… to all out there in the blogosphere, to all my readers, and to everyone really. 1,000 strong against Ahern is now the official figure, what a great new year’s gift!
Archive for December, 2007
BBC Radio 4 did a special report on the influx of immigrants to Ireland, and the affect it’s having on the country. Worth a listen.
Happy Christmas to everyone out there… and especially to my readers. :-)
I received a copy of OS X Leopard, which is rather nice indeed…
In an interview with the paper that published stories relating to a leak from the Tribunal, Ahern has this to say:
“I find it all more bemusing than anything else. Mr Gilmartin has made a series of completely bizarre allegations and what he has said has nothing to do with me or my friends helping me out. All of this is a million miles away from Quarryvale. I never got a penny from O’Callaghan and that is well known but the tribunal seem intent on doing a cradle to grave trawl of my finances,” said Mr Ahern.
“If you are asking me is the tribunal a strain, it’s not on me personally but it is hurtful to see my family and friends have their private affairs aired in public solely because they are associated with me. It was frustrating and painful to me and my loved ones to have information sensitive to our family thrown into an election campaign, and also leaked in September 2006.”
The Taoiseach said he had been encouraged by so many people in all walks of life who told him they were disgusted by what had happened. “I am a resilient person and in public life you learn to take the knocks and I’ve also enjoyed great support from my colleagues and the public at large who I think recognise that I was going through a difficult personal time surrounding my separation. I am lucky that I had good friends who helped me out.”
I’ve been reading Tribunal transcripts now for some time. I can’t count the number of times it has been explained to Mr Ahern how the Tribunal examining his accounts related to bribes – one would have thought it is fairly logical. But he still doesn’t seem to get it. So too Willie ‘confirmation money’ O’Dea.
1. Mr Gilmartin’s allegations are not bizarre.
2. What he said has everything to do with you.
3. It is intimately connected with Quarryvale.
4. It is not well known that you never got a penny from O’Callaghan.
5. The tribunal is investigating your finances in the relevant timeframe.
6. You brought your loved ones into it.
7. Padraic O’Connor was not a good friend, nor Barry English.
Actually, strike that. Bertie Ahern is a dumbass.
I’ll let Judge Mahon do the explaining. Again. Oh and Ahern listens, and agrees:
I’ll try and explain it. The evidence the Tribunal has from Mr. Gilmartin is that he was told by Mr. O’Callaghan that sums of 30 and 50,000 pounds had been paid to you. Mr. O’Callaghan denies saying it and he denies aying it and you deny receiving it. But that prompted necessarily the Tribunal to, as it has done in similar instances involving other witnesses, in this and other modules. It necessarily prompted the Tribunal to look at your personal finances. When the Tribunal looked at your personal finances it sees the lodgements that we’re talking about. And that necessitates the inquiry and the level of inquiry that has been conducted since. That is the basis for the probing of your finances.
In relation to the more recent questioning of Mr. O’Neill and the issues surrounding the events in the bank in December of 1993. It has always been a possible scenario, as far as the Tribunal is concerned, that you yourself have told the Tribunal that the — that it was your intention on the 23rd when you instructed Mr. Murphy in the bank to prepare the documentation which would allow you open an account some days later. That your evidence to the Tribunal and the information given by you to the Tribunal always has been that you weren’t then aware that friends were going to club together and give you money some days later. You were completely, you were completely ignorant of that plan which was then being hatched by your friends, so to speak. And that what you were intending to do on the 23rd in relation to the SSA account was to deposit money from your 50,000 odd savings.
And so that’s the evidence as we — that’s — that’s your evidence. We have to probe the possibility, and it’s not a hypothesis, the possibility that you were in fact aware on the 23rd, of the money that was going to be given to you by your friends. And that’s an issue that the Tribunal has to probe and reach a conclusion about ultimately.
In relation to the 14th of December. You have clearly provided very strong evidence indicating that you, as a matter of probability, weren’t in the bank on that day but there is still remains the possibility. And I’m only suggesting it’s a possibility, that on instructions from you or contact from you, which doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to physically attend the bank, Mr. Murphy was preparing documentation on the 14th for you to open an SSA account. And in that, again, you were conscious that you had savings. And if your evidence is correct that you intended initially to open an SSA account with your savings, there’s no — there’s nothing wrong about having reached that decision on the 14th. And conveying in some way other than physically visiting the bank that this is what you wanted to do. So that’s the backdrop as best I can explain it at four o’clock.
