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Patrick Bartholomew "Bertie" Ahern ( , born 12 September 1951) is an Irish politician who served as Taoiseach of Irelandmarker from 26 June 1997 to 7 May 2008.

Ahern has been a Teachta Dála (TD) since 1977 and he represents the constituency of Dublin Central. Before he became Taoiseach, he served in the governments of Charles Haughey and Albert Reynolds as Minister for Labour (1987–1991) and Minister for Finance (1991–1994). He also served briefly as Tánaiste after the break-up of Albert Reynolds' coalition government.

In 1994, he was elected sixth leader of Fianna Fáil. Under Ahern's leadership Fianna Fáil led three coalition governments. After Éamon de Valera, Bertie Ahern's term as Taoiseach was the second longest. Ahern resigned as Taoiseach on 6 May 2008 and was succeeded by then Minister for Finance Brian Cowen.

Background and family life

Ahern was born in Drumcondra, Dublinmarker. This is an area within the Dublin Central constituency where he has lived all his life. Ahern is the youngest of five children of Con Ahern and Julia Ahern (née Hourihane), both natives of Co.marker Corkmarker. Con Ahern and Julia Hourihane were married in October 1937 and settled at Church Avenue, Drumcondra, where they resided for the rest of their lives. The other four children are Maurice, Kathleen, Noel, and Eileen. In Dublin, Ahern's father worked as a farm manager at All Hallows College, Drumcondra. Ahern's brother Noel is also involved in politics and is currently a TD representing Dublin North West.

Bertie Ahern's father Con, was born into a farming family near Ballyfeard, which is located near Kinsalemarker, Co Cork, in 1904. His mother also came from a farming background and was from near Castledonovan, west County Cork. Ahern's father, Con, initially left County Cork and went to Dublinmarker in the early 1930s to train for the priesthood, but did not complete his studies with the Vincentian order. He had fought in the Civil War and was a supporter of Éamon de Valera and the Anti-Treaty IRA. He was a member of the 3rd Cork Brigade of the IRA. He remained a militant Irish Republican for decades after the War of Independence. Con Ahern died in 1990. Bertie Ahern's mother, Julia, died in 1998, aged 87 years, and was buried in Glasnevin Cemeterymarker, Dublin.

Ahern was educated at St. Patrick's National School in Drumcondra and at St. Aidan's Christian Brothers in Whitehall. He received his third level education at the College of Commerce, Rathmines, part of the Dublin Institute of Technology. Ahern has claimed or it has been claimed by others in circulated biographies that he was educated at University College Dublinmarker and the London School of Economicsmarker but neither university has any records that show Ahern was ever one of their students.

He worked in the Accounts Department of the Mater Hospital, Dublin but though a self-described accountant, as in a TV interview with Bryan Dobson in 2006 and radio interviews during May 2008 with George Hook and on his party's website, he never qualified as a member of any accountants association. The Irish Independent described him as an a accounts clerk.

By 1972 Ahern had met his future wife, Miriam Kelly, a bank official who lived near the Aherns. Ahern and Kelly married in 1975. Ahern has two daughters from his marriage: Georgina and Cecelia. Georgina is the wife of Westlife member Nicky Byrne. Cecelia is a best-selling author.

Ahern and his wife separated in 1992. Until 2003, Ahern maintained a relationship with Celia Larkin. Ahern was the first Taoiseach to have had a legal separation from his wife.

Ahern is a practising Roman Catholic. He attends Mass every Saturday evening in St Mary's Pro-Cathedralmarker in Dublin. However, he was publicly criticised by the then Archbishop of Dublin Desmond Cardinal Connell for the public nature of his relationship with his Celia Larkin. Larkin was appointed to the board of the National Consumer Agency in July 2005, on the recommendation of Ahern's department.

Ahern is an enthusiastic and vocal fan of sport. He is a supporter of Dublin GAA and attends Dublin matches in Croke Parkmarker. He also supports Manchester United F.C. and attends matches at Old Traffordmarker and rugby matches at Lansdowne Roadmarker. He appeared as a pundit on RTÉ Two's The Premiership programme in 2001.

Early political career

Ahern first became involved in a Fianna Fáil by-election campaign in 1965, climbing lamp posts to hang election posters in Drumcondra. During the campaign, Ahern met his political mentor and future Taoiseach, Charles Haughey. Ahern became a member of Fianna Fáil at the age of 17, and in the 1969 general election he helped in the election campaign in his constituency.

Ahern's first run for elected office was during the landslide 1977 general election, when Fianna Fáil formed the last single-party government with a 20-seat Dáil majority, the largest ever. Ahern received 4,000 first preference votes in the newly created Dublin Finglas constituency and was elected with transfers from other candidates. In subsequent elections Ahern became one of the highest vote-getters in the country.

During his first years as a Teachta Dála (TD), Ahern was an anonymous backbencher, but did display ambition. In 1979 when Charles Haughey and George Colley, both constituency colleagues, fought a divisive battle for the position of party leader and Taoiseach, Ahern is believed to have backed Haughey. Ahern had served on a health committee with Haughey in the mid-1970s. Following Haughey's victory, Ahern was appointed Assistant-Government Chief Whip.

