Taoiseach repays controversial loans


Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has repaid with interest loans he received from 12 businessmen in the early 1990s, it emerged today.

Mr Ahern is understood to have issued cheques totalling over €90,000 - when interest is taken into account - to cover loans he borrowed from friends and associates in 1993 and 1994.

The Fianna Fail leader has been under serious political pressure since his public admission last week that he had not - at that time - repaid any of a €50,000 loan given to him while minister of finance.

But Mr Ahern still faces questions over his admission that he accepted £8,000 sterling from a group of businessmen in 1994 for making a speech in Manchester.

On Friday Tánaiste and Progressive Democrat leader Michael McDowell said he would continue in Government if Mr Ahern can give the Dáil a credible and convincing account of how he came to accept the payment.

"What I am saying is that a person in his position has to be accountable in the right way to Dáil Éireann. Decent standards have to be observed and people have to be accountable."

I believe and hope that he will account, warts and all, to the Dáil on Tuesday. I have the feeling that we have to act proportionately on this," Mr McDowell told The Irish Times.

Yesterday Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern defended the Taoiseach, calling for a "sense of proportionality" in relation the controversy.

"Are we going to throw out a Taoiseach who was the best labour minister in the history of this state? Are we going to throw out the Taoiseach who brought in the Belfast Agreement, with the aid of others?

"There is nobody in Leinster House to hold a candle to the Taoiseach in relation to being leader of the country," he said