Tuesday, May 29, 2007

INSIDE POLITICS - BERTIEGATE III

Well if Shrek III, Spiderman III and Pirates of the Caribbean III are in cinemas now, there's no harm in crucifying the long-suffering public with BertieGate III.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into negotiations for Government, you realise that the danger you thought you had disposed of once and for all is still lurking out there in the deep waters.

Of course, this was foreseen. On the first day proper of the election campaign - amid much FF bleating - the Mahon Tribunal decided to suspend its hearings until May 26.

A common interpretation was this - the problem hadn't gone away; it was lurking in the long grass to pounce at the moment that negotiations for government began.

Early in the campaign, many people thought Fianna Fail would be a good few seats short of its 2002 total and, if it had any chance of government, would need to commence long, difficult, and delicate negotiations. These talks would begin just as the Quarryvale II module opened, containing all those details and questions about his personal finances, the house etc.

So thumping was the FF victory - and so well ventilated was Ahern's political difficulties over his personal finance - that you kind of thought that nothing the Mahon Tribunal could come up with yesterday would add to the picture, or create complications for FF.

But it has. Ahern said that Celia Larkin lodged a sum of £30,000 sterling at an AIB bank on O'Connell Street that day. The Tribunal says that only about £1,900 sterling was bought that day. It has also posited a theory that the amount lodged was the exact equivalent of $45,000 - the chances of that being a coincidence were slim he said. But so far there has been no evidence or documentation produced to show that $45,000 was bought in the bank branch that day. That's why Ahern's lawyer, Conor Maguire argued:

"The was a completely fanciful suggestion made without any supporting evidence and without any allegation to that effect having been made to the tribunal."


Still. The fact that less than two grand sterling was transacted that day will cause the Taoiseach some problems. But not too many. All of the allegations bar that one have been in circulation already.

But having said that, those who will strike a deal with FF may seek assurances from Ahern in relation to that transaction and also, some guarantee that something else is not coming down the tracks.

Fine Gael's statement last night was a work of mischief. Penned by Fergus O'Dowd, it was designed to throw the cat in among the pigeons, to sow the seeds of doubt, and to put pressure on those who will do a deal. Of course, Fine Gael itself has a huge interest in this, as it itself wants to form a government.

But sadly this morning it failed to live up to the courage of its convictions when it was unable to provide a spokesperson for Morning Ireland. If you are issuing statements headed...

Tribunal Contradiction of Taoiseach’s Statement Raises Serious Issues


... then you must be willing to have the spine to back it up publicly, as it is a very serious allegation.

Will it affect the talks and the formation of government? It's hard to say. You wonder do the PDs have any appetite for it, or will the Greens (if they're asked) consider it a deal-breaker.

Certainly, it will create a small element of doubt. But Ahern has categorically denied he made a dollar transaction. It will be a longish time before the Tribunal hears evidence from him, and even longer before it issues its report. Assurances will be sought, I'm sure. And assurances will be given, I'm also sure.

And I'm certain too that any obstacles will be overcome in the short term. But sometime in the mid-distance, you can sense that the storms are brewing.

4 comments:

David Forsythe said...

Surely the dreaded L-word is appropriate now?

There are a lot of floppy spines about.

Anonymous said...

Why does Eoghan Harris hate you so much? He slags you off nearly every Sunday. Did you write something nasty about him before?

Harry McGee said...

re: Eoghan Harris. Níl fhios agam though he is a loyal and regular reader of the Irish Examiner.

Dan Sullivan said...

harry, so long as he is buying the paper before reading it and not getting it for nothing.