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Thursday 8 December 2016

Bertie Ahern: 'Handing back pension top-up is complex'

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern Live on Miriam O'Callaghan Sunday
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern Live on Miriam O'Callaghan Sunday

FORMER taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said that he won't simply hand back his ministerial pension top-up because it is "highly complex".

The former Fianna Fail leader refused to be drawn repeatedly on whether he would turn down a top-up estimated to come in at around €1,680.

He was paid €80,810 in his pension payout last year.

"I made several voluntary cuts before but I can tell you that I gifted my taoiseach's pension back before and it's a highly complex area to resolve," he said.

"I'm not going down that road again, so let's see what they do in the Dail and I'll follow that."

When questioned about whether he would follow the lead of John Bruton and decline the top-up, Mr Ahern said that it was "not so simple".

Mr Ahern's comments came in an hour-long interview on RTE radio with Miriam O'Callaghan following on from last Thursday's testimony to the Oireachtas Banking Inquiry. He again insisted he had no responsibility for banking failures which contributed to the crash.

He said that, as a former head of government, he took responsibility for cabinet decisions on taxation, which took one-third of revenue from the building sector.

"What the banks did and the fact that it wasn't properly regulated, that they didn't have capital backing for a lot of the projects that they did, was not the responsibility of the cabinet," he said.

Mr Ahern also said the overwhelming weight of advice from experts was that "we would not get the kind of hit that we did".

He said he "had a few jars" with his brother Noel and some friends after last Thursday's bank hearing.

Mr Ahern also spoke about the Mahon Tribunal, which lead to his resignation in 2008.

He described the judges and lawyers as a formidable, well-researched group "who turned their machinery against me" and he quit because it had begun to dominate media questions, he said.

The tribunal rejected Mr Ahern's evidence on certain bank lodgements to his bank accounts and could not say where the money had come from. Mr Ahern said Judge Mahon was entitled to his opinion. "They've opinions. They've no legal effect. They're sterile."

He said the findings were "wrong" and everything he told the Tribunal was 100pc true.

He referred to his marital situation at the time. "Not a great time in my life," he said. "Some of the things I did were fairly bizarre, I don't deny that.

"I didn't take money from anyone," Mr Ahern said. "I got loans from people."

He also said that he regretted that some of his "best friends" became household names during the tribunal proceedings.

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