The untruths in Bertie's RTE interview
On 26 September 2006 Bertie Ahern gave an emotional interview to RTE's Brian Dobson. An analysis now of the interview reveals several untruths.
By Vincent Browne
Brian Dobson: Taoiseach, before we come to the detail in relation to this and you've acknowledged that payments were made from friends and associates in the late 1993, can you explain to us first of all the context in which this occurred, the background to this exercise?
Bertie Ahern: Eh, yes, over the, eh, last number of years, a number of false allegations, half truths, lies were made against me, eh, to both the tribunals, and there have been so many of them I won't detail them all, but the main ones, that I took a bribe of £50,000 in a car park in the Burlington Hotel from Starry O'Brien which was meant to come from Owen O'Callaghan in the all-Ireland final day of 1989; the second one was that I took a bribe from Owen O'Callaghan of 30,000 in 1992; that I had bank accounts the Netherlands, Antilles, Liechtenstein, Jersey, England; that I had 15 million in an offshore account; that I had received 30,000 and a payment of 50,000 from Owen O'Callaghan to another politician some time in 1994.
Eh, that I fixed a designation for Golden Island in Athlone for Owen O'Callaghan, eh, that I had a bank account in Mauritius and, eh, they produced forged documents to show that I had this bank account.
Now these allegations were made to both, eh, tribunals. So the tribunals rightly under their terms of reference and had no option, and naturally I was totally obliged and assisted them to produce evidence that these allegations and there were others too.
The Tribunals had every option. They are not required to examine every allegation that is made. They make an initial inquiry and then decide whether there are grounds on which to proceed to public hearings. Obviously, the Planning Tribunal believed there was no reason to pursue most of the allegations that arose, but did think there were grounds to pursue enquiries into whether the Cork developer, Owen O'Callaghan, had paid £80,000 to Bertie Ahern in 1993 or 1994.
The mixture of wild allegations with substantial allegations is a skillful device to distract attention for the seriousness of the allegation that Bertie Ahern received £80,000 in 1993/94 improperly and that is what the Tribunal is focusing upon.
So I had to give full discovery of all my records, my bank accounts, my wife's bank accounts, bank accounts I had in my children's names, em, you know, the Fianna Fáil bank accounts associated with my constituency, so I had to give them all those records.
The implication that he co-operated fully with the Tribunal from the outset of his dealings with it is misleading. He withheld information from the Tribunal almost at every turn, even to the extent of the tribunal threatening to go into public hearings arising from his failure to co-operate with its private enquiries. Among the matters he withheld information on from the Tribunal was his supposed purchase of Stg£30,000 in 1995, the issue which may him most difficulty eventually.
Brian: Included in that was the records relating to your separation from your wife in 1993.
Bertie: Yes, I, I had given, obviously I had given all of the records that, that related to it, I hadn't given the court documents, but I'd given all the details of monies that were transferred between us and between the children.
If it were true that he had given all the records that related to his marriage separation, including the records related to the financial transactions and agreements arising from the separation, the Tribunal would not have had to seek the permission of the High Court to discover the nature of his marriage separation agreement (a permission which was refused). That agreement is relevant to the tribunal's enquiries for it would disclose or could disclose details of his finances that were not otherwise disclosed.
Brian: And it was the leak of those documents and that information last week that has given rise to the current controversy and you've confirmed that most of the details in that original Irish Times story were correct.
Bertie: Yes, I had given all the documents in confidence to the tribunals. Over the years I've dealt with tribunals for nine years on all kinds of issues, some party and some personal, but these were personal ones. I had given all the documents to show that none of these allegations, eh, were correct.
Again, the contention that he co-operated fully with the tribunal is incorrect. He repeatedly failed to do so.
So my life wasn't being investigated, my marriage wasn't being investigated, what I gave to the children wasn't being investigated. It was – the planning tribunals are about corruption, eh, about people doing wrongdoing and I just wanted to clear my name to show that and it was right that I would have to give all these details. And I did give them.
Brian: And the situation now is that some of those details are in the public domain. Are you prepared now this evening to clarify to the Irish people exactly what was involved and what led to this collection on your behalf
Bertie: Eh, I am Brian, because, em, you know I've obviously taken advice over the last few days and in the normal course of events any information that I have given or that others have been asked to give were given always for the strict rider that it's all confidential. Eh, but the effect that it leaked out, I am left with no alternative and my legal advisers have told me, eh, that I have asked them, they've thought about this for a few days, that's why I had to wait and, em, they say that I'm entitled to protect myself.