In 1980, due to the illness of the actual Chief Whip, Seán Moore, he was effectively running the office. Ahern increased his personal vote in all three general elections of 1981 and 1982, even out-polling his running mate, George Colley, previously a candidate for Taoiseach. In the short-lived Fianna Fáil government of 1982 Ahern served as Government Chief Whip. Fianna Fáil were then consigned to the opposition benches for five years. During this period Ahern became Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Labour and, in 1986, Lord Mayor of Dublin.

Cabinet career

Minister for Labour

In 1987 Fianna Fáil returned to power as a minority government. Ahern became Minister for Labour, which was not considered an important portfolio. In the following years, however, the department was important in stimulating Ireland's ailing economy. On behalf of the government Bertie Ahern negotiated the first national wage agreement between unions and employers The Programme for National Recovery. This and the subsequent national wage agreement came to be known as the 'Irish model' and have been adopted by a number of European countries

In 1989 Haughey called an early general election. Fianna Fáil lost seats and was forced into coalition government with the Progressive Democrats. As Minister for Labour Bertie Ahern retained his in the Cabinet of the 26th Dáil government. In 1990 Mr Ahern negotiated the Programme for Economic and Social Progress.

In 1990 Ahern was campaign manager for the presidential bid of his cabinet colleague, Brian Lenihan. It proved to be Ahern's least successful campaign as the apparently unbeatable Lenihan lost to Independent candidate Mary Robinson. Ahern was damaged in the short term by being seen as the first Fianna Fáil presidential election campaign manager to lose a presidential election.

In 1991 the Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrats programme for government was reviewed. Ahern was a key player in these talks yet again. When all hope had faded of a return to government Ahern pulled off a master stroke and the coalition was back on track. This prompted Haughey to remark of Ahern,"He's the most skilful, the most devious, the most cunning of them all."

Minister for Finance

In November 1991, Reynolds, then Minister for Finance, launched a leadership challenge to Haughey. Ahern publicly backed Haughey. The challenge failed and Reynolds and his supporters were dismissed from the Cabinet. In the reshuffle that followed Ahern became Minister for Finance.

Reynolds succeeds

In early 1992 Charles Haughey resigned. Ahern was encouraged by Haughey and others to bid for the position. He was apprehensive, however, and remained out of the contest, allowing Reynolds to become party leader and Taoiseach. It is believed that Reynolds and Ahern struck a deal in which Ahern would withdraw and thus remain in the Cabinet, to succeed subsequently. Ahern and Michael Woods were the only two senior members to remain in the new Reynolds Cabinet, with Ahern retaining his Finance portfolio.

Following the 1992 general election Fianna Fáil formed a coalition government with the Labour Party. This lasted until 1994 when Labour withdrew from government due to unhappiness with Reynolds's proposed candidate for President of the High Court. Ahern briefly succeeded Labour leader Dick Spring as acting Tánaiste. However the government fell and Reynolds resigned as Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader.

During 1993, while he was Finance Minister, Ahern accepted payments of IR £39,000 from various businessmen: see below for details. These payments did not become public knowledge until 2006.

He is also under scrutiny from the Mahon Tribunal for this cash payment and subsequent revelations in May 2007 of cash received from businessman Micheál Wall.

Leader of Fianna Fáil

Ahern succeeded Reynolds as leader; the first unopposed candidate since Seán Lemass in 1959. Ahern was elected as the sixth leader of Fianna Fáil on 19 November 1994.

Negotiations for a resumption of Government with the Labour Party began immediately. It was expected that the coalition would continue and that Ahern would become Taoiseach. However, due to new revelations, the Labour leader withdrew from coalition and Ahern found himself as Leader of the Opposition.

In the 1997 general election Fianna Fáil's campaign centred on Ahern's personal popularity. The party gained seats and formed a coalition government with the Progressive Democrats, with the support of four Independent TDs. On 26 June 1997, aged 45, Ahern became the youngest ever Taoiseach.

Taoiseach 1997–2002

Early issues

Ahern's first government saw some teething problems during its first six months. Firstly, Ahern tried to nominate David Andrews as Minister for Defence and as Junior Minister at the Department of Foreign Affairs. This was unconstitutional as one minister cannot be subordinate to another. Ahern was forced to retreat.

Secondly, in July, Charles Haughey gave evidence to the McCracken Tribunal on corruption confirming that he had received IR£1.3 million (€1.7 million) in gifts from businessman Ben Dunne, which he had previously denied. This damaged Haughey's reputation more than the Government's.

Thirdly, earlier allegations resurfaced about Ahern's Foreign Minister, Ray Burke. Burke eventually admitted to receiving IR£30,000 (€38,000) in a corrupt payment and was forced to resign. Arising from those two matters, the government established the Moriarty Tribunal and the Flood Tribunal.One of the high points of the first six months was the renewal of the Provisional IRA ceasefire, which paved the way for resumed negotiations in Northern Irelandmarker.

Peace process

A significant achievement of Ahern's first term was his part in the negotiation of the Belfast Agreement, commonly called the Good Friday Agreement, in which the British and Irish Governments and most Northern Irish political parties established an "exclusively peaceful and democratic" framework for power-sharing in Northern Irelandmarker. The agreement was signed on 10 April 1998. It was seen as something special because not only was it endorsed by the political parties, it was endorsed also by the British and Irish governments and the people of the Republic and Northern Irelandmarker.