Actually, Des O’Neill does a good job too, and Ahern goes along with it:
Q. 2 Mr. Ahern, in this second phase of the inquiry in the Quarryvale II Module, you will be questioned in relation to certain savings and lodgements which were made to your accounts between 1993 and 1995. You are aware of that?
If I might outline the background of your present attendance. It stems from initially contact made with you on the 15th of October 2004, by the Tribunal seeking a narrative statement and discovery of financial records arising in the context of an allegation which had been made by Mr. Tom Gilmartin that he had been informed by a developer, Mr. Owen O’Callaghan, that you had been paid a sum of 50,000 pounds in 1989 and 30,000 pounds at a date some time prior to 1992, in the context of Mr. O’Callaghan’s developments; a matter which you have denied and he, Mr. O’Callaghan, has denied at all times, isn’t that so?
Q. 3 And as a result of that inquiry made of you, we heard in your last testimony that you responded by providing a narrative statement and a process of discovery of documents was engaged in as between you and your solicitors and the Tribunal and its legal team, isn’t that so?
Q. 4 And in the course of that it became apparent that you had not operated any bank accounts between the years 1987 and 1993, encompassing the years in respect of which it was alleged that payments had been made to you by Mr. O’Callaghan, isn’t that so?
A. That’s so.
Q. 5 There were, however, documents available from the period at which your normal banking was resumed at the end of 1993. And that documentation was produced to the Tribunal and analysed. And it became apparent in the course of that, that in the first year or so of your banking transactions, the lodgements to your account represented a proportion of approximately three times your net income at the time, isn’t that so?
A. That’s correct.
Q. 6 And I think this led to correspondence passing as between the Tribunal solicitors and you, and the explanation was provided for the difference between the funds lodged and the income earned, explained in a report provided by Mr. Des Peelo, a tax advisor and accountant whom you had engaged for the purpose of advising you in relation to your financial records, is that so?
Q. 7 And in the body of that report, which was provided to the Tribunal on the 20th of April of 2006, it was indicated that the monies lodged to your accounts comprised, firstly, the cumulative savings which you had maintained from a period commencing in 1987, and running up till 1993, of approximately 50,000 pounds, probably a little more, isn’t that so?
Q. 8 In addition, there was a receipt of two goodwill loans from two separate groups of your friends, which were made in December 1993 and in October 1994, totalling some 39,000 pounds, isn’t that so?
Q. 9 And in addition to that, an amount of approximately 8,000 pounds being the equivalent of approximately 8,000 pounds Sterling which had been received as a donation following a Manchester dinner which you had attended in the year 1994, isn’t that so?
Q. 10 And I think in the first phase of examination of you earlier in September, the focus of examination was in respect of the foreign exchange elements of certain lodgements which were made to your accounts and accounts of Ms. Celia Larkin at the time, isn’t that right?
Q. 11 And to a limited extent, it may be necessary to cross over on one or other of those lodgements but this particular inquiry at present is focused on the savings and loans aspects of the monies which were received by you, you understand that?
Now, I think that I outlined briefly to you the explanations or rather the individual components of the monies which were lodged to your accounts. And I think it is the case that all of these funds, to one extent or another, were related in the explanation furnished to the marital separation of yourself and your wife in 1987, and/or to the subsequent legal proceedings which gave effect to a legal separation of yourself and your wife in and about December 1993, isn’t that right?
Q. 12 If we look to the savings of over 50,000 pounds which were made, the explanation for this is given as being that there were bank accounts in existence prior to 1987, which were joint accounts of your wife and yourself and upon your separation in 1987, you did not use those accounts because you were conducting in effect, a separate existence from her at that time, isn’t that so?
Q. 13 As regards the first of the monies that was taken out by way of loan, this was the AIB bank loan taken out in December of 1993, this is related to the legal expenses or discharge of the legal expenses that followed upon the conclusion of those legal proceedings in November/December of 1993, isn’t that so?
Q. 14 And in relation to the first of the goodwill loans, that is the sum of 22,500 pounds, that was attributed by its donors as being a gift to meet the legal expenses that they understood you to have incurred in those proceedings that I’ve just mentioned, isn’t that right?
Q. 15 As regards the Manchester dinner contribution, the contribution was intended to assist you in your financial affairs following upon that separation and those proceedings that I have mentioned, isn’t that right; in relation to the Manchester money?
Q. 16 And the second payment from friends made in autumn of 1994, was intended to assist you in relation to the acquisition of a dwelling house, stemming from the fact that your previous family home was no longer in your ownership as and from the conclusion of your legal proceedings.