Brian: Why was the money raised then
Bertie: The money was raised, eh, by close friends, people who were close to me for most of my life. They are not political friends, they are personal friends and they are long-standing friends. And in Christmas of 1993, em, if I can go through, there are two issues here. The first one, Christmas week in 1993, my solicitor, the late Gerry Brennan, who had been a long friend of mine, he had asked friends of mine, unknown to me, and, eh, unsolicited by me, to make a contribution to help me because he knew of my financial state at the time.
Brian: He was aware that there were demands of you financially as a result of your separation?
Bertie: Yes, he, he was my solicitor in my, he was my solicitor right through.
Brian: What were the figures involved?
Bertie: Well what he, he raised, should I say first of all they offered, eh, they came to me a month earlier, my High Court case which had been dragged out, I separated in 1987 and I had been in the High Court a number of times in 1993 and it concluded in November 1993. Em, Gerry Brennan came to me and he said that, em, they wanted to raise a function for me. Em, 1,000 a head, 25-30 people. I said no, I wasn't going to do that, that was personal [ indistinct].
Anyone does that it's for politics, so I refused. So then unknown to me he went to personal friends of mine, Paddy Reilly, Des Richardson (pictured right), Pádraig O'Connor, Jim Nugent, David McKenna, Fintan Gunne, who is deceased, Mick Collins, Charlie Chawke, all personal friends of mine. And they gave me 22,500 either Christmas Eve or Stephen's Day in 1993.
The inclusion of Pádraig O'Connor formerly of NCB stockbrokers is curious. A few weeks earlier, Bertie Ahern's close friend. Des Richardson, who, along with Gerry Brennan, allegedly raised this money for Bertie, was made aware that the £5,000 from Pádraig O'Connor was not a personal contribution from the latter to Bertie Ahern but a political contribution by NCB to Bertie Ahern's constituency costs. Des Richardson said in evidence he did not speak to Bertie Ahern about this before Bertie went on television, even though, one would have thought, Bertie Ahern would have needed to check with him who it was that allegedly gave money in that first “dig-out” in December 1993.
Brian: That was to settle, at that stage, your
Bertie: It was, they, they knew, a good few of them knew that I had taken out a loan with AIB in O'Connell Street to settle my legal bills.
None of them, including Des Richardson, knew he had taken out a loan from AIB to settle his legal bills, or so they said in evidence.
I had taken out the loan so I actually used the loan to settle the bills. Em, I didn't want to take the money, I took it on the agreement, it was Gerry Brennan and Des Richardson, I didn't deal with them all, they gave me the 22,500 and I said that I would deal, take this as a debt of honour, that I would repay it in full, that I would pay interest on it. I know the tax law, I'm an accountant. And, em, that I would pay that back in, in full and at another date when I could.
He would pay back the loans in full at another date when he could? He could have paid them there and then for, according to himself, he had £50,000 in savings.
Brian: Now, this amount, this 22,000, was this evenly divided between this group, did they all contribute more or less the same?
Bertie: All but one paid 5,000 and one paid 2,000. Em, eh, they had given me that, they were all friends and I was beholden to none of them or them to me for any political issues, they were people who were well known to be very close to me.
Brain: This was a loan and you made it clear to them at that stage that that was the way you regarded it.
Bertie: I, I, would say I told them very clearly that I wouldn't accept it on any other terms and that has always been the basis, and a loan with interest because I said Brian, that I wouldn't be able to pay it back for a time but that I would pay it and pay it with interest. There was no written agreement they were friends.
If it was a loan to be repaid at some later date, how come it was not repaid until it became public some 12/13 years later? Especially so since Bertie Ahern could have repaid the loan at any time since he had considerable cash at his disposal, according to himself?
Brian: So there are no documents to support this?
Bertie: There are no documents, well,
well, other than, well there is the documentation that all of these people have now given to the tribunal.
