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Last Updated: Monday, 2 October 2006, 23:27 GMT 00:27 UK
Ahern faces Dail grilling on cash
Bertie Ahern
Mr Ahern says critics will not succeed in driving him from office
Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern faces one of the biggest tests of his career when he answers questions in parliament about cash he received in the 1990s.

Last week Mr Ahern admitted receiving loans worth 50,000 euros (34,000) from businessmen friends, while he was finance minister, in 1993 and 1994.

Questions are now also being asked about an 8,000 sum he received after a speech in Manchester.

Mr Ahern says he did nothing wrong "in law, in ethics and in relation to tax".

Cash repaid

Details of the loans, which Mr Ahern used to pay for his marital separation, were revealed in the Irish Times newspaper last month, which asked why they had not been paid back.

The Irish people have to decide whether they want the government to break up
Michael McDowell
Progressive Democrat leader
Mr Ahern said the 12 lenders had refused repayment.

But his spokeswoman said at the weekend that he had now sent them cheques, adding interest of 5% per year.

Ireland's opposition parties, Fine Gael and the Labour Party, say the 8,000 payment Mr Ahern received from a group of Irish businessmen after speaking in Manchester in 1994 broke the ministerial code, and could have tax implications.

However, Mr Ahern says he broke no rules because it was not an official dinner and he was not attending in his capacity as finance minister.

Coalition politics

Michael McDowell, the leader of the Progressive Democrats - the junior partner in a coalition government with Mr Ahern's Fianna Fail party - says he wants a "warts and all account" from Mr Ahern when he answers questions in the Dail on Tuesday.

The people who are pushing this story have one objective in mind - they want to drive me from office
Bertie Ahern
However, he has also signalled his support for the Taioseach, describing him as an honest, decent man.

A general election is due in mid-2007.

"The Irish people have to decide whether they want the government to break up and a person who achieved huge things for Ireland to bow out on this," Mr McDowell has been quoted as saying.

A poll in the Irish Mail on Sunday suggested that 61% of voters thought Mr Ahern should not step down, but 60% thought he should not have accepted cash while criticising others for doing the same.

Mr Ahern provided information about his loans to the Mahon Tribunal on planning corruption, which was then leaked to the media.

In an emotional article published on Sunday in the Irish News of the World, Mr Ahern described the last week as one of the most traumatic in his life, and spoke about "reliving the heartbreak" of his marriage break-up.

"The people who are pushing this story have one objective in mind. They want to drive me from office. They will not succeed," he said.


SEE ALSO
Profile: Bertie Ahern
02 Oct 06 |  Europe
Irish PM admits receiving loans
27 Sep 06 |  Europe
Country profile: Ireland
12 Jul 06 |  Country profiles

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