Ok, this is just so funny. I turned back on the News At One hoping Bev was gone, to hear the report on proceedings at the Mahon Tribunal. So previously Tom Gilmartin gave evidence that rival developer Owen O’Callaghan told him he gave Mr Reynolds Â£150,000 in his house at around 3am after a dinner in Cork in March 1994. He said he was told Mr Reynolds was tired because he had to picked up by helicopter the next morning to be brought to the US for St Patrick’s Day. He was told by other sources that Mr Reynolds collected $1m in New York, Boston and Chicago that year following the Northern Ireland peace deal. But he was told only $70,000 made it to the party and that “$900,000 must have fallen off the plane and floated down towards the Cayman Islands”
Now when I heard that I thought, ah yeah, Gilmartin spinning ludricous tales again..
But TODAY! TODAY!
the pilot of the government jet gave evidence that
“Later that day Mr Reynolds, his wife and a number of civil servants were flown by Government jet to New York, the plane stopped over in Boston before picking up the party and flying them to Washington and Chicago.
On the return journey there was an unscheduled six-hour stop at Freetown* in the Bahamas at the request of Mr Reynolds. Mr James said no reason was recorded for the stop over.
I laughed out loud, which when you’re on your own in the kitchen is a weird thing to do.
I dunno, every time I soften up and assume there’s nothing in it, they drop something else on you. It’s bizarre.
Update: oh rats, Martin Mansergh, official apologist for three FF Taoisigh has spoiled all the fun by intervening with the facts. In a statement just issued
“Some of the evidence given to the Mahon Tribunal today by the distinguished Head of the Air Corps Brigadier General James (if accurately reported on the RTÃ‰ lunchtime news) must be based on faulty recollection. Even a senior officer of the Air Corps would not necessarily always be aware of the detailed purposes of an official visit or discussions that took place during one.
I was a member of the Taoiseach’s delegation to the United States, as a Special Advisor on Northern Ireland. At the end of the visit on 19 March, which included functions in a number of cities as well as St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Washington, the Taoiseach flew from Hartford, Connecticut to the Bahamas for the first official visit from Ireland, which was neither â€˜informal’ nor â€˜unscheduled’, and which lasted three days from Saturday till Monday inclusive.
He was greeted with full military honours, including a multi-gun army salute, by the Prime Minister of the Bahamas at the airport. Later that Saturday afternoon, officials from both Governments, including myself, sat down to explore a number of areas of cooperation. That evening, Tony O’Reilly, Chairman of Independent Newspapers, hosted a dinner for Albert Reynolds and his delegation, which was attended by half the cabinet of the Bahamas, at his home at Lyford Quay.
On Monday 21 March 1994, there were resumed talks chaired by Taoiseach and Prime Minister, and a number of visits made to small enterprises and to the principal harbour on another island in the Bahamas. The whole emphasis of the visit was on economic development and mutual cooperation. The visit was referred to in the press at the time. For example, an article in the Cork Examiner of 21 March 1994 by Liam O’Neill reported:
â€˜Taoiseach Albert Reynolds left the United States on Saturday for the Bahamas after a very successful seven-day visit, the highlight of which was a White House meeting with President Clinton on St. Patrick’s Day. He will spend three days in the Bahamas on an official visit before returning to Dublin on Tuesday. His last engagement in the United States was at the John F. Kennedy Trust dinner in Hartford, Connecticut, on Friday night.’ ”
Though you have to wonder, what mutual benefit is there in economic development in the Bahamas? and the cosiness of dinners with Tony. Let’s get a report on the matters that required co-operation. Of course, with that heavy schedule I’m SURE Albert had no time to nip to the bank…..Grumble grumble….
*yes, a misreport, that should’ve been Freeport.
Further update! HOLD PRESS – Apparently Manzer has been vague….Mr Reynolds was indeed met with full military honours but NOT in Freeport where the 6 hour stopover took place. So they went to Freeport, and took off again and landed somewhere else officially – perhaps Nassau, the capital???
Wonderful. Could be something in this yet.
MORE UPDATES! Nothing daunted – your intrepid investigative blogger phoned the office of the Deputy from Tipperary (south?) Fair dues, the man phoned back. My specific question was : did the plane touch down in Freeport first and then go on to Nassau for the official welcome? He was extremely charming and went into great detail but the bottom line – he couldn’t say specifically. They did go to different islands so there was some flying around but he couldn’t say precisely. He was also careful to say that he based his statement on the report he heard on the News at One – not on what the pilot’s actual evidence was. So, our bottom line? We need to see the Tribunal transcript and the flight plan. The pilot could still be absolutely correct. The plane may have been scheduled to go to Nassau but they diverted to Freeport first.
And finally! Yes, the 9pm confirms it…the scheduled flight was to Nassau but there was an unscheduled stop at Freeport….Great stuff. What WAS he doing there?