Not alone are there no documents, but there is no evidence in respect of any of the people who allegedly gave him loans, aside from the NCB £5,000, that the monies were withdrawn from the bank accounts of the people concerned. This might not be surprising in the case of some of the donors, such as Charlie Chawke (pictured left) and Dermot Carew, both publicans, who dealt in cash. But that every one of the alleged donors have no records to show that £2,500 was withdrawn in cash from their accounts is surprising. £2,500 was a very significant amount of money at the time.
Brian: And have you paid interest in the
Bertie: I haven't paid, em, the money because they refused to take it, I think they will now because they see the difficulty but I offered a number of times to repay it. I offered, some of them said take it when I retire from politics, others said they would put it into my constituency. I refused that and always had taken it that it was as a loan, that, that I would repay back.
There is no evidence at all that Bertie Ahern made any effort to repay any of these loans. He may have made reference to the loans at various stages, but no suggestion at all from any of the alleged donors, that Bertie Ahern attempted to repay the contributions.
Brian: So as we speak, the loan, none of the money has been repaid and no interest has
Bertie: No, but, but the understanding, the first understanding still remains that it is a debt of honour, it's a debt that I'll pay the interest on, and they all accept that.
They did not all accept that, according to themselves. Many of them believed the contribution was a gift, according to themselves.
Brian: Was that the extent of the money that was raised at that time?
Bertie: That was the extent of the money that was raised at that time. There were other people, can I say last week, the impression, just for correctness case, the impression given that this was four people and that it raised between £50 and £100,000, as you can see that was not the case and the person who was deemed to have paid most of this actually paid £2,500.
The suggestion that the amount of money involved in Bertie Ahern's finances at the time was in the region of between £50,000 and £100,000 was not at all fanciful, as Bertie Ahern suggested. According to himself, he got £39,000 from friends but then mysteriously he had “saved” £50,000 at a time (from 1987 to 1993) when (a) he did not operate a bank account; (b) his ministerial salary would have been only in the region of £35,000 (probably around £29,000 after tax); and (c) he was paying up to £18,000 per annum to his estranged wife. So we are certainly talking of around £89,000 and then of course there is the Stg£30,000 that emerged from Micheál Wall of Manchester on 2 December 1994 and the Stg£30,000 – a total of around £150,000.
Em, there were others that wanted to assist at the time and later on in 1994, four of them gave me £16,500. Em, they would have contributed at Christmas but they were good friends of mine and they were Joe Burke, em, Dermot Carew, Barry English and Paddy Reilly who's a different Paddy Reilly, he's known to my friends as Paddy Reilly the plasterer. He wouldn't be known publicly.
Wasn't the conflation of the two “dig outs” deft? That Joe Burke, Dermot Carew, Barry English and Paddy Reilly would have contributed at Christmas 1993 but didn't and did so a while later. And wasn't it extraordinary that when the first “dig out” was allegedly being arranged by Gerry Brennan, the later solicitor, and Des Richardson, that the likes of Dermot Carew and Joe Burke, known to be very close friends of Bertie Ahern, both of whom were well off, weren't invited to take part in the first “dig out”. Instead they had to think it up for themselves some 10 months later, in October 1994, when, out of the blue, they decided Bertie needed their financial assistance. This was at a time when Bertie Ahern certainly did not need their financial assistance.
Brian: So the total figure now at this stage
Bertie: £38,000, that's right.
Brian: Again was that in the form of a gift or as a loan?
Bertie: No, that was clearly a loan, it was on the same basis and again they are long- standing friends. It was unsolicited. These people are friends of mine, people like Joe Burke was my neighbour of 35 years ago. They gave it on, on that basis. So all of this information I gave the first one obviously was taken somewhere, the second hasn't come out but they were the two amounts.
Brian: And again just to be clear, the second 16,000, again that's a loan but no interest has been paid and none of that money has been repaid?
Bertie: That money has, has not been repaid.
Brian: You regard that as a debt which you expect to discharge?
Bertie: It is a debt of honour that I have to discharge. And em, eh, I made this point, to be honest Brian, and I would not have been able to pay it until about 1999 or 2000 and, eh, a number of times since, Dermot Carew, who was the one who organised, again unsolicited by me, the second amount, they understand and I think all of them would say they, they were loans.