The agreement, the ceasefires and political structures it created have encouraged peace. The negotiations also led to his friendship with the former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair. On 26 November 1998 Blair became the first Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to address Dáil Éireann. On 24 September 2003, Ahern and Blair were jointly awarded the Thomas J. Dodd Prize in International Justice and Human Rights for their work on the Good Friday Agreement to promote peace between Britain and Northern Ireland. On 22 May 2008, Ahern and Blair were both awarded honorary doctorates by Queen's University Belfastmarker in recognition of their roles in the peace process. University Chancellor George Mitchell praised Mr Ahern as "a man of peace and a builder of bridges".


Ahern's term in office had been a period of high economic growth in Ireland, known as the Celtic Tiger. Increased prosperity and a better standard of living were the main results of the Celtic Tiger economy. There were significant deficits in the provision of infrastructure in the health and transport sectors. The good economic conditions allowed Minister for Finance, Charlie McCreevy, to deliver several generous budgets. This growth changed in 2008, with a difficult budget for 2008, brought forward by 2 months as Ireland entered recession, with unemployment expected to rise 5.6% in 2008 and the construction industry in decline. Economic growth in 2008 has also slowed to its lowest levels in over a decade. In 2009 he said his decision in 2001 to create the Financial Regulator was one of the main reasons for the collapse of the Irish banking sector and“if I had a chance again I wouldn’t do it”.

General election 2002

The 28th Dáil served its full term becoming the 2nd longest Dáil to complete a full term. The coalition of Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats was re-elected with an increased majority in the 2002 general election on 17 May. Fianna Fáil had hoped for a majority, but remained three seats short of the 84 required. The coalition Government returned to power, comprising Fianna Fáil and the eight Progressive Democrats TDs. It was the first time a Government had been re-elected since Jack Lynch's in 1969. The opposition Fine Gael party suffered substantial losses.

Taoiseach 2002–2007

Controversy arose when it was announced shortly afterwards that financial cutbacks were needed due to the drop in the international and Irish economies. This contradicted Fianna Fáil's promise during the election campaign when Finance Minister McCreevy was quoted several times saying that "no cutbacks, secret or otherwise, were planned". The government was accused of lying to the public, particularly concerning the war in Iraq (see below). The Government's rating fell badly in opinion polls and Ahern's popularity dropped to its minimum.

During 2003, the government was subject to more controversy when it became public that US military aircraft, carrying large numbers of troops, were refuelling at Shannon Airportmarker, despite opposition in certain sectors to the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Ireland's policy since the foundation of the State has been to be a neutral party in any conflict. The Government had maintained that troops had not used Shannon but when this was disproved, it then claimed that such permission had been available for 50 years.

The drop in opinion poll ratings for Ahern and his government after the 2002 election was followed in 2004 by Fianna Fáil's worst local election results in 80 years. Despite speculation, no leadership challenge occurred and Ahern recovered in the polls. His reputation for inaction in changing Cabinet ministers ended with his long-heralded 2004 Cabinet reshuffle in which he failed to sack Séamus Brennan from the Cabinet. The reshuffle was not as extensive as some had hoped as only three new members entered government.

The unpopular phase seemed short-lived as the government rearranged its priorities and the economy grew. A notable law enacted by this government was the ban on smoking in workplaces and enclosed areas in March 2004. Improvements had been made in the transport infrastructure with the launch of the Luas light rail system in Dublin, many new motorways being built and the break-up of Aer Rianta, the state-owned Airport Management company.

In November 2004, Ahern celebrated ten years as leader of Fianna Fáil. In April 2006, he became the second longest serving Taoiseach, after Éamon de Valera.

One of Ahern's achievements in 2004 was his Presidency of the European Council, during which EU leaders agreed a European Constitution, there was recovery in EU-US relations, the EU formally admitted 10 new members, and selected José Manuel Barroso as next President of the European Commission. Briefly, it appeared as if Ahern himself might become President of the Commission, however, he declined in favour of domestic politics. The treaty was subsequently defeated in referenda in the Netherlandsmarker and Francemarker.

Ahern's government spent €52 million on the Nedap Electronic Voting system. This was challenged as being insecure and could have been tampered with in order to change results.

His coalition partners in government, the Progressive Democrats, said that he had questions to answer as details of an £8,000 (€11,800) payment for speaking engagements, in Manchester in 1994, emerged. The continued appearance of details of his appearances in Manchester and the names of those who were present at functions threatened to destabilise his Coalition Government, especially so when it transpired that one of the businessmen Micheál Wall subsequently sold a house to Ahern. The strains in the coalition eased after Ahern apologised for a second time in the Dáil and agreed to tighten up on ethics legislation.

The Moriarty Tribunal reporting in December 2006, criticised Ahern for having signed blank cheques for the then party leader Charles Haughey, who misappropriated taxpayers' funds for personal use. The disbursement of funds to Fianna Fáil and their investigation by the tribunal have raised questionsof the involvement of Ahern in the administration of these funds.

In May 2007 he became the first Irish leader to address a joint session of the UK Parliamentmarker

General election 2007

Ahern hoped to win a third general election in 2007 while opinion polls, in April 2007, suggested that this was improbable.

