herald

Tuesday 14 August 2018

Why Ahern's other great weakness was the women in his life

APART from his greed, Bertie's greatest weakness was the women in his life. And in true Shakespearean style, a woman was the former Taoiseach's downfall...

Ahern always held women in high regard. He encouraged strong women up through the ranks in Fianna Fail and promoted them to ministerial positions.

He spoke about his pride for his two daughters Georgina and Cecilia.

And Bertie remained good friends with his ex-wife Miriam as well as his ex-girlfriend Celia Larkin.

But Bertie laid the blame for his financial woes on his family's doorstep.

He said that he was obliged to make significant payments to his ex-wife for maintenance of their two children.

And the woman who stood by his side through thick and thin, Celia Larkin, blindly lodged $45,000 in her bank account -- given to her in a briefcase by Mr Ahern. Celia told the Tribunal that she was under the impression that the cash was for renovations on the Drumcondra house.

A separate sum of £50,000 was paid into an account in Ms Larkin's name that she called "the Bertie Account" in December 1994. She said the cash was for "decorations and furnishings" in the Beresford Avenue house.

Her burgeoning career as a TV presenter and beauty salon entrepreneur came under the spotlight as Celia's "unique personal and working relationship" with the former Taoiseach developed. But at Mahon, Celia went through the equivalent of a messy and public divorce hearing as the minutiae of her relationship with the Taoiseach was ripped apart.

Their years together had seen Celia go from being Ahern's constituency secretary to being his special adviser.

It was clear that she was a woman firmly in control of her partner's personal financial affairs and, by extension, his life.

In 2003, a full nine years after she had confirmed she was Mr Ahern's partner, Celia admitted that their relationship had "changed".

Bertie's strong Catholic beliefs appeared to be the barrier to divorce -- his marriage to Miriam would have been coming up to the 40-year mark.

Miriam, who has a long-term partner, Skerries restaurateur Terry McCoy, said that "things are good now" with Bertie. "It's all come around," she recently said. "It's lovely to see him down on the floor playing with his grandkids, as he never had the time before to do it with his own children."

Ultimately it was a woman that caused Bertie's undoing. In the witness box, his former constituency secretary Grainne Carruth broke down in tears as she was quizzed on the payments she made on behalf of Mr Ahern.

This was the turning point in the investigation into the origin of €275,000 in his bank accounts.

Bertie had sent out a woman -- his own secretary -- to do his battle and the public opinion turned against him.

clairemurphy@herald.ie

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