Would not have been able to repay this until 1999 or 2000? Nonsense. He could have repaid the first loan there and then, he didn't need the money. He had raised £19,500 (approximately) from AIB on 23 December 1993 to repay his legal bills and therefore did not need the 26 December 1993 “dig out” at all. In addition, according to himself he had £50,000 in savings.
Brian: Is that the extent of the payments?
Bertie: That's the extent of the payments Brian, just, I just want to make another few points.
Brian: Just to be clear, there were no subsequent payments in connection to these matters of separation or anything else in the period since then?
Bertie: No, no – can I just make two other points I think are important? I was not impoverished when I was going through the separation, it was a very dark period for me and very sad period for me. I didn't, I had taken out a loan like anyone else would, but colleagues knew what the situation was. From 1987, when I separated from Miriam, until the end of 1993 was a long, protracted period that happens in family law cases. And, em, delays and delayed for one reason or another. Miriam was, I had no account in my own name in that period.
What possible reason could Bertie Ahern have had for not having a personal bank account at this time – ie from 1987 to the end of 1993, during which time he was separated from his wife and had not yet
concluded a separation agreement? Unless, he did not want there to be records of the monies he had for some reason?
And why would he have kept vast amounts of money (in terms of those days and indeed in terms of today) in a safe when he could have been earning interest on the money in a deposit account? It isn't as though he did not know about special savings accounts for it seems that in anticipation of getting some money on 23 December 1993 he opened a special savings account with AIB. Into that account he loaded the £22,500 “dig out” money he got quite unexpectedly on 26 December 1993.
Miriam had joint accounts and, em, I paid Miriam maintenance but also saved money during that period and I'd saved quite a substantial amount of money because it was from the time I was lord mayor in ‘86. I'd saved in the order of 50,000. The trouble was that in the separation I agreed to provide 20,000 for my children to an educational account as part of the agreement that I made. I don't like giving details of the children but for completeness, I did that. I also had to pay off other bills, so the money I'd saved was gone. So my friends knew that. I had no house, the house was gone so they decided to try and help me.
This was the point at which Bertie Ahern became emotional during the interview. But the reality is that although he did open an account in favour of his children early in 1994, he did not make any lodgement into it for several months later, even though he now had a total of at least £72,500.
As for he having no house, he could easily have purchased a house at any time because he had that £50,000 savings or £30,000 net of the children's educational monies. This would have been more than an adequate deposit on a house and indeed he bought a house several years later for around £136,000.
Brian: That explains the 38,000, that's the figure we are talking about here?
Bertie: That's what it was, the only other thing, Brian, 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 4 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.
The Manchester “disclosure” was a master stroke, as indeed was the whole interview. For it meant that instead of all this information coming from the Tribunal in dribs and drabs he was able to “reveal all” himself in a setting that essentially was favourable to him (this of course was not the doing of Brian Dobson for it arose from the Taoiseach volunteering to “reveal all” in the interest of transparency!).
It is clear the Tribunal lawyers are skeptical about the “dig outs” and certainly they have even more reason to be skeptical about this Manchester event and alleged donation. Bertie has given details of who was at this event – Irish born Manchester very rich businessmen, who have employed a lot of Irish in Manchester and who have made investments in Ireland. There can't be too many of these. And yet he is unable to offer any names beyond the deceased manager/owner of the Four Seasons Hotel and one other person, aside from his associate Senator Tony Kett.
(Pictured from left to right: Jim Nugent, Padraigh O'Connor, Paddy the Plasterer)
Brian: This was a regular event?
Bertie: I'd actually done the event a number of times, but I only once got a contribution. So I think at all of the times in my personal accounts, I've gone through them and given my personal accounts, that is the only other payment, its nothing to do with this but it was a payment that was in my accounts and I did give that to the tribunal as well.
Brian: At the time of this 38,000 that was raised for you in late 1993 and into 1994, you were minister for finance, perhaps the second most senior political position in the country. Did you have any qualms about taking this money from these individuals given the position that you occupied?
Bertie: Well I think probably I had every qualms, they wanted to run a function and I wouldn't let them. They wanted to give me the money and I refused. But they were long-standing, close, political and personal friends of mine and mainly personal friends. And on the basis that I would pay back the money, it wasn't big money either, quite frankly, and that they were under that understanding, now I had difficulty paying it back afterwards. I think the impression is that some of them are very wealthy, I mean some of them might be, some of them were probably wealthier then than they are now, quite frankly.