Polls in April 2007 showed his coalition of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats at 35% and 3% respectively against the Fine Gael–Labour Party alternative government figure of 38%. A further poll published 27 April 2007, shows Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats at 34% and 3% respectively compared to Fine Gael and Labour at 31% and 10%. A promise by the Labour Party, at their February 2007 party conference of a cut in the basic rate of income tax, paid by 80% of workers, from 20% to 18% created some excitement in political and media circles. Income tax cuts by the Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrats government had concentrated on the top rate of tax and Labour were able to portray their proposal as progressive to the discomfiture of Fianna Fáil.

Ahern received staunch support during the campaign from Eoghan Harris, writing in the Sunday Independent. Harris declared that the anti-Ahern campaign was the most sinister manipulation of the Irish media that he had seen in his lifetime, and that Sinn Féin would be the main beneficiaries of a fall in support for Ahern and Fianna Fáil. Harris was nominated to Seanad Éireann on 3 August 2007 by Ahern.

Ahern dissolved the Dáil in April 2007 and called an election for 24 May 2007. Ahern's party received 78 seats a loss of three seats from the 2002 election result. This was regarded as a Fianna Fáil 'victory', as questions about Ahern's finances overshadowed the early part of the election campaign, which threatened to cause huge losses for Ahern's party. His partners in the government, the Progressive Democrats suffered a reduction in representation from 8 to 2 seats including the loss of their leader.

Taoiseach 2007–2008

Following the general election of 2007 Ahern was elected to a third term as Taoiseach, leading a rainbow coalition of Fianna Fáil, the Green Party and the Progressive Democrats, and also supported by several Independent TDs. This is the first Rainbow coalition comprising Fianna Fáil, with all their previous coalitions comprising just one partner.

Requiring 83 seats to return the government, Ahern's options were to attempt to govern with the Progressive Democrats plus two "gene-pool" independents (Jackie Healy-Rae and Beverley Flynn) and one or more of the other three independents (Michael Lowry (ex Fine Gael) Finian McGrath or Tony Gregory). The other options were an alliance with the Green Party or the Labour Party. In the event, Fianna Fáil negotiated a programme for government with the Green Party, and formed a new rainbow coalition with the Green Party and the Progressive Democrats, supported by Healy-Rae, Flynn, Lowry and McGrath.

Ahern's reputation was damaged by the accusation of cash gifts received that have transmuted to loans from businessmen. His reputation as the Teflon Taoiseach (no allegation of unethical behaviour has stuck to him until September 2006) was damaged. He was criticised in the foreign press as well as in the Irish media.

To the surprise of many observers however, polls taken during and after the crisis indicated a sharp rise in support for the Ahern government and a corresponding fall in support for the Opposition parties. While 55-64% of the public believed that he was wrong to accept the payments, support for his party rose to 39-42%, while support for the main Opposition parties Fine Gael and the Labour Party fell to 20-26% and 10-11%. Two-thirds believed he should not have resigned. The polls provoked complaint from the media. The Irish Times commented they were a "poor reflection of ourselves".

Ahern stated in an interview in the Village on 22 May 2007 that he intended to retire from politics when he is 60. He stated this would mean standing down as Taoiseach before the end of the current Dáil term, which ends in 2012 at the latest.

On 4 July 2007 Ahern stated at a conference in Donegal, that he did not understand why people sitting on the sidelines, moaning and cribbing about the economy did not commit suicide. These comments came at a time when Ireland's economy is beginning to falter, and with property prices falling by up to 10% as part of the Irish Property Bubble.

In an opinion poll taken in September 2007, subsequent to Ahern's initial two day appearance at the Mahon Tribunal, fewer than one-third of voters now believe Ahern’s accounts of his finances.

Opposition parties had previously been muted in their reaction but in September 2007 Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore called for Ahern to resign in light of his appearance at the Mahon Tribunal and on 23 September 2007,

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny was heavily critical of the "rambling, incoherent" answers offered by Ahern to the Mahon tribunal in September 2007. Kenny said there was now a situation whereby a witness before a tribunal, testifying on oath, "is continually changing his story". It "create[s] a credibility problem and that's the issue the Taoiseach has got to deal with".

On resumption of the Dáil on 26 September a motion of no confidence in Ahern's Government was moved by Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, based on Ahern's statements to the Mahon Tribunal.The Green Party, PDs and Independent TDs who support the Government voted for Ahern in the motion of no confidence. In a stormy three-hour Dáil debate, Ahern was accused of telling "lies" and was called upon to resign.

The no confidence motion was defeated by 81 votes to 76, with all six Green Party TDs, two PDs and four Independents, Finian McGrath, Beverly Flynn, Michael Lowry and Jackie Healy-Rae voting with the Government.In an opinion poll published in November 2007, some three-quarters of voters indicated that they did not believe that Ahern had given a full disclosure about his personal finances to the Mahon Tribunal. The opinion poll also showed more than half of the electorate believing that the whole episode was now a serious political issue for Ahern.

A later opinion poll taken on 22 January 2008, on the issue of Mr Ahern's personal finances and tax liabilities, found that "78% of people do not believe he has given the full picture (up 6%) while just 14% believe he has given the full picture (down 3%)."

The Minister for the Environment John Gormley said on 22 February 2008, that revelations concerning the Taoiseach at the Mahon Tribunal were distracting from the work of government.

Opposition parties on 22 February 2008 branded the Taoiseach's financial affairs as a "national embarrassment", which should prompt his immediate resignation.

