Last Updated: 20/12/2006 12:25
Ahern says cheque practices ‘regrettable’
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said practices within Fianna FÃ¡il, which included the signing of blank cheques that ultimately benefited the late Charles Haughey personally, were “entirely wrong” and “regrettable”.
Mr Ahern was speaking today following yesterday’s publication of the Moriarty tribunal report, which found he facilitated the misuse of party funds by Mr Haughey by signing blank cheques for an account designed to receive funds for the party leader from the Exchequer.
The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and former taoiseach Charles HaugheyThe tribunal was “satsified” Mr Ahern did not know what the money drawn on the account was being used for.
The Leader’s Allowance Account, set up to receive the Fianna FÃ¡il party leader’s allowance from the State, was used by Mr Haughey to make payments that were of personal benefit to himself, the report said.
The account was maintained in the joint names of Mr Haughey, Mr Ahern and Ray MacSharry at Allied Irish Banks, Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2. Mr Ahern was a co-signatory of the account from 1984 to 1992 and pre-signed most of the 1,615 cheques drawn on the account in that period.
He has previously told the Moriarty tribunal he was appointed as a co-signatory because he was a party whip.
Speaking at the opening ceremony for the Dublin Port Tunnel today, Mr Ahern said that before the Moriarty tribunal report was published, he had already moved to deal with the party leader’s allowance and to bring in new controls for how it would be dealt with.
“Later on, I brought in the legislation that would decide how the party leader’s funds were used, how it would be open for it to be used. In 2001, we brought in further legislation, then made it that it had to be given to the Public Offices Commission. We set up the Public Offices Commission,” he said.
“We didn’t wait for the conclusions of Justice Moriarty’s report but I welcome them and thank him,” Mr Ahern added.
"Of course, from my point of view as I said many, many years ago before I gave evidence at all that in reality as I said if I ever for a moment had thought that by signing a cheque, which was a practice that anybody did in the country, let’s be very frank and honest about it and not be prudish about it, I would have never signed them.
“And the vast, vast majority of cheques that I had signed were used for appropriate purposes. A smaller group of them weren’t, that’s regrettable.”
Asked whether his comments some years ago that history would judge the late Mr Haughey favourably were still true, Mr Ahern said:
"I think the things I said at the ardfheis [reported] back in 96/97 were true, that these were practices that were entirely wrong, ones that brought huge discredit to the man and to everything associated with him.
"I also think the things I said about him earlier on this year at his funeral were also true. And I think history has to judge these things, I think they were appropriate, where you say things.
"But, you know, at least now we’ve changed the laws, we’ve dealt with it we’ve removed these practices.
“It was an awful tragedy that they ever happened and entirely wrong, entirely inappropriate but they happened and my job was to make sure that we brought in the procedures and that we brought in the legislation, that we brought in all of those things and they are there and I think people reflecting now will see that…I have brought in rules, laws procedures to make sure that these things can’t happen again. The fact that they ever happened was entirely wrong.”
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