If he had qualms about it he could simply have refused to take the money, all the more so since he was told that the original £22,500 “dig-out” given on 26 December 1993 was for his legal expenses for which he had raised a loan a few days earlier. And precisely because he had no need of the money allegedly raised by friends, the question arises why was this money raised and, if raised, why was it accepted? Why would he raise a loan from friends, repayable with interest, if he had a huge amount of cash in a safe, which he could have used to pay his bills, without incurring any interest.
Brian: But some of them were people in business, they had business interests, they were in position potentially to benefit from decisions you would make as minister for finance.
Bertie: Well, you know, all I can say on that, they didn't and never did they ask me. Em, they were not people that ever tried to get me to do something. I might have appointed somebody but I appointed them because they were friends, em, not because of anything they had given me and you know, and I think they appreciate that these were debts of honour, they gave them to me. Em, ah, I suppose on hindsight back, I wasn't to know then, em, that I would be Taoiseach that I would have more money, that my daughters would be far more self-sufficient, I didn't know these things. Em, you know, so whether I should have took it or not, but I always seen them as loans. I didn't see them as any risk other than friends at a time of need when they knew I was in difficulty, when they knew that where I was staying and how I was living was a source of conversation.
The friend knew he was in difficulty – what difficulty? Even though many men are in financial difficulty at the conclusion of a marriage separation agreement, Bertie Ahern certainly wasn't. He had arranged a soft loan with AIB (no need to start making any repayments for 18 months) and he had £50,000 in savings, obviously (if true) with the capacity to make further substantial savings from his ministerial salary, in spite of his outgoings to his family.
How he was living a source of conversation? Many of these same friends had arranged for an apartment to be built at the constituency office at St Luke's (actually the contention that this is a constituency office is fanciful for Bertie Ahern has virtually the sole use of the building). In addition, he was living off during this time with the person he called his “life partner”, Celia Larkin.
As for this being the subject of “conversation” at the time, it had been the subject of comment in February 1992 when Charles Haughey retired as Taoiseach and Bertie Ahern thought of challenging Albert Reynolds for the leadership of Fianna Fail and the position of Taoiseach and the issue arose again unexpectedly in November/December 1994 when Albert Reynolds lost office. But this was not an issue at the time of the alleged “dig-outs”.
Brian: Can I put to you on the other hand, Mr Justice Brian McCracken had to say just a couple of years later in 1997 and something with which you said you concurred? He said that it is quite unacceptable that a member of Dáil Éireann and in particular a cabinet minister should be supported in his personal lifestyle by gifts made to him personally and this is what you have to say in response to that. You said that Mr Justice McCracken, and I quote Bertie Ahern here, ‘stresses a point I have repeatedly emphasised that public representatives must not be under a personal financial obligation to anyone'. Now at the very least there's an appearance there that you were under personal financial obligation to this group.
Bertie: Well, I, I don't accept that, em, Brian one bit. The difference of talking about somebody taking millions and somebody taking 100s of 1000s, em, in exchange for contracts and other matters and taking what is a relatively small contributions, em, from friends who had a clear understanding they would be paid back. I do not equate those. Em, if I was to take several 100s of 1000s pounds or several million from people where I had no association with or, em, eh, eh, people that were totally business interests, that would be totally, totally wrong. Em, perhaps you could say in politics nobody should ever take anything from anyone, perhaps that . . .
The problem is we don't know how much Bertie Ahern got in “loans” or donations. Nor do we know how much he received. But certainly the total involved is by no means trivial, in the region of £150,000, around €187,000, which would be not far short of €500,000 in today's terms.
Brian: You would have to declare it now?
Bertie: Eh, eh, yeah, and I wouldn't have had a difficulty quite frankly, em, declaring it, I, I've broken no law. I've broken no ethical code. I've broken no tax law. Eh, 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. I, I never, so I broke no ethical code and, em, if I had to have returned on these things, I wouldn't have had a difficulty. I did point out to my friends a number of times that it was better that I clear these and you know, they would sometimes laugh it off, but they all accept and and have accepted that these are loans to be repaid and will pay.
Brian: But the suggestion for example today that the standards in Public Office Commission might be looking at this because of the benefit you got from having the, so far anyway,
the interest waived on that and that could be something that could be retrospective to the legislation.
