Tribunal examines payments to Taoiseach

 

A wealthy businessman, David McKenna, has been contacted by the Mahon tribunal about payments to the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern. The tribunal is investigating a number of payments to Mr Ahern in or around December 1993, including cash payments, The Irish Times has learned.

Mr McKenna is one of three or four persons contacted by the tribunal concerning payments to Mr Ahern totalling between €50,000 and €100,000. The tribunal has been told that the money was used to pay legal bills incurred by Mr Ahern around this time. In a letter to Mr McKenna in June of this year and seen by The Irish Times, he was told the "tribunal has been informed that you made payment of money to Mr Bertie Ahern, TD, or for his benefit, in or about December 1993.

"The tribunal seeks your assistance in reconciling certain receipts of funds by Mr Ahern during this period."

The tribunal requested a detailed statement from Mr McKenna. He was asked to name the person who requested the payment and his understanding as to why it was required. He was also asked who the payment was given to and whether it was in cash or another form.

It is understood a solicitor who was an associate and personal friend of Mr Ahern's, the late Gerry Brennan, may have played a role in the matters being inquired into. Mr Brennan, a former director of Telecom Éireann, died in 1997.

Mr McKenna, a friend of Mr Ahern's and a known supporter of both him and his party, was estimated to be worth more than €60 million a number of years ago. However, his publicly-listed recruitment firm, Marlborough Recruitment, collapsed in 2002.

Mr McKenna is also a friend and business associate of Des Richardson, the businessman appointed by Mr Ahern in 1993 as full-time fundraiser for Fianna Fáil and who also fundraises for Mr Ahern's constituency operation. The tribunal was told in private that Mr McKenna was one of the people who made a payment to Mr Ahern.

Special adviser to the Taoiseach Gerry Howlin was not available for comment as he was on leave.

When contacted by The Irish Times the Government press secretary, Mandy Johnston, passed the query on to the Fianna Fáil press officer Olivia Buckley, who said Mr Ahern did not comment on tribunal matters.

Mr McKenna, when asked about the matter, said: "Contact my solicitor." His solicitor said he had no comment.

The Mahon tribunal and Mr Ahern are scheduled to make representations about the matter before the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan, next month.

In December 1993, Mr Ahern was minister for finance and Fianna Fáil treasurer.

The inquiries into Mr Ahern's finances are understood to have begun after allegations were made about supposed payments to him by property developer Owen O'Callaghan in relation to the Quarryvale development in west Dublin.

Both Mr Ahern and Mr O'Callaghan have stated publicly that no such payments were made.