(dpa) - Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern announced Wednesday in Dublin that he would step down on May 6 amid speculation about his financial affairs.
In announcing his date of departure, Ahern said that he was "putting the interests of the Irish people and his Fianna Fail party" before his "personal interests."
"The constant barrage of comment" regarding the questioning of his personal finances at the Mahon Tribunal, established by the Irish government in November 1997 to look into alleged planning corruption "was dominating his political agenda," Ahern said.
He has recently faced tough questions about his personal finances at the Mahon Tribunal and was due later Wednesday to face questioning in Ireland's parliament, the Dail, over what the opposition claims are inconsistencies in his evidence to the tribunal.
Ahern stressed that his departure was a "personal" one based on his desire to put an end to a situation where the business of government was "constantly being deflected by the minutiae of my life, lifestyle and finances."
Ahern had said during the most recent general election campaign last year that he would not fight another election. However, he said he was announcing his departure earlier than expected in order to allow Irish political life to refocus.
He has been facing increasing calls from his coalition partners in the Green Party and the Progressive Democrats to the financial transactions at the heart of the Mahon probe.
Ahern said he "robustly refuted any imputation against me" and said he was looking forward to answering more questions before the tribunal.
Ahern has denied all charges of corruption in the scandal over the payments, dubbed "Bertiegate" by the Irish press.
The prime minister who won a record-breaking third term in office after last May's general elections, had previously stuck to the story that a key lodgement of almost 25,000 Irish punts (44,000 dollars) was a "dig-out" (loan) from friends at the time of his marital breakup.
Causing much derisive comment in the Irish press, a combative Ahern has repeatedly attributed his lack of proper accounts of financial transactions he made in 1994 and 1995 to lapses of memory and his busy schedule.
Ahern, who won a record-breaking third term in office after general elections last May, has said the money was given to him by friends to help with legal bills after his marital separation.