Bertie: Well that's that's not my advice, I was well aware of the legislation, I have long checked these things back by eminent tax people, I've looked at the legislation closely and, em, my advice is that it's not the case.
Brian: We are not talking here just about tax liabilities; we are talking about your requirements under the ethics legislation.
Bertie: I've, I've checked that and I repeat, my advice is I've broken absolutely, em, no codes, ethical, tax, legal or otherwise and, eh, I've checked that to the best of my my ability. And these were, eh, close friends, they were not big business interests that were removed from me, they were people that I saw, if not on a weekly basis on a very, very regular basis, most of them would be known to be very, em, very close to me.
Brian: And yet people watching this, Taoiseach, perhaps they have gone through a separation themselves and they'll appreciate just how difficult and painful that can be, will say that the financial consequences of that is something they've had to deal with themselves. Perhaps had to go to the bank to borrow money and repay the interest and you were in a position where you were able to have a whip-around organised on your behalf to meet your debts.
Bertie: Well, you know, I have been involved many times in my life in whip-arounds for friends, em, for people close to me, and I value friendships. I've done it for constituents; I've done it for people who have been in need.
Em, I, I think people understand that, people say all that has happened since you were unwise to do that in 1993 but it it didn't happen since. What I did was in 1993, em, and you know I have given all of my records, I've given all of my accounts, I've probably, this is right that I should give it, there's no privileged position being Taoiseach or anything else. But, em, as far, I, I was not, eh, I don't want this to be an investigation by a tribunal into corruption, there was no corruption in this. There was no favours sought, no favours given. There was no cosy contracts given to me or, eh, to any members of my family for business interests.
Brian: But there is also the important question here of the appearance of being above reproach and that is really the issue here, isn't it, Taoiseach, that you have created circumstances in which that can be called into question?
Bertie: Well, I, I, I wouldn't like to think that. I wouldn't like to think that any member of society or anybody else who takes at a time of need, a loan and would pay interest on it, that that is not beyond reproach. I wouldn't like to have the stigma that because a group of a dozen of my friends, when they saw my life being one thing and go to another, eh, it's not for me to plead how bad life was then but I mean it was clearly obvious that those who cared about me and those who were with me. I had to pay my legal fees, which I did take a loan out, they helped me to clear out quicker and then I had to go through, but I did it at that particular time. I didn't continue with, I didn't do it again. I didn't, you know, do anything that was untoward in anyway. And I wouldn't like, well people would say based on all that has happened in the McCracken tribunal, the Mahon tribunal but that hadn't happened in 1993, 1994.
Brian: Are you prepared to go into the Dáil and make a further statement and to answer
Bertie: If people want me to do that, leader's questions are on every day and I answer things every day. Em, I'm quite, eh, frankly not sure what I'd have to answer, I've looked at all the the issues of this and, em, I think my friends would realise that if they had accepted back the money when I offered it, it would have been easier for me now. But they thought they were being helpful to me. Em and I had other loans, you know, I have, I'm in a good position as Taoiseach now. My daughters are doing well so I don't have difficulties; and I, I think my mortgage is well advanced now. But I did things as everybody
Again, there is absolutely no evidence he made any effort at all to give back the money to his friends – they have all said in evidence that while he may have said he would repay it some time, he never made a gesture even about doing that. Neither did he do things as everybody else did. Most people, who enjoy earnings or the order of ministerial earnings, don't go without a bank account for six years. Neither do they keep stashes of cash in a safe. Neither do they take out bank loans when they have large amounts of cash, neither do they get unsolicited money from friends who think mistakenly they are in financial difficulties.
Brian: Just 38,000 today perhaps mightn't be a terribly significant amount of money, but back then it was a very substantial amount of money, it would have bought you a house here in the city of Dublin, it was a sizable contribution.
Bertie: I bought my house a few years later and I can tell you it was a long way, nearer 200,000 than 38,000. Em, it is what it is, I'm not going to say, I, I'm, you know, clarifying what the position is. I mean you know, I gave confidentially all my information, people saying 50,000 to 100,000 and, eh, any other money was my own money. Obviously lodgments after my separation was over and money that I saved and put back into my accounts, I don't know where the figures come from. I think people are perhaps looking at my own money that I'd saved and put back into, I didn't have an account in my own name during the separation years.