Grainne Carruth's acceptance as a matter of civil probability that she had lodged sterling sums to Ahern's account at the Drumcondra branch of the Irish Permanent Building Society in the 1990s has sent shock waves through the ranks of Fianna Fáil.On 27 March 2008 the unease at Ahern's declarations at the Mahon Tribunal, as contradicted by his former secretary at the tribunal were highlighted when Progressive Democrat coalition partner leader Mary Harney, traditionally a stern supporter of her former FF colleague, called on Ahern to make a statement.

The disquiet within the coalition was further emphasised when Green party leader John Gormley said that Ahern should clarify the contradiction between his evidence and that of his former secretary Grainne Carruth.

An opinion poll published on 25 November 2007, showed that support for Fianna Fáil dropped by seven percent, "following the announcement of large pay increases for the government and senior public servants against a backdrop of continuing economic uncertainty and high-profile failures in the health service."

On 2 April 2008, Ahern announced his intention to resign as Taoiseach and as leader of Fianna Fáil on 6 May 2008.

On 30 April 2008, in Washington DC, Ahern became the sixth Irish leader to address the United States Congress. He is also the sixth person who has addressed both the United Kingdom's Parliament and the United States Congress.

On 6 May 2008 he performed his last official duty as Taoiseach in opening the Battle of the Boyne visitors centre with Northern Ireland First Minister Ian Paisley.

Ahern was appointed to an international advisory group on conflict resolution on 14 July 2008.


Admission of undeclared payments

Ahern was criticised by the Moriarty Tribunal for signing blank cheques for the then Taoiseach Charles Haughey, without asking what those cheques were for. Ahern told the tribunal that a policy of signing blank cheques was used on the Fianna Fáil party leader's account for reasons of "administrative convenience". In September 2006 The Irish Times printed claims allegedly leaked from The Mahon Tribunal that Ahern had received money from a millionaire businessman while Minister for Finance in 1993.

The editor of The Irish Times defended the publication as being in the public interest at a hearing of the tribunal, saying that it was not a party to the Supreme Court case which restrained the Sunday Business Post from publishing leaked documents. This order was directed against the Sunday Business Post but its interim order purported to restrain all media outlets from publishing confidential material from the inquiry.

Ahern has admitted that he did receive money but said on being interviewed that:
What I got personally in my life, to be frank with you is none of your business. If I got something from somebody as a present or something like that I can use it.

What Ahern said in 1996, while in opposition:
The public are entitled to have an absolute guarantee of the financial probity and integrity of their elected representatives, their officials and above all of Ministers. They need to know that they are under financial obligations to nobody. (Dáil Éireann transcript, December 1996)

This contradiction has been criticised in editorials in both the Irish Independent and The Irish Times

Six days after the payments were publicised, Ahern admitted in a television interview that he had received two payments totalling IR£39,000 (€50,000) in 1993 and 1994.Ahern regarded the money as a loan, but he conceded that no repayments had at that time (September 2006) been made and no interest has been paid. He said that he had attempted to repay it, but that his friends would not accept repayment. He claimed that he had broken no codes - ethical, tax, legal or otherwise.

On 28 November 2007, former NCB managing director Padraic O'Connor at the Mahon Tribunal, "directly contradicted Mr Ahern's claims that long-standing friends gave him a loan just after Christmas 1993."

In the same interview, he also admitted to receiving a payment of £8,000 from a group of 25 businessmen in Manchestermarker on one occasion. He claimed that this money was again unsolicited, that it was a gift and therefore not subject to tax as it had been received when abroad, and that it was paid to him after he gave an after-dinner speech at an ad hoc function. He claimed that the money was given to him as a private citizen, not to him in his then role as Minister for Finance, and that no other payments were received by him after speaking at other similar functions. The Irish Times reported on 30 September 2006 that part of this payment was actually a cheque drawn on NCB Stockbrokers, a large Irish company. A number of his benefactors have received appointments as directors of State boards.Insisting that no favours had been offered or received, Ahern said:
I might have appointed somebody but I appointed them because they were friends, not because of anything they had given me.
Under the Standards in Public Office Commission's rules,
State appointments should be made on the basis of merit, taking into account the skills, qualifications and experience of the person to be appointed.
Members of Dáil Éireann must conduct themselves
in accordance with the provisions and spirit of the Code of Conduct and ensure that their conduct does not bring the integrity of their office or the Dáil into serious disrepute.

In the face of negative publicity, Ahern has repaid the monies advanced to him, with 5% interest totalling €90,000.

On 3 October 2006 Ahern made a 15 minute statement in Dáil Éireann defending his actions in taking loans totalling IR£39,000 (€50,000) from friends in Ireland and £8,000 (€11,800) as a gift from businessmen in Manchester in 1993 and 1994. In his statement he apologised for the distress his actions had brought saying:
The bewilderment caused to the public about recent revelations has been deeply upsetting for me and others near and dear to me. To them, to the Irish people and to this house, I offer my apologies.

Confirmation of sterling cash lodgements

On 20 March 2008 at the Mahon Tribunal the disclosure, of lodgements of £15,500 sterling into building society accounts of Ahern and his daughters was accepted as a matter of probability by Ahern's former secretary Grainne Carruth.

Previously in her evidence, Carruth, on 19 March 2008 had said, that she had not lodged sterling for Ahern, while she accepted (as a matter of probability), a day later, that she must have lodged sterling on Ahern's behalf based on the paperwork available although her recollection is that she never had sighting of sterling at any time.

