Betie Ahern released a detailed statement on Sunday concerning the various expenditures on the house in Beresford Avenue, Drumcondra. The statement was accompanied by a multitude of receipts, many relating to furnishings rather than structural changes to the property.
The detail was sufficient to satisfy The Progressive Democrats and most commentators. It didn’t clear up the conflict between the evidence of Padraic O’Connor of NCB and the Taoiseach regarding the nature of his £5,000 contribution, but Bertie can refer that to Des Richardson for explanation.
The media have subsequently picked up on the possible tax liability arising from the loans/gifts, but that doesn’t seem to be as serious a potential issue of probity as some other aspects of the case.
Assuming one accepts all the explanations as to why Bertie was operating on a cash-only basis, for me two key questions remain unanswered. Both are questions to which Bertie can respond with a shrug and a referral to Michael Wall, though one suspects that Bertie may have the answers.
(1) The will made by Michael wall leaving the house to Bertie, and in favour of his children should Bertie predecease Michael Wall. Whatever about Michael Wall leaving the house to Bertie, rather than his own family, because of the esteem and affection in which he held him, leaving it to Bertie’s children seems to be stretching that particular explanation to breaking point. This latter aspect of the will seems deeply suspicious to me.
(2) The fact that Wall appears to have lost c £15k on the transaction, allowing for his additional investment in the property and associated costs in buying and selling. This despite owning the house for 2.5 years between March 1995 and October 1997, a time of at least double-digit annual house price inflation.
To my mind, the evidence still seems to point in the direction of Bertie being the beneficial owner of the house all the time. Which, of course would then reopen all the questions about whose cash was actually flowing around the system, in sterling and punts, and where is came from originally. It will be interesting to see what conclusion, if any , the Mahon Tribunal ultimately arrives at on this matter.
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