I opened an account after the separation work was over and I put back in my own money and then paid out, perhaps that's what people are adding it up. But the impression that I got between 50 and 100,000 and may be far more from just a few people wasn't correct. I'm giving you precisely how I got the money, from close friends, eh, people who cared about me. Perhaps I should have just got a bigger loan and let's be honest, I would have, I was Taoiseach a few years later it wouldn't have killed me one way or the other. And I'm paying back the interest so I, I really don't think I did anything wrong in anyway.
He could have taken out a bigger loan? Of course he could but why would he since he had £50,000 in cash? And the curious thing is that he took out a loan at all.
Brian: Do you think this has been damaging politically, has it damaged your, particularly in the run up to the election your capacity to lead Fianna Fáil into the general election?
Bertie: Well, I mean that's another issue, I don't want to go into it, but I mean this was designed, I think people would examine my accounts. I mean, I've looked at my accounts since ‘77, I've given you the only three things, there might be a few small ones but I tried to match up every single issue back, em, after 29 years in politics. And in my constituency since 1982, eh, I've probably as good records as there is, and, and luckily, because people close to me kept very good invoices and records, I was able to give this data but the the leak last week, by whoever, I have been accused that I was pointing the finger but by whoever, it was a leak which had nothing to do with the tribunal, it had nothing to do with planning, building, zoning or anything else. And, and it it was done to damage me, I suppose those people who set out in a calculated way to do that, whoever they were, probably have succeeded to some extent.
Brian: There has been some damage, does that come from perhaps the way it was handled initially. You confirmed some of the details and then you said it was none of anybody's business what money you got and now you're giving this interview.
Bertie: Well the point is, em, I think if I was legally advised, what I would have said the first morning, the whole lot is nobody's business, it's the tribunal. And I'd say no more about it ever. But for the Taoiseach of the country that is just unsustainable and it is ridiculous that wherever I've gone for the last week, that there has been you know 50 journalists running around behind me, like pied pipers, it's ridiculous. So I said to my legal people, I cannot sustain keeping things that are not secret, I gave this information, this wasn't dreamt up, nobody sneaked into my safe and found it, I gave this information to the tribunal, it shouldn't have been leaked.
I don't know who leaked it, I'm not blaming anyone, I don't want to be taking anyone's character but somebody took mine, and in a very cynical way. But it's best that I just give the true facts and, em, you know from the position of the Irish public they've always been kind to me about being separated. They've always been understanding and, em, if I've caused offence to anyone, I think I have to a few people, em, I'm sorry.
Brian: Taoiseach, thank you for talking to us.
The Nine Falsehoods
Falsehood 1: He claimed to have co-operated fully with the Tribunal. He manifestly did not.
Falsehood 2: He said the friends who gave him money on 26 December 1993 to pay his legal bills, knew he had secured a bank loan already to pay these bills. They did not know.
Falsehood 3: He implied repeatedly throughout the interview he was in financial difficulties in December 1993. He was not. He had £50,000 in cash and had secured a bank loan of £19,500 to pay his legal bills.
Falsehood 4: He claimed he had tried to repay the “loans” from friends on several occasions. He had not tired to repay any of these “loans”.
Falsehood 5: He said he would not have been able to repay loans until 1999 or 2000. This was untrue. He could have repaid the loans at any time, especially given his success with saving large proportions of his disposable income.
Falsehood 6: He claimed he needed to provide for his daughters' education in late 1993. In fact, although he had relatively huge amounts of money in cash he delayed several months before doing so.
Falsehood 7: He claimed to have had “qualms” about accepting the “loans” from friends. This is untrue for had he had qualms he could have avoiding taking the money in the first place for, clearly, he did not need it.
Falsehood 8: He claimed his friends “knew” he was in financial difficulty. They could not have known that for he was not in financial difficulty.
Falsehood 9: He claimed to have acted as “everyone else did in situations of marriage breakdown”. This was false. Most people, who enjoy earnings or the order of ministerial earnings, don't go without a bank account for six years. Neither do they keep stashes of cash in a safe. Neither do they take out bank loans when they have large amounts of cash, neither do they accept unsolicited money from friends who think wrongly they are in financial difficulties.