Belfast Telegraph

Bertie Ahern resigns from party

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern has resigned from his political party in the wake of a corruption inquiry, but insisted the findings of the probe had dealt him a grave injustice.

The Mahon Tribunal into the country's planning process accused Mr Ahern, one of the architects of the Northern Ireland peace process, of not telling the truth in regard to a number of financial transactions in the 1990s.

His Fianna Fail party had been due to vote on a motion to expel him and other colleagues named in the report next week - but his announcement has pre-empted that move.

"The last thing I want to do, given that I have now retired as a public representative, is to be a source of political division in the party I care so deeply about," he said."

Mr Ahern, who revealed his decision in an article for the Sunday Independent, said leaving Fianna Fail was a "political decision" and insisted it should not be interpreted as an admission of wrongdoing.

The inquiry shamed a series of senior figures in Fianna Fail, once considered the dominant, establishment party in Irish politics. It did not brand Mr Ahern, the leader of three coalition governments, as corrupt but refused to accept any explanations he offered for a quarter of a million of bank lodgements he made in the early 1990s.

The tribunal panel sat for over 15 years, heard 900-plus days of public sittings and conducted extensive forensic financial trawls.

It left Mr Ahern's political legacy shattered - none of his evidence for lodgements of more than IR£250,000 between 1993 and 1995 were accepted. The inquiry also warned it could not find where some money came from.

Current Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said achievements by Mr Ahern, like the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, were real and enduring but could not absolve him from facing the implications of the report. He had called for him to be expelled from the party ranks.

But Mr Ahern has signalled an intent to challenge the findings of the tribunal, claiming they were not infallible: "I am hurt and disappointed by the findings of the Mahon Tribunal. I never took a corrupt payment from anyone and I told the truth to the Mahon Tribunal about my finances and the difficult personal circumstances I found myself in. I believe a grave injustice has been done to me."


From Belfast Telegraph