I’m not answering what I got for my holy communion money, my confirmation money, what I got for my birthday, what I got for anything else. What I got personally in my life, to be frank with you, is none of your business.
You weren’t a government minister when you got your communion money, or your confirmation money. You were a child. Nobody had elected you to anything.
What you got for your birthday might be our business if it approached the price of a house, and what you get personally in your life, to be frank, is all of my business, if you happen to be swanning around in a black Mercedes-Benz when you receive it.
The issue here has been very carefully muddied by Bertie’s tearful interview. Separation is an awful experience, and there are many men in this land who have suffered dreadfully as a result. Nobody but a monster would begrudge a man receiving help from a bunch of his friends. Even I don’t begrudge Bertie getting a helping hand from his mates during a very difficult time in his life.
I’m not saying he shouldn’t have taken the money, although 38 grand would have bought you a fine house in Lucan at the time. Of course he should have taken the money – who wouldn’t take 38 thousand if it was offered? I’d take it, and your arm as well, if you offered it to me. No complaints there. We all agree he was in a terrible, troubled turbulent period of his life, and we all feel sympathy for him. We all agree that his friends were extraordinarily kind to him and we applaud them for it. However, what Bertie did not do was give up the Minister’s job, and the Merc and all the rest of it. He took the cash, though he knew he owed some private individuals the price of a house. It takes most people a lifetime to pay that back. He was personally indebted to a circle of businessmen, yet Bertie Ahern remained Minister for Finance and held on to the Merc.
Why didn’t he leave the Cabinet until he had paid the money back? That’s where he did wrong.