Ahern had told the tribunal during his evidence in February 2008, that the lodgements to his and his daughters' accounts had come from his salary as a politician.

'No bank account'

Further questions were raised about IR£50,000 (€63,300) which he had lodged to his bank account in 1994. He claimed this was money he had saved over a substantial period of time (1987–1994) when he had had no active bank account. During this period he was Minister for Labour and subsequently Minister for Finance. He was asked by the leader of the Labour party, Pat Rabbitte whether, in the absence of a bank account, he had kept the money in a 'sock in the hot-press' and by Joe Higgins, the leader of the Socialist Party if he had kept the money 'in a shoe-box'. Ahern replied that he had kept the money 'in his own possession'.

Payment in relation to house

On 5 October 2006 further information emerged in the Dáil that Ahern had bought his house in Dublin from Manchester based Irish businessman, Micheál Wall, who was at an event in Manchester in 1994 where the Taoiseach received a payment of GBP£8,000 (€11,800). This caused further tensions within the Government coalition parties.

On 10 October 2006 the Taoiseach again told the Dáil that it was an 'error of judgement' for him to accept loans and gifts for personal purposes in the early 1990s.Ahern expanded on his apology to the Dáil of the previous week, which he described as unqualified.Ahern said there would now be a change in the ethics law requiring office holders offered a gift from friends to consult the Standards in Public Office Commission and to accept their ruling.

Money from developer

Allegations had been made that he had taken IR£50,000 (€63,300) from a property developer, Owen O'Callaghan, in return for favours at this time. Ahern won a libel action against a Cork businessman, Denis "Starry" O'Brien, defending himself against this allegation.However, broadcaster Eamon Dunphy has testified in the Mahon Tribunal, that he was told by developer Owen O'Callaghan, that Ahern was taken care of to support a shopping centre development in the 1990s. This follows the initial allegations, denied by Ahern and O'Callaghan, by retired developer Tom Gilmartin, that O'Callaghan told him that he had given Ahern a payment of £50,000 in 1989, and a payment of £30,000 in 1993, in connection with a development of lands at Quarryvale, west Dublin. Gilmartin further alleged being told that O'Callaghan had paid Ahern in excess of £20,000 in relation to tax designation of a site in which O'Callaghan had an interest in Athlone, the designation having been Ahern's last act as Finance Minister before the Fianna Fáil-led Government fell in December 1994.

In March 2007, one of Ahern's Manchester benefactors,Paddy 'The Plasterer' Reilly, was appointed as the Fianna Fáil Director of Elections for Ahern's Dublin Central constituency.

In April 2007, it was alleged in a statement by his former official driver, that Ahern in 1994, while Minister for Finance, took a briefcase full of cash to Manchester. This has been denied by Ahern.

While the payment details initially seemed to damage Ahern's standing, the result of the 2007 general election indicated that the damage was minor. In April 2007, an opinion poll found that nearly half of voters believe Taoiseach Bertie Ahern still has questions to answer over the payments controversy.

Payment to refurbish property managed by Celia Larkin

In May 2007, it emerged that Ahern's then partner, Celia Larkin, received £30,000 from the businessman Micheál Wall to contribute towards the refurbishment of the house that Ahern was to buy later. Questions for Bertie.

Money given to Celia Larkin

On 2 February 2008, it emerged at the Mahon Tribunal, that a house was bought by the Ahern's former partner Celia Larkin in 1993 with money donated to Ahern's constituency organisation in Drumcondra. There was no documentation to back up this loan to Ahern's partner or to prove around IR£30,000 in other expenditure from this account.Dublin businessman Tim Collins has denied that Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was joint holder of the so-called BT account from which Celia Larkin was loaned IR£30,000 without documentation to describe the loan agreement. Tim Collins denied that the BT account referred to Bertie and Tim, even though he operated a joint account with Des Richardson known as the DT account

Appearance at the Mahon Planning Tribunal

On 13 September 2007, Ahern commenced four days of testimony under oath at the Mahon Tribunal. On 13 September, Ahern admitted that he had not cooperated with the Mahon planning tribunal. Counsel stated that information supplied "did not encompass all of the material questions that had been asked of you" to which Ahern replied "I accept that, yes". On 14 September 2007, inconsistencies in Ahern's statements to the Tribunal emerged, after he changed his story on the infamous IR£25,000 dig-outs.On 21 September 2007 Ahern again changed his story and said he could not remember key events at the centre of the current controversy.

Tribunal chairman Judge Alan Mahon said there were "significant gaps in the money trail provided by Mr Ahern which "would have made it impossible for the tribunal to follow the trail".

Judge Gerald Keyes accused Mr Ahern of having no recollection of buying stg£30,000 in the early 1990s.

Judge Mary Faherty accused Mr Ahern of giving polar opposite accounts of why he withdrew IR£50,000 from AIB, O'Connell St in January 1995.

On 24 September there were further discrepancies, memory lapses andcontradictions to his testimony under oath with Ahern agreeing with the assertions of the Tribunal that there are inconsistencies and contradictions in his statements compared to bank records and the testimony of his then partner Ms Larkin.

Ahern agreed with the Tribunal that; "It cannot be the case that Ms Larkin changed a sterling equivalent of£28,772.90 on that day, if that bank record is accurate, isn't that correct?".

