Saturday 25 February 2017

Ahern: protests at my home upset family

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

JUSTICE Minister Dermot Ahern last night revealed the impact of protests outside his home as he announced his decision to quit politics.

Members of the People Before Profit Group had protested outside his home -- not his office -- upsetting his wife and two daughters.

He said there were a number of reasons for not running again -- principally his diagnosis with rheumatoid arthritis and a promise to his family.

"It wasn't only my medical condition to be honest. That copperfastened my decision.

"I have given a commitment to my wife and family that (2007) would be my last election, and I confirmed that to the Taoiseach in October 2009."

But in an interview with the Irish Independent, Mr Ahern also revealed the impact recent protests outside his home in Blackrock, Co Louth had on his wife and two daughters.

"I always regarded my house as my oasis. I'm prepared to take all the brickbats in politics but when it starts to interfere with your family's enjoyment -- they're not able to put up with things," he said.

"The irony of the protests is that every time they have been there on a Sunday afternoon, I myself haven't been there, I have been up at cabinet meetings. My wife and family and neighbours have had to put up with this," he said.

Mr Ahern said it was a "huge regret" he had not been able to engage in his hobby of windsurfing for the past two years due to his rheumatoid arthritis. He said he was taking daily medication to deal with the condition, which could be "quite painful".

"I am quite restricted in what I can do. Walking wise, I used to be a great walker," he said.

Despite claims from Sinn Fein that he was abandoning the sinking ship of Fianna Fail, Mr Ahern said his departure was nothing to do with the arrival of Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams as a candidate in his Louth constituency.

He denied there would be a "Fianna Fail wipeout", saying that people underestimated Fianna Fail and the work they had done at their peril.

He said his career highlights included the visit of then US President Bill Clinton to his hometown of Dundalk in 1999.

He said Mr Clinton's description of it as a "boom town" was the culmination of a process to get rid of its associations with the IRA and "bandit country".

He also cited the "dramatic effect" his recent anti-gangland crime legislation was having and the importance of the civil partnership legislation.

Mr Ahern denied that he had been a combative politician during his career. He said this reputation had been probably bestowed upon him by Labour TD Pat Rabbitte, who called him a "boot boy from Dundalk'.

"I am actually quite mild mannered," he said.

Mr Ahern, who was once unable to remember a mistake he had made, added: "Of course I made mistakes, I'm human for God's sake."

Irish Independent

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