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On the centenary of the Titanic disaster, how appropriate that Fianna Fáil should have a sinking feeling after its culture of corruption and cronyism was unmasked by the Mahon Report
The Whole Hog, 10 Apr 2012
Bertie Ahern, the most popular and successful Taoiseach since Eamon de Valera, feted for his role in the Northern Ireland peace process, emerges in an especially unforgiving light. He spun tales of dig-outs and whip-rounds to help him through his marriage break-up. He claimed that he won money on a horse, that he slept in his office. A cast of pals wove a fantasy to the tribunal of how they gathered round the poor fellow in his time of trouble. As the evidence was given, it was literally unbelievable. And yet he kept going, digging an ever deeper hole for himself.
Some of the evidence bordered on the hilarious. David McKenna of the then-hugely successful Marlborough Recruitment, was asked why money was given to Bertie in cash. He said, apparently with a straight face, that maybe it was because Bertie was the kind of guy who was proud enough, if you gave him a cheque, he’d tear it up.
The tribunal didn’t buy any of what was said about Bertie and the money trail, and found instead that the great statesman had given “untrue evidence” about his personal finances, including those hugely significant lodgements to accounts that the tribunal decided were, in truth, large and unexplained, sterling and dollar cash amounts.
The Mahon Report says that Bertie Ahern knew the source of the funds but chose not to reveal them. For this reason, the report stated that tribunal could not determine whether or not Ahern had received corrupt payments from the developer Owen O’Callaghan. Thus, Bertie’s decision not to say anything more than he needed to may have saved him from a more damning finding. But that’s small comfort to Ahern. His reputation is in tatters and his decision to resign his membership of Fianna Fáil merely pre-empts what would have been a decision by the party to expel him.
Among the cast of villains, perhaps Pee Flynn, the man famously and rightly lampooned on Scrap Saturday as Fred Flynnstone, ranks highest. While Bertie Ahern was genuinely liked by many, the Hog has never met a single individual who liked Pee Flynn. Yet, incredibly, he kept being elected and appointed to high office.