Minister links Ahern to `bribed' developer

The Irish Prime Minister, Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, has again claimed that he does not recollect attending a 1989 meeting with property developer Tom Gilmartin - despite testimony from former Fianna Fail minister Mary O'Rourke that he was present at such a meeting.

The meeting is central to Mr Gilmartin's corruption allegations surrounding his bid to build a shopping centre in Quarryvale in west Dublin, which will form a major part of the Mahon tribunal's investigations this year.

Following the meeting, Gilmartin says he was approached by an unidentified Fianna Fail figure and told to deposit #5 million into an Isle of Man bank account if he wanted to get planning permission.

Speaking at the Citywest Hotel yesterday, the Taoiseach said: ``I have given my evidence to the tribunal. I think everybody else has as well. I will continue to co-operate with the Mahon tribunal, and all the other tribunals as well any time that they request me to do so.''

Asked yesterday about the emergence of her affidavit, Mrs O'Rourke, speaking from her Athlone home, said she had given her declaration ``under oath''.

``I made my submission in the belief that it was private until it was made public at the tribunal,'' said Mrs O'Rourke, who lost her Dail seat in the 2002 general election. However, she refused to criticise the tribunal, or anyone else for the disclosure of parts of the contents of her affidavit. ``There is no point taking any inference. There is no imputation in what I am saying.''

According to two Sunday newspapers, Mrs O'Rourke has told the tribunal that the Gilmartin meeting took place in a room across the corridor from her parliamentary office. She said she had been invited to the meeting by Mr Padraig Flynn, who was then minister for the environment.

Since Mr Gilmartin first aired the allegations, Mr Ahern has consistently said that he has no recollection of ever meeting with the property developer.

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