documentary material available indicated that the £30,000 Celtic Helicopters cheque was, in fact, cashed at the AIB branch where the party leader's account was held.

Mr Coughlan said the tribunal would have to examine how the signature of a cosignatory could have been obtained for the cheques used for the Charvet and Ellis payments "without the purpose for which the cheque was being drawn being brought to his attention." It seems the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, will have to return to give further evidence in relation to the matter.