Journalist Vincent Browne has asserted that "Ahern’s numbers game just doesn’t add up".

Again on 20 and 21 December 2007, Ahern spent two further days under questioning by the Mahon tribunal about his finances in the 1990s.In January 2008, it was revealed that Ahern was in discussion with the Revenue Commissioners about his liability for tax on the sums received in Manchester and on his tax clearance status as declared in 2002, before details of the Manchester payments were revealed. Opposition leader Enda Kenny has said that, it is not acceptable to have a Taoiseach who cannot declare compliance with the tax codes.

On 12 February 2008, it emerged that the Mahon tribunal had not all of the information provided to it, that Ahern indicated in the Dáil, that he had provided to the tribunal. Ahern has taken a High Court action to prevent the Mahon Tribunal from addressing and questioning him on the information, that he released in the Dáil in 2006.

The total value of lodgements and other transactions that have to date been queried by the Mahon tribunal in its public inquiries into the finances of the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, exceeds £452,800.
The lodgements and transactions occurred between 1988 and 1997, although the vast bulk of the money was lodged in the period to 1995.

On 4 June 2008, Ahern admitted that he knew about sterling lodgements before his secretary's testimony, but said to laughter at his Tribunal appearance on that day that those lodgements were from horse racing betting-winnings.

Tax Clearance Certificate

In mid-January 2008 it emerged in the press, reportedly as leaks from parties to the Mahon tribunal, that Ahern will not be in a position to present a Tax Clearance Certificate to the Dáil, as is required under Ethics' legislation. This certificate is issued by the Revenue Commissioners, to persons who have shown themselves to be tax compliant. It is a legal requirement that this certificate be presented to a Dáil committee by 31 January 2008 by those elected to the Dáil. In the absence of this, however, a certificate stating that Ahern is in negotiation with the Revenue Commissioners will suffice. An inability to declare tax compliance by a prominent individual, while highly embarrassing will suffice temporarily until Revenue either issue a tax compliance certificate or refuse it.

The issue of compliance is serious and is an offence to make a false declaration.
The Standards in Public Office Bill also makes provision for tax clearance requirements for persons elected to the Oireachtas, and others.
Persons elected will be required to make a statutory declaration of tax compliance, and the 'making of a false declaration will be an offence.
They will also have to produce a tax clearance certificate.
There will, therefore, be considerable policing of tax compliance of members.
The Standards in Public Office Commission has been asked to investigate the Taoiseach's declaration of tax compliance after the 2002 General Election.

Ahern's inability to furnish the tax clearance certificate has led to further calls for Ahern's resignation. He is also the only member of the Oireachtas not to have a tax clearance certificate On 14 January 2008 while on a visit to South Africa, Ahern accused Enda Kenny, leader of the opposition of tellinga "bare-faced lie" about Ahern's tax situation. Ahern and Fianna Fáil's response has not addressed the issue, but has attacked the leaking of Ahern's tax affairs so as to attempt to enable the non-compliance issue to be ignored.Labour party leader "Mr Gilmore joined the offensive over the weekend, saying the Taoiseach was now providing at least four different versions of his personal finances and was unable to get a tax clearance certificate."

Ahern admitted to the Mahon Tribunal on 21 February 2008, for the first time, that he did not pay tax on substantial payments that he received when Minister for Finance in the 1990s.


On the 25 October 2007, Ahern was criticised after the Government a recommendation from the Review Body on Higher Remuneration that senior civil servants and ministers receive pay increase.
 The pay-rise for his position (up €38,000 to €310,000 per annum), would have made it higher paying than that of the U.S. President and made him the highest paid Head of government in the European Union.

Criticism from opposition parties concentrated on the timing of the announcement (following highly publicised budgetary concerns at the Health Service Executive) and the fact that Ahern's increase alone would amount to about four times the basic social welfare payment. On the 12 December 2007, it was announced that the first part of the pay-rises would be deferred by a year, with the remainder paid in 2009 and 2010.

Public image

Ahern's presentational style has been described as Bertiespeak.
"It is not correct, and if I said so, I was not correct -- I cannot recall if I said it, but I did not say, or if I did, I did not mean to say it -- that these issues could not be dealt with until the end of the Mahon Tribunal."
In 2004, Joe Higgins described Ahern's response to questions as "like playing handball against a hay stack. You hear a dull thud but the ball never comes back to you". Ahern was one of the main characters portrayed in the spoof radio comic strip Gift Grub. The fortnightly magazine The Phoenix featured "De Diary of a Nortsoide Taoiseach", a very mildly satirical column written from Ahern's point of view in a phonetic transliteration of his broad north Dublin accent. Ahern has been satirised in a purported spoof publication Bertie's little book of ethics.


The following governments were led by Ahern:


Did Ahern, in his 11 years of power, make the most of this unprecedented prosperity for the public benefit? The answer can hardly be positive, given the present state of health, education and infrastructure, generally. There'll be broad consensus around what Bertie did in Northern Ireland, the social partnership and the unity he brought to his own partyAlso, he made Fianna Fáil the permanent party of government. They used to have all of the power most of the time, but now they have most of the power all of the time. All of that takes skill. But I wonder will people talk about 'Ahernism'? Is there any such thing? What does he actually stand for?In some ways Bertie's lack of vision was a positive, it made him flexible and willing to compromise, and he was certainly outstanding in that regard. But I dissent from the universal plaudits going around at the moment. He had no social or economic vision for the state he led. There was no fire in his belly. He didn't really want to change society for the better. He was the ward boss writ large. But at the moment it seems it's unfashionable to say anything adverse about Bertie.

