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Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 September 2006, 07:41 GMT 08:41 UK
Irish PM admits receiving loans
Bertie Ahern
Mr Ahern denied he had broken any code of conduct
Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern has confirmed reports that he received thousands of dollars from friends when he was finance minister in the 1990s.

Mr Ahern said he was lent the equivalent of $63,000 (£33,000) to pay costs during his marital separation.

"I have broken absolutely no codes - ethical, tax, legal or otherwise," he said in a television interview.

Mr Ahern has come under pressure to explain the loans, which he did not repay, following a newspaper article.

He said he had offered several times to repay the loans, but his lenders had refused to take the money back.

'Debt of honour'

Speaking on Irish television, Mr Ahern confirmed he received an IR£22,500 ($36,000; £19,000) loan from eight friends in December 1993 and a further loan of IR£16,500 in 1994 from four others.

He said the money went towards paying school fees as part of the settlement with his estranged wife, Miriam Kelly.

Mr Ahern said the payments were a "debt of honour" and denied any wrongdoing.

A visibly emotional Taoiseach recalled the financial stress of his marriage break-up, which he described as "a dark, sad time" of his life.

"In the separation I agreed to provide IR£20,000 for my children to an education account as part of the agreement and I did that," he said.

"And, I also had to pay off other bills, so the money I had saved was gone."

General election

News of the loans was leaked from confidential meetings between Mr Ahern and a state inquiry investigating planning irregularities in the Irish capital, Dublin, in the 1990s.

The BBC's James Helm in Dublin says Mr Ahern will be hoping that by making public the details of the payments, for which he insists no favours were offered nor given in return, he can take the heat out of the matter and so limit any political damage ahead of a general election next year.

But one opposition leader, Labour's Pat Rabbitte, said Mr Ahern's performance on national television had been "quite unconvincing" and that it raised a whole lot of new questions.


SEE ALSO
Profile: Bertie Ahern
12 May 04 |  Europe
Country profile: Ireland
12 Jul 06 |  Country profiles

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