Mahon keeps pulling the thread
Padraic O’Connor’s contribution to the Bertie Ahern dig-out is proving to be one of the most awkward points of the Planning Tribunal so far. All sides agree that the donation — the largest individual contribution to the (December 1993 “legal expenses“) whip-around — was given on a NCB cheque on foot of an fake invoice. But O’Connor maintains that it was a political donation to Bertie’s constituency operation, while Des Richardson says it was a personal contribution to the dig-out. All sides have points of sensitivity on this one.
Bertie says that he and O’Connor were good friends at the time of the dig-out — the kind of friend that one might hit up for a few thousand. O’Connor says they were acquintances, not friends. But it’s clear that O’Connor did move within favoured circles at the time, and afterwards. First, there’s the question of the punt devaluation in 1993. O’Connor advised Bertie on it. This Sunday Business Post article from last year digs a bit more deeply about that revelation:
It was only in recent weeks [October 2006] that O’Connor was named as having advised Ahern during the currency crisis, a revelation which raised eyebrows in financial circles. The Department of Finance told The Insider last week that there were ‘‘no paid external advisers engaged by the department or the minister at that time in connection with the crisis’’.
The spokesman said, however, that the minister and officials would have been taking soundings from the financial services industry on ‘‘an informal basis’’. O’Connor has declined to comment on the matter. However, a source indicated that O’Connor was consulted informally by Ahern on an unpaid basis at that time.
It’s also important to keep in mind the lineage of O’Connor’s employer at that time: NCB, integral to Dermot Desmond’s financial activities. Once Desmond’s name comes up, you’ve got a connection going to the Telecom Eireann site scandal back in the Haughey days and to Ireland’s favourite gambler, JP McManus, and his friend Joe Lewis, who lives in … The Bahamas.
So anyway, O’Connor went from not being especially Bertie’s BFF to having some role in the currency crisis advice, to being appointed chairman of ACC — a job in the gift of the state. Nonetheless, he has one piece of support for his claim to not be a close friend of Bertie — the trouble that he is making now with his quite adamant account of how and why the original donation was made.