Back in 1994, £50,000 would buy you a house.
Not a swish house in a fancy area, it’s true, but a good house nonetheless, in a solid, decent neighbourhood.
The kind of house and neighbourhood that decent people have to save for and work hard to pay for over twenty or twenty-five years. The sort of house where you could raise and educate a family, possibly teach them solid values of decency and honesty. The kind of house where the children of an average family could get a good start in life and perhaps go on to do better than their parents.
Back in 1994, when £50,000 would buy you such a house, Bertie Ahern was clawing his way out of deep financial trouble. His marriage had collapsed, he had no home of his own and businessmen were passing the hat around to help him out. Not so long ago, before the General Election, Bertie went on the main evening news and shed a tear at the way he was being treated by the media, who wanted to know about his financial transactions during 1994 and 1995. He was deeply upset by this unwarranted intrusion into a very painful time in his life, and the Nation’s heart softened. The people re-elected him.
Well, today Bertie Ahern told the Mahon Tribunal that he couldn’t remember the precise reason why, in 1995, he withdrew £50,000 from his bank account and transferred it to another account owned by his partner. Remember now: this is a man we were asked to believe was at his wits’ end in back then. A man barely surviving a ruinous separation settlement with his ex-wife.
And yet, at such a difficult time in his life, this man was able to withdraw enough cash to buy a house outright and put it into a safe in his office. Personally, I don’t have a safe, and I don’t know anyone else who owns one either, though of course it isn’t a crime to have a safe. It’s just that I don’t know many people who have enough money to buy a house sitting in their account — especially people who are going through divorce or separation.
You’d imagine Bertie would at least remember why he withdrew such a huge amount, wouldn’t you?
Bertie just can’t seem to recall.
It was no big deal, he told the Tribunal.