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Cablegate: Irish Prime Minister Beats Back Vote of No Confidence, But

VZCZCXRO5628
RR RUEHBL
DE RUEHDL #0777 2831313
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 101313Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY DUBLIN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8649
INFO RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 2414
RUEHBL/AMCONSUL BELFAST 0629

UNCLAS DUBLIN 000777

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL EI
SUBJECT: IRISH PRIME MINISTER BEATS BACK VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE, BUT
CORRUPTION INVESTIGATION CONTINUES

REF: (A) DUBLIN 428; (B) DUBLIN 373; (C) 06 DUBLIN 1119

1. (SBU) Summary: During September, the Mahon Tribunal continued
to investigate allegations that Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern
was given cash in return for favors in the early 1990s - grilling
him during three days of hearings. Political opponents, scenting
blood, introduced a vote of no confidence against him in the
Parliament on September 26. While few believe that Ahern took
bribes for personal gain and he easily beat back the vote of no
confidence, he has not put these allegations of corruption behind
him - the Tribunal continues to deliberate. End summary.

2. (U) Persistent allegations of irregular financial affairs in the
early 1990s, which have publicly dogged Irish Prime Minister
(Taoiseach) Bertie Ahern for more than a year (Reftels), flared into
the public spotlight again in September. The Mahon Tribunal,
created to inquire into allegations of corruption in the granting
planning permission while Ahern was Minister for Finance, resumed
sitting on May 28. (The Tribunal judges had suspended hearings in
the run-up to the May 2007 national elections, which Ahern and his
Fianna Fail party handily won (Ref A).)

3. (U) The Mahon Tribunal is specifically investigating claims by a
property developer that Ahern was given cash in return for his
support for the development of a Dublin shopping centre - a claim
Ahern denies. Tribunal Lawyers have questioned Ahern on cash
deposits into his accounts (and to those of his then partner Celia
Larkin) totaling more than 180,000 Irish pounds in 1994 and 1995.
Ahern, who spent a total of 16 hours over three days in September
appearing before the Tribunal, says the money came from savings and
goodwill loans during a marital separation. Some partisan
observers, however, allege that Ahern failed to give a full and
frank accounting of his financial dealings during the period and
claim his evidence was contradictory. The Tribunal, which continues
its investigation, has the right to recall Ahern at a future date.
(Note: John Bruton, EU Ambassador to the U.S., who was an
opposition Fine Gael leader during the period in question, is due to
appear before the Tribunal on October 18.)

4. (U) Prompted by the allegations of corruption, Fine Gael, the
largest opposition party, tabled a motion of no confidence in Ahern
in the Parliament (Dail Eireann) on September 26. Ahern, supported
by his Fianna Fail party and coalition partners (the Green Party and
the Progressive Democrats) easily beat back the vote, 81 to 76.

5. (SBU) Comment: Almost no one believes that Ahern took bribes
for personal gain; his frugal lifestyle is apparent to all.
Nonetheless, political opponents scent blood and continue to
highlight alleged inconsistencies in his testimony in the hopes of
damaging his political credibility. Though Ahern easily overcame
the vote of no confidence, he is not out of the woods. Allegations
of corruption are certain to be raised again in coming months. End
comment.
FOLEY

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