Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is a director of the company which developed the Quays shopping centre in Newry, recently blamed for sucking millions of euro of business away from the economy in the Republic.

Ahern, who recently suggested it was time for patriotism among shoppers and "for standing up and defending our own" refused to comment last week on his link with the Quays, which houses several leading English chains, including Sainsbury's.

He also refused to respond to questions on how much, if anything, he earns in his capacity as a member of the international advisory board of the Parker Green company.

A series of questions submitted to the Fianna Fáil press office about the former Taoiseach's attitude to what finance minister Brian Lenihan called "unpatriotic shopping" also remained unanswered.

Phone calls to his Dáil office fared little better and the Sunday Tribune was told Ahern was "not around" or "unavailable".

Earlier this month, Ahern suggested people from the Republic should not cross the border to shop.

"We are currently experiencing a lot of change in our economy and I do feel it is crucial that we say to the Irish people that they should support Irish industry in whatever way they can," he said.

"It is a year for patriotism, for standing up and defending our own.

"I was in Newry recently, in a room overlooking the square in the city centre. And as I was watching, the enormous swells of people [were] heaving into supermarkets such as Sainsbury's."

Ahern was appointed to the advisory board of Parker Green International last August, becoming one of an eight-man board who will help drive the company's continued expansion.

Others on the board include two members of the UK House of Lords – Alf Dubs, a Labour Party politician who is expert on eastern Europe and Dennis Rogan, an Ulster Unionist with extensive business experience in Africa and Asia.

Other advisory board members include Harvard University professor Richard Peiser, Michael Gibbons of French banking giant BNP Paribas and Gregory Tosko of CB Richard Ellis in New York.

Parker Green has its headquarters in Newry and has been involved in major shopping developments at the Quays in Newry, in Co Carlow and other sites in the UK and western Europe.

Its chairman, Gerard O'Hare, has said consumers from the Republic using the Quays do not benefit his company at all and that the profits go to his retail clients.

He told one newspaper: "This is not about politics; it is about economics and those who are in charge of economics. This is all about bringing the benefit of two economies on the one island together and making the most of it.

"How can you be a Scrooge and blame people from the south... for buying, for example, Pampers at half the price in Newry? Are you going to blame the mother who can afford to buy the Bratz doll that her little daughter wants now because it is half the price in Newry compared to what it is in Dublin?"