Q. 17 Isn’t that right? So that it follows from what I have just said that to some extent it will be necessary in the course of today’s examination to touch upon your matrimonial separation and to that extent, I can inform you that these inquiries are being made of you not out of any purient interest but because each one of the financial transactions that I just outlined, is tied back to or connected with your marital separation, you appreciate that?
To that extent, Mr. Ahern, you may take it that I will not be asking you any questions in relation to the cause of your matrimonial separation or to any detail which arises from the court proceedings themselves or anything which took place within the legal proceedings that were conducted in 1993.
What exactly do you not get, Mr Ahern?
I have a workaround for copying Mahon Tribunal transcripts. I will be gradually adding DRM-free transcripts to the Mahon Tribunal wiki. The transcripts will then be locked to prevent changes or vandalism.
If the Tribunal is unhappy with this, my email is in the about section.
Having watched Prime Time’s coverage of Ahern’s performance in the Tribunal yesterday I am somewhat dismayed. It took 14 minutes and three journalists to eventually mention the core reason for both the questioning, and the module itself.
The question is this: Did Bertie Ahern receive a bribe from Owen O’Callaghan, either directly or indirectly?
The whole purpose of the questioning is this one fundamental question. Why do they tiptoe around it, and get bogged down in the web Ahern has weaved?
The Tribunal is solely devoted to this question, and in my opinion, is expertly and ruthlessly pursuing it without fear or favour.
Let’s not forget the ultimate rationale.
In relation to the loan for almost £20k, and the fact that repayments did not start until 1995, Mr Ahern said:
“I… let the loan there until the bank came after me about it.” (Q520)
The money question is Q552. Counsel makes this assertion:
The reason the first digout was the the non-round figure of £22,500 was because it was a pre-planned back to back amount against the figure of £21,896.30 – the accumulated sum, inluding interest, in May 1995. It is not an unreasonable position to take.
AIB agreed with Ahern on the amount. Ahern sought the £22,500 from friends. The bank gave the loan. The authorisation for the the SSA was signed on December 14, not December 23.
Furthermore, the Tribunal is casting doubt on the existence of the cash savings. Why didn’t he lodge any of his savings until April? Why did he leave it four months after having opened the savings account, and the TSB account? The reason the Tribunal appears suspicious is because Ahern met O’Callaghan on April 13, 1994. On April 25, he lodged £30,000 cash.
Imagine for a moment that there were no savings up to and including the digout. Then this version of events seems entirely plausible.
Ahern had little or no savings. He needed to pay his legal bill. His friends, with his knowledge, did a whipround. He applied for a loan on the strength of that whipround. He got the loan, and paid fees. He lodged the whipround money to an SSA. Four months later he accepts a bribe from Owen O’Callaghan. He lodged the £30,000 bribe into the savings account that already had the whipround money, thus bringing it to £50,000.
That is the scenario that was put to Ahern.
And I wonder will they be mad that someone is actually going to the effort of making the whole thing easier to understand. And not just throwing up transcripts and hoping for the best.
Again, volunteers would be greatly appreciated.
Update: At least it WAS number two. Seems to have dropped off for now.
UPDATE: TRANSCRIPTS ARE AVAILABLE HERE
UPDATE: TRANSCRIPTS ARE AVAILABLE HERE
1. Tribunal transcripts cannot be copied and pasted. I asked the tribunal why, and was told it was in case someone modified them. That does not make any sense, it is a public tribunal, paid for by the public. If I wanted to modify them I could just retype them incorrectly or podcast them. I still would not be able to modify the originals on the tribunal website. It would be helpful to be able to copy and paste extracts, rather than go through the process of re-typing.
I also asked who owned the transcripts, and was assured the tribunal did. But who are Premier Realtime Captioning, and what role do they play?
2. I asked for access to maps which were shown by the Tribunal in public sittings on overhead projections. They are not available to the public. Why? No idea. I don’t know whether the rationale is practical or legal.
I think I will write to Judge Mahon.
UPDATE: TRANSCRIPTS ARE AVAILABLE HERE
UPDATE: TRANSCRIPTS ARE AVAILABLE HERE
Finally. Midleton, Co Cork has made onto Google Earth in hi res as part of the December update. The town is joined by some others in east Cork, including Cobh and Carrigtwohill, and the whole of Cork Harbour. Satellite pics of Ireland have never been this good.
