Belfast Telegraph

Ahern base returned to Fianna Fail

The base of former taoiseach Bertie Ahern's constituency machine is to be handed back to Fianna Fail.

The St Luke's headquarters in Drumcondra, north Dublin, had been held by a group of trustees who were close associates of Mr Ahern.

A spokeswoman for Fianna Fail said the trustees had confirmed the return of the property. "The trustees have agreed to hand St Luke's back to the party centrally," she said.

It is understood the trustees, known in political circles as the Drumcondra Mafia, have offered to co-operate with the party in talks to secure its return. The future of St Luke's had been the major issue left on the agenda of a special Fianna Fail national executive meeting planned for tomorrow night.

A party spokeswoman insisted the ard comhairle convention would still go ahead with discussions focusing on reorganising the Dublin Central constituency. "The special ard comhairle meeting is still going ahead," she said. "Micheal Martin still has a motion for root-and-branch review of the party constituency."

The three trustees of St Luke's were Tim Collins, who was found by the Mahon tribunal to be one of the named holders of a bank account Mr Ahern paid money into, and Des Richardson and Joe Burke.

Plans to return the property follow Wednesday's announcement that the last remaining Fianna Fail member named and shamed in the Mahon findings has quit the party. Finbar Hanrahan, a former councillor in Dublin, joins the likes of Mr Ahern and Padraig Flynn by quitting before they could be expelled.

Three-time taoiseach Mr Ahern was the first to walk away from his lifelong membership, before ex-minister and European Commissioner Mr Flynn also resigned. Others to have quit include former TD GV Wright, former senator Don Lydon and sitting councillor John Hannon.

The Mahon inquiry into political corruption and the planning process shamed a series of senior figures in Fianna Fail, for decades the dominant, establishment party in Irish politics. While it did not brand former taoiseach Mr Ahern as corrupt, it refused to accept any explanations he offered for bank lodgements of a quarter of a million of Irish pounds linked to him in the early 1990s while finance minister.

Mr Martin has accepted the findings of the inquiry.

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