Irish Republican News · May 8, 2007
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
‘Bertiegate’ scandal hogs election headlines

The Progressive Democrats said they were within hours of quitting the 26 County coalition government with Fianna Fail yesterday as a crisis over corruption allegations continued to dominate the general election campaign.

However, Tanaiste Michael McDowell has now rowed back on his threat, calling instraed for Ahern to make a statement on new allegations regarding a series of payments and financial benefits received by himself and his partner.

This came despite an intense exchange at the launch of the Fianna Fail election manifesto, where veteran journalist Vincent Browne graphically exposed Ahern’s lack of credibility in his explanations of the nature of the payments.

Late yesterday the Taoiseach met his three most senior Ministers, Brian Cowen, Dermot Ahern and Micheal Martin at Fianna Fail election headquarters. A decision was taken that the Taoiseach would make a full public response.

Since then, the electorate has been subjected to considerable finger-pointing regarding the source of the leaks from the corruption tribunal which have fuelled the scandal.

Most of the allegations centre around a time Ahern was Minister for Finance in the government of the now-disgraced Charles Haughey, with one payment coming just thre days before Ahern was due to succeed Haughey as Taoiseach.

“The picture he gave me [last Autumn] differs very substantially from the picture now being given by him to the Mahon tribunal,” Mr McDowell said yesterday.

In a further sign that Fianna Fail’s post-election coalition options are narrowing, Green Party leader Trevor Sargent said no party would be prepared to serve in government with Mr Ahern because of questions over his personal finances. He described Mr Ahern as “a dead man walking” politically.

Sinn Féin Dail leader Caoimhghin O Caolain TD has accused the PD leader of complete and utter cynicism. O Caolain said he believed that the Taoiseach should make a public statement to clarify matters so that the election campaign could continue.

“From our own canvass it is clear, that people throughout the state, not least supporters of Mr Ahern’s party, want this matter clarified,” he said.

“I would urge the Taoiseach to make a full statement on the matter, so that the general election can concentrate on the other pressing matters which face this country - the run-down of public services including the crisis in our hospitals, and the inadequate infrastructure within this state.

“However nobody is taken in by today’s posturing by Minister McDowell. His belated intervention in this matter is purely an electoral consideration.”

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© 2007 Irish Republican News