Other additions include bits of Kerry and Clare, Mayo and Galway, Lough Rea, bits of Roscommon and Longford, a big portion of Laois, Westmeath and Kilkenny, the Arann Islands, large parts of the Burren, Donegal and as far as I can tell some of Wexford too.
Antartica has also been included as part of Landsat imagery.
The images don’t appear to be on Google Maps yet, but no doubt they will be soon.
Is your house on Google now? Mine is… Hmm.
More additions listed over the Google Earth blog.
The web weaved by Ahern is unweaving.
Some things from evidence did not make it into the newspapers, yet again. This is usually for lack of space, but fortunately there is no limit on space here on the internet, so we can pour of the details here. I can understand why only certain sections of evidence makes it in, but there are other parts that strike me when I read transcripts.
As part of an effort to detail these, and indeed the broader context I have moved the Bertie Ahern wiki, and broadened it into the Mahon Tribunal wiki, at www.mahontribunal.com. Clearly it is still a work in progress, and will take time to get organised, but providing a narrative of events and details of evidence I believe to be crucial.
So, to the two issues that struck me from the evidence of Dermot Carew.
1. His memory. Carew was asked whether Ahern ever contacted him in relation to the digout, after the Tribunal first contacted Ahern about it in June, 2005.
Carew “can’t remember” if Ahern contacted him (Q329). Ahern “could” have contacted him, but he “can’t remember it”. “I’m not sure.”
Counsel then pushed him, repeatedly asking him if Ahern had contacted him. Carew never says no, just that he can’t remember the events of last year.
Q335: What is your first memory of this matter being raised in the context of the Tribunal’s inquiries with you?
A: It was actually when Bert actually giving back the cheques.
Q336: When he gave you back the cheque?
A: Yeah just before that or sometime around then that the —
Q337: Well in fact the Tribunal, as you know, have been in touch with you on the 29th of June of 2006, in correspondence.
Q338: The cheque wasn’t sent back for another three and a half months?
Q339: So you were contacted by the Tribunal and asked to give an account as to how this money had come to be given to Mr Ahern, isn’t that so?
A: That’s correct, yeah.
Q340: Yes. And we saw how you gave your response in July.
A: That’s correct.
Q342: Did you discuss with Mr Ahern or any of the other contributors in June or July or at any time after that?
A: Discuss which now?
Q343: Discuss the payment of the monies that constitute what’s called the second goodwill loan, or whip-round for Mr Ahern?
A: I would have discussed it with the lads, yeah.
Q344: Fine. And did you discuss it with Mr Ahern?
A: I could have, I’m not a hundred percent sure.
Q345. Yes. We’re now talking about 2006, we’re only talking about last year Mr Carew.
A: That’s — yeah, yeah.
Q346: This is a unique event. It was now the subject of correspondence from the Tribunal with you. I’m asking you to throw your mind back now, as accurately as you can and indicate whether or not you did discuss the matter with Mr Ahern in 2006?
A: And as I said to you before I’m not sure.
Q347: You’re not sure?
Q348: You’ve no memory at all?
A: Oh I have memory all right but –
Q349: You have no memory of discussing this payment and your involvement –
Q350: — in the payment with Mr Ahern, is that right?
A: What I’m saying is I can’t recollect actually I’m not sure. I could have and I may have. I’m not sure.
Q351: I see.
A: Now I’m going to help you as much as possible, but if I can’t remember something I can’t remember it.
Why the pushing? The Tribunal wants to know whether Ahern made contact with his friends, because on the face of it, the Tribunal does not believe the story. They seem to believe that Ahern made up the story, and asked his friends to back up the story of the £16,500 digout. The Tribunal seems to believe it is far more likely that there was a £25,000stg lodgment.
Now, the second and even stranger event, that occurred only recently. It actually could be an innocent mistake, or could lead the Tribunal to further believe that the £16,500 loan was fictitious.
Dermot Carew claims he paid £4,500 to Ahern in 1994. After the Dobson interview, Ahern said he was paying back the money with interest. But there seems to have been a fuck up.
Mr Carew acknowledges receipt of €6,349 and €3,917 in interest. He signed this receipt in Ahern’s office, it was a prepared receipt. But that calculation is wrong. That amount equates to Carew getting £5,000 back plus interest, not the £4,500 he says he gave.
Barry English, who says he gave £5,000 to the digout, only received £4,500 plus interest back last year.
Q420: … in addition to making the wrong payment to you, the wrong payment was also made to Mr English. Mr English received back £4,500 though he gave five. You received back £5,000 though you gave four and a half?
