Bertie gets soft landing with jet-set lifestyle and five sources of income
FORMER Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has been accused of enjoying a "jet-set lifestyle" with flights around the globe and five different sources of income in the midst of the worst economic crisis in living memory.
According to his register of interests, he has three private sources of income on top of his €98,424 salary as a TD and his ministerial pension of €98,901.
Mr Ahern is a speaker for the US-based Washington Speakers Bureau and has flown to the USA, Nigeria, Spain and Honduras for five speaking engagements. His minimum speaking fee on the agency's website is $40,001 (€29,268).
Mr Ahern is also a sports columnist for the 'News of the World', and is also earning income from the publication of his autobiography last year.
Labour TD Ciaran Lynch said it appeared that Mr Ahern had developed a "jet-set lifestyle" since retiring as Taoiseach.
"While Bertie was talking about preparing for a soft landing, it was obviously his own situation he was referring to. For the rest of us, it has meant a reduction in salary, a reduction in household income and a reduction in standards of living because of the way the economy was managed under his leadership," he said.
Mr Ahern's register of interests also revealed he was given free flights and accommodation to Ireland's World Cup qualifier against Italy last year (which they drew 1-1) by the FAI "in recognition of my support for the FAI". He is also a director of the property development firm Parker Green International, which is based in Newry, Co Down, and a voluntary member of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council
In his most recent speech to students at Oxford University two weeks ago, Mr Ahern defended his handling of the economy and blamed the "global recession". He said everyone now had to "pull together" and keep expectations "in line with current economic realities".
"People say I was lucky to be Taoiseach during the boom times. But in many ways I made my own luck," he said.
Former Taoisigh traditionally take a less active role in active politics and are given leeway by their parties to miss Dail votes and debates. But Mr Lynch asked whether Mr Ahern should give up his Dail seat in Dublin Central. "As an elected TD to Dail Eireann, there still are responsibilities and duties to the House. Maybe it's time for Bertie to choose whether to pursue the celebrity career on the jet circuit and to step down from Dail Eireann," he said.
A spokesman for Mr Ahern declined to comment.
But a source close to him said that he was still working 15 to 16 hour days and "probably does a lot more for his constituents than some people in Leinster House".
Some of his trips abroad have been due to his work as a director with cross-border group Co-Operation Ireland. And Mr Ahern has pointed out in his register of interests that since retiring as Taoiseach, he has also attended a large number of functions for charities for which no costs are received".