  • Stephen Collins noted that:"none of his colleagues is really sure whether he is possessed of all the deviousness and cunning attributed to him by Haughey or whether he simply suffers from chronic indecision disguised as political shrewdness"

  • Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary noted in a radio interview that Bertie squandered the wealth of a generation and I think in time it will be proven he was a useless wastrel.

A documentary series – Bertie – on RTÉ television in November 2008 examined the life and career of Ahern.


  1. Ahern had a relationship with Cecilia Larkin for several years. A previous Fianna Fáil Taoiseach, Charles Haughey had a mistress, Terry Keane - A very public affair.
  2. Fallout from Bertie and Celia's long goodbye
  3. BBC Profile of Bertie Ahern 12 October 2008
  4. Fianna Fáil website Profile of Bertie Ahern on the Fianna Fáil website 12 October 2008
  5. Michael Taft The Recession Diaries: Farewell, PDs - We Wish We Hardly Knew Ye,, 20 September 2008
  6. Senan Molony The 'unbaptised child' in the family of wage agreements, Irish independent, 18 September 2008
  7. Today Tonight RTE, 12 July 1989
  8. Brian Lenihan, Jnr Profile Brian Lenihan, Minister for Finance - Political life of Brian starts now , The Sunday Tribune, 5 October 2008
  9. Profile: Bertie AhernBBC News profile, 2 October 2006.
  10. Haughey was forced to resign in 1992 by revelations, of his complicity in phone tappings of journalists made by Seán Doherty.
  11. Former Justice Minister Máire Geoghegan-Quinn briefly sought candidature.
  12. The culture of potentially corrupt payments to politicians has continued from that era. In September 2006, details of financial support provided to Ahern by businessmen in 1993 and 1994, both in Ireland and England, emerged leading to strains in the coalition Government. Taoiseach details payments of IR£39,000
  13. Dodd Prize website,
  14. Can we remake Ireland's future?
  15. Celtic Tiger dead as recession bites
  16. It was later withdrawn and a Commission on Electronic Voting was appointed to examine its design and implementation and operation. This commission in July 2006 said that it could not approve the proposed vote counting software.
  17. FF/PDs to fall short by 10 seats, FG gainsSunday Independent, 22 April 2007.
  18. Alternative coalition moves ahead of Government partiesThe Irish Times, 27 April 2007.
  19. Knocking Bertie brings Provos closer to powerSunday Independent, 6 May 2007.
  20. Fianna Fáil expelled members or consistent nominally independent members, who have supported Fianna Fáil continuously in the past.
  21. On the spot: 'Teflon Taoiseach' makes it three in a row
  22. 'Implausible' evidence takes toll on the Teflon Taoiseach – London Independent, 26 September 2007
  23. Coalition regains lead over alternative govt.RTÉ website article, 13 October 2006.
  24. Second poll shows big rise in Ahern's supportRTÉ website article, 15 October 2006.
  25. Village Interview with Bertie AhernVillage, 22 May 2007.
  26. Ahern sorry over suicide remarksBBC News website article, 4 July 2007.
  27. Ahern to give historic address to US Congress today
  28. Ahern flies out to US to address Congress
  29. Ahern joins world advisory body
  30. Ahern rapped over blank chequesSunday Independent newspaper article, 20 August 2006.
  31. The Irish Times said its sources are independent of the tribunal.
  32. Top broker says Ahern not telling the truth on 'dig-out'Irish Independent, 29 November 2007.
  33. Ahern repays €90,000The Sunday Times newspaper article, 1 October 2006.
  35. Ahern denies air trip with a case of cashSunday Independent newspaper article, 15 April 2007, Free registration required
  36. Payments to Ahern: the questions remainIrish Independent newspaper article, 23 April 2007, Free registration required
  37. Ahern 'not joint holder' of BT account
  38. Page 85 transcript of 2006-03-13
  39. Planning Tribunal transcript, page 107, 13 September 2007
  40. Ahern accepts he failed to give complete informationThe Irish Times, 14 September 2007.
  41. Cracks begin to show in Ahern’s testimonyIrish Independent, 15 September 2007.
  42. Ahern cash trail: judges home in on the 'gaps'Irish Independent, 21 September 2007.
  43. Taoiseach agrees bank records clash with his versionThe Irish Times newspaper, 25 September 2007.
  44. Planning Tribunal transcript, page 75, 24 September 2007
  45. 17 hours in witness box - still no answersIrish Independent, 25 September 2007.
  46. Ahern’s numbers game just doesn’t add upThe Sunday Business Post, 16 September 2007.
  47. [1] Newstalk106 podcast
  48. Ahern knew about sterling lodgements before secretary's testimony
  49. Ahern: Some sterling lodgements were betting winnings
  50. Statement to Dáil Éireann on Code of Conduct for Members - Department of Finance - Government of Ireland
  51. The Phoenix, 8 September 2006 and passim. (subscription required)
  52. Credit where it is due -- and not due
  54. Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary
  55. RTÉ Television - Bertie
  56. Will the real Bertie please stand up?

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