Was it a fuck up because of an oversight, or was it a fuck up because there was no £16,500 digout, and they got their lying story mixed up and repaid the wrong amount back to English and Carew last year?
Ahern’s story of being stuck for cash in 1994 continues to crumble. The Tribunal does, I believe, think the £16,500 and the £8,000 payments to be non-existent. The £25,000 stg equivalent is just too much of a coincidence.
The Irish Times seems to have got their sums wrong too, or at least they are forgetting some of the cash. Colm Keena writes:
The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern had £70,000 on deposit when he accepted a cash contribution of £16,500 from four supporters in September 1994, the Mahon tribunal heard yesterday.
Technically correct. But as far as I can tell there was the other £20,000 in the name of his daughters, which was from his alleged cash savings. So to be clear the lodgments and savings as far as I can gather were:
December 1993, £22,500 lodged to SSA
April 1994, SSA topped with £30,000, remainder going to current
August 1994, Daughter lodgment, £20,000
PTSB account, £20,000
Addition of the 16,500 + 8,000 (£24,838.49) or 25,000 stg
And still he couldn’t afford a house, despite being able to get an unsecured loan from AIB for almost £20,000 just nine months earlier. Why did the bank not need security? “He was the Minister for Finance,” said AIB.
Posting will be light, I’m weighed down with assignments for university. All should be better at the end of the week.
It has probably been forgotten that during his tenure as Minister for Labour, Bertie Ahern introduced the following Bill:
The Act, it appears, was badly needed as a replacement to the Truck Acts. But what the Minister for Labour said is very interesting. Especially for a man who says he was cashing all his cheques and who appears to have only dealt in cash between 1986 and 1993 at least, and saved £50,000 cash in those years. On May 23, 1991, Ahern said:
My own interest in the Truck Acts is of more recent origin, prompted by a variety of modern-day concerns about effective and cost-efficient methods of wage payments. Throughout Europe, there has been a clear move away from cash wages. Of the countries where figures are available, Denmark appears to have the highest level of non-cash wage payment, with 95 per cent of employees paid otherwise than in cash. Some other European countries, including Spain, Belgium, and the former West Germany, all report levels of non-cash wage payment in the range 75 per cent to 90 per cent. In the United Kingdom, the percentage of employees paid wages, otherwise than in cash, is around 65 per cent. Ireland is at the bottom of the league. An FIE survey some years ago showed that just under half of all employees in this country were paid by a mode other than cash.
The Bill will facilitate the movement from cash to cashless pay which has advantages for employers and employees alike. For employees there are advantages in being paid through a bank account, through having less cash at risk of theft or loss and in having access to other services, such as a facility to pay bills by cheque or standing order, etc. For employers there are considerable savings arising from administrative efficiencies. Staff are not longer needed to make up  pay packets and security and insurance requirements are diminished.
Some employee interests have suggested that the Bill should include a right for employees to time-off for the cashing of cheques. I think this is an issue best left for discussion and arrangement between employer and employees at local level, depending on the circumstances, like the location of individual firms the distance to travel and local services. The prospective savings of a move to cashless pay may encourage some employers to offer other incentives to their employees to opt for a change-over to some form of cashless pay. Initiatives by employers, in co-operation perhaps with banks and other financial institutions and in consultation with their employees and their unions, could in my view go a long way towards providing the necessary momentum for change.
But Ahern never did what he lauds in the Bill, which was enacted in July 1991. No, he would cash his cheques. Every one. For seven years at least. What on earth was he doing that for?
Or this gem from 1999, Bruton versus Ahern concerning the Gilmartin allegations:
Mr. J. Bruton: The Taoiseach said last night he regarded some contributions made to parties and politicians as appropriate and others as inappropriate. From what he knows about it, does the Taoiseach think the contribution made by Mr. Gilmartin to Mr. Flynn was appropriate or inappropriate?
The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern
The Taoiseach: I have no information on whether the contribution was actually given but as I have said previously in this House if people take contributions of £30,000, £40,000 or £50,000 it is very hard to explain and for that reason I do not think people should do that. Contributions of that order cannot ever be explained to the ordinary man or woman in the street. For that reason I do not think they are appropriate.
Mr. J. Bruton Mr. J. Bruton
Mr. J. Bruton: Was the Taoiseach shocked when he heard of this allegation?
The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern
The Taoiseach: Yes.
Shocked? No way. Ahern was well used to contributions of this scale.