A timeline of Bertiegate from September 2006 when details of the enquiry into Bertie's finances were first reported in the press.
21 Sept 2006
The Irish Times published a frontpage story stating the planning tribunal was investigating a number of payments to Bertie Ahern in or around December 1993, including cash payments. It said the payments totalled €50,000 to €100,000. Ahern said he had questions to answer relating to a report. He told journalists it was “none of their business” if he got something from somebody as a present.
22 Sept 2006
In a prepared statement Bertie Ahern said the current media interest and the opportunistic response were precisely what this leak was designed to produce. He said he had provided the [planning] tribunal with full information about his financial affairs over many years.
26 Sept 2006
In a television interview on RTÉ's Six One news, Ahern disclosed that money was raised, by close friends, first in Christmas of 1993 following the conclusion of his marriage separation in the High Court in November 1993. “Unknown to me, [his solicitor, Gerry Brennan, now deceased] went to personal friends of mine... And they gave me £22,500 either Christmas Eve or Stephen's Day in 1993. A good few of them knew that I had taken out a loan with AIB in O'Connell Street to settle my legal bills. I had taken out the loan so I actually used the loan to settle the bills...
“….There were others that wanted to assist at the time and later on in 1994, four of them gave me £16,500...
“...From 1987, when I separated from Miriam, until the end of 1993 was a long, protracted period that happens in family law cases... I had no account in my own name in that period... I'd saved in the order of [£]50,000...
“...Totally separate and nothing to do with this – but I don't want anyone saying I didn't give full picture – I did a function in Manchester with a business organisation, nothing to do with politics or whatever, I was talking about the Irish economy. I was explaining about Irish economy matters and I'd say there was about 25 people at that. The organisers of it, I spent about four hours with them, dinner, I did question and answers, and all the time from 1977 up to current periods I got [£]8,000 on that, which you know whether it was a political donation.
“...I've broken no law. I've broken no ethical code. I've broken no tax law. I've always paid my income tax, I paid capital gains tax but I've never had much in my life to pay and I paid my gift tax”. (Continued on next page)
27 Sept 2006
In the Dáil on Leaders Questions he said:
“The only other time I was in receipt of anything was when I was given a sum of money by a group in Manchester on a particular occasion attended by about 25 people. I dealt with this properly in terms of taxes. …. I checked the date and believe it was the 1994-95 season. Subject to correction, I believe I was Minister at the time. That is what that was about – there was no other issue. When I went through all my other records dating from 1977, I noted that was the only other donation I was not able to account for out of literally hundreds of cheques and records dating back 29 years.
“…..I did not break the rules of the Standards in Public Office Act 2001. I checked the matter with senior counsel and the tax authorities long ago, since I was involved in such issues.
“…I believe that the rate throughout the loan period was three per cent – the interest rate that a person would have received on a deposit from 1993 or 1994... I paid capital gains tax and gift tax.
“...I was involved in separation proceedings at the beginning of 1987 and they did not conclude until the end of 1993 in the High Court. Over that period, my wife and I had joint accounts in our names. For obvious reasons, I did not use our joint account. I used cheques separately to deal with issues and I did not open an account in my own name until afterwards.”
Later that evening, the Tánaiste Michael McDowell has said it had been a mistake for Bertie Ahern to take the loans from friends. He believed it should now be refunded with interest. He said he never had any reason to doubt Ahern's financial honesty, or to suspect that he had abused his public office for self-enrichment.
28 Sept 2006
Following interviews Bertie Ahern gave in Cavan, in which he said nothing beyond what he had stated on his TV interview and in the Dáil, Michael McDowell had a change of mind. He said there were “very significant matters of concern” which must still be clarified in relation to the payment to the Taoiseach of stg£8,000 in Manchester when he was Minister for Finance.
1 Oct 2006
Bertie Ahern repaid the monies received from his friends, plus a payment of compound interest at five per cent per year, a total of €90,000.
3 Oct 2006
Speaking in the Dáil Bertie Ahern said:
“I wish to confirm to the House that on Friday I repaid each one of these [£38,000] loans with compound interest calculated at five per cent per annum, and at a total cost of €90,867.”
On the Manchester payment which came to £7,938.49: “I lodged this money into my account on 11 October 1994… The function that has been the source of recent controversy was not a political function or a fundraiser... The dinner was organised by the late Tim Kilroe in the Four Seasons Hotel in Manchester... At the end of the dinner, unsolicited by me, I was presented with cash of the order of stg£8,000, made up by individual contributions from an attendance of approximately 25 people... I did not receive the money as a fee for a speaking engagement. In fact, I did not even deliver a formal speech. I merely said a few words and engaged in an informal question-and-answer session.
Later on during questions he said: “….There was no one sum of £50,000, but in my accounts and when I answered all my questions I showed where all my money came from in the period so that I could deny the issues I was being asked to answer, which gets lost in all these issues... Yes, I did save the money and I did not save it in a shoebox... There was no one sum of £50,000, but in my accounts and when I answered all my questions I showed where all my money came from in the period.”
Later that day the Progressive Democrats again expressed confidence in Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach. Michael McDowell said he had been guilty of a serious error of judgment in accepting personal payments, and his actions warranted the apology to the Dáil and the Irish people.
Also that day, RTÉ revealed that one of the people present at the Manchester function was Micheál Wall, originally from Cong in Co Mayo. Micheál Wall said he was not aware that a collection for Bertie Ahern was taking place at the Four Seasons Hotel until the money was presented to him.
Wall said the money was a “goodwill gesture” and that there was no political element to the payment.
4 Oct 2006
Philip Boucher Hayes on RTÉ's Drivetime programme revealed that Micheál Wall was the owner of the house off Griffith Avenue, which Bertie Ahern had rented from 1995 and which Bertie Ahern had bought in 1997.
5 Oct 2006
Michael McDowell refused to take The Order of Business in the Dáil on Thursdays as is the practice for the Tánaiste to do. Instead Bertie Ahern did so and explained he had not disclosed the information concerning his house because Míchéal Wall had not attended the dinner at the Manchester function and was not one of the donors.
He said he had bought the Drumcondra house in the autumn of 1997 at full market value and had taken out a loan from the Irish Permanent Building Society. He said he had paid the deposit for the house deal using his building society deposit book, and these details too had been given to the Mahon tribunal.
The Progressive Democrats met in private throughout the day and issued no statement, signalling a crisis within the coalition government.
6 Oct 2006
Michael McDowell, asked whether the government was safe, said it was as long as if the damage which he said had been done to it in recent days was repaired.
10 Oct 2006
At a joint press conference outside government buildings, Michael McDowell said the future of the government was safe following the recent controversy over payments made to Bertie Ahern in the 1990s.
At the conference Bertie Ahern apologised again for his actions 12 years ago in accepting gifts and loans from friends and associates. Changes in ethics legislation were announced which would require any office-holder offered a gift from a friend to consult with the tandards in Public Office Commission before accepting it. Failure to follow the guidelines would be an offence under the law.